"I'm almost legally an adult," he continued. "Then I'll be able to make my own decisions."
Alexander's maturity was like an aphrodisiac.
"You are hot-and brilliant!" I said, gus.h.i.+ng.
"Don't get too excited. There is one hitch."
"Really?But I thought you said-"
"I'll need to put a deposit down and eventually pay closing costs. I do have money in the bank, but it isn't enough. I just need to come up with money for a down payment."
The only monthly fees I knew about were those charged at Dullsville's video store. I was clueless when it came to housing costs.
"But where are we going to come up with that kind of money? "I asked.
"Therein lays the problem."
"I only have a few hundred in the bank and about sixty in my drawer at home," I offered. "I'll ask my parents for a loan."
"Enough for a down payment on a house?They'll just give that to a sixteen-year-old girl?""No -to you," I said."Her seventeen-year-old boyfriend?I appreciate the thought, but I don't think that would go over well.""How much money do we need?"Alexander mouthed a number that was way higher than I had antic.i.p.ated."Where can we find that kind of money?" I asked, stupefied."That part I haven't figured out yet. But we need to before Trevor's father cuts a check."
Iwas under two deadlines: I had to raise enough money for Alexander before Trevor's father made an offer on the Mansion, and I needed to complete my essay-or start it-before our big presentation.
I had a hard time focusing on either. I didn't know how to raise money, and if we didn't figure out something quick, Alexander would be moving toRomania . To quell my nerves, I sat at my computer and tried to begin the essay.
But how did Mrs.Naper expect me to focus on a career or future when Alexander was going to be across the world? My only hope now was to enroll in theUniversityofTransylvania . Even if I had good enough grades, was accepted, and could affordit, that would be at least twp" years away. By that time Alexander could be married-/to someone else.
However, if I had a career now and not in five years, I'd be able to help Alexander with his house money, I tapped my fingers on my desk in frustration and tried to focus on the essay.
I'd really never thought much about what I'd want to do with my life other than becoming a vampire. How was I supposed to explain that to my cla.s.smates? I began thinking about what I loved-vampires, morbid music, hanging out in cemeteries. But what career would allow me to be me?A doctor? I couldn't imagine anyone feeling comfortable with me in a black surgical mask and dark scrubs coming at them with a scalpel. My patients would insist on healing themselves.A lawyer? I don't think the judge would permit miniskirts and monster boots in a courtroom.A teacher? The parents would pull their students out of my cla.s.s.
And, did I want to spend the rest of my life in Dullsville-especially given the possibility that Alexander might not be here, too? I'd always been dying to get out of town, but when I met my true love all that changed. I once dreamed of a place where I wasn't an outsider anymore. And if Alexander returned toRomania , I'd be lonelier than I had been before.
Was I afraid of being true to myself in front of my English cla.s.s? Was I too timid to explore everything I might really be able to become? Was I too nervous to share my dream of becoming a vampire or anything else I might choose? I'd always thought my character was just as important-if not more so-than the career I'd pursue. I had to be honest about that-especially now that I'd made fun of Trevor for not reporting his true desires. But did I really have the courage that I was telling him he lacked?
I took a breath and began writing. Words filled my head faster than I could type them. I wrote about my pa.s.sions, no matter how ridiculous they might seem to Mrs.Naper and my cla.s.smates. The once-blank page was quickly being turned into an essay. I was in the zone and nothing was going to distract me.
When I finished my first draft, I made some notes for my presentation.
Careers are about making money, I thought, but a great career was doing what someone loved-and being paid for it. Trevor should be a professional soccer player. Billy Boy would be a scientist or computer programmer. And Alexander would be an artist. But wasn't he one already? He had already won first place in Hipsterville's Art Fair. Now he just needed to be paid for his artwork so he could buy the Mansion.
And then it hit me. Why hadn't I thought of it sooner? We could sell Alexander's paintings in Dullsville's Annual Art Auction.
TheNaper Paper proved to be more insightful than I'd ever imagined.
Convincing Alexander about my brilliant plan was another thing, "The Dullsville auction," I said when we met inside the rail yard boxcar. "We'll sell your paintings in the auction."
"Are you kidding me? No one would buy my-artwork."
Alexander stared at his paintings on the wall. "You heard my father. I paint more as a hobby. Raven, that auction is for professional artists."
"Alexander, these paintings are gorgeous. I don't need to be an expert to tell that these are valuable."
"You are just biased because you are my girlfriend."
"You won first prize inHipsterville's Art Fair. Those voters weren't dating you. You aremegatalented .
If I've learned anything from my English a.s.signment, it's that hobbies can turn into careers. And we are going to prove it."
"I don't think so-there must be some other way."
"There isn't time," I pleaded. "The auction is this week. It's the only way."
"I'm not prepared for the town to see my work-much less ask anyone to buy it," he said.
"You won't. I will."
"I don't know how to partic.i.p.ate in an auction. Or even who to ask."
"Unfortunately or fortunately," I said, "I have a major connection to Dullsville's auction in the form of my perfectly evil English partner."
"I need to speak with you," I said to Trevor as soon as I saw him the following morning. He was getting out of hisCamaro and sauntering toward school.
"Really?" he leered. "It will cost you. How about that kiss you didn't have time for before?"
"How do I put things in the art auction?" I asked, ignoring his come-on.
"What do you have of value?" "I don't, but someone else does." "So why doesn't that someone ask me?""Because I am acting as an agent." "If you get ten percent, what do I get?" He shot me a s.e.xy grin.
"How about what youwon't get -a step on your foot or a kick to the s.h.i.+n?"
"You say the cutest things, Monster Girl. Sorry, I can't help you."
I tugged on his backpack. "I'm asking you as your English partner-be a humanitarian. I can still skip cla.s.s on our a.s.signment date and watch you fail from outside the window."
He weighed his options heavily. Then he reluctantly agreed.
"My mom is in charge of the auction. I suppose I can drive you there after school."
"I'll take my bike and meet you there."
"You think you can get into the country club looking like that? You'll need me to escort you."
Trevor had a point. I'd only frequented the upscale club when I was accompanied by my sports-obsessed father and forced to wear tennis whites. They didn't welcome the pins and studs that I was sporting now. "I'll meet you in the parking lot," I agreed.
He was surprised at my positive response and left for cla.s.s with an extra spring in his step.
After school, I found Trevor sitting on the hood of hisCamaro - the whole soccer team was waiting around him as if he'd just won the World Cup.
Trevor opened the door to theCamaro . "Step inside."
His jock mates yelled, "Whoohoo!"
I wasn't worried about my safety, but I was worried about my reputation. I didn't run with the in crowd-and at this point, I wanted to keep it that way.
Besides, I had something better than mace if Trevor decided to become friendly.
"Becky and Matt are coming, too," I said, as Dullsville's cutest couple caught up to me.
I felt victorious, but Trevor was unfettered.
"Of course," he said coyly. "We'll double."
I thought the alarm bells would sound when I entered the club and I'd be arrested by the fas.h.i.+on police. Though Becky and Matt were close behind, a staff member approached me.
"Can I help you?" a tall man in a green country club suit asked.
"I'm here with Trevor. Trevor Mitch.e.l.l. He's parking the car."
"You are?" he asked, checking me out.
"There is a dress code, I know. But we are just pa.s.sing through."
Just then my savior in khakis came through the door. "Hi, Dave," Trevor said. "I'm here to see my mom.""Hi, Trevor. How are you? Your mother's in the banquet hall." It was the first time in my life I was happy to be by Trevor's side.
We made our way down the orange-and-brown-patterned carpeted corridor. Unoriginal, hotel-inspiredan lined the green painted walls.
Mrs. Mitch.e.l.l was opening a cardboard box when she noticed Trevor walk in. She beamed as she stood up,then frowned when she saw me enter the room behind her son.
"Are you in trouble?" It was her first reaction.
"Raven wants to place something in the auction."
"h.e.l.lo, Matt, Becky...Raven."
"h.e.l.lo, Mrs. Mitch.e.l.l," we responded. Mrs. Mitch.e.l.l was like the teacher students dreaded having-chummy with those who excelled and short with those who didn't.
"That's very nice of you to help outyour ..." She hesitated,then glared at me. "...friends ."
She, like Trevor, was skeptical that I was capable of partic.i.p.ating in a high-society Dullsville auction. She tried hard to hide her contempt for me. But it was clear she didn't think I had anything of value to sell.
"This isn't for a school project, is it?" she asked. "This is an adult auction for collectors. We aren't auctioning offpapier-mache penguins made in art cla.s.s."
"No," I said in my politest voice. Normally, I would say something snotty, but Alexander and the Mansion^fate were on the line. So I kissed up to her like she had never been kissed up to before.
"We are studying careers in English cla.s.s and I thought what better way to see a successful woman than to watch her up close? Not only will I see how you organize this event, but I'll be able to see how an auction really works."
"Well.,.I had no idea" Mrs . Mitch.e.l.l said, suddenly bright and charming. "What would you like to auction?""Paintings.""From your father's collection? Is it an artist we know?"
I was afraid to tell her they were from a teen vampire.
"No.A young European talent."
"European?"Mrs. Mitch.e.l.l asked, her eyes almost popping out of her head. "It would be nice to showcase someone on the rise. Of course,I'd need to see it first."
"Someone will bring it by," I chimed in.
"Good. Then fill out this form. And bring the artwork to me by the middle of the week-no later than five o'clock."
"That's it?" Trevor asked on my behalf.
"That's it.Ill set aside an area just for you."
"Thanks," I said.
"Why don't you stay and I can show you the real behind-the-scenes goings-on in event planning. It might help you with your report. Then I can run you home afterward."
"That's okay, Mom," Trevor interjected before I could. "I have to take her back before soccer practice tonight."
"Well then. Remember, all pieces need to be checked in before five."
Alexander wouldn't be able to drop the paintings off before sunset. And how was I going to lug all his artwork there on my bike? We'd have to find someone strong and not bound by the curfew of daylight.
I just hoped Jameson had developed some muscles from vacuuming.
"I'll drop you two off first. Then I'll take Raven home," Trevor told us when we raced out of the club parking lot. At this point I wished I had stayed with his mother and rode home with her.
"Oh, that's okay. I'm going to Raven's house," Becky said.
Trevor's expression turned from triumph to torment. He dropped Matt off in silence and didn't speak the rest of theway, He barely let us out before he sped away.
"I owe you big-time, Becky," I said when we were safely on the sidewalk.
Unlike Becky, I didn't have my own truck. "Want to ride on the handlebars or the seat?
"How about I wait for Matt to come back and pick me up?" she suggested. "Then you can avoid leg cramps."
We sat down on the front steps. "I can tell you whose paintings are going to be put up on the auction block," I began.
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