When I got home, I went straight upstairs to my room and closed the door, like I always did. Then I gingerly took the Kleenex-wrapped pictures out of my backpack and partially unwrapped the tissue so that all three photos were exposed, but my hands were touching only the Kleenex. It was a necessary precaution, especially considering Edgar wore the same clothes everyday. I cringed as my eyes took in every unflattering picture. First there was the one with me and Derek, which I had already seen. The next one with Ike was hard to make out because it was taken through the lattice of the fence, but if you squinted, my totally emo face and Ike's completely expressionless one could still be discerned. Tuesday afternoon. Ducky strikes out with Mr. Potato Nose, Ike, during P.E. Edgar had scribbled at the bottom. The third one was the worst of all, mainly because it was taken close up-Edgar had apparently leaned over and snapped a side shot-and my mouth was half open in surprise. Not to mention it had the most offensive caption: Detention. Ducky gets dissed by some wanksta. I guess she's gotten brain damage from when said wanksta HIT HER WITH HIS CAR AND SENT HER TO THE HOSPITAL. "That was because of you, moron!" I shouted at the caption. I tore up all three pictures and threw them into the trash, then lay in my sleeping bag to contemplate the insufferable mystery that was Edgar.

I could only suspect, based on our little exchange that afternoon, that he was planning some sort of public humiliation-an Operation Sadie of his own. I certainly wasn't going to let him take me down like that. In fact, wasn't it about time I went on the offensive? Edgar had gotten his turn-in fact, more than one turn-and it was only fair that I get my payback. But, argued the angel on my right shoulder, I wasn't a revenge kind of gal, and anyway, hadn't Edgar promised, in his very own words, to stop being such a total dick? Whatever. I got up and went downstairs to make myself a sandwich.

The next day at lunch, I was just minding my own business, trying to eat my chili cheese fries in peace, when Edgar pulled out the chair across from the table I was sitting at and plunked himself down. I froze, a fry halfway to my partially open mouth, and stared. Edgar put his elbows on table, laced his fingers together, and grinned. "Mind if I join you?" he asked.

"You already did, but yes, I do mind," I replied hotly. "Go away, Edgar." So much for his promise.

"Come on," he wheedled. "You're a loner. I'm a loner. How'd that saying go? 'When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone.' "

I was unimpressed. "Oh my God, shut up." I put the fry down, having lost my appetite, but not really. "You're not even a real loner. Angelene told me that you're a, and I quote, 'self-imposed pariah.' "

"True, true." His interlaced fingers cradled his pointed chin. "But I have my reasons."

"Oh, really? Just like you have your reasons for continually being a dick to me?." I started gathering my things so I could get up and move to another table, but he grabbed my lunch tray, and several of my fingers. "Wait! Weren't you listening yesterday?" he asked.

"Uh, no," I said, trying to pull away and failing. Stupid annoying death grip.

Edgar sighed loudly. "Jeez. I come up with a really awesome heartfelt speech that was fantastically delivered, and you just go and totally zone me out. I was wondering why you weren't as shocked as I thought you'd be."

"Well sorry for not being all ears for some jerk bent on ruining my social life," I said sarcastically. "So if you'll excuse me, I have things to do, things that, although nonexistent, happen to matter more than me just sitting around and paying attention to you-"

"Aren't you curious?" He still wasn't letting go.

"About what?" I said impatiently, still fruitlessly trying to shake him off.

"About why I was being such a jerk to you!"

"Because you're an asshole! That's all there is to it!" I practically screeched in a half-whisper so as not to cause a scene in the middle of the cafeteria. Of course I wanted to know-I had wanted to know ever since that fateful day he scooted close to me in gym and told me I stank-but my pride came first, and my pride was telling me to get the hell out of there. But my pride was also telling me to sit down, because I was causing a scene anyway and Edgar still wasn't letting go, despite several heads being turned in our direction. "Stupid, contradictory pride," I muttered to myself, then grudgingly sat myself down again. "All right, spill about the ulterior motives behind your bullying ways," I said to Edgar, who allowed me to slam my tray onto the table and yank my fingers away from his.

"Okay, yay," said Edgar, clapping his hands like an idiot. I snorted and waited. He straightened himself up, cleared his throat, and looked at me solemnly. "The reason-and I know this is gonna be hard to believe, but you have to take my word for it-the reason I've been a total dick to you is…" he sucked in his breath for dramatic effect.

"…because I'm a vampire."

My jaw dropped.

"OH MY GOD," I said, my eyes widening. "ARE YOU FOR REAL? OH MY GOD."

He scowled at me. "I don't appreciate the sarcasm, Ducky."

"Well I don't appreciate it either, hypocrite," I snapped. "What kind of lame-o joke is this? You expect me to believe that you're some bloodsucking monster? I'm not a little kid, Edgar. And even if I could bring myself to believe something so stupid, what kind of rationale is that for being a dickwad?"

"Dick, asshole, dick, why don't you make up your mind about which part of the human body I am already," quipped Edgar.

I glared at him. "You're all of them."

He nonchalantly gave me the bird. "Back to the topic. I know it's hard to believe, but it's true. The vampire thing, I mean." He spoke these words so sincerely that I almost believed him. But I mean, c'mon. Vampires? "And we aren't bloodsucking monsters. I mean, we do drink blood, but we aren't monsters. You know how humans have evolved from stinky old cavemen? Well, we modern day vampires have evolved from the bloodsucking monsters often depicted in shitty chick lit and pop culture."

"If you're going to keep doing the whole vampire shtick, I'm leaving," I told him.

"I'm just trying to tell you the truth. I'm a vampire. Who ironically likes garlic bread-I can't actually eat it, because we can't eat or drink anything but blood, but I can chew on it for a while and spit it back up-"

I got up. He tried to grab my arm, but I managed to dodge his death grip this time, or so I thought. Chortling at my success, I started to walk away, only to be viciously pulled back. My hip banged into the edge of the table.

"OW! What the-" I looked down. From underneath the table, Edgar had snaked his long ass legs around my left knee in a lower limb death grip. "I'M TELLING YOU THE TRUTH, DUCKY!" he yelled, obviously for the dramatic effect. "DON'T YOU DARE WALK AWAY! IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE, DO NOT, I SAY! DO NOT!"

"Let go, you-you weirdo python boy!" I hissed, trying to both maintain my dignity and wrench myself away for the billionth time. Edgar had to hold onto the table so he wouldn't be dragged off his chair. Plus he was still obnoxiously yelling nonsense about truth and liberty and justice. People goggled at us. It was traumatizing.

Thankfully though, the bell rang, startling Weirdo Python Boy into relaxing his hold on my leg. With a final wrench I freed myself and half-stumbled, half-ran away, past all the onlookers of Edgar and Fea's latest melodrama. I pumped my fists in the air and shouted "Yessssssssssssssss!", rejoicing in my triumph, until I realized that I would see Edgar next period.

"Vampires keep to themselves," he told me as he butted into my personal space. I had gotten my own jump rope, but Edgar had insisted on sharing, so now we were face-to-face as I struggled to turn the one-person rope over both of our heads and under both of our feet. "It's kind of taboo to befriend human beings, actually. You can eat 'em, torture 'em, turn 'em, fuck 'em, and kill 'em, but you're not really supposed to be friends with one."

"Uh huh," I said, playing along. I concentrated on turning the rope and timing my next jump, all the while avoiding his steady gaze on me.

"It's because the closer you get to a human, the more vulnerable you become," he said, expertly jumping over the rope despite my sloppy turning. "And I mean vulnerable. You start losing some of the power you get with being a vampire; you become more humanized. When you're a vampire, you have better senses and abilities. You see better, hear better, you're faster and stronger and blah, blah, blah-the usual crap. Well, all of that goes bye-bye once you establish a bond with a human. Or if you don't drink blood. Or both."

"Mhm, interesting," I said mechanically. I noticed he smelled nice-some kind of typical musky guy cologne-even though he was still wearing the same outfit I had seen him in since the first time I met him. I wondered if he had seven lavender jackets and seven pairs of black pantaloons for every day of the week. I wondered if he was failing gym because he never dressed out. I tripped over the rope, ending the game.

"You still don't believe me," Edgar accused.

"Well, duh. I'm not that gullible." I put away the rope and went over to the bleachers to sit down. Edgar followed me. "And I really don't see how any of this is relevant."

"I'm getting to that," he said, sitting so close that his left leg was pressed against my right leg. I moved away slightly; he followed suit. I tried again, but his leg was determined to touch mine. I sighed and gave up.

"Look," I said, "it's cool that you're into vampires and all, but me? Not so much. But I can still tell that you kind of have a problem. Besides the obvious, I mean."

"What?" Edgar stared at me.

"You're so obsessed with vampires that you believe they exist and that you are one yourself. You're deluded, dude. You need help. Didn't you say that you lived with Dr. What's-Her-Face? Maybe she can-"

"Okay, what's it going to take for you to believe me, Ducky?" He looked me straight in the eye with his jaw set.

"I don't know…proof?"

"Besides that, I mean."

"What do you mean, 'besides that'? That's all there is to it. And proof does not include mentioning how you have pasty skin and can run fast."

"I can't really show you anything when people are around. Vampire rule."

"Uh huh."

"I'm serious!"

"AUGHHHHH!" Both Edgar and I turned our heads. In a far corner of the gym, there was someone laying haphazardly on the ground, clutching his bloody leg.

"I wonder what happened," I murmured. I watched Coach Frapp hurry over to the lone figure.

"I guess Ike fell down or something," said Edgar dismissively. "He'll be okay. But Ducky, I'm not lying about-"

"WHAT?" I practically shouted. "That's IKE?" I scrunched my eyes. It was Ike! I hadn't recognized him because he had gotten a haircut. Ike…helpless and alone, save for a biased and rather impertinent authority figure?!

"OH MY GOD," I cried, this time non-sarcastically. I ran over to him as fast as I could and tried to help him up, since he looked so undignified splayed on the ground. "Ike! Ike, are you ok? What happened?"

"I'mfine," he mumbled, valiantly resisting my attempts to help.

"Newbery here got a little too into skipping rope and scratched himself pretty badly on the jagged edge there," Frapp said, pointing to the bleachers' support while rummaging through his fanny pack. "I'm all out of Band-Aids. Looks like you're gonna have to go down to the nurse's office, kid."

"I'll take him!" I said at once. "For physical, spiritual, and emotional support!" I seized Ike's arm.

"I'll go with you guys," piped up Edgar, who, true to the annoying stalker that he was, had once again followed me. He seized Ike's other arm.

I slapped Edgar's hand away and narrowed my eyes at him. "Edgar, I already volunteered to escort Ike to the nurse's office. We have no need of your services, right Ike?"

"Au contraire," said Edgar, seizing Ike's other arm again, "two's awkward, three's company."

"That's not how the saying goes, moron."

"There's a little something called 'reinvention,' dumbass."

"You're the dumbass!"

"It takes one to know one. Dumbass."

"I thought you weren't going to be a total dick anymore!"

"I'm not! I'm only being a partial dick! Dumbass."

"CanIgobymyself," Ike muttered incoherently.

"ENOUGH!" ordered Frapp. "Jeez, you two fight like an old albeit sexually ravenous married couple." Before I could protest such slander, he told us to both go, since there were only five minutes until the bell rang anyway, and to hurry up before Ike ruined the nice new floor finish. I opened my mouth to protest the gratuitous addition of Edgar, but one look from Frapp and I closed it again. So Edgar and I pulled Ike up off the ground and set off. Edgar and I offered to carry him, but Ike firmly said no. By the time we reached the hallway and rounded the corner, the floor was streaked here and there with blood, despite Ike's attempts to cradle his injured leg as he walked to prevent any spillage.

"Dude, you're hella bleeding," Edgar proclaimed.

"Well no shit, Sherlock," I said as nastily as possible. Then I murmured to Ike, as alluringly as possible, "How much does it hurt?"

Ike shrugged, limping along.

"Ducky, why do you always have to be so mean to me?" Edgar pouted.

"Shut it."

We reached the nurse's office. Edgar held open the door while I walked in with Ike. The nurse looked up from her desk in an otherwise bare and dingy office. Well, there was a tacky pink curtain on the wall. "Oh, my," the nurse said upon spotting Ike's bleeding leg. "Let me get out the first-aid kit. Sit down, my dear." She opened a desk drawer and pulled out a plastic white case.

Ike sat down in the only chair available. I stood to the side, by the tacky pink curtain. The curtain was translucent enough so that I could see that it covered an entryway into another slightly bigger room, which, aside from a couple of cots and a sink, was just as bare and dingy as the one we were in.

"I'll take care of him from here," the nurse said to me and Edgar, who was still holding the door open like an idiot. "You two can head back to class now."

"I'm here for emotional support," I told her. I grabbed Ike's hand. He pulled it away.

"I don't need any emotional support," he said. "Can you go now?"

"Clearly he's delusional and has lost a lot of blood!" I said emphatically. "He's speaking in audible sentences, for crying out loud! Nurse, he needs some TLC, stat!"

"And I'm just here for psychological support," said Edgar, giving me a sideways glance.

I sucker-punched him. He yelped.

The nurse smiled thinly. "It's very sweet of you to worry about your friend-"

"-they're not my friends," Ike cut in rather hurtfully.

"-well it's nice that you two are such Good Samaritans," the nurse amended, "but there is no further need for you to be here, and I think your continued presence is aggravating the patient."

"The patient?" repeated Edgar. "Haha, like we're in a hospital or something? You wish."

The nurse's face turned to stone. "Leave. Now." She pointed to the doorway.

I stalked through it and left. Edgar finally let go of the door handle and hurried after me.

"Why are you such a crush whore?" he asked.

"Um, excuse you?"

"Ike, Derek, that stupid wankster guy. Admit it, you want them to join your reverse harem or something."

"For your information, I do not like any of those guys," I lied. "Just because I asked them to the dance doesn't mean that I like them."

"Um, yes it does."

"Well, it's none of your business anyway, so shut it." The shower bell rang. I stepped up my pace, intending to get to the girls' locker room so I could speedily change before the inferiority complex-inducing anorexics started coming in, but Edgar grabbed my hand and stopped me. It was like déjà vu. Extremely annoying déjà vu.

"We still need to talk," he said. "I need you to believe me before I can be forgiven."

"Okay, I believe you," I said, shaking off his hand. "Don't forgive you, though. Kthanksbye."

"I mean seriously believe that I'm a vampire-"

"VAMPIRES DON'T EXIST," I said loudly. "Can you stop with the vampire BS already?"

He bared his teeth. Out popped two pointy fangs.

I barely bat an eyelash. "Oh wow, nice gimmick fangs that you probably got from Hot Topic."

"They're real, Ducky," he said in a low voice. He retracted them, probably with some wireless mechanized button hidden inside his sleeve.

I rolled my eyes. "Okay, let's play devil's advocate. Say you are a vampire. Vampires drink blood. Ike's bloodfest didn't entice you one bit. I call bullshit."

"I told you, we've evolved!" Edgar said exasperatedly. "We don't lunge at the tiniest hint of blood. Ike's leg was like an unwrapped Twinkie on the ground, half covered in dirt. Would you touch that shit?"

"Whatever, dude," I eloquently responded, turning to leave.

"Okay, fine." Edgar stooped down, dipped a finger into a still moist streak of blood on the floor, popped his finger into his mouth, and sucked. "Are you happy now?" he asked, looking at me triumphantly.

I gagged. "Happy to confirm my suspicions that you are both psychotic and repulsive."

The bell rang again, signaling the end of the period. Crap! Frapp would be locking up the gym soon, since sixth period was the last P.E. period of the day, and I was still in my hideous gym clothes with only six more minutes to spare until my next class. More importantly, my backpack was still hanging on a lone hook in the dark depths of my top row locker. Shit! I had just spotted Frapp through the windowpane of the exit door at the end of the hallway we were in. He was already outside in the courtyard, probably heading to his junk bucket of a car so he could clunk and rattle his way home. Meaning he had already locked the gym up. I could still catch up to him, plead my case (which would hinge heavily on Edgar being a dawdling idiot), and get my clothes and my backpack, which contained, among other things, the beginnings of a collage I was working on for Spanish class that was due tomorrow. I briefly wondered whether I should use crayon, color pencils, or markers for the captions. Hmm. Crayons were childish and markers bled through, so definitely color pencils. Did we even have any art stuff at home? Regina said Bill secretly liked doing artsy fartsy stuff, so maybe…FUCK! Frapp was already strolling through the faculty parking lot! And I was going to be late for Biology! I snapped myself out of my reverie.

"I really have to go, so don't try to stop me again," I told Edgar, who had gone into some kind of spiel (again) and was pulling out chunks of his hair for reasons I didn't care to ask about. "Sorry I didn't fall for your dumb prank. And I'm kind of sick of committing social suicide with you. I-sadly-don't need any help from you on that front, so if you can just leave me to kamikaze into the high school hierarchy alone, it would do a lot more for my self esteem and stuff. K bye." I rushed off.

"THAT DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE AND YOU KNOW IT!" Edgar bellowed after me.

"WELL IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE, SUCKA!" I nonsensically bellowed back just as I flung myself into the courtyard, the exit door swinging shut behind me. A sudden, disturbing thought suddenly crossed my mind then: Dear lord, I'm becoming Edgar.