Chapter 15 - Birthday Bash

A year ago today, my mom presented me with two homemade cakes, one in the shape of a one and the other in the shape of a six; Becky gave me a pewter necklace with a tiny charm of a bat; and I heard the news of a family moving into the Mansion on Benson Hill.

The year that followed was a dream come true. Not only did I feel one year older, I felt many years wiser. I'd met and fallen in love with a vampire. I'd been shown the Underworld, his family, his friend, his nemesis, and experienced love on a level that was truly out of this world. It only made me excited for what this next year might bring me.

But most exciting was that the Crypt would be opening tonight. I came downstairs to the sound of "Happy Birthday" being sung at different octaves by my family.

Sweet sixteen had been received with more fanfare than not-so-sweet seventeen. But even so, my family didn't let my birthday go unnoticed.

My dad kissed me on the cheek. My mom gave me a huge squeeze and handed me a card. I quickly opened it to find a birthday check.

My brother slid a card to me across the table where he was eating breakfast. Enclosed was a gift card to our local coffee shop.

"Thanks, Billy. This is an awesome gift! Really." I gave my little brother a hug. He was surprised by my sudden display of affection and barely hugged me back. "And tonight we're going to celebrate!" my mom said. "I got reservations at Pip's."

Pip's was a mom-and-pop restaurant that specialized in one-of-a-kind meals, cheesy decor, and making a big deal about birthdays.

"Pip's? I'm seventeen, not four," I said. "Besides, tonight I was going to go out with my friends." My mother sighed. "But I made reservations."

The club was opening, and I was supposed to sit in a restaurant while all of Dullsville High was going to be bopping to the music of the Skeletons?

"Well, it's your birthday. If you don't want to celebrate it with your family . . . ," my mom said, deflated. "Of course I do." I tried to hide my apathy. "I invited Becky and Matt, too." "I appreciate it," I said.

My family quickly dispersed, engrossed in upcoming meetings, work, and school. It wasn't long before my little celebration was over and I found myself alone.

When I reached the front door, there was a bouquet of flowers with a note. Happy Birthday. Love, Alexander I didn't have time to put them in a vase. Instead, I took them with me and hopped in Becky's truck. "Those are beautiful," she said. "He's so sweet," I said. "He remembered." "Haven't you been talking about your birthday all the time?" she asked. "Pretty much," I said. We both broke into giggles. Becky handed me a long box. "Thanks," I said, ripping it open. It was a black shirt withTHE CRYPT written in white skeleton bone letters. "This is the best present ever! How did you get it?" "I have connections," she said proudly.

When I opened my locker I expected something nefarious to jump out. Instead, a bat-shaped box of chocolates was waiting for me.

"Aww," I said. "Look what Alexander gave me." "Those look delish!" Becky said, almost salivating. "If you need someone to share those with, you've got your girl."

I put the chocolates in my bag, wanting Alexander's presence to be close to me. I didn't have the protection of the darkness. The sun was out, and so was the blonde-haired monster. I didn't know what my nemesis had planned, so I was on edge the entire day.

By the time I got home, I was fatigued. I plopped down on my bed and opened my backpack to get out the chocolates when I found something shiny.

It was a small present with white wrapping paper and a silver bow. I opened the card to see what Alexander had snuck in my bag. The tiny card read, "Happy Birthday, Monster Girl."

I pushed it aside. No telling what was inside. I hung out in my room, texting Becky, checking messages, and putting laundry away. But nothing could get my mind off the shiny box. Finally curiosity got the best of me. I slowly opened the box. I knew it was going to be something dead. It was worse. Far worse than opening the present to find an empty box. What I saw was by far more nefarious and cunning. Trevor really got me this time.

I found a small bracelet with RAVEN engraved in sterling silver, with two black leather bands united at a silver clasp. It was beautiful.

Warmth flooded my veins, and my heart was reluctantly but still deeply moved. I was touched. And he knew I would be. Trevor took the time to buy something real for me. Instead of giving me a gag gift, he gave me the kind of present one gives to a best friend or true love. And it made me wonder if this was a sign of his feelings for me,

especially after that powerful dream. For some reason I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Trevor Mitchell wanted to wrap himself around my wrist.

I put the bracelet back in the box and began to close it when, at the last second, I opened it again. No one was watching. I had to see what the bracelet looked like on. I placed it on my wrist and closed the clasp. The letters shined and the leather straps were really cool. Trevor did have good taste. I imagined the girlfriend he'd ultimately have, him bathing her in jewels and then going out with someone else.

Trevor knew I couldn't return it. First of all, it would have been rude - even for me. Who else could wear this gift with my unusual name on it? He wouldn't be able to get his money back on a custom design. And if I wore it to school, Trevor would know I liked it, and he'd never wipe the gloating smile from his face. And worse, if I showed it to Alexander, my boyfriend would be really ticked off. Trevor ultimately had won his game.

No one would know if I wore it for a while. I imagined that he'd taken the time to have it ordered, bought it, and boxed it up, all while thinking of me. It was odd, to say the least. And odder still that I didn't want to remove it quite yet.

But then I got a text from Alexander. He must have woken up early, before the sun set, and was restless in his coffin. And then I remembered how real boyfriends behaved. The kind that didn't kiss one girl and give presents to another. I quickly unclasped the bracelet and buried it, along with any pleasant thoughts of Trevor, in my dresser drawer.

Alexander, handsome in a classy suit coat and black jeans, arrived at our front door with a bouquet of flowers. "But you already gave me flowers this morning," I said. "I couldn't be there to see your face," he said, handing them to me. "Now I can." I gave him a huge kiss and we stepped inside. "Those are beautiful," my mother said, coming down the stairs and wrangling an earring in her ear. "I'll get a vase." "I'd like to take one to dinner," I said. "You can wear it in your hair," my mother said like a former hippie.