Chapter one: New blood

It was the first day of the new school term at Pleasantsville high and Tommy and Lori had arrived early. They headed for Tommy's locker expecting their best friend Merton Dingle to be there waiting for them and were slightly concerned when there was no sign of him. It wasn't like Merton to break with habit. He was always at Tommy's locker a whole half hour before the bell rings for the school day to begin, even earlier on the first day of term. They waited for a while searching the crowd. Merton isn't the hardest person to spot. His pale completion, spiked hair and flamboyant gothic appearance meant that he stuck out like a sore thumb in Pleasantsville. Finally with only five minuets until lessons began the pair headed for the English classroom.

As they rounded the corner they spotted him twitching impatiently outside the door.

"Merton!" Tommy called. The Goth turned to face his friends. Tommy punched him painfully on the arm as a welcome but given the fact that Tommy was Pleasantville's heavily built football legend, Merton was sent tumbling. Lori helped him up.

"Where have you been?" She asked exasperated, "We've been looking for you all morning."

"Here" Merton explained, glancing down the corridor as though waiting for a train.

"Outside the English room?" Tommy asked perplexed "Why?"

Merton's eyes blazed with happiness as he delved into his bag and produced a battered old book. He handed it to Lori and Tommy read the title over her shoulder. It was Bram Stoker's Dracula.

"we're studying it this term" Merton thrilled dancing on the balls of his feet with excitement.

"Merton, haven't you read this like a thousand times? You know it back to front" Tommy pointed out as Lori handed Merton back the book. He held it aloft as though it were an ancient and sacred relic

"Yes," He admitted, "But I've never studied it. Finally the chance to gain a deeper insight into the book that changed my life and shaped me into the man that I am today!"

"Well done book" Lori smirked sarcastically casting a critical eye over Merton's appearance.

"It's just a book Merton" Tommy sighed.

"Just a book?" Merton's voice rose shrilly causing the passing students to stare. "This is not just a book, this is the single most important piece of literature in the past century! It's got everything, romance excitement.."

He was bouncing with excitement by now. Tommy and Lori glanced at each other and rolled their eyes as the teacher bustled past obscured by a stack of book. The teacher, Mrs Bartley was an ancient woman who looked so old that she may well have remembered when the book first came out. She was slightly hunched and very slim. Her long white hair was tied back tight into a strict bun.

The old woman bent slowly and settled the pile onto the floor. It took her an age to get back up and by the time she was upright Merton's patients had left him. He stood behind her twitching impatiently and making hurrying hand gestures as Mrs Bartley searched her handbag and then slowly turned the keys in the lock. As the door swung open Tommy actually had to grab his friend by the back of the collar to stop him barging past. To Merton's further irritation the woman bent to lift the pile again

"Let me get those." He said hurriedly and in a flash he'd scooped up the novels and had distributed them onto each students desk. He bounded excitedly over to his own at the back and set about assembling stationary. The rest of the class didn't seem to share his enthusiasm. They shuffled slowly to their seats. As it was the first day back a majority of them were just not used to being up before ten, let alone being expected to learn. Tommy sat down next to Merton and rested his head on the desk and Lori sat on his other side doing the same, Merton shook his head in disbelief. He didn't understand why no- one else was as excited as him.

He started to grow even more impatient as the late comers slouched in finally, five minuets after the bell the whole class was assembled. And yet Mrs Bartley just sat there. Merton threw up his hands in exasperation.

"What's the hold up Mrs B? Everyone's here!" He exclaimed.

"The 'hold up' Mr Dingle," Mrs Bartley croaked, squinting at Merton over the tops of her horn rimmed glasses, "Is that we are not all here. We have to wait for the new student to arrive and introduce herself"

"Great" Merton snapped, slamming his hands down onto his desk making Tommy and Lori jerk to attention "that's another ten minuets of precious learning time go..." Merton's jaw dropped and he stopped dead in his tracks. Tommy and Lori followed is gaze to the door where the new girl was standing.

The was a Goth. Her long Raven hair was tied back elaborately except for two purple streaks which fell down either side of her face, perfectly matching the amulet around her neck. She was as pale as Merton but her lips were bright red. Her eyes were so dark they seemed to be black and were framed by black eyeliner. She smoothed her short back dress nervously and straightened her black and purple stripped stockings as she moved into the room.

" Mrs Bartley?" She asked in a soft English accent.

"ah," The teacher smiled warmly beckoning her further in. "You must be Emma. Please come in and tell us a little about yourself."

Okay," Emma smiled, "Where to begin? My name is Emma Rice and I've just moved here from a place in England called Whitby."

"Oh, Wonderful!" Mrs Bartley thrilled "We're just about to start Dracula. You don't have a very strong Yorkshire accent though"

"No" The girl admitted still smiling nervously. Merton doubted that he's ever seen such a lovely smile, he sat totally entranced as Emma explained how she'd been schooled in Wiltshire and so rarely went back home. She had moved here ahead of her author mother and artist father. They had felt it best that she go at the start of term to avoid the disruption of moving schools during term time. Merton barely noticed, let alone cared that she'd been talking for half an hour. In fact he was almost disappointed when Mrs Bartley said:

"We'd better get started. Emma take a seat. Perhaps you'd like to read, it'd be wonderful to hear the story in it's native tongue."

"Oh, I'm sure everybody's tired hearing me talk" Emma said glancing nervously at the class.

"No!" Merton cried a little to enthusiastically. The class turned and stared at him and he felt his cheeks begin to burn. Emma laughed softly and fixed her dark eyes on his. "Okay then." She smiled and, to Merton's amazement sat next to him and began to read aloud. Her voice was so soothing...

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"Merton can I borrow your notes?" Tommy asked as they headed out into the corridor at the end of the lesson "I wasn't paying attention"

"hmm?" Merton mumbled distractedly as he scanned the crowd on tip- toes " Sure. Tommy, whatever you want." He thrust a single sheet of paper into Tommy's hands.

"Looks like You weren't the only one" said Lori looking at the paper in Tommy's hands. It was almost filled with a beautiful sketch of Emma Rice surrounded by hearts. Merton snatched it back and clutched it to his chest.

"Let me guess," Tommy smirked, "There's another future Mrs Dingle"

Merton sighed, hand's pressed together dramatically "She's beautiful, smart and witty. She's perfect" His hands flopped to his sides and he looked dejected. "What's she ever going to see in me?"

"Come on Merton," Said Tommy unhelpfully, "You usually wait until the girls publicly thrashed you're already fractured ego before you start on the 'I'm worthless' phase"

"You haven't even talked to her yet" Lori patted him on the back "She seemed to like you, and she's definitely your type."

Tommy nodded his agreement vigorously "Go and talk to her"

"YES!" Merton declared triumphantly, then just as quickly doubled over in terror "I can't I'm scared!"

"You really like her don't you? Aww Merton, that's so sweet." Lori cooed before suddenly turning sharp "Now march you're butt out there and ask her out!"

"Go for it Romeo" Tommy smiled,

Merton squared his shoulders and was about to march off into the school when a sudden voice behind him made him cry out shrilly in terror.

"Romeo? That's a lovely name" Emma smiled

"It's Merton actually," Merton gabbled, "And this is Tommy and Lori"

Emma smiled at them and they nodded a greeting, "I was wondering if one of you guys, could tell me the way to the science labs, I've got chemistry next and I don't want to be late"

"Me to!" Merton thrilled "What set are you in?"

"Advanced." She replied shyly.

"Me to!" Said Merton amazed as he led the way without so much as a backwards glance at Tommy and Lori. The two of them smiled as they watched the two Goths disappear into the crowd chatting animatedly.

Then humming the wedding march they headed off to their next lesson.

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