Becoming a vampire parent is like going through the infant phase with your firstborn all over again. You will be just as unsure of yourself, just as frightened. And at some point, someone will probably throw up on you when you least expect it.
—My Mommy Has Fangs: A Guide to Post-Vampiric Parenting
If you have your choice about how to be turned into a vampire, I strongly suggest that you do not post an ad on the supernatural version of Craigslist offering cash to any creature of the night willing to bite you.
I swear, I had my reasons. Really good ones.
Still, waking up in a paper-thin balsa-wood coffin three feet below the surface of the Half-Moon Hollow Little League Field wasn’t exactly the result of a solid plan.
I remember my very first moment as a vampire with shocking clarity. I was dead, without thought or breath or being, and then, suddenly, I wasn’t. Or I was, if you have more philosophical leanings.
And in that first moment of existential limbo, I panicked, thrashing out, crying as my knees and elbows smacked against the wooden walls. I was trapped. I could feel the weight of the earth pressing down on the lid of the coffin, pinning me in, separating me from the world—separating me from my son. I sucked in air by the mouthful, hyperventilating. What if I couldn’t break through to the surface? What if I got stuck down here? I forced myself to suck in a deep breath and hold it, to make the most of what air I had in this little box.
Nothing. No distress. No pressure against my throat or lungs. No need to draw another breath. Because I didn’t need to breathe. I was a freaking vampire. The undead. Nosferatu. A nightwalker. The other members of the PTA were going to be shocked. And then scandalized. And then shocked again.
I’d dreamed of this moment for months, ever since I’d come up with my insane “transition” plan. And yet it was so close to my very worst nightmare, taking the literal dirt nap, that I was almost afraid to move. What if I’d miscalculated? What if it was safer for Danny if I stayed here underground? What if, after all my scheming and planning, it was better if I was dead?
It would be easy enough for people to believe. Everybody in Half-Moon Hollow knew about poor Libby Stratton, suburban Half-Moon Hollow’s cautionary tale of twisted probability. In two years, I’d gone from softball widow and mother of a busy toddler to actual widow and cancer patient.
Six months after losing my husband, Rob, in a car accident, I started feeling nauseated and dizzy at random. I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. I bruised easily and fell asleep before I could even give Danny his bath in the evenings. I thought it was stress—I’d just lost my husband, after all. There were bound to be physiological repercussions.
When my doctor said the words “acute lymphocytic leukemia,” I kept expecting her to follow it with “just kidding.” I kept expecting there to be a second test that said it was just anemia or fibromyalgia or something. But the doctor was not kidding, and I was not lucky enough to be dangerously anemic.
At the ripe old age of thirty, I was dying of cancer. My blood was turning on itself. For months, I went through a constantly shifting combination of chemo, radiation therapy, and drug cocktails as the doctors tried to figure out my atypically belligerent case. (Frankly, I was surprised my vampire sire could tolerate more than a few swallows of my toxic plasma.) All while I watched my mother-in-law, Marge, take over my role as mother to Danny. I was too wiped out for bedtime stories and Sunday-morning waffles. I wasn’t strong enough to walk up the bleachers at his T-ball games. I was like a ghost, watching my life go on without me.
And a few months before my underground nap, Dr. Channing informed me that nothing we’d done had made a dent in my insistent little cancer cells. Nothing. And my chances of making a dent were not great. Dr. Channing very gently suggested I might want to think about long-term plans for my son.
For a long, awkward moment, I just stared at my oncologist, dumbfounded. What mother didn’t have long-term plans for her children? What mother doesn’t secretly squirrel away money in college funds and mentally budget for teenage orthodontics? And then I realized Dr. Channing was referring to plans for who would raise Danny after I was gone.
How could I make plans for someone else to raise my baby? My sweet Danny, my funny almost-six-year-old towhead with my eyes, his father’s stubborn little chin, and the permanent expression of someone building castles in his head. He was already an incurable smartass and an amateur cryptozoologist. You never knew what was going to come out of his mouth, but when you heard it, you’d have to bite your lip to keep from laughing while you reminded him about showing respect for adults. He had the weirdest habit of picking up on the most uncomfortable aspect of any conversation and asking about it. And I wouldn’t have changed a thing about him. He was creative and loud and quirky, and I adored him completely.
I knew it seemed selfish to go to such extreme measures to stay with him when Danny’s grandparents were more than willing to take him in after I passed. Hell, they were already setting up a bedroom for Danny in their house. I trusted Marge, for the most part. She was a pain in my ass on occasion, but she loved “her boys” unconditionally. Under the pestering and fretting, there was an undeniable element of affection. Les, on the other hand, was the primary reason for my seeking out a vampire’s help.
Les had raised Rob to be the epitome of a man’s man—sports, hunting, never expressing a serious emotion, you get the idea. With Rob gone, Les seemed to think he could start over with Danny. I could see the gleam in my father-in-law’s eyes when he watched Danny play. He saw my son as a clean slate on which he could rewrite Rob’s life, instead of a bright, imaginative kid with a personality all his own, who was far more interested in telling pretend epic adventures with his LEGO people than hunting or fishing. If Danny lived with his grandparents, Les would have spent Danny’s childhood systematically reprogramming my son until he was a mini-Rob.