As I get closer to the noise, I resist the urge to cover my ears. I can't be blamed for being a little overwhelmed. When you're used to an "all-telepathic" education, hearing a hundred voices going at once has to have an effect. Despite this, I have to admit I'm a little excited. I get to meet actual gods. What do you even talk to a god about? The weather? Favorite eon? Do you regret the whole poisonous jellyfish idea?

And then there are the fairies. Maybe I'm related to one of them! Maybe I could learn to grant wishes for real. Werewolves, I don't know much about them other than what most people know: they are hairy, have big teeth and suffer from an unhealthy relationship with the lunar cycle.

I arrange my hair to cover my neck and tug on the bottom of my dress before stepping all the way inside.

The air is thick and stifling and burns my lungs. There is a fire blazing in a fireplace almost big enough to accommodate my whole family. Despite the heat, one skinny guy with a mop of black hair is practically inside the inglenook. He has a smoldering look. Literally. It's hard to tell in a smoke-filled room, but it looks like a gray vapor is coiling from his mouth. It's a school for, um, alternative beings, so I'm sure a guy who likes his skin crispy is nothing out of the ordinary.

First thing I do, is check for vampires. There they are in the middle of the audience. I can tell they're vampires because of their stillness and the fact that they're wearing plaid flannel shirts—even the females. The plaid attire is a real surprise for me. Everyone thinks that vampires wear black capes with tall stand-up collars, but it turns out they all dress like they're going out into the forest to cut timber.

All the chairs are taken, meaning many of the students are seated against the wall on the saggy wooden floor, which slants toward the middle of the room as if it has surrendered to time. Almost everyone is sitting with his or her own species, except for Shelly who is sprawled across the laps of some hot togaed guys (gods of course!). I stand in the back, leaning against the warm paneled wall, which is blackened by smoke, scratched and scarred. I can almost see the memories encrusted within.

"Are you okay, Wave? You're late," my dad thinks at me in a concerned tone.

He's sitting at a long table in front of the room with an eclectic group of what must be the other teachers. My dad is so large he barely fits in the human-sized chair. In addition to dad, there are several plaid-clad vampires, a young towheaded boy in a long purple robe, a yellow-eyed werewolfy-type, a fuchsia-haired fairy with a crown of live butterflies as she smokes a pipe, and a goddess with a killer body, wearing nothing but mud and leaves.

"I'm fine, Dad," I think back. "Just ran into a few sharks and a vampire on the way to school. No big deal."

"What?" he think-asks in his alarmed-dad tone.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am that we can communicate telepathically. Otherwise I'd have to actually have this conversation with my dad in front of everyone. Like most teens, I prefer to perpetuate the myth that I sprang fully formed from sea foam.

Why do parents think you can't handle things yourself? You don't live in the oceans for seventeen years and not learn a few things about surviving a hostile environment.

"Can we talk about this later," I plead.

"Of course my little fingerling."


Shelly looks at me and smirks. She's obviously been listening to my mental conversation with dad. She really has no manners.

I'm saved from having to teach her a valuable lesson about privacy when the kid with white-blonde hair stands and takes the podium at the center of the teacher's table. He clears his throat, and for some reason everyone is instantly quiet. I giggle. Everyone turns around to look at me. I think about diving under the back row of chairs, but instead, I straighten my back and manage to say "sorry." You have to admit it's funny that supernatural beings are scared of a twelve-year-old.

He smiles at me and looks like he's suppressing a laugh. "I would like to welcome you all to West Marin Heights," he says. "For those of you who do not know me, I'm Headmaster Crumpet." He looks at me and bites his lip to keep from laughing. I see his fangs. Right. Vampire. And a nice one. He could've totally nailed me for inappropriately-timed laughter.

Crumpet looks like a fingerling, but he's probably ancient, like even older than my parents. And speaking of vampires, Pierce walks through the door on both feet. If I thought he was attractive with one leg, that was nothing compared to seeing him arrive under his own power. He stands so close to me I feel the heat rising from his skin now that he's ... um ... fed.

"Hey," he whispers in my ear. I shiver, and he grins.

"I'm just cold," I lie. I keep my eyes focused straight ahead, but I can feel the vampire's body quivering with laughter.

I hear a telepathic gasp from Shelly, and I know she's noticed Pierce. She scoots off of the god's lap and sits on the floor gawking at Pierce. "He is so hot," she thinks at me. "And lucky for me you hate vampires."

I pretend not to hear.

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