Cleo – Flashback
Their names were Jessica and Avery, and they were seniors in high school. They’d been Cleo’s best friends since the third grade.
They both had long brown hair, but Jessica’s was straight, and Avery’s fell in crimped waves and she’d just gotten bangs about a month ago because she’d been complaining she wanted a change. Cleo was still getting used to it.
Cleo waved to her mom as she climbed into the backseat of Avery’s compact car. She peered out the window of the tiny house with blue shutters, fingers pressed to her lips. She didn’t like the idea of them driving so late at night, but Cleo knew they would be safe. They were always safe. Avery was a good driver. Her mother was just paranoid.
The drive to Gia’s house was long because she lived on a secluded back road—Cleo always joked that it was in the middle of nowhere—and Jessica leaned over to crank up the music as soon as they turned out of the driveway.
“All the single ladies, all the single ladies! All the single ladies! Now put your hands up!” Jessica sang, and then threw her hands up in the air.
“My hands are metaphorically up,” Avery said, and put on her blinker to turn the next corner.
“Cleo! Hands up!” Jessica demanded.
Cleo held up her hands and waved them at Jessica as if to say, “Happy?”
“Thank you,” Jessica caroled.
“So what exactly did Gia say we’re doing tonight?” Cleo asked.
“Oh, you know. Watching sappy romance movies, hugging teddy bears, crying pathetically over bowls of cookie dough ice cream about how miserable and alone we are.”
“Ah,” Cleo said, nodding.
“All I know is that she better have gotten Lactose Free ice cream for me this time,” Avery said.
“It’s not my fault—”
“But remember, we have to play Truth or Dare so we can get her to admit that she likes Vincent. It’s absolutely, positively crucial,” Jessica told them.
“And if she doesn’t admit?” Avery said, glancing at Jessica out of the corner of her eye.
“Then we smother her with our pillows until she does.”
“Sounds safe,” Avery commented.
“Don’t be such a Debby Downer,” Jessica said. “Sleepovers are supposed to be fun.”
Cleo stared out the window. She could see the headlights of another car a few feet behind them. On one side of the road lay an extensive open field and on the other, a forest. Glowing yellow eyes blinked at her from the darkness in between the trees.
“Avery, watch out for the deer,” Cleo told her.
“I know, I know,” Avery replied. “I won’t hit any.”
“You don’t hit deer,” Jessica said. “Deer hit you.”
Avery shushed her, fingers tightening on the steering wheel. “You’re breaking my concentration.”
Something appeared in the headlights.
It wasn’t a deer. She saw a hint of blonde hair and a smile before everything became chaotic.
Avery screamed, and Cleo grabbed onto the bottom of her seat, nails digging into the cushions, as Avery wrenched the steering wheel to the side. They clipped the boy, and he flew into the windshield.
Cleo was thrown forward against the seatbelt. It caught her in the neck and stomach, jerking her back. Glass and metal crunched. Brakes screeched. Several people were screaming, and Cleo had the vague sense that she might have been one of them.
The car came to an abrupt stop.
Cleo was breathing hard. Her grip on the seat hadn’t loosened.
Avery let go of the steering wheel and twisted sideways in her seat to looked at Cleo and Jessica. “Is everyone alright—”
Lights filled the back window, and Avery’s eyes grew wide. There was brief moment where Cleo thought Deer in Headlights, and then she was thrown forward again. Her head smashed against the side window. Spots danced before her eyes.
She had to look up . . . She had to . . . She had to make sure Jessica and Avery were okay . . .
Cleo lifted her head. Blood ran in a hot, steady stream down her face.
Jessica . . . Avery . . .
The two girls in the front seat were motionless, their clothes stained with blood. Avery was slumped in her seat. Her head was resting against her shoulder and bruises dotted the fair skin of her face. Her royal blue eyes stared, unseeing, at Cleo’s feet.
A spider web pattern of cracks decorated the front windshield.
Cleo’s head fell back. Oh, my God. Oh, my God, no. Please.
She couldn’t gather the air to scream. She was gasping and breathing too quickly, like a fish out of water. Tears stung her eyes, and everything became a blurry mess. She just lay there and cried, body jerking as she was overcome by a series of violent, heart wrenching tremors.
She kept thinking, Why me? Why am I still alive?
There was the sound of protesting metal, and Cleo felt a blast of cool air. She managed to turn her head a fraction of an inch to make out two figures through her distorted, tear-filled vision.
One was a slim, tall girl with dirty blonde ringlets. The other was . . .
Bile rose in Cleo’s throat.
It was the blonde boy. She could see the hazy colors that made him up, like a painting where the artist had forgotten the facial features, and could figure that much out. But . . . They’d hit him. He should have been dead.
Dirt smeared his clothes and skin, and there were a few rips in his shirt, but other than that he was fine. Though she couldn’t distinguish his face, she could tell he was still smiling.
“Good work,” the girl said. Her voice was harsh. Cold. “Take care of her first. She’s in the worst condition. The other girls will be fine for a few more minutes.”
Cleo could make out the nod of his head. He reached around to unbuckle her seatbelt, and then she was being lifted up in strong, muscular arms. Everything hurt too much to struggle, and if she was being honest, she didn’t really care enough to try.
Just let me die, she thought.
There was a car parked on the side of the road. He carried her to the open back door and set her down on one of the seats. A seatbelt slid around her, and there was a click.
Cleo stared at the boy’s chest with forest green eyes that the fight had already gone out of.
The boy lifted his wrist to his mouth, and long curved canines flashed down. Cleo was too numb to be scared or stunned or anything, really. He bit down and ripped at the skin there.
The wrist was pressed to Cleo’s mouth, and she choked on the warm delicious liquid. She swallowed and felt an encouraging hand settle on her head.
She drunk until she thought she might burst, and then she drunk some more. It was wonderful. It was . . . She couldn’t find the words to describe it. She forgot about Jessica and Avery, and there was nothing but inexhaustible ecstasy.
The wrist pulled away, and Cleo tried to lean and follow it.
The boy clucked his tongue disapprovingly. His hands touched the sides of her face, and they were gentle. His thumb ran in soft circles over the blood and tears that had mixed on her cheek.
He jerked Cleo’s head to the side with a brusque crack.
Everything went black.
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