The day his daughter asked him for colored contacts was the day that Johnathan finally decided put his foot down.
Or, at least, it was the day he tried to. After all, teenage girls can be incredibly intimidating, especially when it happens to be your only daughter.
And especially when she happens to be a vampire.
“Is there any particular reason you want blue eyes all of a sudden?” The middle aged man cocked a graying eyebrow in suspicion as he pushed away his plate, suddenly finding the steak and mashed potatoes to be less than appetizing.
“I just do.” Vanessa snapped defensively. Her ivory hands nervously ran through her hair, silver locks becoming trapped between the crooks of her long, skinny fingers. Then, as abruptly as the conversation began, she stood from her chair and left, mumbling something under her breath about an algebra worksheet.
When he heard the heavy slam of the door to her bedroom, Johnathan let out the sigh of apprehension that had been swelling inside of his chest all evening. He was never good at these kind of things, and it was on days like this that he acutely notices Sharon’s empty seat.
It was not the first time that Johnathan's daughter had been startlingly…explosive. In fact, Johnathan traced this unusual behavior back to when Vanessa walked through the doorway of their apartment after her first day of high school. She had tried to slink back up to her bedroom without attracting the attention of her father. Unfortunately for her, however, nothing escaped those omniscient green eyes, especially when it came to his child. He turned around to ask her how her day was and immediately his gaze was drawn to his daughter's skin. Once a beautiful shade of alabaster that often reminded Johnathan of the marble columns of Rome, it was now scarlet and scorched.
"Honey, what on Earth happened!?" he demanded as he rushed over to his little girl with the aloe vera pump at the ready.
Vanessa struggled to squirm out of her father's burly arms. "Dad, Dad, stop it! I'm fine, I swear!"
Johnathan did not listen to her request and refused to quit until he was sure that every inch of her skin was covered in the cooling gel before barraging her with questions so rapidly that the young vampire barely had time to comprehend them, let alone respond.
"Did you gym teachers make you run outside? I told the principal about your condition, and he said everything would be fine! The school said they were welcoming of all, human or not. What a load of bulls—"
"It wasn't the coach! No one made me go outside; I went of my own accord."
"Vanessa, you know how dangerous it is for you to be out in direct sunlight! Why did you do something so stupid?"
She brought their argument to an end the by allowing those five, merciless words that every father loathed to hear fell from her lips mercilessly.
"You just don't understand, Dad!"
Though she truly believed that her middle aged, human father could never possibly fathom or empathize with the plights of his adolescent, vampire daughter, the fact was that Johnathan observant than he let on. He had noticed the receipt for the spray tan found behind the garbage can, as if someone had haphazardly thrown it without realizing that the wind had led it astray. And the hair dye tube that was hidden behind the mountains of his unfinished architectural sketches that she insisted was for a theatre class.
While he may not have understood how Vanessa was feeling and why, he knew one thing for sure.
His daughter wanted to change the way she looked.
Although Johnathan said that the colored contacts would be the final straw for him to finally delve deeper into the mysteries of Vanessa, the fact was that he was lacking a certain, vital element to go through with his plan.
Johnathan knew it was pathetic, knew he was the adult in their relationship and therefore had the authority to kick down the door to his daughter's room, barge in with confident strides, and demand to know why Vanessa suddenly decided to reinvent herself.
But then he meets her crimson eyes and sees the glare.
That soul piercing gaze that petrifies his body with the power of all the serpents of Medusa's head combine until all he has the strength left to do is shudder pitifully in place. While it had been many years since he made the grave mistake of denying a certain five year old mint chocolate chip ice cream at three in the morning and had been on the receiving end of terrorizing glower, he still has not forgotten the unadulterated dread that his rampaging heart had pumped through his veins on the frigid, moonless night.
He still wakes up in the middle of the night screaming bloody murder with cold sweat trailing down his back.
So rather than pretending to be some renegade he knew very well he was not, Johnathan instead decided to read a book on architectural trends in the late 1800s, and it was only a matter of minutes before the words of the page pulled him out of his conscious mind and into a marvelous memory. It was the time when had managed to put his timidity aside for a brief, brave moment to ask out the beautiful vampire sitting across the library, elegantly flipping through the pages of the exact same book that had lulled him into this slumber. The image gradually faded out into their first date, where they had spent the beautiful summer day inside in a dimmed room to shield her delicate skin from the harsh rays of the sun. Then the scene shifted to their marriage, him standing at the altar, admiring the way the black lace contrasted against her ivory skin. Then to their countless dinners, countless movie marathons, countless embraces. Then to childbirth, where he could still hear those horrific screams and could only squeeze her hand and watch as the life faded from her crimson eyes as she—
A whimper of pain broke him out of his nightmare.
Rolling over to the side of the bed while releasing a shaky breath and reminding himself that “It was all just a dream. A horrifically real dream.” he tried to tune out the hammering beat pulsating through his ears and instead tune them into the strange sound.
When he heard it again, he wasted no time getting up as his gigantic feet struck the floorboards, resonating with a clamorous thud. He all but sprinted to Vanessa's room and, without knocking, slammed the door open.
"Dad!?" Vanessa shrieked in shock, fumbling with something before hastily throwing it in her garbage bin. “What are you doing!? Do you realize what time it is; you should be—”
Johnathan ignored her scoldings and walked over to the trash, before unceremoniously turning it upside down, the contents scattering across the pale pink carpet.
He paid no mind to the tissues and the cans, the pizza crusts and failed tests, even though Vanessa swore she had been studying harder. Rather, his eyes focused on the long, gray nail filer.
He abruptly turned towards the teenager, who gave a startled squeak in surprise.
“Vanessa, let me see your fangs.”
“Dad, I’m really tired. I’m sorry for staying up this late, but right now—”
The girl hesitated, doubt filling the same crimson eyes he saw but mere moments ago, before she opened her mouth.
“Oh, my darling Vanessa, why would you do this?”
Her two fangs, which used to protrude gloriously from her gums, were now chipped, with blood beginning to ooze from the cracks.
“Don’t worry. They heal really quickly. Last time it only took two days before they mended themselves.”
“Last time?” Johnathan stressed, cradling his head in his hands as he felt the beginnings of a migraine throb in his temples. “You’ve done this before, Vanessa!?”
“Only once or twice…maybe a bit more…” She trailed off, her gaze intently fixated on an old burger wrapper, her expression contorting into one of shame.
Johnathan let out a heavy sigh before plopping down onto her floral printed bedsheets, patting the space next to him. Vanessa cautiously sat down, unconsciously locking her jaw and keeping her shoulders stiff with tension, sneaking glances at her father’s expression as if she was gauging his anger.
All her stress evaporated as Jonathan's warms hand guided her head to his shoulder and stroked her hair, ignoring how it became stained with black streaks from old dye.
The sat there for seconds that seemed to expand into eternities before Jonathan's voice cracked the silence.
“Why would you do this, Vanessa?” His voice wavered as he tried holding back the tears welling in his eyes.
She gently closed her heavy eyelids, and her father noted how large the dark rings circling them have become. “I don’t think I belong here.”
“And where is here?”
“It’s hard to explain. I guess it’s just society in general.”
“And why do you believe that?”
“People think I’m weird, dad. At school, everyone stares at me like I’m some sort of freak. I can hear them whisper about how my hair makes me look like an old hag and how my skin makes me look like a ghoul and how my eyes make me look creepy as if I’m going to steal their soul and how my fangs make me look like I’m going to bite them and just how everything about me makes me look like I don’t belong.”
Vanessa inhales shakily, her chest heaving heavily as she tries to recover after spilling her guts.
“So I thought that if I could make myself look like them, they would treat me like them. So I dyed my hair, got a spray tan, put in blue contacts, and file down my fangs. And do you know what Dad?” She turned to face her father and for the first time, Johnathan wondered if this had started long before her first day of highschool.
“It worked. People started talking to me normally, as if I were just another classmate. They talked to me about homework, invited me to come to study groups and sports games, actually wanted to be my friend. It was the most amazing feeling in the entire world, but it also hurt me more than anything because it confirmed that I was just a monster.”
Johnathan inhaled before speaking, bracing himself before he revealed the cruel truth. “I’m going to say something kind of harsh, but those people you said started talking to you after you changed? It wasn’t you that they like; it was your appearance. If they liked you, they would have wanted to get to know the real you, fangs and all. Because, despite what you think, you can’t change who you are.”
Although she gave Johnathan a weak smile, he could still see something akin to sorrow flash from behind her crimson eyes.
“When I first laid eyes on Sharon,” He hesitated for a moment, observing the way his daughter’s eyebrows quirked upwards in surprise at the mention of her mother. “I didn’t think she was a monster. In fact, I couldn’t think all. Though your mother would argue that I didn’t have much up here,” He tapped a finger against his temples. “Like she had any room to talk. She hardly passed her ARE, and I made sure she never lived it down. Every time she tried to brag about something I would always say ‘Well, I wasn’t the one who hardly became an architect.’ The look on her face every time was priceless, but I soon came to eat my words. She decided that I would sleep much nicer in a dumpster than our bed. Even after I apologized, she said she wouldn’t let me sleep anywhere near her for another month, saying that I smelt like crap. But she eventually lowered her deal after she saw how miserable I was, trying to sleep without her. It still wasn’t in our bed though; there was absolutely no way I was getting close to her fancy schmancy sheets. She just pulled out the mattress and place her pillow beside mine. And that night was the best I’ve slept ever.”
Johnathan paused and cleared his throat, trying to mask the smile that had worked its way onto his face during his ramblings.
“The point I’m trying to make, Vanessa, is that whether it be a significant other or a best friend, you will meet someone who will find you absolutely amazing for simply being you. And I’m one of them. Because to me, you will always be my beautiful, teenage, vampire daughter.
“Now please promise me that you will never, ever, do something like this again.”
“I promise,” She paused before flashing her father the exact same smile Sharon used to.
“I love you, Dad.”
“I love you too, darling.”
Johnathan gave Vanessa a gigantic hug, and with it managed to squeeze out all of his daughter’s insecurities.
Although Vanessa no longer was ashamed to display her vampiric traits, that did not stop her heart from leaping into her throat as she entered her first period class room.
When she sat down at her desk, she could already hear them gossiping under their breaths, quiet enough so that the teacher could not hear but loud enough for the insults to echo in her ears.
“Just look at those eyes.”
“She’s so freaky.”
“She looks like she was ripped straight out of a horror film”
“What a freak.”
She made sure to keep her stare keenly fixated onto her desk, pretending that she found the graffiti more interesting than their conversations.
She whipped her head up in shock to see a boy standing before her, fiddling with his baseball cap.
His brown eyes widened. “You know my name?”
“Of course. We do have a lot of classes together, after all.”
“Right, that makes sense. I just didn’t think someone like you would remember me.”
She felt her shoulders stiffen as she braced herself for the impact of the insult. “Someone like me?”
“You know…you’re like…cool and stuff.”
“You think I’m…cool?” She was certain that her flush would be obvious on her pasty cheeks.
“Yeah. You’re always wearing all of these awesome band merch,” He gestured to her Liquid Lagoon hoodie, which depicted a sea monster reminiscent of the one in Loch Ness peering out from a swamp. “And you just have this vibe, you know? Like you eat epic for breakfast. So I was wondering if you would like to eat lunch with me and some of my friends. We’re ditching the frozen ‘chicken’ nuggets and going to get some tacos. You in?”
She could feel herself begin to grin. “Yeah, I’m in.”