"He left you?"

"No, I mean he left for spring break." I scrambled, trying to cover my mistake. "To visit his family." "I'm glad you found someone special you can identify with. It must be hard for you growing up in that town."

I appreciated that Libby understood what it was like to be different. Because she felt more comfortable in Hipsterville, maybe Alexander had found a place where he felt more comfortable, too.

"Aunt Libby, can I ask you a personal question?"

"Of course."

"Do you believe in vampires?"

She laughed. "I thought you were going to ask about sex."

But I was serious. "Do you?"

"I once dated a guy who kept a vial around his neck. He claimed it was blood, but it smelled like strawberry Kool-Aid."

"Did he creep you out?"

"Actually the ones who claimed they weren't vampires scared me more," she teased. "We should get some sleep. We've both had a long day," she said, blowing the votives out and putting the carrots away. "I'm so glad you're here," she said, giving me a squeeze.

"Me, too."

As soon as Aunt Libby went into her bedroom, I tiptoed through the apartment and turned the other lights back on, just to be safe. I climbed onto the futon, pulled the covers over me, and closed my eyes.

Suddenly I felt a shadow on me. I squeezed my eyes shut. I imagined Alexander standing over me with flowers, begging my forgiveness for leaving so abruptly. But then I realized it could be Jagger, about to plunge his fangs into my neck.

I opened my eyes slowly. "Aunt Libby!" I shouted with relief.

"Still spooked?" she asked, standing over me. "You can leave the living room light on."

Libby turned all the other lights off and returned to her bedroom, unaware I was trying to protect her from a tattooed teen of darkness. I pulled the covers back over my head, but still felt as if someone were watching me. I tried to calm myself by thinking of Alexander. I recalled lying in the grass with him, in the backyard of the Mansion, staring at the stars, our fingers intertwined.

I heard a scratching sound coming from the kitchen. I was probably the only girl in the world who hears a scratching sound and hopes it's a mouse. I imagined myself back at the Mansion, the dark sky brightened by luminous clouds above us, the smell of Drakar cologne in the air, and Alexander kissing me. But when Alexander spoke into my ear, all I heard was that scratching sound.

I decided to confront it and walked toward the kitchen in my black socks. A white mouse running across my feet was the least of my issues.

I switched on the kitchen light. The sound seemed to be coming from outside.

I peeled back the curtain above the sink, expecting to see Jagger's ghost-white face staring back. But it was only a tree branch swaying against the window in the wind.

Just to be safe, I opened my Tupperware container and placed a clove of garlic on the windowsill above the futon.

Chapter 7 The Historical Society

The next morning, I was jarred awake by the music of the Doors. The bright sun beaming in through the open windows made my head pound. I was exhausted from the bus ride to Hipsterville, searching for Alexander, and my nocturnal meeting with the inhabitants of the Coffin Club. As I looked outside, the mortal world seemed the same. Jeeps parallel parked. Hipstervillians pushed chic strollers. Birds hung on telephone wires.

But the morning sun shed new light on last night's events. Maybe my Coffin Club experience was just a dream and Jagger just a concoction of my nighttime imagination.

I rose from the futon with a gentle laugh, thinking about my overimaginative nocturnal dreams, when I spotted a charm on Aunt Libby's wooden footlocker, next to my bracelets.

Jagger's skeleton earring. It hadn't been a dream.

I held it in my hand. The bony charm stared up at me. If Jagger was a vampire, I wondered what frights it had observed, dangling from his ear. Was it witness to late-night bites on unsuspecting girls? Had the tiny pewter bones seen Alexander?

I reminded myself that I was doing to Jagger what Trevor had done to Alexander. Trevor had started rumors that the Sterlings were vampires, not because he knew their true identity, but because he wanted to make them a town scandal. Now I was making judgments and jumping to my own conclusions about Jagger without having any facts. I had to spend my energies searching for what I had come to Hipsterville for--a real vampire instead of a wannabe.

I remembered my conversation with the Village Dracula. I had to get to the Historical Society as soon as it opened.

I found Aunt Libby in the kitchen cooking eggs-

"Good morning, honey," she said. "Did you sleep well?" "Like a baby."

"I'm surprised you did," she said, cutting me off. "Something in the living room smells funny," she said, turning off the stove and placing the skillet on another burner.

"My mom packed me some goodies for the bus ride," I said, following her into the living room. "Maybe something spoiled."

"It seems like it's coming from over here," she said, pointing toward the window above the futon.

She quickly pulled back a broken window shade before I could stop her.

"I found it on the floor last night when I went to the bathroom," I improvised. "I thought it was a seashell."

I paused, waiting for her response.

She looked at me skeptically.

"Well, after watching your show last night, I just couldn't sleep," I added.

"But I thought you liked vampires."

"I do, but not at my window."

"You remind me of your father when he was growing up. Loved scary movies, but must have slept with the light on until college," she said.

"Then I guess it's in my genes," I said, retrieving the garlic from the windowsill and sticking it back in the Tupperware container.

"I can throw that away for you," she offered, extending her hand.

"I want to keep it," I said, as I put the container in my purse. "Until college." Aunt Libby laughed, and I followed her into the kitchen. "I have a list of things we can do," she said, as we sat down to breakfast. "We can start by going to the art museum. There's an exhibition on Edward Gorey I think you might enjoy. We can go to the Nifty Fifties diner for lunch; they make a great bacon cheeseburger. Of course, I've never had it, but that's what I hear. After that, we can go antiquing in the neighborhood. Then I have my show. But you can hang backstage. I'm afraid it might be too scary for you to see again," she teased. "Sound cool?"

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