Chapter 1: The Worst First Day of Summer CHAPTER 1 The Worst First Day of Summer
Sylvie Shaw was a monster, and everyone knew it.
The type with glistening fangs, pale skin, and a thirst for adventure to go along with her taste for blood.
She didn’t even try to hide it.
If anything, she flaunted that fact, arriving every single day to Evermore Middle School looking like she’d stepped straight out of her well-appointed casket. Black clothes guarding her skin—even on the hottest days—and huge sunglasses over her eyes to ward off the sun. Her hair was always down and parted in the center, emphasizing the widow’s peak she maintained with care. In her hand, a glittery black tumbler emblazoned with a merry, fanged “You Suck” and filled to the brim with a sloshing red liquid.
Okay, that’s not entirely true.
Sylvie arrived that way in her dreams. Because Sylvie was actually a human who just liked to role-play as a monster.
A vampire, to be exact.
Sylvie was the founder of Evermore Middle School’s first-ever Monster LARPing (aka live-action role-play) Club. Though her single dad wasn’t thrilled with her love of LARPing, the club was Dad-approved, mainly because he was always bent on Sylvie hanging out with real live humans and not just sitting in her room, mainlining all the classic monster shows and movies—The Munsters, The Addams Family, Dracula, The Invisible Man, and every cartoon counterpart. Most of them were her mom’s old DVDs, and so she wasn’t sure why her dad didn’t like her spending time with them, because in a way it was like spending time with her mom.
And for the last six years, they both very much missed spending time with her.
Anyhow, Ethan Shaw preferred Sylvie as she was.
He didn’t like it very much that she pretended to be a vampire. It was annoying and completely cut into Sylvie’s attempt to survive sixth grade by making every day an adventure in LARPing. So, Sylvie just made it so he wouldn’t worry… by making herself a monster when he wasn’t around.
Like in the bathroom at school before the bell.
Or in today’s case: in her bedroom after he was safely across town at a construction site.
Sylvie the Vampire had somewhere to be.
Dustin had agreed to meet Sylvie in Evermore Glade Park for a summer LARP.
As a LARP partner, he had some very specific requirements about the LARPs he would engage in, particularly that he and Sylvie were always adversaries. It wasn’t an ideal situation, though seeing as Dustin was the only person who’d joined her LARPing club… beggars couldn’t be choosers.
But today was the first day of summer, and Sylvie had decided all bets were off. With the sun shining, no classroom confines, and seventh grade on the horizon, Sylvie hoped against all hope that she could finally convince Dustin to do a LARP where they were on the same team.
Perhaps hunting a rogue monster together.
Or a rogue human who wanted to use Sylvie’s undead powers for no good.
Or any of the other common-but-cool scenarios in the dog-eared vampire novels Sylvie had on her bookshelf—ones she’d subsequently condensed and added to the three-ring binder she used for official LARP activities.
The point was, if Sylvie could convince Dustin to team up with her rather than kill her, they had options. And maybe, just maybe, by the end of the summer, they could convince others LARPing was fun too.
So, excited by the sheer possibility of it all—and bolstered by the fact that her dad had left for work at seven—Sylvie dressed in her best black jean shorts and black tank top; drew on her widow’s peak with fresh, waterproof eyeliner; applied her sharpest stick-on fangs; and walked to the park with her binder full of LARPing scenarios for her vampire and Dustin’s knight.
Sylvie arrived right at ten, but only saw a couple of moms and toddlers, no Dustin.
She plopped in the seat of a swing at the appointed playground and waited.
By 10:10, Sylvie checked her phone. Nothing. By 10:15, she texted Dustin.
Hey. I’m here. Are you coming?
By 10:20, Sylvie was in the middle of digging a very nice ravine in the wood chips under the swings when a shadow fell over her from behind.
“If it isn’t Draculette.”
She knew that voice.
Sylvie whirled around to find Fisher Loggins, palming a basketball and wielding a grin that would make a hyena jealous.
Fisher had the unique distinction of thinking sixth grade at Evermore Middle School was totally fair because he had everything going for him. He was sporty. He was popular. And because of those things and the copious groundwork laid by his equally athletic big brothers, everyone from the kids to the teachers to the principal seemed to think he walked on water.
But that was because he was nice to the right people and totally, utterly horrible to everyone else.
Fisher was the reason Sylvie had stopped wearing her stick-on fangs at school. The second week of sixth grade, the grade A jerk nailed her in the face during gym-class dodgeball, and one of them went up her nose.
Then Mr. Sharp told her no more fangs in gym class. It wasn’t fair because Mr. Sharp wasn’t the one who lost a tooth to Fisher Loggins, and he didn’t have to pay for them anyway. And even more unfair was the fact that Sylvie’s schedule included gym every single school day, like it was math or English or something actually important.
But if Sylvie had learned anything about middle school, it was that literally nothing was ever fair unless you were good at a sport or at the top of the class or, in the case of total unicorns, both.
Sylvie was neither nor both.
And so, she’d spent her entire sixth grade year trying to recruit anyone who was also neither nor both to be a monster too.
Sylvie made some really rad posters, and even convinced Miss Tottenham to sponsor the Evermore Middle Monster LARPing Club. Except instead of creating a trove of character sheets and a band of monsters and misfits eager for regular quests and battles… the club had been less than successful.
All Sylvie had for her trouble was Dustin.
And now instead of Dustin, she had trouble brewing with Fisher.
Flanking him were his usual boneheaded minions, Kyle and Kiefer. Each of them held water bottles and blank expressions. They would have to pass Sylvie to get to the basketball court on the other side of the park. Just her luck.
Sylvie hugged her binder tighter and ground her Converse firmly into the wood chips. “Leave me alone, Fisher.”
His smile only widened. “I’m just being nice. Helping a lonely girl by checking on her.”
That was absolutely not what he was doing.
Sylvie’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not lonely and I don’t need your help.”
“Of course you do,” Fisher argued. “Where’s your boyfriend? What’s his name? Justin? Derek?”
“Dustin is not my boyfriend.”
“Oh no, Draculette, did Dust-Mop break up with you? That’s it, isn’t it? You look like you want to fling yourself into the sun.” He glanced at his buddies. “How about we help you out and give you a push?”
Before Sylvie could realize what he meant, Fisher chucked the basketball to free up his meaty hands as he and his minions converged on Sylvie’s swing. She hadn’t been holding on to the swing chains, but now she grabbed furiously with her right hand, her left clutching the binder with all the strength she had from her weekly climbing-gym jaunts with her dad.
“No! Hey, stop!” All three of them had hold of the chains now and were pulling her back as if to swing her up in a deep arc, sniggering like hoarse hyenas. “Stop!”
Sylvie started kicking. She nailed one of the minions in something fleshy. Kyle and Kiefer flew apart, giving Sylvie the sliver of space she needed to flee from the swing and onto solid ground outside of their tangled fence of limbs.
But in her escape, the corner of Sylvie’s binder caught on somebody and jolted straight out of her hands and right onto the toes of Fisher’s expensive high-tops. With some sort of soccer move—because of course he played all the sports—Fisher flipped the binder from the top of his laces into his outstretched hands.
“Did Dust-Mop get sick of playing pretend with you?”
“It’s role-playing, not pretend—”
“Same thing, Draculette! You were going to meet him and play, weren’t you? And then he stood you up. That’s it, isn’t it?” Fisher held up her binder as if it were proof—and it did say “Sylvie’s LARP Book” on the side, so maybe it was. “You even brought your little guide. And then he just left you here!”
Sylvie gave him her best scowl. “That’s mine! Give it back!”
Fisher’s mean grin only widened, his blue eyes narrow slits. “You want it back? Pretend you’re a killer vampire and take it!”
Sylvie was starting to get nervous. She leapt for the binder, but he swung it above his shoulder, out of reach. Then, because he was truly a jerk, Fisher yelled, “Go long, Kyle!” and tossed her binder in a quarterback’s perfect spiral in the direction of the picnic tables.
Kyle started running, and so did Sylvie. He was fast, but she was faster, darting ahead of him. Unfortunately, she was also a head shorter, and not classically athletic, so when they both leapt over the wooden railroad-tie boundary of the swing sets and onto the grassy lawn for the incoming binder, Kyle easily caught it.
Sylvie gritted her teeth and jumped again, trying to get a finger on the spine to tip it out of his hands. But Kyle was a good minion and immediately slung it right back to Fisher as Sylvie tumbled to the grass, still slick with morning dew.
She skidded to a stop just as Fisher caught her binder in his meaty hands. Triumphant, he hopped up onto the nearest picnic table and loomed over her.
“If this really is your manual to being a vampire, it’s trash, Draculette. You can’t fly. You aren’t super strong. You don’t even bite.”
“It’s not—” Sylvie heaved.
“I said I’d help you, and I will, because I’m a nice guy.”
Then, with the grace of the Evermore Middle sixth-grade point guard that he’d been last year, Fisher shot her binder in a perfect arc… right into the nearest park trash can.
“Give up the ghost, Draculette. You’re a terrible monster.”