I didn't think I'd sleep. I figured I'd lay there and miss home and think about the bizarre twist my life had taken. Disturbing flashes of the guy in the hall's eyes drifted through my mind, but I was so tired I couldn't focus. Even Aphrodite's psycho hatefulness was something else that seemed sleepily far away. Actually, my last worries before I could remember nothing else were about my forehead. Was it feeling sore again because of the Mark and the cut over my temple--or was it because I was getting a ginormic zit? And would my hair look okay for my first day of vamp school tomorrow? But as I curled up with my comforter and inhaled the familiar smell of down feathers and home, I felt unexpectedly safe and warm...and was totally out.

I didn't have a nightmare, either. Instead I dreamed about cats. Go figure. Hot boys? No. Cool new vampire powers? Of course not. Just cats. There was one in particular--a small orange tabby who had little tiny paws and a pot belly with a pouch that looked kinda marsupial. She kept yelling at me in an old lady's voice and asking what had taken me so long to get here. Then her cat voice changed to an annoying buzzing beeping sound and I...

"Zoey, come on! Turn that stupid alarm clock off!"

"Who--, huh?" Oh, hell. I hate mornings. My hand flailed about trying to find the off switch of my annoying alarm clock.

Have I mentioned that I am totally, completely blind without my contacts? I grabbed my nerdy glasses and peeked at the time. Six thirty P.M., and I was just waking up. Talk about bizarre.

"Do you want to take a shower first, or do you want me to?" Stevie Rae asked sleepily.

"I will, if you don't care."

"I don't...," She yawned.

" 'Kay."

"We should hurry, though, 'cause, I don't know about you, but I have to eat breakfast or I feel like I'm going to starve to death before lunch."

"Cereal?" I suddenly perked up. I seriously adore cereal, and have an I [heart] CEREAL shirt somewhere to prove it. I especially love Count Chocula--yet another vampyre irony.

"Yeah, there're always lots of those tiny boxes of cereal and bagels and fruit and hard-boiled eggs and stuff."

"I'll hurry." Suddenly I was starving. "Hey, Stevie Rae, does it matter what I wear?"

"Nope," she yawned again. "Just pick one of the sweaters or jackets that show our third former symbol and you'll be fine'

I did hurry, even though I was really nervous about not looking right and I wished I could take hours doing and redoing my hair and makeup. I used Stevie Rae's makeup mirror while she was in the shower, and decided that under-doing was probably a better choice than over-doing. It was weird how my Mark seemed to change the whole focus of my face. I've always had nice eyes--big and round and dark, with lots of lashes. So much that Kayla used to whine about how unfair it was that I had enough lashes for three girls and she only had short little blond ones. (Speaking of ...I did miss Kayla, especially this morning as I was getting ready to go to a new school without her. Maybe I'd call her later. Or e-mail her. Or...I remembered the comment Heath had made about the party, and decided maybe not.) Anyway, the Mark somehow made my eyes look even bigger and darker. I lined them with a smoky black shadow that had little sparkly flecks of silver in it. Not heavily like those loser girls who think that plastering on black eyeliner makes them look cool. Yeah, right. They look like scary raccoons. I smudged the line, added mascara, brushed some bronzing power over my face, and put on lip gloss (to hide the fact that I'd been nervously picking at my lips).

Then I stared at myself.

Thankfully my hair was acting right, and even my 'weird widow's peak wasn't sticking all up crazily like it did sometimes. I still looked...umm...different, but the same. The effect my Mark had on my face hadn't faded. It made everything that was ethnic about my features stand out: the darkness of my eyes, my high Cherokee cheekbones, my proud, straight nose, and even the olive color of my skin that was like my grandma's. The sapphire Mark of the Goddess seemed to have flipped a switch and spotlighted those features; it had freed the Cherokee girl within me and allowed her to shine.

"Your hair looks great," Stevie Rae said as she came into the room toweling dry her short hair. "I wish mine would act right when it's long. It doesn't. It just frizzes out and looks like a horse's tail."

"I like your short hair," I said, moving out of her way and grabbing my cute sparkly black ballet flats.

"Yeah, well, it makes me a freak here. Everybody has long hair."

"I noticed, but I don't really get it."

"It's one of the things that happens while we're going through the Change. Vamps' hair grows abnormally fast, just like their fingernails."

I tried not to shudder as I remembered Aphrodite's fingernail slashing through jeans and skin.

Thankfully, Stevie Rae was oblivious to my thoughts, and kept on talking.

"You'll see. After a while you won't have to look at their symbols to know what year they are. Anyway, you'll learn all about that kind of stuff in Vamp Sociology class. Oh! That reminds me." She rifled through some papers on her desk until she found what she was looking for and handed it to me. "Here's your schedule. We have third hour and fifth hour together. And check out the list of electives you have for second hour. You can choose from any of them."

My name was at the top of the schedule, printed in bold letters, ZOEY REDBIRD, ENTERING THIRD FORMER, as well as the date, which was five (?!) days before the Tracker had Marked me.

1st hour--Vampyre Sociology 101. Rm. 215. Prof. Neferet

2nd hour--Drama 101. Performing Arts Center. Prof. Nolan

or

Sketching 101. Rm. 312. Prof. Doner

or

Intro to Music. Rm. 314. Prof. Vento

3rd hour--Lit 101. Rm. 214. Prof. Penthesilea

4th hour--Fencing. Gymnasium. Prof. D. Lankford

LUNCH BREAK

5th hour--Spanish 101. Rm. 216. Prof. Garmy

6th hour--Intro to Equestrian Studies. Field House. Prof. Lenobia

"No geometry?" I blurted, totally overwhelmed by the schedule, but trying to keep a positive attitude.

"No, thankfully. Next semester we'll have to take economics, though. But that couldn't be as bad."

"Fencing? Intro to Equestrian Studies?"

"I told you they like to keep us in shape. Fencing's okay, even though it's hard. I'm not very good at it, but you do get paired with upperclassmen a lot--kind of like peer instructors, and I'm just sayin', some of those boys are just plain hot! I'm not taking the horse class this semester--they put me in Tae Kwan Do. And I have to tell ya, I love it!"

"Really?" I said doubtfully. Wonder what the horse class would be like?

"Yep. Which elective are you going to pick?"

I glanced back down the list. "Which one are you taking?"

"Intro to Music. Professor Vento is cool, and I, uh..." Stevie Rae grinned and blushed. "I want to be a country music star. I mean, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain are all vamps--and that's just three of them. Heck, Garth Brooks grew up right here in Oklahoma and you know he's the biggest vamp of them all. So I don't see why I can't be one, too."

"Makes perfect sense to me," I said. Why not?

"You want to take music with me?"

"That'd be fun if I could sing or play anything resembling an instrument. I can't."

"Oh, well, maybe not then."

"Actually, I was thinking about the drama class. I was in drama at SIHS, and I liked it okay. Do you know anything about Prof. Nolan?"

"Yeah, she's from Texas and has a major accent, but she studied drama in New York and everyone likes her."

I almost laughed out loud when Stevie Rae mentioned Prof. Nolan's accent. The girl twanged so bad she sounded like an ad for a trailer park, but no way was I gonna hurt her feelings by mentioning it.

"Well, then drama it is."

"Okay, grab your schedule and let's go. Hey," she said as we hurried out of the room and skipped down the stairs, "maybe you'll be the next Nicole Kidman!"

Well, I guess being the next Nicole Kidman wouldn't be bad (not that I plan on marrying and then porcing a manic short guy). Now that Stevie Rae mentioned it, I hadn't really thought much about my future career since the Tracker had thrown my life into complete chaos, but now that I was actually thinking about it I still really wanted to be a veterinarian. An obese long-haired black and white cat sprinted down the steps in front of us chasing a cat that looked like its clone. With all these cats you'd think that there would definitely be a need for vamp vets. (Hee hee...vamp vets...I could call my clinic Vamp Vets, and the ads would read: "We'll take your blood for free!")

The kitchen and living room were crowded with girls eating and talking and hurrying around. I tried to return some of the hellos I was getting as Stevie Rae introduced me to what seemed like an impossibly confusing stream of girls and keep my concentration on finding a box of Count Chocula. Just when I was starting to worry, I found it, hidden behind several massive boxes of Frosted Flakes (not a bad second choice, but, well, they're not chocolate and they don't have any yummy little marshmallows). Stevie Rae poured a quick bowl of Lucky Charms, and we perched at the kitchen table, eating fast.

"Hi, Zoey!"

That voice. I knew who it was before I saw Stevie Rae duck her head and stare into her cereal bowl.

"Hi, Aphrodite," I said, trying to sound neutral.

"In case I don't see you later I wanted to be sure you know where to go tonight. The Dark Daughters' Full Moon Ritual will start at four A.M., right after the school's ritual. You'll miss dinner, but don't worry about that. We'll feed you. Oh, it's in the rec hall over by the east wall. I'll meet you in front of Nyx's Temple before the school ritual so we can go in together, and then I can show you the way to the hall afterward."

"Actually, I already promised Stevie Rae that I'd meet her and we'd go to the school ritual together." I really hate pushy people. "Yeah, sorry 'bout that." I was pleased to hear Stevie Rae lift her head and say.

"Hey, you know where the rec hall is, don't you?" I asked Stevie Rae in my most perkily clueless voice.

"Yep, I do."

"Then you can just show me how to get there, right? And that means Aphrodite doesn't have to worry about me getting lost."

"Anything I can do to help," Stevie Rae chirped, sounding like her old self.

"Problem solved," I said with a big smile at Aphrodite.

"Okay. Fine. I'll see you at four A.M. Don't be late." She twitched off.

"If she shakes her butt any more when she walks she's gonna break something," I said.

Stevie Rae snorted and almost spewed milk from her nose. Coughing, she said, "Don't do that while I'm eating!" Then she swallowed and smiled at me. "You didn't let her boss you around."

"Neither did you." I slurped the last spoonful of cereal. "Ready?"

"Ready. Okay, this'll be easy. Your first hour is right next to my first hour. All of the third former core classes are in the same hall Come on--I'll point you in the right direction and you'll be set."

We rinsed off our dishes and stuffed them in one of the five dishwashers, then hurried outside into the darkness of a beautiful fall evening. Jeesh, it was weird going to school at night, even if my body was telling me that everything was normal. We followed the flow of students through one of the thick wooden doors.

"Third Former Hall is just over here," Stevie Rae said, guiding me around a corner and up a short flight of stairs.

"Is that a bathroom?" I asked as we hurried past water fountains situated between two doors.

"Yep," she said. "Here's my class, and there's yours right next door. See you after class!" "Okay, thanks," I called.

At least the bathroom was close. If I had a case of raging nervous- stomach diarrhea I wouldn't have far to run.



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