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"We're vampires, Raven."
I took a deep breath.
You can do this, Raven. I thought to myself. You have to. For your family.
As I walked into the bar, I noticed that the scenery was very high-class, much nicer than anywhere I'd ever been to before. However, I could still smell the disgusting, powerful scent of alcohol throughout the room. In a weird sort of way, this helped calm me down. It reminded me that confidence was key—and I needed all the confidence I could get. Dutch courage, to be precise.
I ordered three shots of tequila and I carefully re-applied my blood-red lipstick, pretending to use my compact mirror for help, purely for the benefit of those around me. Through the mirror's reflection, a group of three girls caught my eye. I observed my surroundings out of boredom. The three girls were all throwing themselves at what was most likely a very undeserving guy. Pathetic, I thought. I'll never be like that.
I put my mirror and lipstick away. At the side of the bar I caught two older men looking at me and whispering with disgusting smirks across their faces. I knew exactly what they were talking about. I will never understand girls who like this sort of attention, especially from dirty old men.
As I was about to take a shot, I felt a firm hand being placed on my shoulder. This made me jump slightly. I looked at the owner of the hand and saw a familiar face. It was at that moment in which I realised that it was time. There was no turning back now.
Chapter 1: The Good Samaritan
"Raven, could you start making tea, please, love?" asked my mother as she lay on the couch watching the soaps. "Oh, and after that, iron Rosie's school uniform, would you? Thanks, sweetheart." I reluctantly got up from the small desk at the side of the living room where I was busy doing my university coursework, put my long, jet black hair in a bun, and started to cook some pasta.
My name is Raven Jones. I'm eighteen years old and have way too much responsibility. Not in the typical rebellious, teenage, "I hate my life" kind of way. No. This is much more real than that.
You see, I live in a small town in England in a council house with my mother, Roxy, and my six-year-old sister, Rosie. In this town, everyone knows everyone. We definitely live below the breadline, as I am the only one who has a job, and that's only part-time at the local restaurant. My mother can't work because she suffers from chronic anxiety and depression, which lead to her alcoholism. To be honest, I can't remember the last time she left the house. She has trouble looking after herself, never mind Rosie and I, so that's left to me to do. In a way, I don't mind. I'm a bit of a control freak, so I like to do things my way. On the other hand, I hate seeing my mum like this, and I often feel it's all too much for me, having to do everything. I want to be able to be a normal teenager and hang out with my friends on the weekend. Well, I say friends—I don't have time for friends. I hardly have time to breathe. However, I do have one true friend whom I can rely on. Her name is Jenny. I've known her all throughout my school life. She's very fun-loving and intelligent. She has fair skin, freckles, and beautiful wavy auburn hair. Jenny is forever worrying about me, as she knows all about my family life; although she can't understand what it's like, as she comes from quite a well-off family. We're very different people, but that's what makes us work. Jenny's parents treat me like one of their own, especially her dad, but I think this is partly out of sympathy for me because he knows I never knew my dad. Mum never talks about him. She hates when I bring him up. All I know about him is his first name: Joe. Mum had me at a young age: eighteen. Like my age now. I reckon they just lost contact after she told him she was pregnant.
I don't want to sound awful, but I feel like my sister got off easy as mum doesn't know who her dad is. It's bad for Rosie, yes, but at least mum isn't hiding anything from her—she just doesn't know.
I'm not judging my mum. I love her. But she made some pretty bad decisions a few years ago, when her mental health began to deteriorate. She would sometimes leave for days, partying her troubles away. Sometimes I would be left on my own to fend for myself until my nan realised she hadn't heard from us for a day or so. My nan, Lynne, would then look after me whilst she was gone. Nan died couple of years ago. It still hurts to this day. She was like a mother to me. I can't thank her enough for how she looked after Rosie and me during mum's bad days.
After tea, I ironed Rosie's school uniform, made sure she brushed her teeth, and went to tuck her into bed. She's a good kid—she hardly ever gives me any hassle and always does as she's told. I think that's because she knows how much I have to do for her and mum. Kids are smart. They understand more than we think.
As I walked into Rosie's room, she jumped up onto her bed and sat down. I sat beside her, when I noticed her staring at me, trying to figure me out. "Are you happy, Raven?" she asked, curiously. I have to admit, this took me by surprise.
"Of course I'm happy," I replied, as I moved my sister's short, dark curls from in front of her face. "Why wouldn't I be happy when I have the best sister in the world?" I said as I tickled her.
"Raven, stop it!" she squealed. I tucked her into bed and kissed her forehead.
"Nighty, nighty," I whispered.
"Pyjama, pyjama," Rosie giggled in reply. I left her bedroom and closed the door behind me. I decided to go and check on my mum, as I thought I heard her go to bed before.
I quietly opened up her bedroom door and noticed she was fast asleep. Passed out from the alcohol, no doubt. I quietly shut the door behind me and went downstairs to complete my coursework.
As I finished up my last psychology question, I was disturbed by loud banging noises behind me. I soon realised it was someone frantically knocking on our front door.
Not wanting them to disturb my family's sleep, I quickly rushed to answer the door. "Alright, alright, I'm coming," I mumbled in annoyance. When I finally unlocked the door, I was quite surprised to see who was standing opposite me. It was a girl from my school who is a couple of years below me. Her name is Steph. We had a few karate classes together a few months back. We talked a little during the classes and our mums knew each other, but we were never close friends or anything. Her older sister Cara is on my course, too. I don't talk to her all that much, though. I tend to just keep to myself when I'm not hanging out with Jenny.
"Steph?!" I said in surprise. "What are you—?" before I could finish my sentence, she pushed past me and entered the living room.
"Lock the door!" She exclaimed. She looked terrified.
"W-what?" I asked.
"Oh, for God's sake, just lock the fucking door!"
Confused and slightly scared at this point, I locked the door and then turned to face her. Before I could ask what was happening, her terrified expression already told me everything I needed to know.
Chapter 2: The Clique
"Oh, my God, Steph. Was someone following you?!" I asked as I gave her a hug.
"Yes," she sighed as she held back her tears. She took a deep breath and began to explain. "I was at my boyfriends house. We got into a huge fight and I stormed out. Then I felt like someone was following me so I started to walk faster. They began to run after me so I panicked and ran here from a few streets away, I'm sorry, I—" Steph began to break down in tears.
"Shh," I said as I cradled her. "It's OK now. Although I think we should call the police—"
"No, you can't! My mum thinks I'm sleeping over at a friend's. She would kill me if she found out I was at a boy's house and wandering the streets at night!" Steph said in a panic.
"OK, OK, as long as you're sure," I replied as I gently massaged my forehead.
"Thanks. I'm gonna go and ring my mate Katie to see if I can stop at her house," said Steph as she began to take out her mobile.
"You can stop here if you like," I said, panicking. "I don't want you to walk around the streets at this time on your own. You can take my bed. It's upstairs on the second right," I said as I gestured upstairs.
"Thanks so much! Wait—are you sure?" asked Steph, timidly.
"Of course," I smiled.
The following day we caught the bus to uni. Steph is in her first year and I'm in my third. We said goodbye as we got off the bus when Steph hurried off to class. "Thanks again, Raven!" She shouted as she ran away. I felt happy and proud of myself for my good deed. I just hope being followed didn't shake her up too much.
That lunchtime, I sat on the bench in the yard by the grass whilst I ate. Jenny should be here soon, I thought to myself as I started to pick off the tomatoes from my sandwich. Jenny usually finishes class half-an-hour after me, so I'm usually alone for a while. I kind of like the time to just chill out and collect my thoughts, to be honest. It's not like I have any time whatsoever to do that at home.
As I picked up my packet of crisps, I suddenly smelled the very strong scent of smoke from above me. As I looked up, I saw Cara, Steph's older sister, standing above me and smoking a cigarette. Her dark hair was half-shaven, and her loose curls were flipped over to the other side of her head. She was wearing a black leather jacket and skinny jeans with bright red lipstick, looking like she's ready to break some hearts at any given moment. I don't think I've ever met a girl quite like Cara. She's so confident yet humble, glamorous yet it's effortless. She looks like a tough, mean girl, but from what I've seen, she cares.
She was accompanied by two other girls: Saskia and Leanne. Saskia is the quiet one of the group. Sometimes people think they can walk all over her because they think she's shy, but she's not. Under her head of ash-blonde hair, she's got a good mind, and she isn't afraid to speak it.
Leanne, on the other hand, seems to be everything I expect Cara to be. She's very loud and is very no-nonsense. I wouldn't like to get on the wrong side of her. She is a typical fiery red-head, and much respected by her fellow students.
Long story short, these girls mean business. They aren't your typical popular, elitist group of friends like some of the other girls in my year. No one really knows much about them, to be honest. They tend to keep to themselves; however, they definitely give off the "popular" vibe as they walk through the halls. I can admire and respect that.
I was extremely pleased yet confused as to why they approached me. Little did I know I wouldn't find out until that night.
Chapter 3: Dalesbury Woods
"Oh...hey," I managed to squeak as their presence shocked me, I admit. As I've said, I tend to keep to myself, especially away from the likes of these girls; trust me, I am far from the type of girl that they would want to hang around with, I'm sure. They probably think I'm way too boring and plain for their clique.
"Raven, right?" said Cara as she took a drag of her cigarette, completely ignoring my greeting. "Yeah, why?" I choked as the smoke was too much to bear. God, I hate cigarettes.
Cara walked around the table and sat opposite me. Saskia and Leanne followed. Great, I thought to myself, now I feel like I'm being interviewed for a job or something.
"Steph told me about how you helped her out last night, how you let her crash at yours. That's a really cool thing you did, Raven," remarked Cara as she gave me a soft and sincere smile.
"Oh, really, it was nothing. I'm just glad she's safe." I replied as I nervously fidgeted with the strings on my hoodie. Cara just stared at me with a pokerface she wears so frequently it's scary. I wonder what this girl is all about, I really do.
"It wasn't nothing, Raven. Trust me, not a lot of people would have done something like that for someone they hardly know. I can't thank you enough for looking out for her," she said as her pokerface cracked and her warm smile fell across her face yet again. I smiled and felt more at ease with her presence. She really does appreciate my kind gesture, doesn't she?
"You should listen to Cara, Raven, there really aren't a lot of good people in the world," piped Saskia as the others nodded in agreement.
"Yeah. Especially in this town," said Leanne, looking rather dismayed.
"We're having a bit of a get together tonight in Dalesbury Woods. You should come and join us. It will be a right laugh," said Cara. I was shocked at the invitation.
"Oh, um, yeah, cool. I'll come for a bit before work," I said as I completely brushed off all my other responsibilities without really thinking.
"Great!" said Cara as she stood up. "We'll meet you there at the entrance at five." The three girls walked away and I couldn't help but wonder if that actually just happened.
As I watched them walk away in the distance, I heard a familiar voice. "Well, what the hell was all that about?!" I turned around. It was Jenny eating a chocolate bar and looking at me very puzzled. "Why were those three weirdos sat with you?" chuckled Jenny.
"Oh come on," I replied, slightly annoyed at her snarky comment, "they aren't that bad. They're actually kind of...cool." I said, defending them. Jenny laughed.
"Yeah, OK. Oh, my God, I have the best gossip!" said Jenny with excitement. She's quite the gossip, but it's just harmless fun to her. As Jenny rambled on about how some girl named Dina got caught cheating on her boyfriend at a party the other night, my mind could help but wander to another place.
Why did those girls invite me to hang out with them? I thought. I just don't feel important enough to be a part of their friend group. They really are something else.
As I pretended to listen to Jenny and her ramblings, attempting to nod, smile and agree at all the right points, something in the back of my mind was telling me that the meeting with those girls in Dalesbury Woods tonight was going to change my life forever.
For good or for bad, though? That's the part I didn't know.
But curiosity killed the cat, and I was compelled to show up.
After my last class of the day was over, I rushed straight to Dalesbury Woods. This is it, I thought. It's time to find out what this is all about.
I sat on a bench at the entrance of Dalesbury Woods, a woods I have been to many times before—but this time was different. This time I would be hanging out with three of the most talked-about girls in uni.
I wonder when they will arrive, I thought, as I suddenly realised I hadn't arranged a time to meet with them. I was so caught up in the moment when they approached me at dinner that I forgot to ask all the important details. You idiot, I thought to myself as I rubbed my forehead.
After ten minutes, the girls were still nowhere to be seen.
Half an hour later, I began to give up all hope. I'll have to head off to work soon, I thought as I checked my watch. It was now 6 PM and it was getting dark. I suddenly heard a leaf crunch behind me, but as I turned around, no one was there. It was probably just a squirrel, Raven, I tried to convince myself.
I waited another fifteen minutes and gave up all hope. I stood up as I sighed and began to walk away.
That was, until I was stopped in my tracks by a blood-curdling scream.
"HELP ME!" I heard a woman scream. The sound was coming from inside the woods. I was terrified and suddenly my body was in fight or flight mode. Oh, my God. What do I do?! I thought as I weighed my options.
"GET OFF ME!" the woman screamed. It was then that I realised I recognised that voice.
Chapter 4: Why Me?
Without thinking, I ran into the woods, following the sound of her screams, hitting tree branches out of my way and running straight through muddy puddles, not caring about anything else but Cara's safety. I no longer knew where I was. I hadn't come across these parts of the woods before. I ran and ran until the screams became louder. I'm getting closer! I thought as I began to run out of breath.
A few moments later, I saw her. Cara. She was being attacked by a woman. "HEY!" I shouted as anger took over. The woman looked at me for a split second and smirked, then began to hit Cara again.
I saw red. I ran up to her and used all the karate skills I knew. It had been a while since I took that class but I gave it my all. I hit and I kicked and I hit again; I was beyond angry at this point and my adrenaline took over.
The woman tried to fight back, but she didn't know any karate. After a few moments, I heard Cara shout my name in a very angry tone. This shocked me; she sounded angry at me. I was so confused.
I stopped immediately and looked at Cara. She looked extremely worried. "C-Cara," I managed to stutter, "what's wrong? Are you OK?"
Cara looked at the woman, who was now on the ground, clearly very injured by me. I didn't understand. I thought Cara would be pleased with me sticking up for her.
The woman gingerly stood up and Cara began to crack a smile, which confused me even more.
"Well," Cara smirked as she looked at the unknown woman, "she's definitely passed the test." She then focused her attention on me. The woman managed to laugh as she stood up.
"I'll say," she said as she held herself in pain. I was beyond puzzled at this point.
"Test?" I asked, "what test? Cara, what's going on?!" I began to grow increasingly angry. Cara smiled.
"Our little initiation test." I suddenly realised what was going on.
"Initiation test...? You mean...you faked being beaten up by this woman?!" I shouted in disbelief.
"Hey," the woman replied "I have a name. I'm Bianca," she said as she held out her hand, waiting for me to shake it. I looked at Cara who nodded. I decided to shake her hand even though I really didn't want to after I had just been so evilly tricked.
"Alright. Enough with the pleasantries. What the fuck is going on, Cara?!" I shouted.
Cara giggled. "I have a very unique and significant proposition for you, Raven," she said as she motioned me to follow her, walking further into the woods with Bianca. I was extremely nervous and curious at the same time. I followed them as I wanted to know what was going on, although my gut feeling was telling me to just walk away.
After a couple of minutes, we arrived at a part of the woods that looked like something you'd only see in the movies. There were a circle of cabins, with tables and chairs in the middle.
As we arrived, people emerged from the cabins, all looking at me. I suddenly felt sick.
I began to slowly walk away. I've made some bad decisions before, but this definitely topped it off for me.
Cara rolled her eyes. "Raven, wait!" she said, almost pleadingly. I stopped and turned to face her. "I didn't mean to scare you, just please hear me out!" she said as she pleaded with her eyes.
"Fine," I replied. "But you've only got two minutes to explain or I'm leaving," I said as I defensively folded my arms.
Cara nodded. "So you already know that me being attacked was staged; however, the question is why we did it," she said as she circled me. I stayed silent as this girl really began to intrigue me. She's so...different. "Well the answer to that question is because we wanted to test you and your moral compass. You see, you already proved yourself to be a good person when you helped out my sister, Steph. But this one really proved to me that you stand up for what is right."
This angered me. "You mean your sister faked being chased by a random man?!" I shouted.
"No. That was very real. Which is what got me thinking: you'd be a perfect fit for our little...movement," replied Cara as she looked me up and down.
"I'm just going to be very straight with you here, Raven. I know all about your family life. How your mother can't work. How you are left to do everything. How your only source of income is your mothers benefits and your part-time job. Your little friend Jenny is quite the gossip as you know, and it seems your life isn't off limits to her." This hurt me. How could Jenny do that to me? She was supposed to be my friend, not talk about me behind my back. "So I'm going to offer you an opportunity that will change your life for the best," said Cara as she smiled.
"We're vampires, Raven. Vigilante vampires, to be exact. And we want to recruit you as our newest member."