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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29. Twenty-Nine

Corey touched my arm and made me jump. “You all right?”

I glared at him. “You.”

He held his palms up in surrender.

“You had to go and say something, didn’t you? You couldn’t just leave it?”

“Hey. It’s not my fault.”

“You told her something was up!”

“That wasn’t anything to do with me. She knew something was up, and you knew it too. You said you wanted her talking to you again.”

“And this is the best thing you could think of? She’s never going to talk to me again after this.”

“She will. You’re just overreacting.”

“Oh really?” I put my hands on my hips. “Have you told any of your friends that you’re a hunter?”

“No.”

“No. Exactly. You don’t know what she’s going to do.”

“Well, she was never going to want to believe it. No one would. Nobody likes their world view changed. It’s difficult.”

“She didn’t have to know.”

“She was already pulling away from you. And I know you wanted to tell her really.”

“Oh yeah? You know that for a fact? How dare you? I told you I didn’t want her knowing. I’ve been friends with her since before this hunter stuff came into my life, and I made a conscious choice not to tell her. The obvious time was when it all started, but I didn’t want to. That hasn’t changed in the past two years, and you certainly didn’t change my mind, as much as you’d like to think it. Just because you think you know me doesn’t mean you do.”

“Obviously.”

“You had no right to do that. No right.”

“Isn’t it better now? You don’t have any secrets. You can tell her anything like you wanted to. Don’t you feel lighter?”

“No,” I hissed. “I feel worse. Much worse. I don’t want my two lives mixing. I was doing a great job of that until you came along.”

He crossed his arms. “I’m helping you. All I did was ask if you wanted to team up. You said yes.”

“Only after you asked a thousand times.”

“No. Only because you were worried about Erin. You wanted to team up with me.”

“Well, maybe I made a mistake.”

He shook his head. “Don’t do this.”

“Do what?”

“Don’t do something you’ll regret.”

“Don’t tell me what to do. God! Why do you think you’re better than me? Because you’ve got two hunters in your house? Because you’re bigger than me, what?”

“I don’t think that.” He was showing his palms now. “I just think you’re overreacting when you don’t know all the facts.”

“What else is there to know? She ran away. She didn’t believe me. She seemed pretty upset, and now she won’t even want to speak to me.”

“You need to breathe, Iris.”

Until he said it, I hadn’t thought about it. I sucked in a humongous breath, and it caught all the way in and out. Tears sprung to my eyes, and my heart was hurting.

“It’ll be all right.” His voice was softer now.

My lip trembled.

“Come here.” Corey put his arms around me, and that was the point my tears took over. They ran down my face, and my body shuddered though I didn’t make any sound apart from a desperate gasping noise that was beyond unattractive.

I let it out, and when I was done, I remained in Corey’s arms. At some point, my own arms had gone around his waist. He smelled like some kind of manly shower gel. The smell helped steady my heart.

“It’ll be okay,” he said as I, at last, let go of him.

“I’m sorry,” I forced out as heat filled my cheeks. I hoped it looked like it was from the growing cold.

“It’s all right. She’ll get over it. It was just a shock.”

“I hope you’re right.” I shook my head. “You probably think I’m such a drama queen.”

“No. I think you’re a good friend. I wish my friends cared about me as much as you care about Erin.”

“I’m sure they care.”

“Not as much.”

I shrugged. “She’s the only friend I have.”

“Not any more.” He was grinning.

It made my heart a little lighter. “You’re right. And I definitely need more friends who can deal with my meltdowns.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Is that a common occurrence?”

“No, no.” It came out too quick.

“Really? Because since we properly met, you’ve exploded about three times.”

“Yeah, well. Half of that is your fault.”

He shook his head. “Whatever. She will come around you know.”

I nodded, though he couldn’t guarantee me that. I wasn’t sure how I would’ve reacted if it’d been the other way around. Well, Erin would never have done anything as dangerous as hunting anyway, so it was impossible to imagine.

“Want to go a bit further?” Corey lifted his bike off the grass. “We can talk hunting now.”

I picked up my own bike. “That wasn’t your plan all along, was it?”

He put his hand to his heart and opened his mouth in mock hurt. “Of course not. How can you even suggest such a thing?” He dropped it and smiled. “Of course not.”

“I’m just checking you’re not an evil genius.”

He only laughed and started racing up the track. I had to pedal hard and fast to catch up with him.

“Come on, slow poke,” he called to me as he stopped where the track met the road again.

“Chill out.” I skidded to a halt. “What’s the rush?”

“Just a little friendly competition.”

We rode for a while, not aiming for anything in particular, and came across a tiny village with a corner shop. We bought ourselves a drink and sat on a picnic bench across the road that was placed outside a group of trees like it was the entrance to something. My skin felt flushed from the exercise, and I undid my coat as we sat down, letting the breeze ruffle my T-shirt.

“I have absolutely no idea where we are, by the way,” I said as I took a sip of my lemonade.

Corey shrugged. “Oh well. I’m sure we’ll find our way back again.”

“That would be a pretty embarrassing call to Sylvie.” I put my hand to my ear in a phone gesture. “Hi. Yeah. We’re lost. No idea where. Please come and find us.”

He chuckled. “And that’s if you have any signal.”

“Very true. Although, if we had Wi-Fi we could just look at a map.”

“Where’s the fun in that?”

We sat for a little while without saying anything. The wind was rustling the trees and the amber and rust-coloured leaves were breaking off and floating their way to the ground. It wouldn’t be long now until I needed to wear every item of clothing I owned to stay warm. Winter didn’t sneak in here. It jumped in waving its arms and screaming.

“So have you always lived with Sylvie?”

Corey wasn’t looking at me. He was staring off into the trees. I watched him for a few seconds before answering. “Yeah. Well, every day of my life except the first one. My mother left me with Sylvie the day after I was born. Well, that’s what it says in the note, and why would she lie about that?”

He nodded. “So Sylvie’s like your mum?”

I furrowed my eyebrows. “Yeah. I mean, I don’t call her that, but I totally could if she’d wanted me to. She never wanted that though. She doesn’t even like being called ‘Aunt Sylvie’ so, you know.”

He didn’t say anything and didn’t look my way either.

“Corey? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” He rubbed his hand across his hair. “Do you ever miss her? Your mum?”

It was like he’d hit me over the head. Where had this come from? “No. But I don’t want to know her, so it’s different. I miss my dad sometimes, which is stupid as I never knew him either. But I hear nice things about him, and it makes me feel like I miss him. I’m not sure if I really do or if it’s just what I think I should feel.” I shrugged. “It’s hard to know.”

He sighed.

“Whatever you want to say, you can say it.” My voice was softer than I’d heard it in a long time. “I won’t tell anyone.”

He gave a tiny smile. “I just wondered what it was like for you. Whether you feel the same as me. But maybe it’s different because I had Lee, and you didn’t have a replacement dad.”

“Is that what you think of Lee as? A replacement?”

He looked at me now, and his eyes were sad. “Not in a bad way. I love Lee. She’s like one of my favourite people. I can’t really remember a time before her. Her and my dad met when I was five.”

“Wow.”

“It’s just. When Dad talks about Mom, I feel like he wants me to miss her because he does. But I can’t. Do you know what I mean?”

I nodded. “It’s all right. I mean, you’re lucky you’ve got Lee. She’s great.”

“It makes me feel awful though when it’s Mom’s birthday or something. I feel bad that I don’t feel anything, and then I feel bad about Lee who has to deal with Dad telling stories about his ex-wife. I mean, I know she doesn’t mind, but still.”

“It’s part of his life, I guess. And though it sort of doesn’t make sense, it’s not part of yours. It doesn’t matter.”

“I guess.” He looked away again.

I chewed on my lip for a moment. “You haven’t said any of this to anyone, have you?”

He shook his head. “I don’t want to sound evil. People with moms wouldn’t like it.”

I laughed. “Well, I get you. I don’t feel sad about my mum either.”

He gave the smallest smile. “At least my mom never ate anyone.”

I slapped his arm, and he chuckled, lifting a huge weight from my shoulders. In all this hunting talk, I thought I was just getting a partner, but it turned out I was getting a friend too. A second-best friend. And I hadn’t realised how much I’d needed one.

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