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Ava. He has met many Avas in his lifetimes, none that live up to the dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty who offered him a shy, secret smile like a small sacrifice, before sauntering out of the classroom with her tiny friend.
Ava. She, herself, is rather tiny. A tiny teenage girl who needs protecting. He can protect her.
Ava. It took a while for her to warm up to him, longer than he expected. Humans can be so stupid, so trusting, easily falling for the charming smile of a new piece of meat. She looked flustered, frightened even. What a strange little girl; beautiful, intelligent for a human, but strange, odd.
Ava. He wants to follow her, his eyes doing so as his feet carry him the wrong way. The teacher, last name Tennant, is erasing the whiteboard. He has an interesting character, a big personality just shy of being irritating.
“Excuse me, Mr. Tennant,” he says. The teacher, maybe in his late thirties, turns around and smiles.
“Ah, yes, Aiden, hello, how are you? How is your seat? Can you see well?” The questions come out in a stream of one breath; the man can hardly stay in one spot. He is like a child.
Aiden chuckles and raises his eyebrow. “I’m great, just trying to keep up. I’ve missed a week and a half of school, so I was wondering if I need to make up any work.”
Tennant narrows his eyes and takes his eyeglasses off. “Well, did you take Physics I when you were a junior?” He cannot say he has, but he nods anyway. “We’re only reviewing from last year, so as long as you are good for a test this Friday, I don’t see why you’d have to make anything up. The real work starts next week, when we get into AP stuff. I can have Brendon help you in the meantime; he sits right next to you.”
“Actually,” Aiden takes the opportunity, “I was wondering if I could move next to Ava Martinez?”
Tennant straightens up, a strange look splattering on his surprised face. “Why is that? Do you and Ava know each other?”
A pang of irritation makes Aiden frown for a moment. Who would have thought he would be in this situation, being questioned by the food? This is an all time low. “Yes, we met at a summer program at Harvard,” he lies smoothly, letting from frown slips from his lips.
“Oh,” Tennant grins and tilts his head. “I didn’t know Ava took a summer program at Harvard! What area did you study together?”
“Wow, that’s great. Well, since you guys know each other, I think I can arrange something. As you may know, Ava is an excellent student, she will be able to catch you up in no time.” Tennant shifts through the organized chaos on his desk and pulls out something that looks like a seating chart. In red pen, he crosses a person out and draws an arrow from Aiden’s seat to the seat beside a desk labeled “Ava.”
“Thank you, Mr. Tennant. Have a great day!” Aiden smiles and waves on his way out of the door.
“You too, Mr. Smith. Good luck today.”
Right as he enters the hallway, the cordial smile slips off his face, replaced by a scowl. This whole teenage charade is beyond irritating. There are far too many children in this school, not enough adults, none by his standards. His presence creates far more of an uproar than he would have liked; a mere walk in the halls garners more looks than he cares for. The only time his face is useful is during the hunt, every other time it is a nuisance. Then again, he is naturally surrounded by like-minded people, not ***** humans so willing to risk everything for a predator in disguise with a pretty face.
Oh, just open a vein and get over it, Aiden thinks as he passes two girls who stare at him.
Students are given five minutes to get from class to class. Even with a late start and human pace, Aiden arrives at the second room on his list far before most. Despite himself, his eyes scan the few faces. One he recognizes, but the wrong one, the tiny friend.
He wipes the frown from his face as he introduces himself to the peppy blonde teacher, whose smile is far too wide for her own good. He tilts his head and grins at her, just in case. She gets flustered, and her frantic heartbeat reaches his ear, not the hummingbird of his human, but like a loud drum tempo. She doesn’t smell half bad, either. Oh, the things he can do to her, and she wouldn’t even know it is more than a student-teacher fling.
“Smith? Well, very nice to meet you, Aiden Smith, you can take your seat right next to Mari, over there.” She points to Ava’s friend, who is naturally staring at him. She smiles in a friendly way when his eyes meet her insanely large ones. He smiles back, and accepts the wad of papers the teacher, last name Barck, hands him. She leans too forward to explain the plainly written directions on the top, her light perfume clogging his nostrils. “If you have any questions, just let me know, okay?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he answers with a grin. He leaves her in a blushing mess and takes his seat beside Mari. “Hello, I’m Aiden.” He offers a hand to shake, and she gives him a strange look before placing her small brown hand in his large one. Do teenagers not shake hands in greeting anymore? He may have to brush up on his human etiquette if he is going to draw Ava in successfully. He doesn’t want to seem as old as he is.
“Mari,” she says, her voice high-pitched, as if she inhaled helium recently. “We have AP Physics together.” She looks at him steadily, but thankfully doesn’t attempt a flirt. If she is Ava’s friend, he wants to stay close, but not that close.
“Oh, I thought I recognized you,” he plays dumb. “Mr. Tennant is a funny man.”
Mari laughs lightly and rolls her eyes. “You can say that again. I had him last year, for Physics I. He’s pretty weird, but he’s a really good teacher. You’ll like him, everyone does.”
He nods and gestures to Barck. “What about this one?” He feigns nervousness.
Mari grimaces in response and shrugs. “This is my first year having her. She’s okay, I guess, but if you laugh at her jokes, they’ll keep on making them. Don’t laugh at her jokes.” Aiden’s laugh is genuine; he forgot how funny some humans can be.
“Duly noted.” By now, the class is nearly filled–with a noticeable lack of his human–and within a minute, the bell rings. Barck introduces Aiden to the class, and he finds he truly despises her when she makes him “say something interesting about himself.” He doesn’t think they’d be interested in what he finds interesting, so he only says, “I’ve been to six of seven continents,” which is a lie. He doubts any average eighteen year old has been to Antarctica, so he leaves that one out.
Apparently, this is extremely interesting, for everyone and their mothers ohh and ahh as if he claims he has been to the moon and back. Mari looks at him wide-eyed, and Barck starts an entire conversations that lasts at least fifteen minutes, asking him questions. He makes all the answers up on the spot; his parents think traveling is enriching, he’s only been to a few countries in each, no he hasn’t been to the Great Wall of China, but he has been to the Great Pyramids. He is speaking far too much, his fairytales leaving too much of an impression on these feeble minded cows. Soon, the whole school will speak of the new kid who has been around the world. Not good. All he wants is his human, and he will be gone; if he isn’t lucky, it will take a month at most to make her fall for him, maybe another to convince her to turn for him. If he is lucky, she will decide this week. He doesn’t count on luck.
Finally, Barck directs the conversation onto the book they are reading, a classic, Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf. Aiden read it when it was first published, and always thought it boring and overrated. It is unfortunate, to have to discuss it with these people. Poor luck, already, having classes without Ava. How many, he wonders, and will he have any more with her? He does not like being in the dark about anything, much less his own fate.
The rest of the class is uneventful, and he does not get another chance to speak with Mari until the bell rings. “Mari?” He asks as they stand and gather their belongings. She turns, her eyebrows raised. “Do you know where Room 246 is? This school is so big.” He chuckles and shrugs.
A grimace mars her face and she asks to see his schedule, which he hands over enthusiastically. “I don’t even know the room numbers,” she murmurs, reading it. “Oh!” Her eyes light up and she smiles up at him. She has to be a few inches over five feet. “You have Calculus next with me! We can walk together. We also have the same lunch, so, if you don’t have anyone else to sit with, you can sit with my friends and I.”
He thanks her and falls into step with her down the hallway. Hm, her friends. Maybe Ava will be there, a foolish part of him hopes. He can feel the effect she is having on him, already. If it had not been for her, he would never torture himself with these annoying humans and nagging human scent. It feels backwards to be so close to his prey and not do just that, prey. He feels as though two natural forces within him are at war with each other.
These things are always sticky, the human mind. If he is to acquire Ava for his own, he will have to fight his innate instincts until she agrees to be his. It would be so easy to steal her away, explain what he is, what she is to him, and promptly turn her. Not necessarily in that order. But, he feels wrong about the idea. He feels as though that would be a violation of sorts, to deny her of a choice. The first change: consideration for a person other than himself.
When he first saw her, days ago and only then from a distance, he fought every selfish part of him (which happens to be the entirety of Aiden) not to take her away in the night. Rather, he watched, again, from a distance. He knew that when she saw him, she would automatically reciprocate his feelings; she didn’t have a choice, as much as he. He did not want it to be in the middle of the street as she was driving her car to school. He did not want to put her through that confusion in that instant. So, he watched. And he planned.
Thus, the thespian he has become, sauntering through the halls acting friendly with the food. All for her. All for Ava.
“Are there different lunch period?” Aiden asks her, his eyebrows furrowing together.
“Yeah, three. We have four lunch, the first one in the morning. It’s pretty early, so hopefully you didn’t have a big breakfast.”
Aiden smirks, his own private joke. “I did. If I’d known….”
Mari waves her hand. “Well, now you know. You don’t have to eat if you don’t want to.”
Oh, he knows. But, what if he does want to? Maybe he should give the parasitic humans what they want: more to talk about. He can see the gossip now: “Oh my God, did you see him gnawing on her shoulder? Is that what Californians do in their schools?” Yes, us Californians are on a strictly liquid diet.
When they arrive at the next class, the math teacher hardly looks at him, uninterested if slightly annoyed. You and me both, human. The man, O’Brien, hands him a textbook, gives him a seat, and ignores him for the rest of the class. Aiden likes him already.
The bell rings a third time today. Aiden is starting to despise it, that shrill sound, and hopes he does not have to endure it for too long. He needs to be near Ava, actually close, side by side. He needs to speak with her, charm her, hold her in his arms. He is sick and tired of staying away from her, from this new part of him.
As Aiden deposits his notebook into his bag, he cannot help but think about the first time he saw her, his Ava. He has heard others describe how it is to meet your mate for the first time and he thought he understood, but he did not. No explanation is enough to encompass the feelings that ran through him when he laid his eyes on Ava, then an unnamed human girl.
He had been hunting. Every now and then, he travels far from his house in Washington D.C. This time, he found himself in New York City. He fed a few times, but somehow felt unquenched; the city was not doing it for him. He had to go somewhere else, but where could he go for a good feed if not the Big Apple? He just traveled, by train, bus, and eventually on foot. He walked where his feet led him: north, first, maybe to Canada, he thought. Then back south, past New York City to Long Island.
Eventually, he took a bus to a moderately sized town, Plainview. He planned on leaving soon, until he had some coffee in a cafe on some unimportant street and saw a beautiful stranger drive by in a gray car. Through the cafe glass window, through the glass of the moving car, through that distance that must have been a hundred feet but felt like a thousand, his world changed.
It stopped. That is what it felt like. It felt like the Earth stopped moving, that the traffic, the very car she sat in, froze in its place. Her face, the small portion he saw from his spot, shone out to him like a beacon, like a firefly in a swamp. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t move, he could only watch in shock as his heart beated for the first time in what seemed like eternity. And then she drove away, she left him in turmoil, abandoned him without a clue in his mind as to who he was anymore. He followed her, of course. He couldn’t do anything but follow her. His blood boiled without her, at the sight of her, whenever he got closer to her. He felt his veins tug him toward her and he knew he would never be as close as he wanted with her. It didn’t matter if he took her blood, if he took her as a man takes a woman, it wouldn’t be close enough. It will never be close enough.
Now, he feels as though he is as close as he has been since he met her, yet so far away. She has seen him! She has completed the bond, and now what? Can she not just fall into his arms as he so desires? Can she not fall for him so willingly as he for her? Despite what happens, he knows he must practice something he has not needed to practice in many, many years: patience.
“Aiden,” Mari comes to his desk, and he gives her a half-smile. “Lunch?”
“Yes!” He follows her, and she begins to ask him the dreaded questions. He actually did not hate her, but after these questions, he may have to reconsider.
“So, where did you move from?” She begins. Lucky him, he actually has an answer.
“Palo Alto, California.”
“Wow, so close to Stanford!” He nearly rolls his eyes, but just nods politely. “Why’d you move?”
“My dad moved jobs. He’s an attorney, and his practicing partner moved to New York, so we followed. My older brother stood in California; he’s in medical school.”
“Really? Where does he go?” Apparently, Mari wants to become a doctor, a pediatric surgeon, to be exact. She wants to save lives, isn’t that nice? Meanwhile, she is talking to a creature who likes to end them.
Thankfully, the cafeteria is not far away, and they arrive at Mari’s lunch table, a few people already sitting there. Mari introduces them: the Asian girl with long black hair is Janice, the black girl with stylish curly hair is Rashieda, a white boy with curly blond hair is Conor, and finally another girl with straight blond hair is Emma. Conor and Emma are twins, it appears. All of these people he does not particularly care for and no Ava. He has a smile on his face, greets everyone like a kid glad to have new friends in a new school, but in reality, his eyes shift from their faces to the rest of the cafeteria, scanning the crowd for his girl. He knows it, but he still feels disappointed when his search becomes fruitless.
“How long is this lunch period?” Aiden asks Mari, looking at the clock, impatient to see if he has the next class with her.
“Thirty minutes,” she answers, then looks around the table. “Where’s Ava, guys?”
His heart bounces from his chest, onto the table in front of him. “Ava?” He asks, attempting nonchalant. Mari looks at him, then past him.
“Oh, there she goes.”
His neck nearly breaks as he turns around. There she is, indeed. Beautiful, he thinks. Her curly dark brown hair framing her face, her brown, soulful eyes narrowed in concentration, her skin golden without the help of the sun. She is short, the same height as Mari, athletic in build, makeupless. Despite the small red dots here and there on her face, the frizziness of her hair, the imperfections his eyes gloss over, she is beautiful, the most stunning creature he has ever laid his eyes upon.
Her eyes are downcast, her pink lips in a scowl, an almost pout. She seems perturbed in some way, and his automatic instinct is to protect her from whatever is causing her this conflict. He wants to see her smile, wants to see those dimples up close that he has seen from far away.
She seems to sense his eyes on her, for she looks up, her gaze piercing his, leaving him nearly breathless. His blood, his blood is boiling, racing through his veins. He can hear her heart from here, through all the noise of the cafeteria, as if her hummingbird rhythm is a song played through earbuds. Will he ever get used to her presence?
She stops in her place, a mixture of surprise, desire, and, curious enough, fear shining through her eyes. The latter slips away, and he wonders if he confused it with apprehension rather than fear. Still, she looks like she wants to run away and never come back, but her back noticeably straightens and she continues her trek across the cafeteria to her friends. He stands up as she stands before him. Time seems to stop as he looks down at her, as she looks back at him, her eyes wide.
Before she can speak, he grabs her hand and raises it to his lips. Her hand is both soft and hard at the same time, callused and lotioned. Her smell makes his mouth water, the most delicious, intoxicating aroma he has ever smelled in his existence, a combination of vanilla, mint, and green apples. “I’m Aiden,” he says quietly, his voice deeper than usual. Her face flushes a delicious shade of pink, and he smiles at her in pleasure.
He holds her hand in his for an extended second as she catches her breath. He nearly flinches when she snatches her hand from his and says stiffly, “You’re in my seat.” She brushes past him, and he moves out of her way, watching in shock as she sits down in his seat and drops her bag on the floor near his feet.
“Sorry,” he finds himself genuinely apologizing, for the seat and whatever else is bothering her. She seems not to have heard him and greets her friends.
“Hey guys,” she says lightly, and he sits beside her, his eyes glued to her, her eyes glued to everything but him. Part of him is hurt, the painful sting of rejection; the other, larger side of him is excited, delighted at her attitude. Is she truly playing hard to get? He asks himself, tilting his head at this strange, alien of a woman.
“Hey,” they say back, their eyes shifting from Ava to Aiden. Is she normally this rude to every newcomer, or is he special?
“Where were you?” Mari asks, voicing the question that is nagging Aiden.
“At the library, I had to print something,” she says with a shrug.
“Oh, well, this is Aiden, the new kid from Physics.” Mari obviously chooses to ignore his own introduction, which must have been quite awkward for everyone else, in hindsight. Maybe she is upset because of that?
She looks at him, appearing reluctant to do so. “Hello,” she says, then turns her back on him. “Conor, Emma, what did we do in Pholok?” Aiden looks at Mari for assurance that he still has his sanity, and she looks at Ava for a moment, in disbelief perhaps, and then to Aiden with a small shrug.
“Hey, Aiden, aren’t you going to eat anything?” Janice blurts out, about mid-lunch period.
“Oh, no, I had a big breakfast,” he says, patting his stomach with a chuckle.
Ava turns suddenly and assesses him, and he is stunned into silence, transfixed by her intense gaze, her proximity, her smell, just her. Ava. Then, so quickly he questions whether it really even happened, she turns back around and continues to ignore him.
In the meantime, as Ava is consumed by her conversation with the blond boy, Rasheeda, Mari, and Janice conversate with Aiden. They ask the normal questions, picking up where he and Mari left from the last discussion of his made up past. Soon, Emma and Conor join in. Aiden is friendly enough, polite as any new human would be to another. They are cordial enough, trying to get to know the new kid that popped out of nowhere a week and a half into senior year.
All except Ava. She is stiff, hardly looking at him. If he did not hear her frantic little hummingbird in that chest of hers, he would have thought he imagined the bond in the first place. She is cold, distant, nervous. Uninterested, if he has ever seen it. Yet that is impossible; just the thought of fighting these feelings causes him physical pain. Maybe she is playing hard to get, rolling her dice, seeing what this really is.
She doesn’t understand it, the poor thing. She is probably disturbed by how strong the feelings, the urges, are. He thought he saw fear earlier, then dismissed it. What if she is afraid, afraid of what these feelings mean for a man she hardly knows? It makes sense now, and he is not as concerned now that he has her all figured out. She just needs to warm up to him, and he needs to give her some space, not be as pushy, as forward as the hand kiss. He needs to control himself. And he can, for her he will.
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