It was April and the wisteria were blooming, putting forth dangling sprays of dangling purple flowers. They'd constructed a hallway of sorts for the wisteria, made out of slim wooden beams laid crisscross overhead, buttressed by thick wooden poles. I always liked to walk under the wisteria, their thick, twisting branches causing what sunlight fell through to make spotty patterns on the ground. When the wind blew, it would tear off tiny petals, dusting the people underneath with pale pink and violet. Such flurries inevitably ended with laughter as people shook themselves off. It was pleasant. In winter the wisteria lay black and naked, twisting in and out among each other and the beams, sharp against the gray winter sky. Then it gave you the chills, kind of, to walk under them, and you couldn't wait until spring again. But still, they were my favorite part of the garden.

One day, during spring, I saw someone sitting on one of the benches in the wisteria walkway. This wasn't unusual, of course; all botanical gardens have benches, and if you have benches then people sit on them. But what I noticed was that he held a stubby marker in one hand, with a gray body and a familiar cursive logo: Sharpie. I wasn't that recently out of the school system, and of course any person with a permanent marker in a public place must be tagging something. It pissed me off, of course, and I grabbed him by the wrist to give him a warning.

It turned out he wasn't tagging anything at all, of course; he had a piece of paper in his other hand and had apparently been writing a note on it or something. It wasn't in any language I could admit to knowing, and I dropped his hand and stammered an apology. He brushed the incident off with a weak voice, and now that I had a good look at him, I realized how sick he looked--sick as in very ill, his skin pale and waxen, his hair limp, and his eyes lacking luster.

"Jesus, man," I said before I could stop myself. "You okay?"

"Yes, of course," he said, and his eyes darted to the paper with its messy scrawl, refusing to meet mine. There was something strange about his eyes, too, and the way he wore a heavy hooded coat on a sunny spring day.

I think it was the coat that made me realize it; I probably would have dismissed the rest, eventually. After all, they were rare nowadays. "Vampire?" I asked.

"Half," he responded, and winced. That was worse. You're caught between one world and the next and everyone on either side hates you for what you're not.

"That sucks," I said, sitting down on the bench next to him. He nodded and said nothing, and I wondered if I should go. But he was obviously miserable, and I considered it my duty to at least attempt to cheer him up. Sometimes just knowing that a stranger cares makes you feel a little bit better. "What's wrong, though? Besides being half-vampire, I mean."

"That's it, really," he replied and sighed so heavily that I could feel my own spirits dropping. "I mean--it's got its perks, but--you know."

I nodded. I knew, if only intellectually. I couldn't really know. But he understood what I meant, and he sighed again.

"Why doesn't your master go ahead and make you a full member?" I asked. Half-bloods were rare these days; much rarer than full vampires, and as far as I knew it was only the really old and old-fashioned vampires who still made half-bloods. The "new generation," or "progressive" vampires preferred initiating someone all the way. Sure, some of them died of the shock, but it was better than having to wait until they adjusted, or at least stopped whining.

He made a noise of disgust. "He thinks I'm not ready."

"Not ready?"

He half-shrugged, lifting one shoulder. "Don't ask me. That's what he says, and he won't tell me any more." He looked down at his note again. "I was writing a note to tell him that I wouldn't stand for it anymore and that I was leaving."

"Leaving?" I repeated. "But that means you'll never become a fullblood, doesn't it?"

"Maybe. If he lets me leave."

I knew very well what that meant. Masters exerted no small amount of power over their apprentices, especially if said apprentice was only a half-blood. "But if he doesn't let you leave, then what?"

"Then hopefully he knows I'm being serious."

The wind chose that exact moment to send a gust tearing through the wisteria, showering us with pink and purple petals. We had to close our eyes against the gale, and afterwards we were both chuckling and combing flowers out of our hair. We finally made eye contact, then, and I realized that his eyes were green. For some reason I'd always thought that vampires had red eyes. Maybe it was different from half-bloods. Or maybe I'd been full of bullshit all along.

"Thanks," he said suddenly, and I found I had no idea what he was thanking me for. Cheering him up? No, the wisteria had done that.

"You're welcome," I replied. "What're you going to do now?"

He looked at his half-written note and suddenly crumpled it into a ball, packing it tight. Then he threw it with an accuracy I'd never have been able to match, landing it perfectly into a nearby trash can. "Talk to him again, I guess."

I nodded. "And if you have to," I pointed out, smiling, "write all over the house with that marker. Then he'll have to know you're being serious."

He stared at me. Then he grinned, slowly. "Yeah. Maybe I will."



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