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August 2009—Blood Moon
All vampire rituals took place beneath the cycle of the Blood Moon. Our blood was thick in the heat and sluggish in our veins. I wasn't quite twenty-five when my mom took me to the Blood-Seer. Mom had a fresh manicure and the sick-sweet smell of the chemicals made me gag. I didn't know how she could stand it. My appointment was early in the month, because we weren't rich enough to afford the Seer's work beneath the full moon, but she was wise and her power always great.
Her fingers were dry and rough like gnawed bone when she took my hand and led me into her workroom. The lights were dim, the windows curtained. Night fell late and I was often tired in the summer, but anticipation stirred me, wound me up.
She laid a fire despite the heat, and the warmth of the room was oppressive. My eyes dried out and my skin tingled. When her fingers passed along my arm, numbness followed her touch.
It was better that way, for she lifted my wrists and laid open my veins.
I had felt nothing like it before. I would feel nothing like it ever again.
The Blood-Seer put her mouth to my skin and drank me down, but did not pierce me with her fangs. If she did, her venom would contaminate my blood and she wouldn't get a good reading from it. That was almost the worst thing which could happen.
She drank for so long my head lolled back and my eyes closed. It hurt too much—it felt too good—to sleep, but my bones were heavy and my joints ached. I was due another growth spurt soon. Mom measured my progress on the wall. She was pleased I was tall like her. I could tell because she smiled widely every time I grew even a centimetre.
"Be still." The Blood-Seer's voice was as dry as her hands. I slit my eyes open and watched as she gathered my blood into little glass vials. She would smell it, analyse it, put it under the microscope, add her powders, do her science-magic. No one but a Blood-Seer could know the exact process. We trusted that she was well trained. We trusted that she knew.
No one ever questioned her.
My dad, like all the other fathers, waited for the results of her tests to throw me as extravagant a party as we could afford. It would still be a simple party because we couldn't afford anything else, but if the Blood-Seer's prognosis was good enough, he, like all the other fathers, would go into debt to make sure all of the best families—all the rich families—knew my blood was pure, my body ripe for pregnancy.
I fell asleep in the car on the ride home, my head on the cool window, lulled by the steady throb of the engine. I'd helped rebuild it the last time it broke down. When Mom woke me, her voice was warm and filled with happiness. She believed the Blood-Seer would tell us great things. At twenty-five, she had gone to a Blood-Seer beneath the almost new Blood Moon and had been told she was barely Fertile and would have difficulty getting pregnant. She feared she'd never find someone to bind with and never be a mother. She had been lucky, she always told me, that Dad had looked past her bad blood. When Dad had gone to the Blood-Seer in his time, he had been deemed fully Fertile. She believed—she hoped—I would take after him.
It was a whirlwind two weeks of work and preparing the celebration for my coming of age. At the end, mere days before my party, word came from the Blood-Seer and my world crashed down.
I was Infertile, she said, and my mother sank to her knees and clawed at her face because her tongue had died and her hope melted away.