“Bye, sweetheart.” Mum kissed me on both cheeks, gripping my shoulders. “Have a good first day. And be careful, Nina. We want to stay here a while, don’t we?” Her words were soft, but the implication was there; don’t mess up, like I had once or twice before.
I glanced over her shoulder. Peter, AKA Corny Step-Dad, wandered into the far end of the hallway from the kitchen. He looked at us, waved. I waved back. Yeah, we wanted to stay. I liked Peter. More importantly, Mum liked him. Saw something in him she’d been searching for all these years.
Not that it would last. It never could.
“Sure.” I hugged Mum, waved again at Peter, and darted down the path, meeting Maggie at the end.
Maggie was pretty, could be typically stunning with little effort. Not that she needed it. Thick black glasses, messy ponytail, more interested in books and games than boys. I couldn’t blame her. I’d lived as a teenager for decades; I knew what boys were like.
“You excited?” she asked.
My first new friend in another new town. Her family lived next door to us, and they’d appeared on our doorstep the moment we’d moved in, eager to meet Peter’s new wife and step-daughter. Peter was almost a hundred years younger than Mum, but to anyone who asked—including Pete—she was six years younger than him.
Even if we’d wanted to, we couldn’t stick around more than a couple of years. Lack of aging wasn’t as obvious with Mum, but people questioned a girl who looked sixteen too long. I had passed for older, before, but only when I claimed to be eighteen, nineteen, twenty, right from the start. Besides, I liked school. The hormones in the air, the smells of bodies trying to cope, not knowing what to do with themselves.
It was fun, and oh so delicious.
“You’ll like it.” Maggie clutched my hand and squeezed. “Honest. It’s a good school. Not cliquey at all.” She grinned. “Well, maybe a little.”
“That’s good. You have many friends?”
She shrugged. “Sure. Well, a few close friends. The rest are more… acquaintances.”
A student body who got along was more to my tastes. Sometimes. Although infighting could prove a good feeding ground—teenagers getting back at each other by sleeping around. Emotions constantly running high. Could be fun, but long term it was exhausting. Like feasting on Christmas dinner every day.
Friendly was better if we were sticking around. Close friendships among teenagers could often turn into something more. As for me, I’d remain diplomatic; make no waves. Make friends, but no enemies. Not again. Not when we wanted to stay.
Maggie told me about her friends and the teachers as we walked. From her words, the teachers seemed normal. Some were strict, seeming harsh to their young charges. Others tried too hard to be cool, some naturally were. There was Mr Kite, the history teacher all the girls fancied. And Ms Lake, the drama teacher all the boys drooled over.
I was joining the school in mid-January, the air crisp and cold, a few weeks after the Christmas holidays, days after we’d settled in. Not that it mattered. I knew enough to exceed my peers; it wasn’t like I was going to fall behind.
At school, Maggie led me to the administration office, and ran through my timetable. By the time we’d finished, and I’d been given the information I needed by the beady-eyed secretary, Form—morning registration—was over, and pupils rushed to their classes. Maggie took me to English, my first, hugged me, wished me luck, and darted off.
I smiled, eager to meet my new, fellow pupils, and entered the classroom.
* * *
As I settled in over a couple of weeks, there was only one person at school I disliked. Liam was the sort of conceited male I’d met many times before. On the surface, he oozed charm. Teachers and students alike loved him. Girls gushed as he went past, except Maggie.
“He’s not my type,” she explained, when I questioned her on our way home from school.
“So what is your type?”
Maggie shrugged. “I don’t know. Not met them yet.” But she blushed, dipping her head.
“Yes, you have, and you’ve got a crush.” I linked my arm with Maggie’s. “Come on, Mags. Tell me.”
“I don’t. Honest.”
“Yes. No crush.” She looked away, and I felt something inside her, tugging, trying to break free. “How’s your English essay coming along?”
“A’right.” I grinned, as I’d done when we’d received the assignment. Folklore. Creatures of myth. “I’m doing mine on the succubus. Did you know a lot of accounts of succubi and incubi
are similar to later accounts of alien abductions, and the way people describe sleep paralysis?”
“Oh, cool. They’re the sex demons, right?”
I laughed. “Yeah. Succubi sneak into men’s rooms at night and have sex while they’re asleep. Incubi are the male equivalent.”
Like most folklore—only silver could be used against werewolves, vampires didn’t like crosses, witches could float—it didn’t fit the actual truth. Silver bullets weren’t needed to kill a wolf, it just took more firepower than normal animals. Some vampires wore crucifixes, and witches sank like anyone else. And a succubus didn’t need to have actual sex. It gave them a boost, like a quadruple shot of espresso. But the emotion was more important. Lust, by itself, sustained well enough.
“What are you doing yours on?”
“I’m not sure, yet. I kind of wanted to…” Maggie paused as we rounded the corner onto the street where we lived. “Maybe witches. How they’re represented and were mainly just… strong women.”
“I think it’s a great idea.”
“Yeah. Women have always been strong, and too often some men just haven’t liked it.”
Maggie nodded. “Uh huh. Definitely.” At the end of the gate to Pete’s house, Maggie turned to me. “You going to Liam’s party on Saturday?”
Of course I was. Drunk teenagers, interacting with each other in ways they couldn’t in school. Absolutely delicious. “Thinking of going, if Mum says it’s okay.” Not that I needed to ask her permission, but best ask her and keep up appearances in front of Pete. “You going?”
“Mum might let me, if you are.”
I hugged her. “I’ll look after you, don’t worry.”
“You been to a house party before?”
“Loads.” I shrugged. “You?”
“No.” She laughed. “There’s only been a few I know of, and either I wasn’t invited or Mum didn’t let me go.”
But now she had me, and her mum loved me. I was good at the whole polite, good girl act. Plenty of practice at it.
“Well, you’re going to this one,” I said. “We’ll have a great time.”
* * *
“Why are they all glaring at me?” Maggie whispered, as we walked into school the morning of the party.
“I’m not sure. I’ll try to find out.” I couldn’t lie and say I hadn’t noticed. The glares radiating from some of the other girls were too obvious. It wasn’t like she’d done anything to them. It was Maggie; friendly to everyone. Yet still, teenage girls across the courtyard couldn’t seem to disguise their new hatred.
In Geography, I leant forward, and tapped Kelly—not one of the glaring girls—with my pen. She turned around. My voice low, I asked, “Why do people suddenly hate Maggie?”
Kelly rolled her eyes. “It’s really stupid.”
She chewed her bottom lip. “You’re good friends with her, aren’t you?”
“Well, all right. You might want to warn her, then. Liam’s kind of made it clear who his next target is.”
I should have known. What was more attractive to the guy who could have anyone, than the girl who didn’t want him? He didn’t sleep around a lot, far as I knew, but he was a serial dater. Different girl every Friday, leaving each one behind to move to the next.
“Didn’t you go out with him?” I asked Kelly, and she nodded.
“What was it like?”
Her gaze snapped to the door as it swung open and Mrs Williams staggered in, hunched over, clutching books to her chest, wheezing as she shuffled past.
“Fine. He was a gentleman. Paid for everything, friendly.” But her eyes told me there was something she didn’t like, something she was unable to put into words.
“All right. I’ll let her know.”
I told Maggie what Kelly said, and when she asked what I thought she should do, I had no answer except whatever she wanted.
“I don’t like him.”
“And that’s why he likes you,” I said, leaving her staring at me, confused. “If you don’t like him, don’t do anything. Turn him down. He gives you any trouble, let me know.”
The man of the hour arrived at our table. “You coming to my party, Mags?”
Maggie glanced up from her lunch, staring at Liam with a raised eyebrow. “Um. Yeah.”
“Great.” He grinned, leaned towards her, and I froze. “I can’t wait. You’ll have a great time.”
The smell, lingering beneath his skin. I turned away, biting my bottom lip, trying to control the urge to grab the back of his neck and draw him to me, like a vampire near a fresh wound. It poured off him, directed at Maggie.
“Sure,” Maggie muttered, and stared at me. “You all right, Nina? You look kind of pale.”
Liam tilted his head, staring at me, and I tried to meet his eyes. I wanted to. But something kept me from doing so. I scrambled up.
“I feel sick.” Something about him, pushing me away. I grabbed my bag, and hated myself for leaving Maggie with him. But I felt so hungry, weak, and I ran from the canteen, ignoring the gazes following me.
Down the corridor, around the corner, I stopped in the French department, panting. It was no mistake I’d come here. Different year groups had lunch at different times, but there was only one French class on, and I knew what Miss Winters and Mr Davies did when neither of them had a class. Outside Winters’ room, I sank down against the wall, and slowed my breathing, closed my eyes, listened to the heated moans coming from inside. Felt their passion swirling through the air, and drew it towards me.
* * *
I arrived at the party with Maggie. She’d almost put on a nice, long black dress, but I’d persuaded her away from that.
“But it’s a party dress.”
“This isn’t that kind of party,” I’d said. “That’s a dress for a wedding, or funeral, or Christening. Something with your family.”
And from my own wardrobe, I picked out a nice pair of black jeans and a semi low-cut, long-sleeved green top for her. I’d opted for a pair of leggings, which could have passed for tight, leather trousers, and a long, black, off-the-shoulder top with a design of blood-red flowers and white skulls.
Everyone was similarly, casually attired. The guys in jeans, t-shirts, hoodies; the girls in long tops and leggings, casual dresses, jeans, low-cut tops…
We were greeted warmly by other members of the student body, who thrust plastic cups in our hands. It wasn’t long before Liam appeared, offering us drinks.
I raised my full cup and grinned. “We’re good, thanks.”
“Good to see.” His gaze lingered on me, as if there was something about me he couldn’t quite place. I knew the feeling. He shifted to Maggie, put his hand on her arm. “Let me know if you girls need anything, yeah?”
“Sure.” She stepped closer to me, away from his hand, and Liam smiled at us before disappearing into the crowd.
We squeezed in against the wall, sipped and talked, listened to the music thumping throughout the house.
“Slow down,” I told her, once she’d finished half her third drink. “You don’t want to get wrecked.”
She blinked, shook her head. “No. You’re… right. Sorry.”
“Don’t apologise.” I glanced around. I’d barely drunk anything, but the atmosphere was enough to make me feel giddy. “I’m going to find the loo. Be right back, all right?”
I pushed through the crowd. It swirled around them, like sparkling, multi-coloured leaves released by the alcohol, dancing around couples or flying from one person to another. I could tell who liked who, just by the scent of raging hormones, the sensations scattered across the room. A boy grabbed me as I stumbled, and he laughed.
“Take it easy, Nina.”
I blinked in his face and grinned. “I’m fine.” I leaned towards his ear. “You should talk to Liz.”
Liz, across the other side of the room, talking to one of her friends. The colourful leaves skipped from her to him, and he tilted his head, staring at her. She looked away.
“Liz? Really? She said something?”
I shrugged. “No. I have a good sense for these things, though.”
Delicious, hormones and emotions skipping around him before shooting off towards her, the two sensations crossing paths. I winked, forced my way through until I reached the bathroom. I had very few human needs, or, rather, they were infrequent, but I needed a quiet, peaceful place, just for a moment.
In the locked room, I leaned against the sink, and smiled, closing my eyes.
Allowing the walls to block everything out, I let things settle, like a pause between appetizers and main meals. The main would come soon, as people drank more and forgot where they were and experienced nothing but pure desire.
I’d seen it happen so many times before.
Teenagers locked together on sofas—surprising how many people could fit on one, when they were determined. Squeezed against walls, seeking out free bedrooms. And on Monday, back in school, the fallout. New pairs unable to let go of another’s hands. Teenagers avoiding each other’s eyes in the light of sobriety.
I returned to the party, headed to the spot where I’d left my friend. She wasn’t there. Just an empty plastic cup set down in the spot where she’d been.
I picked it up, closed my eyes, and focused, picking through the desire to try to find where it had turned into something more. Action wasn’t hard to find. I reached and reached and reached, and landed on something.
Turning, I once again shoved through the crowd, clear-minded despite everything whirling around me. I took the stairs two at a time, ran down the corridor, and skidded to a stop outside a closed door.
“No! Seriously, Liam, I’m really not interested.”
A sigh; not anger, but frustration. “No. I can tell.”
“Tell? Of course you can, I just bloody told you!”
I inched closer to the closed door as Liam laughed.
“Wait, no, don’t leave! You like someone! Let me help!”
“I don’t like anyone,” Maggie snapped, and I frowned. I knew she did—it was written all over her, but the tendrils hadn’t reached out, far as I could tell.
She was guarding her feelings, and doing it really well.
“Don’t lie, Maggie.”
“Oh, come on. You can’t tell anyone not to lie. Not after telling me Nina was here, asking for me.”
Something in the air spiked when she said my name.
“I needed you alone. Come on, I just need you to feel it,” Liam said. “Please. For anyone. Get worked up, get pumped, get excited. Anything!”
Holy demons of Hell.
He wasn’t wooing and dating girls just for the fun of it. He was making sure every girl in the student body was a source for him, no matter who they liked. I’d pulled the same trick before; date a guy, coax them out of their shell. Kiss them, maybe more, maybe not. Feed, and break down the barriers, which, for whatever reason, stopped their lust really flowing.
I opened the door and staggered inside, and both turned to look at me. I should have known. As soon as I stepped in, the sensation in the air grew. Alcohol was brilliant for breaking down barriers, and the leaves swirled around Maggie, in full flow.
They tugged, as if caught by string, eager to get away, but she was still not letting herself truly feel it.
My eyes locked with Liam’s. His eyes narrowed, his head tilted, and after a moment, he laughed. “Nina!” He drew out my name like Archimedes shouting eureka. I thought he’d punch the air. Instead, he stepped closer to Maggie and put his hand on her shoulder. Liam leaned close to her. “It’s Nina, isn’t it?”
His gaze found me, and understanding flashed in his eyes. Maggie gulped, and nodded, her eyes bright with tears, face full of the pain of having had her secret torn from her.
And the feeling, the rush, as that scent of lust rode through the air from her to me. Liam laughed, clapped his hands together.
“Fantastic!” He walked towards me, and stopped at my side, tilting his head towards me. “I know what you are, Nina. You’re just like me.”
I licked my lips, and shook my head. “No.”
“Yes. Enjoy her. Please. I throw these parties often. You should come. They’re a wonderful feeding ground.” He squeezed my hand, winked, and slipped from the room.
“I’m sorry,” Maggie whispered.
“You like boys.”
My turn to laugh. She stared at me, blinked, and I smiled at her. Mum had Pete, someone who adored her not just for her looks, not just for the signals our succubus bodies sent into the world, but for everything she was inside.
I crossed the room, drawing those leaves to me, feeling them wrap around me and squeeze, heat flowing through my body.
Maggie gasped, eyes wide, a smile trying so hard to tug her lips upwards. Soon as I was close enough, I wrapped my arms around her, drew her into me, and kissed her.
Perhaps, in this town, I’d found it, too.
This story originally appeared in Seven Deadly Sins, A YA Anthology: Lust, published in 2019.
Elle Turpitt is a writer and editor who lives in South Wales. Her fiction has appeared in three of the Seven Deadly Sins anthologies, in two Fantasia Divinity anthologies, and on CommuterLit, Page & Spin, and the The Abyss from Branching Realities. She is Head Copy Editor for Dead Head Reviews, and can be found at elleturpitt.com and on Twitter, @elleturpitt.