We both drank and chewed on the brightly colored candy insects.

"What's it like never seeing your reflection?" I asked, his missing image still on my mind.

"It's all I've ever known."

"How do you know what you look like?"

"From paintings. When I was five, my parents commissioned one of their artists to make a portrait of us. We have it hanging over the fireplace in our home in Romania. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. How the artist captured the light, the details of my mother's dimples, the joy in my father's eyes, all through gentle strokes from his palette. The artist made me look alive when I felt lonely and grim inside. That's the way this man saw me. I decided then that that's what I wanted to do."

"Did you like the way you looked?"

"I'm sure I looked much better than if I'd seen myself in a reflection." Alexander's voice became impassioned, as if he were expressing his thoughts for the very first time. "I always felt sorry for humans, spending so much time in front of the mirror. Fixing their hair, makeup, and clothes, mostly to impress others. Did they really see themselves in the mirror? Was it what they wanted to see? Did it make them feel good or bad? And mostly I wondered if they based their self-image on their reflected one." "You're right. We do spend a lot of time worrying about our looks, instead of focusing on what's inside."

"The artist has the power to capture that. To express what he thinks about the subject. I thought that was much more romantic than seeing myself in a cold, stark glass reflection."

"So that is why you paint portraits? Like the one of me at the Snow Ball?"

"Yes."

"It must be hard to be an artist among vampires."

"That's why I never fit in. I'd rather create than destroy."

Alexander suddenly looked up at the moon. He got up and grabbed a sturdy branch that had fallen from one of the trees and was lying by the lake. He took off his belt and bound the branch to the umbrella handle. He removed the flagpole and stuck the umbrella stick in the third hole.

"What are you doing? Want to keep out the moon?"

Suddenly I could hear the sound of a sprinkler turning on. Water began to drizzle down over us like a gentle storm.

I giggled as the cold water hit my legs.

"This is so awesome! I never knew a golf course could be so beautiful."

We kissed underneath the sprinkling water until we noticed lightning flashing in the distance.

I quickly packed up our drinks and CD player while Alexander dismantled the umbrella.

"I'm sorry we have to call this short," he said as we headed for home. "Are you kidding? It was perfect," I said, giving him a quick hug. "I'll never look at golf the same way again."

Chapter 21 Creepy Carnival

For the next few days, I went to school, hung out with Becky and Matt, dodged Trevor, came home, and took care of Nightmare. After sunset, I spent as much time as I could with Alexander, watching movies, cuddling, and listening to music in the darkness.

By Saturday, I was exhausted. I slept the day away and met Alexander by dusk at his Mansion. It was the night of Dullsville's Spring Carnival.

In the past, Becky and I had always attended the carnival together. This time, we would be arriving separately on the arms of our respective dates.

Alexander and I entered, hand in hand, shortly after sunset. We stepped through the two arches made of multicolored balloons, a white wooden admission booth in between. Alexander approached Old Jim, who was selling tickets; Luke, his Great Dane, was sitting at his feet.

"Two, please," Alexander requested, paying for us both.

"I see you've been sleeping in one of the vacant coffins," Old Jim warned. "I haven't slept at the cemetery for months," I replied. "Maybe it's--"

He looked at me skeptically. "Well, if I catch you, I have to tell your parents, you know."

Alexander grabbed my hand and led me away from Old Jim and through the balloon-filled entrance. The carnival was spread over Dullsville High's soccer field. There were booths of homemade pies, corn dogs, snow cones, rides like the Ferris wheel and the Scrambler, a fun house, and games of tic-tac-toe, a ring toss, and a dunking booth. The air smelled of cotton candy and grilled corn on the cob. Alexander and I walked through the crowd like the prince and princess of darkness. But he was oblivious to the stares and looked like a wide-eyed kid not knowing what to play with first.

"Haven't you been to a carnival before?" I asked.

"No. Have you?"

"Of course."

"You made it," I heard a familiar voice say. It was my dad.

I turned around to find my parents eating hot dogs at a picnic table.

Alexander shook my dad's hand and politely said hello to my mother.

"Would you like to sit with us?" my mom offered.

"They don't want to spend all night with us old fogies," my dad interjected. "You guys have fun," he said, reaching into his wallet and offering me a twenty.

"I've got it covered, Mr. Madison," Alexander said.

"I like your style," my dad replied, returning the money to his wallet. "Thanks anyway, Dad," I said. "We'll see you later."

As Alexander and I walked past the booths, patrons and workers stared at us like we were part of the sideshow.

"Hey, Raven," Becky said, when I found her selling homemade pies at her father's booth. "Dad had to run home. We sold out of the caramel apples and only have two pies left."

"Congratulations," I complimented her. "But I was looking forward to some."

"I'll reserve two for you when he gets back," Matt said, as he handed a piece of apple cobbler to a customer.

"I think you've found your calling," I said to him.

We said good-bye to Becky and Matt as they tried to keep one step ahead of their customers.

On our way to the carnival rides, I spotted Ruby, who was standing in between two booths. "Hi, Ruby, are you here with Janice?" I asked.

"Oh, hi, Raven," she said, giving me a friendly hug. "No, I'm here with a friend," she added with a wink.

Just then Jameson, minus his usual butler uniform and wearing a dark suit and black tie, walked over with a fresh swirl of blue cotton candy.

"Hello, Miss Raven," he said, gently handing the candy to Ruby. "I'm glad to see Alexander is in such good hands, as I have the night off."

Alexander gave the Creepy Man a smile.

"I'm glad that you and Jameson are back in town," Ruby said to Alexander. "I am, too," he replied, and squeezed my hand. "Is Jameson treating you tight? I know he can get kind of wild," he teased.

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