Welcome to the House of Night

Chapter 1: Embarrassment

My last day of school-and my human life-was quite an eventful one. All day, I had felt absolutely terrible. Like, cough your lungs out and your head bursting open terrible. My friend Leslie was talking animatedly to me about some party she was throwing tomorrow night, but I can honestly say that I barely heard any of what she said. We were walking to my locker so I could gather my things for my afternoon classes and I felt as though I was going to pass out. I wanted to just skip the rest of the day of school and go home and sleep.

"Are you feeling okay?" Leslie asked, turning her bright blue eyes on me. I loved Leslie with all my heart, but sometimes she could be downright clueless about things. Her flaming orange hair and freckled skin had been the cause of numerous ginger jokes about her, but she rarely took it to heart.

I shook my head. "I feel awful."

"Go home," she said.

"No," I said. "I can't miss math. We have a unit test tomorrow. You know how Miss gets when we miss classes right before tests. And I promised Jason I'd help him study tonight." Jason, my boyfriend, needed help with English-my strongest subject. To be completely honest, I didn't think we'd be doing much studying, but I still wanted to spend some time with him. It felt like we hadn't hung out in ages.

The math hall was completely crowded, and I felt slightly claustrophobic. I didn't like being in huge crowds like this. But then, someone caught my eye. I had never seen him before in my entire life, and I had been going to this school for the past three years. Surely I would have seen him somewhere, right? This school wasn't huge.

Something about him put me off. I couldn't exactly place what it was, but I didn't like it. Then I saw it. His Mark…and the spiraling sapphire tattoos that lined his face. My stomach did a couple somersaults. This year at our school not one, but two students had been Marked. I couldn't remember the first kid's name, but the second was Zoey Redbird…or Montgomery. Whatever. She went by both names as far as I could remember. Zoey had only been Marked a couple weeks ago.

She and I had been friends. We weren't super close-like Leslie and me-but we spoke to one another in numerous classes we had shared, and then one day, she just disappeared. Her old friend, Kayla, and her sort-of boyfriend Heath had told pretty much the entire school that she had been Marked and was living in the House of Night. The House of Night used to be a private school but the vampyres bought it and renovated it to suit their needs. I had driven past it a few times when going downtown, and I had to admit from what I say, it looked pretty damn nice.

As I got closer to the Tracker I realized something terrible. It dawned on me all at once and I felt like my entire world was about to be turned upside down. He was standing right beside my locker. I wanted to turn and run the other way and scream my lungs out. Why was a Tracker standing at my locker? Why? I gulped.

"Leslie…" I began, but trailed off, feeling my throat go dry and stopping dead in my tracks. I could barely speak. The Tracker hadn't seen me. Yet. I felt that if I moved any closer to him, he would notice me for sure and Mark me right then and there.

"What?" she asked, turning to look at me. She followed my gaze and realized what was freaking me out. "You don't think…"

"I…I don't know," I whispered. Wasn't one of the symptoms feeling absolutely terrible and like you're about to fall apart? I had felt like this for a few days now. "I…I have to get away from him."

"You don't even know if he's here for you," she said, trying to calm me down, but deep down I could hear the fear in her own voice. "And even if he doesn't see you now, he will eventually."

"But if he sees me later, it won't be in the middle of this huge crowd!" I hissed. "Go to math…tell Miss I'm…I'm in the bathroom-no scratch that, tell her I'm signing out."

I turned to leave, but she grasped my arm. "If he…you know…don't leave without saying goodbye." Her big brown eyes pleaded with me…and I also saw fear in them…and I oddly felt close to tears.

"Of course!" I said, trying to sound as happy as I could, and then rushed the other way-straight for the bathroom. But before I could get there, I walked right into someone-a very tall someone. My stomach lurched. The Tracker had been tall. I nervously looked up to see that it was just Jason.

"You're going the wrong way," he noted, and then I guess he realized the look on my face. "Are you okay?"

I gulped, how could I tell him the truth? He'd see me as what I was sure to become. A monster.

"I'm…I'm going to go home," I said. "I'm not feeling-" I didn't get to finish my sentence.

"Jessica Armstrong! Night has chosen thee; thy death will by thy birth. Night calls to thee; hearken to Her sweet voice. Your destiny awaits you at the House of Night!"

I turned to see that the Tracker was about five feet away from me. He lifted a long white finger and my head just about exploded in pain. I felt myself fall into Jason's arms right before I passed out.

I felt myself come back into reality, but I really didn't want to open my eyes. The hallway was absolutely silent, and I could feel that I was still wrapped securely in Jason's arms. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? I wasn't entirely sure. I knew that sooner or later I would have to open my eyes and face him, but I really didn't want to.

"Jess, you awake?"

I sighed. He knew me too well. He could tell when I was pretending to sleep. I guess my body had changed ever-so-slightly, so I opened one eye to peek at him. He looked so relieved to see that I was awake, and he didn't even look at my forehead, which I was sure had the outline of a blue crescent on it. He hugged me tight against him, which relieved me. He didn't think I was a monster. Or at least, he didn't understand that that was what was happening to me.

I could feel his heart beating against his chest. The slow, rhythmic beating soothed me, and calmed me. I hadn't realized my head was slowly moving closer and closer to his chest until he cleared his throat.

"Jess? What are you doing?" he asked.

"Your…your heartbeat," I began, ignoring the odd look he gave me. "It…it's calming me down."

He held me even tighter against him. "It won't change anything between us. I won't let that happen to us."

"Jason...I…I'm a freak," I whispered. "I'm not human anymore…I have to move out and switch schools…oh my god what will my dad do?" I wasn't as worried about my dad…it was his new wife that I was worried about. She was the biggest bitch on the face of the planet and held herself above everyone else just because she was super rich. She acted as though she could treat me however she wanted just because she had provided me with a big house and food. I honestly had no idea what my dad saw in her. I could understand him needing the money, but now he had a really good job, if he had only been in it for the money he would have left her by now.

And really, to put up with her personality wasn't worth the big fancy house.

"I'll drive you home, you don't look too good," Jason said. Before I could protest, I burst into a fit of coughs, and Jason would let me say no to him driving me home.

The drive to my place was quiet. Neither of us seemed to quite know what to say. Numerous times I had glanced quickly at Jason-trying to memorize his features. He was so handsome; with his dark brown-almost black-hair and stunning green eyes. I would miss him so much when I went to live in the House of Night, but I knew that that was what had to be done.

I looked down at my school bag which was on the floor of the car. I couldn't wrap my head around all of the things that had happened today, and Ion top of trying to come to terms with what had happened, I still felt terrible.

I thought about my future. Option one: I complete the Change into a full vampyre. Option two: my body rejects the Change and I die.

Those were my only two options for this life. To either become nothing at all, or a bloodsucking creature of the night.

"What I said before, I meant it," Jason said quietly as he turned onto my street. "What's happening to you, what's going to happen to you, it doesn't change anything."

Why couldn't I believe that? Turning into a vampyre changed everything. Before this, I had just wanted to get through high school and then go off and do hairstyling. That was it. That was all I had wanted. Now, I knew I couldn't have that. I had wanted to spend my life with Jason. We were that couple. The one who everyone knew deep down would get married in the future. Now, I knew that that would never happen for me. I was about to lose everything I held so close to my heart.

"I can tell you don't believe me," he said. "Come on Jess, we've known each other since we were kids. Do you really think that something like this would stop me from loving you?"

My breath caught in my throat. It made my heart squeeze to know that he didn't think of me as a monster. I wasn't a monster to him…at least not yet.

He pulled into my driveway and his turned his eyes on me…not on my mark.

"Do you want me to come in with you?" he asked.

I shook my head. "I don't think Laurie's home yet…Dad might see eye to eye with me on this. If not, I'm going to see Mom."

"You're welcome to stay at my place tonight, if you need somewhere to go," he said softly.

"Thanks Jason," I said. "I better go inside." He kissed me and we both exited my car. He walked down the driveway, I adjusted my bangs to make sure they were covering my Mark and went into the house. My stomach was knotted with nerves. When my parents divorced, my dad got custody over me, but I could still go see my mom whenever I pleased. If Dad didn't understand, I'd go to her before anyone else.

As quietly as I could, I opened the front door. I saw that his shoes were in the front foyer, but Laurie's weren't. I breathed a sigh of relief and went into his office.

"Dad?" I called. He was sitting at his desk, writing on a piece of paper.

He looked up in surprise. "Jess? What are you doing here? Are you okay? You don't look too good."

Why did he only seem to have concern for me when Laurie wasn't around? Had Laurie been here, he would have gotten angry with me. I had always been closer to my mom than my dad, but my dad and I were also close…until he remarried. When Laurie wasn't around, he was the old dad who I knew; when she was around he became cold and strict.

"Dad…I need help," I whispered.

He looked worriedly at me. His green eyes that matched my own penetrated me. I found it hard to talk.

"What is it?" he asked.

I closed my eyes and brushed my bangs away with my hand to show him. I had assumed he would look at me with pure disgust, but when I opened one eye to look at him, he was calmly watching me.

"Aren't you going to cringe?" I asked.

"You're still my little girl, this doesn't change that."

"Then why does that seem to change when Laurie is around?" I demanded.

That stung. I could see it clear on his face.

"You are always my daughter," he said through gritted teeth.

"Then act like it," I snapped. Then realized just how angry I had been getting. I took a deep breath to center myself.

"What are we going to do?" he asked calmly. It relieved me that he used "we" instead of "you" and that he was calm and not angry with me.

"You know that I have to leave," I said. "I have to go live-"

At that moment Laurie strutted into his office. Her blonde hair was tightly tied into a high ponytail and she was wearing a navy dress suit.

"What are you doing home, Jessica?" she asked, venom in her Oklahoma twang.

Immediately I made my bangs cover my Mark again so she wouldn't see it.

"I…I didn't feel well," I said I was watching my dad carefully. His composure never changed, but something in his eyes certainly did. He and I both knew better than to bring up my Mark around her.

"What's this I hear about leaving?" she asked, looking between my dad and I.

Well shit.