I scream. And it makes my own blood curdle.
“Goddamnit! Don’t scream in my ear!” Ms Pink is covering her ears with both hands, looking as though she’s in pain.
“I’m not going to kill you, stupid human.”
Ms Pink rolls her eyes. “Does your simplistic mind not realize what a hassle it is to try to hide a pile of dead bodies in this day and age? Or how hard it will be to explain puncture marks on stupid humans?”
“But how do you get blood to feed on if not from h-humans?”
“Trade secrets.” Pink eyes flash again. “If I tell you, I’d have to kill you.”
“Never mind,” I say hastily, “so, you’re not actually interested in my blood?”
“Mmm, your blood smells too good to be true.” Those pink eyes narrow and a pink tongue slips past her pink lips just slightly. “And you look good enough to eat.” She pushes away from me at last. “But you’re safe for now and you’re not going anywhere. Do you understand me?”
Can I do anything else but nod?
“Come to High Society tomorrow night. The results should be out then and I’ll want to see you.”
“A-Are you sure you want me to go there…?”
Well-trimmed eyebrows sink into a frown. “Don’t question me. Obey my orders and nothing bad will happen to you.”
Sure, that sounds completely assuring to me. “What time do you want me to be there?”
“Hey, what’s up with you today? You were so distracted in class.”
There’s nothing I can say so I shake my head. “It’s nothing.”
“Do you really expect me to believe it’s nothing?”
“Max, it’s nothing, really.”
His arm goes around my shoulders and he pulls me against him. “Do you wanna grab something to eat and tell me all about it?”
“Alright then. How about just lunch? No telling.”
“Lunch would be good.”
We plod along with Max’s arm draped over my shoulders. It’s nice. It’s familiar. He’s like a lighthouse that stands tall and strong, guiding me in the middle of a trigger-happy thunderstorm. Sometimes I find myself wondering why he doesn’t hangout with the other girls who ask him out. Like today. I mean, I was right there when Linda asked him out to lunch, yet here he is, heading to lunch with me.
“Actually, why didn’t you invite Linda to come along?”
His bushy eyebrows rise high on his forehead. “Would you rather she came along with us?”
“She did ask you out for lunch.”
“Taeyeon, I’m not interested in going on a date with Linda.”
“Oh, she was asking you out on a date?”
“Well, she sorta makes it sound casual but she’s been coming on to me for a while now.”
“So you aren’t into her?”
Max laughs and ruffles my hair. “Yeah, no worries, Taeyeon.”
Why would I be worried though. Unless he thinks I’m—or maybe he is— “Uh, Max?”
Oh my God. How do I do this without messing it up? “I, er…I—I want ramen for lunch.”
Max laughs. “Ramen it is.”
“I’m meeting up some friends for a drink tonight. Do you wanna come along?”
I stare at Max, ramen hanging on my chopsticks, as I try to think of an excuse to avoid going out with him. I mean, this is beginning to look like something that I do not want. Has he always been interested? I can’t really tell. He’s always been a good friend ever since we met in our second year of university and I’d never picked up on any signs that he’s interested in more all this time. Until he came back from his exchange program a week ago, that is.
“Nah. You’ll be with your friends, you don’t need me around.”
“But I want them to meet you. Anyway, you’ve met at least one of them too.”
“Remember when we did video call one night and a blasted group of dudes stormed into my room and took over my laptop?”
“Yeah, them. Come on, it’ll be fun. They’re a crazy bunch. Lots of laughs guaranteed and you look like you could use a few of those.”
Tonight. I’m supposed to meet Ms Pink tonight. The thought of it fills me with dread. There’s no telling what she’ll do to me if I piss her off. There’s no telling what she’ll do to me if I don’t piss her off. And what if something’s up with my blood? What if she decides that she wants my blood for some reason?
“You know what? Yes, I’ll go with you. It should be fun.”
His eyes light up like it’s the first day of the winter holidays. “Awesome! I’ll come around and pick you up at nine.”
Good. Ms Pink won’t come and kidnap me if Max is around, right? “Sounds good.”
It’s eight-forty-five and I’m regretting my decision as I pace the floor of my bedroom in my blue summer dress. What if Ms Pink goes mad with anger and crashes the party? Half of me wants to believe that Ms Pink wouldn’t do that for the sake of her reputation. The other half of me is focused on what might happen to me for disobeying her orders. But I’m not her slave. Why should I listen obey her orders? Besides, she did say that hiding a dead body is a hassle. Correction: a pile of dead bodies. It’s probably a lot easier to hide just one dead body.
The bell rings. Max is here.
“Taeyeon! Max is here!” Sunny announces from the door.
I emerge from my room, hoping I don’t look too flustered. “I’m ready,” I say, more for myself than Max or Sunny.
“You look gorgeous tonight, Taeyeon.”
I blush a little. “Thanks, Max.”
Sunny pulls me to her side and whispers in my ear, “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“I’ll tell him I’m not interested. I just need an appropriate moment for that.”
Sunny doesn’t look convinced as she lets go of my arm. “I hope you know what you’re doing.” Then, she turns to Max with a cheerful smile. “The ladies are ready to go, Max.”
Max grins. “So am I.”
“Thanks for coming along, buddy,” I whisper in Sunny’s ear as we enter the club.
“You owe me, sista.”
“How’s things with Summer?”
Sunny is a picture of many good feelings mixed in a pot. “We’ve been texting for the past two days. She wants to see me again so badly.” Sunny giggles. “Can’t say I don’t feel the same way.”
If only my life were as simple as Sunny’s. And for her sake, I hope Summer doesn’t turn out to be some kind of nightmare. “I’m happy for you. But remember to be careful.”
“I know, Mom.”
“Meet Jay, Peter and Seth.”
Introductions over, we settle into a comfortable conversation and I am progressively feeling more and more light-headed as ten o’clock approaches. I am going to get into so much trouble. I shouldn’t even be here. I have to call Ms Pink to tell her I’ll be late and find a way to excuse myself.
“Guys, I’ll be right back,” I say as I leave the table. Sneaking myself out of the club, I find a quiet spot along the wall to make my call.
A crisp voice answers, “Taeyeon, you’ve become smarter I see. Are you early again?”
“Er…no…actually I’m calling to tell you I’ll be late.”
“Late? I don’t like late. How late?”
“Well, you see…er…I’m at this club with some friends and—”
“Excuses. You stupid humans are always so good with your excuses. Looks like you need to be punished again before you learn your lesson.”
“Stop wasting my time and come here immediately.”
The tone of Ms Pink’s voice grates on my nerves. I don’t know how or where I get my courage from but right there and then, I decide I’m not going to cave in to Ms Pink’s orders. I’m not going to give her the pleasure of knowing that she can control me. I, Taeyeon Kim, am not her slave. And with that thought in mind, I march back in. It’s time to party and enjoy myself.
An hour later, I find myself stumbling to the bathroom. I’ve had one too many shots of that awesome burning liquid stuff and I think it’s affecting my ability to walk straight. And see straight.
“Hey, hey, hey, careful there, babe.”
I look up at the voice and squint. “Max. What are you doing here. It’s the ladies.”
He laughs. “Taeyeon, you’re not even in the ladies yet. Are you sure you’re okay.”
“I’m fine. I’m totally fine.”
“Alright then. I’ll be out here, waiting for you.”
“No, you don’t have to.”
“I don’t mind waiting.”
“You really don’t have to.”
“I want to, Taeyeon. And you should know why.”
“I don’t. I don’t know why you would want to wait outside the ladies.”
“Taeyeon, I know you’re kinda tipsy right now but you’re not too drunk to know why.”
Oh no. This is it. I can’t avoid it anymore. “I—Max, I…”
“I can’t stand being your friend anymore, Taeyeon. If there’s anything I learnt from my exchange program, it’s this.”
“You’re not making any sense.”
“I missed you. Okay? I missed you a lot. And I really like you. A lot.”
Max steps towards me, backing me into the wall behind. “Be mine.”
His lips smother mine and my first reaction is to push him away. “No, I don’t—”
He kisses me again and this time he pins me to the wall, holding my hands out of the way. My mind is screaming for help when all pressure disappears suddenly.
“The lady said no.”
Ms Pink! I stare at the skin-tight pink leggings, following them up to the black coat that covers the rest of Ms Pink.
“She did and you know she meant it. Don’t you dare try this again or you’ll have to deal with me.”
Oh my God, she is so attractive. And charming. And—
“Come.” She grabs my wrist and I follow.
In my heart, I’m thanking her for saving me from Max but in my mind, I’m preparing myself for the worst. I am in so much trouble.