Located due South of the Scottish border, Solshire was a small town with a population of 10,000. It had a beautifully preserved Medieval Church, award-winning roses in the spring, and a Christmas market in December. However, it also had a hellmouth, a central point of supernatural activity that regularly brought disaster and bloodshed to the unsuspecting residents.
The hellmouth was rather conveniently located in the underground tunnels beneath the local High School: Solshire High. There it fed on exam anxiety, romantic disappointment, and a constant stream of bratty feuds. In exchange, it gave the school a distinct air of power that was intoxicating for its young inhabitants and generated cliques, mean girls, and lusty social ambition in bulbous proportions.
Of that Fiona, Lester was painfully aware. She had lived the first 14 years of her life in a regular fashion: riding her bicycle, reading graphic novels, and breeding her beloved hamsters. She had done well in school and had been part of a small, but close friend group, consisting of Cordelia, Harmony, and Aurora, the best friends a girl could ask for. But all of this had come crashing down fast as soon as they started Solshire High.
From the first day, Fiona had sensed the evil of the place, felt it snake around her and her friends. It started with mocking comments, eye-rolling, the group dismissing her every opinion, but it quickly grew. She watched bewildered, as all her friends turned against her, and within the first five weeks, she had been branded a social outcast and consequently abandoned. They made her the butt of every joke, mocked her taste in music, belittled her favorite movies, jeered at the way she dressed, and at her long ginger hair. Soon after the nicknames started: grandma, for her conservative clothes and loser because she had no friends, but the worst one, the worst one by far was the one that finally stuck: lesbian.
She would never forget the way Cordelia had slammed her against a locker and said loud enough for everyone in the hallway to hear, "I'm sick of the way you look at me! Don't you think I know why you're always so nice to me?" She scoffed and made eye contact with her audience. "Please. Everyone knows you're in love with me you little freak and I'm not putting up with it anymore. I don't need a gross, little lesbian following my every move."
Whatever had happened after that was a mystery to Fiona. Maybe she had fled. Maybe she had cried. Maybe she had fallen to the floor and everybody had just laughed at her. That day it had seemed like her entire existence had been carelessly vanquished. And humiliated and betrayed, a new phase of her life had started. She dyed her hair black, she dressed like an emo, listened to Muse, and talked to absolutely no one, except for Giles of course, the friendly school librarian, but as far as she was concerned he didn't really count. He was a grown-up, a dad type, with his lame ties and oversized glasses. But he was nice to her, even letting her break school rules and have lunch in the library with him.
For two long years that had been the entirety of Fiona's life. Black clothes, black hair, Muse and social exile. She continued to think of Solshire High as evil and her former friends' quick change of attitude towards her unnatural, but Fiona preferred not to dwell. There were good things happening too. For one, she was now tall enough that no one would ever think to knock her against a locker again. For another, she had scored an after-school job at a little coffee shop and, if that weren't enough to lift her spirits, her parents had finally allowed her to get a septum piercing. So, in her own limited way, Fiona was thriving.
"Morning Giles," she said on her first day of Junior year as she walked through the doors of the library.
She had expected to find him cradling a coffee cup and in the middle of some medieval volume or other, but instead, he was standing in the center of the room having a hushed conversation with a girl Fiona had never seen before. They both turned quickly to her, accusingly like she was interrupting them.
"Oh," Fiona pulled her bag closer to her. "Sorry, I thought you were alone."
"I was just leaving," said the girl. "I'll see about that book later," she told Giles, but her tone rang with falseness. She walked quickly passed Fiona to the door and Fiona's eyes involuntarily followed her every move.
"Who was that?"
"New student," said Giles casually putting his hand in the pockets of his khakis.
"Yes, like you."
"I believe so."
Fiona frowned. People from London didn't just pick up and move to one of the most northern towns in England. Especially not people who looked like her.
"What's her name?"
"What's with the interrogation?"
She rolled her eyes at him. "Aren't you supposed to be nurturing the curiosity of the young?"
"Quite so, but Fiona-" he stopped himself. "The new girl, it's best if you leave her alone. She's got a lot of catching up to do."
Fiona narrowed her eyes. Who was Giles to tell her what to do anyway?\
Jazzy Howell was big fucking news. A tall, beautiful girl from the capital, with luscious brown curls and teeny tiny miniskirts. She oozed the easy, self-satisfied confidence of a Queen B, which instantly made Cordelia's anxiety levels spike, and had gorgeous long legs that had every single boy (and Fiona) mesmerized.
She seemed to float down the hallways, like an apparition, and throughout her whole first day, her presence disturbed everything. The name “Jazzy” was on everyone's lips. They wondered why she had come to Solshire and if that was really how people dressed in London. By lunchtime, Cordelia had even asked her to come sit at her table, which the new girl had done with seeming nonchalance.
Normally, Fiona would have pretended not to care, even if she cared very deeply, but something about the new girl made her unable to do so. It wasn't just that she was pretty, Cordelia and Harmony were pretty, it was that her look was distinct. The brown curls. The dimples. The velvet choker. The platform boots. She wore all black, like Fiona, and when they had been together in the library, she could have sworn she sensed something between them – a kinship of sorts.
It was this, as much as Giles telling her not to, that gave her the courage to speak to her during the last lesson of the day, English. Conveniently, Jazzy was sitting her next to her, looking down at the phone on her lap rather than at the text of Macbeth that the teacher had just handed out. Fiona tilted her chair closer to her. "This must be very different." It wasn't a very interesting start, but it was a start nonetheless.
Big brown eyes surveyed her. "To what?" In contrast to her appearance, her voice was soft.
"Wherever you come from."
"Have you been to the Church of Saint Sebastian yet?" The Church was the most beautiful thing the town had to offer and its only tourist attraction.
"Nope, are you very religious?"
"No," said Fiona quickly. She didn't want to be that girl. "But it's-" Beautiful? Cool? Neat? Suddenly every adjective she could think of was totally inadequate. This girl had lived in London! She had probably seen St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, of course, the local church wouldn't interest her. "A church," she finished, feeling a wild desire to melt into her seat.
To her surprise, Jazzy laughed. "The church is a church. Well, now I have to see it. What's your name?"
"-Bian," interrupted Harmony behind her. Fiona instantly turned red and stared fixedly at her notebook. "This is Lester Lesbian," she continued, putting cold hands on Fiona's shoulders, "and there's really only one reason she's talking to you."
Fiona’s body was having a breakdown. Her heart wasn't beating at all. Her internal organs had gotten tangled up together like a big ball of yarn. Every drop of blood in her body had whooshed up to her face till she was lollipop red. She had to remind herself to breathe, which was an odd thing to do because at that moment, Fiona could have sworn she didn't even have lungs.
She spent the remainder of the class silently doodling on the margin of a page and as soon as the bell rang, she made a mad dash for the library. She burst through the door so violently Giles spilled his coffee. "Good heavens Fiona," he said as he tried to clean up the mess.
"You're jumpy," she retorted as she dropped her bag and pulled up a chair by his side. He had seen her run away from her peer's plenty of times in the past and had never before spilled anything because of it.
"Well, the first day back feels twice as long, don't you find?"
Fiona narrowed her eyes. "You're being weird."
"No more so than usual," he said. "Want to read a passage of Heimskringla," he said pointing to his giant, leather-bound book, almost like he was changing the subject. If Fiona hadn't been willfully avoiding any thought about the new girl, she may have connected some dots.
The only thing worse than not having anyone texting you could only be getting spam texted by a fussy librarian, who was constantly reminding you of your duties, your powers and your tedious obligations to his dumbass order. It had been like that all day long. Text after text. The man could apparently preach endlessly and the only reply Jazzy had given was a simple "k."
Which, of course, had elicited a "Jazzy be serious. You alone have been chosen for this role. It is your destiny," yada yada yada.
It was her first day at a new school! She had to focus on looking cute and meeting nice people, not the whole 'save the world thing' that was not her problem. Not after what had happened last time anyway. Giles had to understand that. Like, he had told her this morning he was a watcher, his job was to help her. Absolutely under no circumstance was she allowing him to boss her around.
With that thought she walked to the library, determined to tell him that he was not allowed to interfere in the normality of her life. Giles was reading out loud but stopped as she made her loud entrance. The accused lesbian from English class was sitting next to him.
Jazzy smiled, this was working out better than she had expected.
"Jazzy." Giles stood up.
"I just came to tell you that I don't think I'll be checking out that book after all," she shrugged. "I just don't think it's for me."
Giles was going to say something but then looked down at Fiona. He went on very carefully. "I don't think that's-"
She brushed him off. "Sorry, gotta go, we got a ton of English homework, right Fiona?"
Fiona jumped at being addressed. "Mmm..."
"You're being very childish."
"Homework is my priority," Jazzy deadpanned. She reached across the desk and pulled Fiona up by the sleeve of her sweater. "We should go somewhere quiet and work."
"A library perhaps," said Giles drily.
"Or a church. Fiona loves churches," she said, looping an arm around the other's girl and walking her out of the room.
Jazzy was too preoccupied with the triumph of having escaped Giles so easy to notice that Fiona was frozen next to her.
walked down the hallway, it felt like every pair of eyes was on them. But, she didn't even care because it felt so.... nice. Jazzy's boots made her just as tall as Fiona and her arm was so warm, and she smelled really, really good. She could imagine that they looked like some sort of goth, super duo. Her face was turning red. What the hell did this mean?
They didn't stop walking until they had crossed the entire school and had come out to a grey day. Then Jazz halted and Fiona awkwardly collided with her.
"Which way is it?"
Fiona blinked. "St. Sebastian's?"
"Oh, I mean, it's across town, but generally," she pointed westward, "that way?"
"Okay." Jazzy looped their arms together again and began walking, pulling Fiona along.
"Where do you know Giles from?" she asked, her senses slowly coming back to there. There was something weird about that scene, and not just because someone other than her had stepped foot in the library.
Fiona hesitated. He wasn't just the school librarian, but he wasn't really a friend either. "I like his library," she finally answered, like the nerd she was.
"Libraries and churches, a girl of eclectic tastes," said Jazzy. They were walking very quickly and getting lots of stares. Fiona caught sight of Cordelia sitting in a car, arms crossed over her chest and a murderous look in her eyes. "Have you lived here all your life?"
Jazz made a little sound and then finally slowed down her talking to look at her. They were inches apart and Fiona's legs were literally shaking from nerves. "That is place is vile," she said gesturing towards the school.
Yes. That was what Fiona had always thought.
"Doesn't feel right."
It was like this girl could read her thoughts.
"Do you agree?"
Jazzy nodded knowingly, then started walking again.
Fiona wondered. Sure, she herself had no frame of reference, this was the only home she had ever known, but this girl had lived in London, she knew something of the world outside of Solshire and she sensed it too.
It took almost an hour for them to get to the church and by then the sun was starting to set. They had crossed all the way through town. Occasionally, Jazzy would stop and stare at something, a broken window, a boarded up shop, then look at her for an explanation. "There was a robbery. Double suicide. We still don't know what happened to Mrs. Archer, but she's been missing more than a year." It wasn't until then that Fiona really thought about how many bad things happened in their tiny town.
"It's at the end here, after the graveyard," she said as she opened a rusted-up gate.
This town had been around in one way or another for a thousand years. The graves in it were old. Fiona shivered as she passed through between them and subconsciously pressed her side closer to Jazzy. It was, really, a very pretty day. Cold and crisp, with a breeze that went beautifully through Jazzy's hair. The light was golden and their shadows long and lean, stretched out before them.
"Something the matter?"
"No," said Fiona looking away from her, her face turning red. She disentangled their arms hurriedly and took a few steps closer to the church.
"Do you like graveyards too?"
Fiona laughed. "Not really, do you?"
"No," said Jazzy firmly, casting the graves an evil eye.
The graveyard was vast and the grass around it was allowed to grow tall and wild. It tickled the bare skin of Jazzy's legs as they zig-zagged through it to the side entrance of the church. The church was quite old but had been refurbished over the years. The old stone was blackened in places, cracked in others, with vines growing along the base and between the windows. It was not a big place, no Cathedral or Abbey, its construction was simple, but remarkably pretty, especially as it stood between the field and the sunset.
They went in through the massive oak door on the side and Fiona felt a familiar awe as they entered. There was no artificial lighting, just candles and sparkling stained glass windows leaving patches of color on the floor and pews. It smelled of frankincense and old books, each pillar was carved, each statue familiar. Fiona felt Jazz moving closer to her in the semi-darkness.
"There's no one here." It wasn't a question. Fiona came to the church regularly even if she had only been the service a handful of times in her life, but she had never seen it empty before.
She and Jazz walked up the wing to the altar. It was dead quiet. Today had been most unexpected. Fiona was so used to her quiet life that anything outside of it shook her. And now she was in a Church with a beautiful girl she barely knew. How had she managed that? And what could she possibly do not to ruin it?
"I can see why you like it," said Jazz in a soft voice. Fiona could feel her heart beating, illogical thoughts coming one after the other, things she had worked her whole life to repress.
"Pretty," she said, but she wasn't looking at the altar, or the window, she was looking at Jazz standing underneath the stained glass. Luckily, she must not have heard her as she took a step closer to the altar just then and her heavy boots echoed.
"Maybe next time we can do something more normal, like go to the movies."
Jazz smiled. "Yeah, I mean we can hang out again, right? I don't really know anyone else."
Was it her imagination or was this girl leaning forward? Panic. Panic. Panic. "Sure," she mumbled. "But you know I'm not right?"
"A lesbian," said Fiona, so fast and so loud that the word echoed around them.
"Oh, that's too bad."
This was surely death. This was surely what death felt like. "Why?"
Then Jazz smiled, a dazzling, luminous smile. "Because I am."
And that would have been it. The single most loaded moment of her life. She had met a real-life lesbian! An actual lesbian. A pretty lesbian. It should have been magical and sacred and forever treasured but it was rather overshadowed by what came after:
"Lucky, lucky me then," said a mocking voice from above them.
And in the next instance, two female figures in matching leather outfits landed perfectly between them on the floor of Saint Sebastian's. Fiona stared at their malformed faces and let out a shriek. Having for the first time met a real lesbian was suddenly eclipsed by having for the first time encountered two very real, very thirsty, vampires.