By the time Max got to the party it was late. He’d overslept. The blaring techno music thumped in his head like a heartbeat and the flashing lights made him dizzy. He wished he would have picked up something to eat on the way.
Bridget slithered through the crowd toward him. She held a drink in one of those red plastic cups. When she got close he smelled the fruity wine. It made his stomach churn. She touched his arm and shouted over the music, “You okay, Max?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I mean I will be. I just need a minute.”
“Come on over then. The gang’s here. We’ve been waiting for you.”
Max followed her through the crowd, trying not to get trampled by the throng of gyrating dancers. His friends were in a little knot at the back of the room: Mellissa, Brandon, Alice, Ty, Fast Eddie, and Boomer, so named for his loud voice.
“Hey, Max!” Boomer shouted, the music parting like the Red Sea at his volume. “I didn’t think you were gonna show.”
Max smiled weakly. “I had to, didn’t I? Party of the year, right?”
“Damned skippy,” Alice said. “Say, would you hold my drink? I gotta pee.”
She shoved her drink into Max’s hand and pushed her way through the crowd.
Max started to tremble. He could hear the rushing blood of the crowd, washing over him like a tidal wave.
“You need some air,” Melissa announced. “Come on.”
Everyone exchanged glances as they followed her. Once outside, his head cleared a little.
“Look, Max, why don’t you go find someone to bite and come back later. You know you want to,” Brandon blurted suddenly.
“What are you talking about?” Max said, alarmed.
“We’ve been meaning to talk to you about your… uh… vampirism for a while now.”
Max laughed nervously. “Vampire? Me? No way.”
“Come on, dude,” Bridget said. “Have you looked at yourself in a mirror lately? Oops! Sorry. I mean you’re just, like, really pale, you know.”
“You wear a trench coat, hat and scarf to the beach,” Eddie chimed in.
“You actually hissed when the blind date we set you up with showed you her cross tattoo,” Boomer laughed.
“You carry a portrait of your ex instead of a photograph.”
“Your full name is Maximillian Wolfgang Albrecht Von Lugwig III.”
“You can keep a drink cold just by holding it,” Melissa said. She took Alice’s cup from him and took a gulp. “Ow! Brain freeze.”
“So you knew all along but never said anything? Why?” Max didn’t know whether to be elated or terrified.
“Because we like you, man,” Brandon said, clapping him on the back.
They all smiled and nodded.
“Sure, she’s cool with it,” Melissa said. “Now that your secret is out maybe it’s time we confronted her too.”
“About what?” Max was confused.
“Don’t tell me you haven’t caught on,” Bridget said, rolling her eyes. “Alice is a werewolf.”