Graciela looked at Dionysus across the dinner table. He seemed tired. While she was recovering from fainting, she wondered what the elven man was up to. Lesson planning? Flirting with Ms.Briella or Ms.Sophina? Dionysus picked up his fork and stabbed a piece of pork that lay on the fancy chinaware. “Why does Sophina insist we use these glass plates? Can’t we just use paper stuff? Now we have to wash dishes.”
“I can do the dishes,” Graciela said quietly. “It’s the least I can do for you being my acting guardian right now. Mom makes us take turns at home.”
“I’ll do it,” Dionysus said with a small smile. “I heard some of your friends brought over your missed notes. Do you need to copy them or something?”
“They’re not my friends, Dio. They’re just my classmates. And, I already did the assignment. Plus it’s the weekend. I don’t have to wake up early or anything. So, maybe we can do something?”
“What did you have in mind?” Dionysus asked. “Did you want to watch a movie or play a game?”
“Video games. If I win, you have to answer one of my questions. If you win, l’ll answer one of yours. Sound good?” She leaned over the table, a mischievous glint in her eyes.
“Prepare your answers because I’m going to win.” Dionysus stood up and took their plates to the sink. Then he led her to the living room where a game console Pax had given the pair for their “new home” was set up.
“Let’s play this racing game. I’ve only ever lost to Waverly, so I’m confident. I can-” Her thoughts were interrupted by a slow knock on the door. Graciela groaned, tossing herself onto the couch. “Don’t answer it.” If anyone was at the door, it meant trouble.
“Why not?” Dionysus asked, raising a brow. “You know who it’s going to be?”
“Winter. She texted me earlier about a sleepover her and the other girls are setting up in the gym. I don’t really like things like that. The last time I played truth or dare, I was locked in a closet and made fun of for being scared of the dark.”
“I’m sorry you had to deal with that.” Dionysus frowned. “But not everyone is going to do that to you. Maybe hear her out? Wasn’t Winter the one who brought you your notes? Sounds like she wants to be your friend if she came all the way here, twice.” Dionysus didn’t wait for the girl’s response and walked over to the front door of their small apartment. He pulled the front door open. “Why hello, Winter, what brings you here in your pajamas?” He stepped to the side and let the vampire girl in.
“I was hoping that Graciela would come to our sleepover party. It’s in the gym. All the girls will be there, so she can get to know us better.” Winter caught sight of Graciela sprawled across the couch and her smile grew bigger. “Oh, join us Gracie! Tera and Arc aren’t that bad and you haven’t met my cousin, Adriana, yet!”
“I don’t really want to sleep in the gym,” Graciela replied, sitting up on the stiff couch. “Sounds really uncomfy.”
“You can come back here to sleep if you’re more comfortable. You don’t have to sleep in the gym but we’ve got tons of pillows, blankets, snacks, and Tera even brought down the rug from our dorm. It’s plush!”
“That sounds like a lot of fun. Go and join them, Gracie.” Dionysus gave her a thumbs up and she rolled her eyes. She knew he had wanted her to be sociable and make friends, but he didn’t understand how people treated her when they found out she was a freak. “We can play games another night.”
“Fine.” Graciela stood up reluctantly. Not because she had wanted to go, but because she saw the look in Dio’s eyes that said she didn’t have a choice but to go and try to make some new friends. “But I’m not playing any truth or dare.”
“We’ll mostly be talking and maybe playing some card games or something. Arc’s father gets her a lot of things outside of the academy that the rest of us don’t really have access to. So when he does, we plan get togethers like this.”
“Yay. So much fun.” Graciela’s voice was monotone and her disdain for the night’s plan was evident on her face. “Can’t wait.”
The walk to the gym was tense. Graciela hadn’t meant to be so hard on Winter. The girl was only trying to make her feel welcomed into the academy. Yet, the idea of making new friends scared Graciela, sometimes more than she could handle. When the pair had arrived at the door, Winter stopped and placed her hands on her hips. “I know this is really last minute but the girls and I really want to be your friend. We don’t get very many new people here and you seem so cool.”
“Cool?” Graciela asked with a frown. “You’ve got the wrong person. I’m a weirdo. A freak. The strange vampire who just showed up with an elf and a fairy out of nowhere.”
“Doesn’t matter how you got here,” Winter said, shrugging her shoulders slightly and reaching up to place a hand on her heart. “If that makes you weird, I’m weirder. I came here from another dimension by accident and no one can figure out how to return me, Tommy, or Adriana home so we’re here.”
“Oh. I didn’t know that. I’m sorry,” Graciela replied. “But Ms.Sophina says we’re all special and here for a reason. You might not know your purpose yet.”
“Exactly, but neither do you. You can’t say that whatever it is that you’re here for isn’t important. Whatever it is that you need to do could save the world. We’ll never really know until it happens. But when it does, it’s great to share the accomplishment with your friends. I hope one day that will be me.”
“Why?” Graciela asked, shaking her head. “I’ve got nothing to offer you.”
“What do you mean?” Winter asked, giggling slightly. “You’re another female vampire who doesn’t let Maric get away with his nonsense. It’s great. Plus I can see you really care about your friendship with Braylen. I guess I wonder what it’d be like to have a friend like that. I think it’s pretty rad.”
“Pretty rad,” Graciela mumbled under her breath, testing how the words tasted on her tongue.
“But enough of all that mushy stuff. Let’s go inside with the others and see what they have prepared. Tera went in town earlier this week and bought these coconut macaroon things and Adriana promised she’d make us all hot chocolate with JUMBO marshmallows!” There was no room for argument as Winter led Graciela into the gym.
Upon first glance, Graciela was shocked. The girls really had created quite the setup. There were blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, books, paper, snacks… almost anything they could want to entertain them for the night. “Yay! You got Gracie here!” Tera said excitedly, waving the girls over. “I’ve been dying to meet you properly!”
“Uh…thanks for inviting me…” Graciela said sheepishly. As she approached the trio of girls with Winter by her side, the girl on the left who Winter had told her was Arc, motioned for Gracie to sit down. Graciela nodded hesitantly and dropped to the ground.
“Hey, us girls have to stick together. The boys can be so lame sometimes, especially Maric. Watcher, he’s so rude. And don’t get me started on Ryland. He’s so obnoxiously excited sometimes. Leon is okay, just he’s too much of a goodie two shoes,” Arc said.
“But they’re all good people when they’re not being annoying. I’m sure that will be the case for Braylen as well.” The one on the far right, Adriana, spoke up. The other girls at this impromptu round table meeting all agreed. “Sometimes it’s just fun to gossip with the girls and talk about things like crushes. For example, Tera’s massive crush on Maric.”
The pink haired fairy’s face lit up a crimson red as she shook her head furiously. “Why would you tell Gracie that!? She’s IN HIS GROUP, ADY!”
“Exactly, maybe she has some intel or can gather some for you. Be your wingwoman, duh!” Adriana let out a laugh at her friend’s exasperated expression. “So, Gracie…Do you have any intel for us on the stoic vampire?”
“She just met the guy, lay off.” Winter rolled her eyes. “We should talk about something more interesting like what life is like back home. Any super cute guys or girls? Life shattering drama?” Winter sat up on her knees as she asked excitedly. Graciela had thought she was holed up in Fortitude but seeing how excited Winter was to get a glimpse of the outside world made her feel bad. “Literally anything interesting.”
“I only talked to Braylen, my cousin, Harmony, and my siblings back home. Oh, and I guess Leon when we were kids, but that was a long time ago,” Graciela said. “I never really showed up to school activities so I didn’t know the drama. I’m sure it was like, who was dating who or something? I don’t know what teen drama is like.”
“Are you kidding?” Arc asked. “You’re at the center of teenage drama! Star crossed childhood friends, meeting again. This time, will their love be rekindled?”
“Sounds like a lame book.” Winter reached over her cousin to grab a freshly iced cupcake and passed one to Graciela. “Do you mind if we ask you about your relationship with Leon, Gracie? I know you don’t like him romantically, but I guess we’re curious what he was like back at home.”
Graciela tried her best to ignore Arc’s comment but she knew Leon’s past crush on her would be a topic of conversation. He hadn’t hid it. Apparently he was blabbing about it to whoever wanted to know. Instead, she looked to Winter, trying to find the right words. “Leon was the first person I met back in Fortitude. He thought my brother was being stupid. They argued all the time.” The memory brought a smile to her lips and Graciela stretched her legs out as she leaned back comfortably. “We became fast friends and he invited me to hang out everywhere with him. We had a lot of fun.”
“So what happened?” Tera asked. “He left and things changed? Because that’s what happened with my friends back home. They don’t understand what it’s like studying here. We’re not learning basic math and science. Sophina and Briella teach us magic spells, how to counteract them, how to enchant things, and all types of arcane stuff that take a lot of practice. Reaching out can be exhausting sometimes and I guess that can weaken a friendship.”
“I think that…” Graciela struggled to find the right words. Her thoughts drifted back to Leon who had sat by her bedside earlier. He had seemed really worried about her. That kind of reaction couldn’t be fake, but she’d be lying if she said she felt any closeness to him comparable to what she did when they were children. Leon was what kept the darkness at bay but now that the voice had been swapped, she didn’t feel like she needed a light to dispel the darkness. She felt she could remove the burden on her own. “Leon and I needed each other when we were kids but as we grew up, life happened and we both grew up. We’re not the same people anymore and that’s not the worst thing.” She shook her head at the bewildered faces of the girls in front of her. She stuffed the cupcake into her mouth and glanced over at Winter. Tonight would be a long night.
This is such typical girl talk, I’m almost cringing. Reminds me of sone former classmates who would constantly try to weasel out info from me 😆
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As h, teenage girl talk 😂 These girls haven’t spent much of the last five years outside and even Gracie is a bit sheltered, only having her siblings and Braylen as friends. So a night like this is really special for them, you’ll see more if that feeling in the next two chapters.
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Hmm sometimes Gracie isn’t very likeable. I give kudos to these girls for trying to get her involved in things. Sometimes you have to give a litle in order to get something back.
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Gracie isn’t socially adjusted at the same level of other teens her age, which plays a huge factor in her unlikability. Her actions are rooted in fear, having been bullied for being different. She’ll open up eventually, but it’ll be hard for her and she’ll resist a bit.
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