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"Mom," I whispered, but Jenna shook her head and said, "No, ma'am.


I could feel Mom stiffen beside me, and I knew Jenna did too. Even though I was embarrassed for her, I shared Mom's freak-out. Witches, shapeshifters, and fae were one thing. Vampires were monsters, plain and simple. That whole sensitive Children of the Night thing was total b.s.

"Oh, okay," Mom said, struggling to recover. "I . . . uh, I didn't know vampires attended Hecate."

"It's a new program we have here," Mrs. Casnoff said, reaching out to run a hand over Jenna's hair. Jenna had a polite, if kind of blank look on her face, but I saw her tense up slightly. "Every year," Mrs. Casnoff continued,

"Hecate takes a young vampire and offers him or her a chance to study alongside Prodigium in the hopes that we can eventually reform these unfortunates."

I glanced over at Jenna, because . . . unfortunates? Ouch.

"Sadly, Miss Talbot is the only vampire student we currently have, although one of our instructors is a vampire as well," Mrs. Casnoff said.

Jenna just smiled that weird nonsmile again, and we all stood around in awkward silence until Mom said, "Sweetie, why don't you let . . ." She looked up helplessly at my new roommate.


"Right, right. Why don't you let Jenna show you your room? I've got a few things I want to go over with Mrs. Casnoff, then I'll be up to say bye, okay?"

I looked toward Jenna, who was still smiling, but her eyes seemed to be already looking past us.

I shifted my tote again and went to grab my trunk from Mom, but Jenna beat me to it.

"You really don't have to help--" I started, but she waved her free hand.

"No problem. The one bonus to being a bloodsucking freak is upper-body strength."

I didn't know what to say to that, so I just lamely replied, "Oh." She carried one side, and I grabbed the other.

"No chance of an elevator, I guess?" I was only half joking.

Jenna snorted. "Nah, that would be too convenient."

"Why don't they just have, like, a luggage-moving spell or something?"

"Mrs. Casnoff's a real stickler for not using magic as an excuse to be lazy. Apparently, carrying heavy suitcases up stairs is character-building."

"Right," I said as we struggled past the second-story landing.

"So what do you think of her?" Jenna asked.

"Mrs. Casnoff?"


"Her bun is very impressive." Jenna's smirk confirmed that I had said the right thing.

"I know, right? I swear to God, that hairdo is like, epic."

There was only a trace of Southern lilt in her voice. It was pretty.

"Speaking of hairdos," I ventured, "how do you get away with that stripe?"

Jenna smoothed the pink streak with her free hand. "Oh, they don't really care about the poor vamp scholarship student that much. I guess as long as I'm not munching on my peers, I'm free to have any hair color I want."

When we reached the third-floor landing, she studied me. "I could do yours if you want. Not pink, though. That's my thing. Maybe purple?"

"Um . . . maybe."

We had stopped in front of room 312. Jenna set down her end of the trunk and pulled out her keys. Her key chain was bright yellow and had her name spelled out in sparkly pink letters.

"Here we are!"

She unlocked the door and pushed it open. "Welcome to The Twilight Zone!"


The "Holy-crap-that's-a-lot-of-pink" Zone would have been a more accurate description.

I don't know what I was expecting a vampire's room to look like.

Maybe lots of black, a bunch of books by Camus . . . oh, and a sensitive portrait of the only human the vamp had ever loved, who had no doubt died of something beautiful and tragic, thus dooming the vamp to an eternity of moping and sighing romantically.

What can I say? I read a lot of books.

But this room looked like it had been decorated by the unholy lovechild of Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake. It was bigger than I expected, but still small. There was enough room for two twin beds, two desks, two dressers, and one battered futon. The curtains were beige canvas, but Jenna had twined a hot-pink scarf over the drapery rod. Between the two desks was one of those old Chinese screens, but even this bore Jenna's stamp, as the wood had been painted--you guessed it: pink. The top of the screen was draped with pink Christmas lights. Jenna's bed was covered in what appeared to be deep pink Muppet fur.

Jenna caught me staring at it. "Awesome, right?"

"I . . . I didn't know pink existed in that particular shade."

Kicking off her loafers, Jenna threw herself down on her bed, upsetting two sequined pillows and a ratty stuffed lion. "It's called 'Electric Raspberry.'"

"That's the perfect name for it." I smiled as I pulled my trunk over to my bed, which looked as plain as . . . well, as plain as me next to Jenna.

"So, did your old roommate like pink too?"

Jenna's face froze for a split second. Then the strange look was gone, and she was leaning off the bed to scoop up her pillows and lion. "Nah, Holly just stuck with the blue stuff they give you if you don't bring your own. You brought your own, right?"

I opened my trunk and pulled out the corner of my mint green bedspread. Jenna looked a little disappointed, but sighed, "Well, it's better than regulation blue. So"--she flopped back onto the bed and began fishing around in her bedside table--"what brings you to Hex Hall, Sophie Mercer?"

"Hex Hall?" I repeated.

"Hecate is kind of a mouthful," Jenna explained. "Most people just say Hex. Besides, it feels kind of appropriate."


"So what was it?" she asked again. "Did you make it rain frogs, or turn some guy into a newt?"

I leaned back on my bed, trying to imitate Jenna's air of nonchalance, but it turns out that's really hard to do on a bare mattress, so I sat up and started pulling things out of my trunk. "I did a love spell for this girl in my class. It went badly."

"Didn't work?"

"Worked too well." I gave her the short version of the Kevin/Felicia episode.

" Day-um," she said, shaking her head. "That's hard core."

"Apparently," I said. "So you're . . . uh, you're a vampire. How exactly did that happen?"

Her eyes didn't meet mine, but her tone was casual. "Same way it happens to everyone else: met a vamp, got bitten. Not really that interesting."

I couldn't blame her for not wanting to share the whole story with someone she'd only known for fifteen minutes.

"So your mom is normal, huh?" she asked.

Hmm. Not exactly something I wanted to get into on the first day, but hey, this was what Fitting In was all about, right? Sharing makeup, clothes, and dark secrets with your roommate.

I cleared my throat. "Yeah, my dad is a warlock, but they're not together or anything anymore."

"Oh," Jenna said knowingly. "Say no more. A lot of the kids here come from divorced families. Even magic doesn't ensure a happy marriage, apparently."

"Are your parents divorced?"

She finally found the nail polish she'd been searching for. "No, they're still disgustingly happy. Or, I mean . . . I guess they are. I haven't seen them since I, uh, changed, or whatever."

"Oh wow," I replied. "That sucks."

"No pun intended?" she asked.

"Right." I finished putting the sheets on my bed. "So if you're a vamp, do I have to be really careful about not opening the drapes in the morning?"

"Nope. See this?" She tugged on a silver chain around her neck and held up a small pendant. It was about the size and shape of a jelly bean, and dark red. Anyone else might mistake it for a ruby, but I'd seen pictures of something like it in one of Mom's books.

"A bloodstone?" Bloodstones were clear, hollow stones that could be filled with the blood of a powerful witch or warlock. The stone acted as a protection against lots of different things. I guess in Jenna's case it negated all her vampire issues, which was a relief. At least now I knew I could eat garlic in front of her.

Jenna started painting her left hand. "So what about blood?" I asked.

She let out a huge sigh. "It's completely embarrassing. I have to go to the infirmary. They have a minifridge in there with a bunch of bags of blood, like it's the Red Cross or something."

I suppressed a shudder at the image. Blood is so very gross to me. If I give myself a paper cut, I nearly hyperventilate. I was really glad to hear Jenna wouldn't be snacking in our room. I could never date a vampire. Just the thought of blood breath . . . ugh.

Then I noticed that Jenna was staring at me. Crap. Had my disgust been written all over my face? Just in case, I faked a smile and said,

"Awesome. Like a bloody Capri Sun."

Jenna laughed. "Nice one."

We sat in companionable silence for a moment before Jenna asked,

"So your parents' breakup was ugly?"

"Apparently," I answered. "It happened before I was born."

She looked up from her nails. "Whoa."

I walked to my desk. Someone, Mrs. Casnoff, I guess, had left my class schedule there. It looked like a normal enough schedule, but said things like "M-F, 9:15-10:00, Magical Evolution, Yellow Sitting Room."

"Yeah. Mom doesn't talk about it much, but whatever happened, it was bad enough that she won't let him meet me."

"So you've never seen your own dad?"

"I have a picture. And I've talked to him on the phone, and e-mail."

"Damn. I wonder what he did. Did he, like, hit her or something?"

"I don't know!" It came out more sharply than I had intended.

"Sorry," she murmured.

I turned to my bed and began smoothing my comforter. After I'd fixed about five imaginary wrinkles (and Jenna had painted one nail three times), I turned back and said, "I didn't mean to snap--"

"No, it's cool. That was none of my business anyway."

That cozy feeling of companionship was completely gone now.

"It's just . . . for like, my whole life, I've lived with only my mom, and I'm just not used to this whole telling-your-life-story thing yet. I guess we've always been pretty private."

Jenna nodded, but she still wasn't looking at me.

"I guess you and your old roommate told each other everything, huh?"

That dark look came over her face again. She abruptly capped her bottle of nail polish. "No," she said softly. "Not everything."

She tossed the bottle into her drawer and hopped off her bed. "See you at dinner."

As she left, she nearly smacked into Mom, mumbling an apology as she ran off.

"Soph," Mom said, dropping down onto my bed. "Don't tell me you already had a fight with your roommate."

She was annoyingly good at reading my moods. "I dunno. I think I'm just really bad at this girl stuff, you know? I mean, the last friend I had was in sixth grade. It's not like you can find a best friend when the longest you ever stay anywhere is six months, so I gue--Oh, Mom, I didn't mean to make you feel bad."