After letting off a few dozen passengers and picking up a few more, the bus driver turned the corner and passed my destination-- Lennox Hill Road.
I ran toward the front of the bus.
"You passed Lennox Hill Road!" I called in a panic as the bus driver continued accelerating.
"There is no bus stop there," he said to me, looking in his rearview mirror.
"But that's my destination," I argued.
"I only stop at bus stops," he recited, continuing to drive.
"If it's a dollar fifty to get on the bus, how much is it to get off?"
I heard a few of the passengers laugh behind me.
"Pull the cord," the woman said, pointing to a white wire that ran above the bus windows.
I reached across her and pulled the wire hard.
A few seconds later, the bus driver slowed down and pulled over.
"See that?" he asked, pointing to a square sign on a pole with the number seven next to the curb. "That's a bus stop."
I gave him a dirty look and jumped off the bus, dodging an elderly couple trying to board. I ran down the road the bus had just driven up until I reached Lennox Hill Road. I turned the corner and walked past gigantic pristine estates with lush green lawns and purple and yellow flowers until I found an unkempt, overgrown weed-filled lawn. A decaying house sat on it at the end of a cold and ominous cul- de-sac. It looked as if a storm cloud were hovering over it. I had finally arrived at the stately gothic manor house.
Gargoyles sat on top of the jagged wrought-iron gates. Untamed bushes lined the front of the manor. The dead grass crunched beneath my boots. A broken birdbath sat in the center of the lawn. Moss and ivy grew on the roof like a gothic Chia Pet. I skipped along a fractured rock path, which led to an arched wooden front door.
I grabbed the dragon-shaped knocker, and it came off the door and fell into my hand. Embarrassed, I quickly hid the knocker underneath a bush.
I rapped the door again. I wondered if Alexander was standing on the other side, ready to greet me with a colossal kiss. But there was no answer. I banged my fist against the door until my hand began to throb.
I turned the rusty handle and tried to push against the wooden entrance, but it was locked.
I snuck behind the dead bushes alongside the front of the manor. The windows were boarded up, but I spotted a slender crack. The ceilings in the manor house were so high, I was surprised that there were no clouds wafting through the rafters--plenty of room for a ghost to fly around in without even being noticed. From what I could see, the walls in the living room were as bare as the room itself.
Frustrated, I walked around to the side of the manor house and discovered a butler's entrance. I twisted the iron knob on the skinny oak door, but that, too, was bolted shut.
My heart pulsing hard, I ran to the back of the house. A few broken steps led down to a lone dingy window. It wasn't boarded up, so I eagerly pressed my face to the glass.
Nothing unusual. I saw a few cardboard boxes, a dusty tool rack, and an old sewing machine. I tried to open the window, but it was stuck. I ran back up the broken steps and stood on the lawn.
"Hello?" I called. "Jameson? Alexander?"
But my words were answered only by the barking of a neighbor's dog.
I stared up at a single attic window. A tree starved of leaves leaned toward the manor house, one of its branches reaching out just below the window. The huge oak must have been centuries old--its trunk was as wide as a house, and its roots clutched the ground like a spider's legs. I was used to climbing, whether it was over the Mansion's wrought-iron gate or up apple trees in Becky's backyard. But scaling this tree seemed like ascending Mt. Everest in the dark. Clad in combat boots and a minidress, I stuck my heel onto the lowest branch and pulled myself up. I continued to climb at a steady rate, slowing down only to catch my breath or when I needed to feel above me for a limb hiding away from the moonlight. Weary but determined, I scooted along a heavy branch stretching underneath the attic window.
A dark curtain hid most of the room from view, but I managed to peek inside. I could make out an empty box and a wooden chair. Then, I saw the most amazing sight staring back at me-- resting in the corner was the portrait Alexander had painted of me dressed for the Snow Ball. A pumpkin basket hung over one arm. A two- dimensional Raven grinned, flashing fake vampire teeth.
"Alexander!" I called. I tried to tap against the window, but my fingers were just out of reach.
"Alexander!" I called again.
I could hear the dog's bark getting louder.
"Alexander! Jameson!" I yelled with all my might.
Just then, the next-door neighbor opened his back door and stepped onto his deck. He was built like a professional wrestler. "Hey! You kids back again?" he called over.
"What's going on, Hal?" a petite woman asked, following him out of the house.
"I told you, kids are playing in that house next door," he said to her. "I'm calling the police!" he yelled, and pulled out a cell phone from his back pocket.
I scurried down the tree, wanting to avoid being placed in a full nelson or, worse, handcuffs. Plus, I didn't want law enforcement to arrest Alexander and Jameson or force them to find another home-- and this time it might be Romania.
When I reached the bottom branch, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a rustling of the dark curtain in the attic window.
I quickly stepped back to get a better view.
But the curtain was still.
Suddenly, a chocolate-colored Doberman pinscher sprinted out of the neighbor's house, down the deck stairs, and scratched against the brown picket fence that ran parallel to the manor house.
Afraid the dog would wriggle his way through the skinny spaces between the boards and devour me like Kibbles 'n Bits, I took off around the other side of the manor and tore down the road to the bus stop.
I boarded the westbound number seven, taking a seat in the back behind a college-aged couple. I was excited to find that Alexander was indeed in Hipsterville. I imagined that he was painting portraits in a spooky cemetery. Searching a haunted mansion for furniture to decorate his attic room. Or maybe he was out for a night flight.
I was still confused why Alexander had come to Hipsterville. It was a small town with eerie abandoned manors, and with enough goths and artists to be hidden among. What else did it offer a lone vampire?
The couple seated in front of me began making out, oblivious to the other staring passengers.
I saw their reflections in the bus window. I wondered if they knew how lucky they were. Two humans who could share their nights and days together. Take pictures. Sit in the sun. Then I realized those were just small sacrifices I'd make to be with Alexander again.