Do you know what the best thing ever invented is?
I’d never seen one of those contraptions, as my Uncle Vlad called them, until Laine’s family invited me into their house. Everything was different in their house. Instead of candles and drafty fireplaces, their home was lit by electric lamps and warmed by a central heating system. Their furniture was cheap, and kind of shabby, but really comfortable.
“Wanna watch TV?” Laine asked me as I stared around the room.
“What’s TV?” I asked.
“Are you kidding?” Her grin was wide and felt like daylight. “Come on. My favorite show’s about to start.”
We watched Kid Rangers, and Country Cops, and five or six other shows before Laine was ready to take a break. But I didn’t want to stop watching. TV was the most fascinating — I mean, the coolest thing (that’s what Laine always said, cool) I’d ever seen. It was like watching a storybook happen right in front of you, without having to see it in your own imagination.
“When I grow up, I am totally going to be on a TV show,” said Laine.
“Me too,” I said.
Every day, after Laine finished her homework, she and I watched TV together. We watched the newest shows, and the old ones, too. According to Laine, some of the old shows had the best acting and most original storylines. We compared actors, criticized directors, and analyzed plots.
“All the big stars live in Los Diablos,” said Laine. “That’s a big city in California. I’m going to live there one day.”
“I’ve never been to a city,” I say. I’d never left the village before. When Laine heard this, she begged her parents to take me to the city the next time they went.
“Get permission from your parents first,” they said. So I got fake permission, because I knew there was no way Mother and Father would agree to let me leave the village, even if it wasn’t dangerous for me the way it was for them.
I had only ever seen cities on TV. But being in a real city — wow! Everything was gigantic. The buildings rose to touch the darkening skies. Electric lights glowed in every window. The air was filled with the mouthwatering aromas of foods I’d never eaten before.
We looked at beautiful art in a museum, and ate foods from street vendors. I tried pizza for the very first time. And sweet, salty kettle corn. And a bite of Laine’s gyro, and my very first vanilla ice cream cone. For the first time in my life, I felt sorry for my family. They could never explore these amazing food flavors, or enjoy a smooth, cold, creamy mouthful of ice cream. They could do nothing but drink blood.
After we ate, Laine’s parents took us to a movie theater. We sat in large, comfortable seats and watched a funny movie on the largest TV screen I’d ever seen.
“Ive changed my mind,” I told Laine during the ride home. “I don’t want to be a TV actor. I want to be a movie star!”
When I went to sleep early the next morning, I dreamed that I was already a movie star, living in the big city. When I awoke, my heart was pounding hard. Could I really do it? Could I really leave Mother and Father and Violeta and live in sunny California? I thought of the promise I’d made to Laine, and knew that there was nothing powerful enough to make me break it.