February 8 at 10:37 PM
Photo courtesy of DepositPhotos.com
“Another dress? No thanks, ma,” I told her on my fourteenth birthday. “I’d like a hunting knife instead.”
She eyed me curiously, as if I had just told her that I was no longer a virgin. “And what do you need a knife for, Cailan?”
“To kill vampires, of course.”
“It takes a lot more than a knife to kill a vampire.” She pulled aside her long, brown hair and showed me the scar that started at her neck and ran down her back.
“A toothpick can be lethal if you know how to use it. At least, that’s what the old man said.”
Momma pursed her lips, and began knitting again, but I was smitten with my new occupation. At first I thought I would be angry when she started seeing Lawson a few months ago, but my heart warmed every time he came by.
Initially I thought he was a dork. All right, perhaps he is a dork, but when I caught him throwing knives at the old post I was captivated. I hid behind a bush and watched for a while, certain he could not see me. Knife after knife he buried into the pillar, each the same distance apart. After tossing his three knives, he yanked them out and began again.
Mesmerized by his accuracy, I could not take my eyes off him. He seemed more like a machine than a man. When I edged forward to get a better look, he turned and asked, “Would you like to try?”
A man of few words, I could not believe he was speaking to me. “Sure.” I stood and brushed off leaves from my hair and dress.
He had been kind to my mother, always implying a respectable distance, and never trying to place a kiss on her lips. Although he rarely revealed his feelings, especially around me, I could sense that he enjoyed being here. Perhaps I reminded him of someone who had also lost their father. Hopefully one day he would open up and share this.
“Here, best you start with an axe.” He yanked one out of a nearby stump. “Take it with both hands. It is the easiest throw to make.” He positioned my arms above my head, and placed the axe in my hands. “Imagine what you hate the most. Do you see it there in the post?” He pointed. “Now bury your anger in it. Eradicate it from your life!”
The axe slipped from my hands as I tossed it, veering off course, and falling into a pile of leaves.
“Perhaps I should be more clear. Kill it before it kills you.” He threw a knife and buried it dead in the center of the post. He walked over, grabbed the axe, and handed it to me. “Again.”
I gripped the handle tight, and flung it with all my might. It flew straighter this time, but fell well short of the post.
“Better.” Lawson patted me on the shoulder, his dark coat blocking out the sun. He stepped away and handed it to me a third time. “Imagine not your own mortality, but one that you hold dear. Someone who would perish if you did not hit the mark...your mother, for instance,” his voice sharpened.
My eyes began to well with tears, for indeed that was exactly what had happened. Gazing up from under the bed, I was helpless to do anything when the shadow burst through my bedroom door and pounced on her. If I were skilled like the old man, perhaps father would still be with us.
“Die, you bastard!” The axe spun straight and true, chopping the autumn air, and splitting the top of the post.
“There’s hope for you yet. Well done. ” He leaned over and hugged me.
How magnificent it felt to be touched by a man, even though he was not my father.
“Most likely you would have taken the vampire’s ear, or given him an exceptional hair cut.” He raised a knife. “Vampires are quick and crafty. It takes precision and a fair amount of luck to kill them.” He tossed the knives one after another into the post.
He bent on one knee, and looked into me with his gray eyes. “I am sorry that I did not know you sooner.”
The connection that I felt combined with the loss of my father elicited a storm of emotion within. He held me close as I wept, the first man to do so since that fateful night when my father came home early to celebrate my thirteenth birthday.
I could barely hide my disappointment when Lawson collected his things and left the following morning.
“He will be back, just as he has in times past.” My mother ran her fingers through my reddish brown hair.
“How can you be certain?” I found myself in tears again.
“Because his conviction is not so easily broken. Besides, he purchased the old shed out back. He said that he would like to make his new home here.”
“With you?” I wiped the tears from my eyes.
“With us.” She pulled me closer.
I slipped from her grasp and walked over to a knife buried in the post.
“What is it, dear?” Ma stayed on the porch.
“It’s just that...” I extracted the silver blade and held it close. “I think I love you, Lawson...” I kept the last part to myself.