Iris Hale: HUNTER *NaNoWriMo Draft 2016*

*NaNoWriMo 2016*/
Periliares are a crafty bunch. You might know them as 'demons'. They hate that word. The idea that all of them are evil is idiotic. The same way all humans aren't evil, not all periliares are evil. Just top of the food chain. And a lot of them have superiority complexes. That's where I come in. Most of them view themselves as gods, which is fine, whatever. But the second they think they can kill more than their fill, I have an issue.
My name is Iris Hale, and I'm a hunter.
/©Molly Looby

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5. Five

Erin continued her Sylvie worship until her stop. “Tell my best friend Sylvie how much I love her, will you?”

“Will do,” I said as I pulled her into a quick hug before helping her free her stupid huge bag. “Save me some soda bread.”

She grinned as she and Fionn hopped off the bus. I leant against the window and shut my eyes, waiting the five or so minutes until my own stop.

When I opened the door, Sylvie greeted me with some of the greatest words in the English language. “Grandma’s made a chicken and mushroom pie.”

I flung my arms around her, almost knocking the sunglasses off her head. “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!”

“I swear I told you about it this morning.”

“You did not.” I untangled myself from her grip, taking the pen out of her ponytail. “I could’ve had soda bread.”

Her eyes widened. “Whose? Tadgh’s or Cait’s?”

“Tadgh’s.”

She shook her head. “Damn. Get Erin to save us some.”

“Already taken care of. Also, Erin wanted me to tell you how much she loves you.”

Sylvie screwed up her face. “Why? What does she want from me?”

“Nothing.” I handed her back the pen. “She just loves you.”

“Oh.” She looked taken aback.

I left her with that thought as I went and changed into one of my favourite summer dresses and pair of sandals. There was no way I was wasting even a minute of my summer wardrobe. My wardrobe was hilarious. I had so many dresses and skirts, but I also had various skull T-shirts and ripped jeans. Sometimes I wanted to be pretty in pink with the lipstick and nails to match, and other times I wanted to be the queen of darkness, outline my eyes in thick black, and ruff my hair up.

But today was a pink kind of day.

I let my hair down from my ponytail and pulled my fairy pendant out from under my dress before making my way downstairs. Sylvie had given me the necklace when I was twelve. It was almost the same as the one she’d been wearing every day of my life. Well, every day that I remembered at least. Hers was a Christmas present from Grandma and Grandad the year I was born. The year my father died. The year she became my legal guardian. She said it was lucky because everything started going right from there.

It was stupid of course, no object could be lucky, but I wore the damn thing every day anyway. It was one of those silly rituals. Everything was going okay, and I didn’t want to jinx that by not wearing the necklace, so almost four years later and I was still wearing the necklace.

Sylvie chattered away about some client who wanted their living room painted the wrong colour while she drove us to Dawsby. I played with my necklace, only half listening. My phone buzzed in my hand with a message from Erin.

It took less than half an hour to get a message from Princess Pheebs about Chattication xx

I replied as we turned into their road. Don’t give in! Stay strong xx

Grandad was cutting the front lawn when we pulled into their driveway. Grandma was hanging out the door with her apron on, no doubt telling him to get dressed for dinner. When she saw us, her face lit up into a smile.

At once I was bombarded with questions about school and life in general that she already knew the answers to. I’d only been back for one day, what did she think would happen?

I followed her into the huge kitchen, and sat myself down at the table. Somewhere along the way, Sylvie had wandered off, so it was just me and Grandma. As she went to fetch me a drink, I stared around the white-tiled kitchen I knew as well as my own. My gaze landed on the family picture on the wall by the table. Specifically my eyes met my father’s. They were the same murky olive-green that mine were. It was about the only thing that convinced me I was his. I must’ve been a spitting image of my mother.

Of course. Life was just that kind.

My mother abandoned me at this very house the day after I was born. My father was already dead. Sylvie didn’t want to let me go. The rest is history. There were only a few things I knew about my mother, but I didn’t wish to know any more. The less I knew, the more I could blame her for things she couldn’t possibly be blamed for.

I looked back at the picture. It was Sylvie’s twenty-first birthday. My father was seventeen. The closer I got to his age in that picture, the more I wished I looked like him. Like any of them really. I looked like I was born into some other family.

“I love that picture,” Grandma said as she took a seat next to me, handing me a glass of lemonade. “It was a happy day. I remember Hector singing Christmas songs every time Silver passed him. It was something he did every year. Of course, we didn’t put the decorations up until after her birthday, but he always thought it was hilarious.”

I smiled. “Maybe this year I can bug her with it.”

She looked at me with the same eyes as my father. “I see so much of him in you.”

I glanced down at the table before meeting her gaze again. “Really? I don’t look anything like him.”

“No, not in looks. In your mannerisms. You two would’ve got on like a house on fire.”

I let the corners of my mouth twitch as I looked back at Hector Hale. Was it possible to miss a man I’d never met?

“He was sweet, kind, caring, cheerful, and he never said anything bad about anybody.”

I bit my lip. She’d just listed a load of traits I didn’t possess. I wasn’t any of those things. Maybe to my grandmother I was. I wasn’t about to correct her.

The front door opened and closed, and Sylvie appeared in the doorway.

“I was just telling Iris about Hector singing Christmas songs on your birthday,” Grandma said.

Sylvie laughed and sat down. “Oh yeah. Every year.”

“You’ve ruined the surprise now,” I said. “I was going to continue the grand tradition.”

“Well, wherever he is, he’ll be laughing.” She shot me a smile. “Your dad was always laughing.”

Grandma nodded. “He was. He was so happy. If Hector was ever sad, he hid it well from us.” She stood and went back to whatever it was she was doing.

Sylvie watched her with her eyebrows knitted together. It bugged her that Grandma never referred to Hector Hale as my father, like she didn’t want to believe it. It wasn’t that she took that out on me, she had no problem calling me her granddaughter, but it was something else to accept that her son had been a father, and yet not lived to actually be one. Sylvie had always referred to him as my dad, but it didn’t sound right to me. The same way mum didn’t. I’d only ever used the words mum and dad when referring to others. They felt all too weighty when they were used to describe my pieces of family.

“Your dad would’ve complained if he was here now,” Sylvie said, dragging her eyes off Grandma. “He never wanted pie.”

“Madness.” I shook my head. “I don’t understand how anyone could complain about pie.”

“He always wanted something more exotic or exciting.”

“How is food in general not exciting?”

 “Exactly.” She sighed, looking at the photograph, letting her hair down. It rested just below her shoulders and made her look younger. She looked young for her age as it was, same as me. Maybe we did have something in common after all. “I would give anything for you to know him. He was my best friend. And he would’ve been the greatest dad.”

My heart ached, and the smile I fixed on my face didn’t feel real. Sylvie told me that all the time. She meant it to be a good thing. He was a good man, I took comfort in that. But didn’t she realise the fact that he would’ve been so great made this even worse? If he would’ve been an awful father, it wouldn’t sting so much that he wasn’t here.

I reached for her hand across the table. “Well, you’re the greatest. There’s no one else I’d rather have as my mum.”

Her breath was shuddery, but she still managed to smile. “I’ve done a good job, right?”

“Are you kidding?”

She looked like she was about to cry, so I jumped up and threw myself into her arms, burying my face in her hair. She smelt like home. It didn’t matter where we were, as long as I was with Sylvie, everything was all right. She was my home.

Sylvie Hale was my guardian angel.

At the end of the day, it didn’t matter to me that my father was dead, which sounded more awful than it should. At least I didn’t have him taken away from me. He was just someone from the past. It didn’t even matter that my mother hadn’t wanted me. Screw her. I didn’t want her either.

The only person in the entire universe I wanted to look out for me was Sylvie Hale.

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