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Authors: Carla Jablonski

Thicker Than Water

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Table of Contents
 
 
REAL VAMPIRES?
The park was quiet, and the deeper inside they got, the farther away the world seemed. It was just Kia and Damon. No one else. Just how Kia wanted it.
“That guy Rex,” Kia said, trying to figure out how to ask Damon about siring and blood bonding without sounding stupid. She'd heard the words in the clubs before but had never paid that much attention. Now she wished she had.
Damon shook his head. “Rex Notorious. What a joke.” He grinned down at Kia. “He gives real vampires a bad name, don't you think?”
Kia stumbled on the path, and Damon gripped her arm to steady her. “Careful.”
He was joking, Kia told herself. He was making a joke.
“I mean, really,” Damon continued, guiding Kia more carefully over the uneven pavement. “What most of the people in the scene don't seem to get is that a real vampire wouldn't proclaim it so openly. Not at such public events.”
“Well, sure,” Kia said. “Right.”
“Not any self-respecting vampire, that is.”
“What?” Kia asked. Was Damon telling her that he was ... real?
Also by Carla Jablonski
 
Silent Echoes
Thicker than Water
 
RAZORBILL
 
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Young Readers Group
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
 
 
Copyright 2006 © Carla Jablonski
All rights reserved
 
Jablonski, Carla.
Thicker than water / Carla Jablonski. p. cm.
Summary: Coping with her mother's cancer makes seventeen-year-old Kia feel out of place everywhere until she is drawn into the goth-vampire club scene, where she finds acceptance and one gorgeous, popular guy who might offer escape.
eISBN : 978-1-101-16085-5
[1. Goth culture (Subculture)—Fiction. 2. Cancer—Fiction. 3. Family problems—Fiction. 4. Self-mutilation-Fiction. 5. High schools—Fiction. 6. Schools—Fiction. 7. New York (N.Y.)—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.J1285Thi 2006
[Fic]—dc22
 
2005023868
 
 
 
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http://us.penguingroup.com

For Jack K. and Rich O
.
for different reasons and For Liesa A. and Eloise F. for support, Shiraz, and smarts
PROLOGUE
T
he feeling threatened to overwhelm her. That intense throbbing in her veins, the area midway up the arm where several tributaries branched off. Or came together; she wasn't sure. They vibrated; it was almost as if she could hear them hum. No—she would resist, she wouldn't do it, not anymore.
The sensation stayed with her all afternoon. She went for a walk after school, hurtling past shops, trying to find something to look at, searching for distraction. She walked fast, then faster toward the brisk autumn sunset, trying to keep the sun up, dreading darkness.
At dinner she alternated between silence, so focused on hiding the yearning of her forearms, and talking too loudly, trying to drown out the sound of need. Her dad didn't notice. Just a mood, just her, just a teenage girl going through stuff.
They went their separate ways—her father to watch a game on TV, she to her improvised room.
Homework loomed and beckoned her, but it was a false offer, a cover. She knew closing her door was dangerous; she did it anyway. Books pulled from her bag, notebooks opened, pen at the ready. She stared at the blue lines on the loose-leaf page. She shrugged, took in breath, stood up, turned on the TV, and still she could feel her veins filling, rushing, circulating.
She went into the bathroom and splashed water on her face, gazed into her hooded eyes in the mirror. What was it? Why the drive, the pull? Why tonight? Was there even a trigger anymore or was her body making demands all on its own?
She could hear music far away—down on the street, out the bathroom window, and echoed in a counterpoint in the living room from her dad's TV. There was a tinny sound coming from her own television and then shouting when it changed to a commercial. What she heard more clearly was a pounding in her temples, an oceanic roar in her ears. Tense tense tense. She wanted to cry and couldn't—no tears would come; she even tried to force them. She didn't know where this deep agitation came from, but she sure knew how to get rid of it.
She flipped open the medicine cabinet, erasing her reflection by leaving the cabinet open, the mirror facing the wall. She yanked out the razor, gripped the pink plastic disposable with her right hand, squatted on the floor, straightened out her left arm, and held it steady between her knees.
She still had a moment not to do it, but she couldn't come up with any reason not to. Her breathing became deeper but faster and she dragged the razor against her arm. She had to angle it so that the sharp edge could cut her skin, challenging to manage with a disposable razor. That was the promise she had made herself—she would never use naked blades again. That promise she could keep. She plunged it against her skin over and over, not really seeing, just experiencing the welcome release, the rise of the blood filling the lines, the inside moving outside, the invisible being made visible; it was like magic.
Come out come out wherever you are.
First a thin white line, then the growing color marking the traces she'd made. Making it manifest. Present in the world. Ah, release. Then the final dispersing of energy so that she could stop. She was done.
She slumped against the bathtub, spent and satisfied. Her breathing came more regularly, less frantic, less labored. Good. That was good. But even as the word
good
entered her head, its opposite appeared. Shame crept into her and she flung the pink plastic tool skittering across the tile floor.
ONE
I
s that what you're wearing?”
Kia didn't say a word. Why should she? It was an act. Her dad made the noises, affected the postures: bingo! Instant parent. He didn't
really
care that she had on heavy buckled black boots, fishnets, a gauzy black skirt, and a long-sleeved black T-shirt sporting the message I Bite. He knew
the form
of parental concern:
Parents comment on clothes, he comments on clothes, therefore he is a parent.
It was their little morning ritual that he express some semblance of involvement. No delving into her personal life (not that she'd talk to him about that kind of stuff), no checking on her slipping grades, no looking through her portfolio to be sure she was keeping up, no asking about her mom. Clothes were a battle without casualties.
She decided to play along: a shrug was her response. That was enough.
Her dad laughed and breezed through the dining room on his way to his study—which was now her bedroom. “Well, I guess it could be worse. At least you don't look like a hooker like your friend Marni.”
Kia took a bite of her bagel and wondered if she should tell him Marni wasn't her friend anymore. Nah. His remark was standard Parental Comment Number Seven. She thought of various replies: “I could try that look tomorrow.” “Marni has the bod for it; I don't.” “Shut up.” But she chose, “Hey, I've got my standards.”
Her dad grinned. “I know, kiddo. And thank God for that.”
Morning contact completed. Good deed for the day.
It had been like this for three weeks now. Three weeks since Kia had packed her laptop, art supplies, and a pile of clothes and moved in with her father. Before that she'd spent the last five years, since her parents' divorce, seeing him every other weekend. Less, once Kia's own life became full with school and friends and projects. He didn't seem to mind—he hadn't wanted shared custody in the first place.
Not that he didn't love her in that global way that parents loved their kids. It was a given, right? Kia could see that. But she could also see she was in his way, and he was in hers.
Oh
no. Kia's hand froze halfway to her mouth. He was in her bedroom—would he also go into her bathroom? Were there signs left from last night's slip? The bloodstained tissues that she had wrapped around her forearm—flushed. Nothing weird about the tossed Lady Sleek in the wastebasket. Not that he would even notice.
Holding up her hand, she pulled the fabric of her sleeve uncomfortably across her latest tracks. She put the bagel back onto the plate and eased the fabric away from her skin, wincing. She was out of practice.
I used to have this stuff down cold.
She couldn't risk loose sleeves because they could flop up and expose her and that was the last thing she wanted. But sleeves this tight could chafe her raw skin and maybe even start her bleeding again.
Dad crossed back in, having retrieved several folders from Kia's “bedroom.”
“So,” he said, flipping through some folders before stuffing them into his briefcase, “plans after school?”
Kia cleared her throat. A crumb scratched on its way down. “Hospital,” she said. She coughed.
“Ah.” Her dad didn't look at her, just fiddled with more papers. Arranging. Re-arranging. “Right.” He snapped the briefcase shut. “I'll probably be late tonight.”
He patted his jacket for his glasses, nodded, then felt his back pocket for his wallet and nodded again. Kia could remember him going through this routine ever since, well, ever since she could remember
him.
She always imagined that he was silently saying the word
check
after every pat and nod.
He smiled at her, obviously satisfied that he was set for the day. “Can you fend for yourself for dinner?”
“Yeah, no biggie.” Kia took another bite of the bagel. “I can grab something at the hospital.”
Her dad's brown eyes flicked away.
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