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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23. Twenty-Three

Sylvie called us to dinner not long after Corey and I had discussed the ins and outs of the periliares we’d killed and the things we’d learnt. It was so strange to discuss it with a real human being out loud and not through the computer. I felt like I was free. I felt like I was understood. At last. I hadn’t realised how much strength there could be in a partnership. And I hadn’t realised how much I wanted one.

After dinner, I showed Corey Chattication and the messages Tyler had been sending me.

He was cringing. “It’s just so weird.”

“Yeah. I know.” I was back in my desk chair, a cautious distance away. Sitting next to him on my bed seemed beyond bizarre.

“So this happened to all four of you?”

“Yep. I mean, it could be more. I don’t know how many of Phoebe’s friends have joined.”

He handed me my phone back. “I’ll get it.”

I raised my eyebrows. “You’ll get it?”

“Yeah. Check it out. See what it’s about.”

“I just showed you. There’s not much to it.”

“But this way I can see if anyone messages me or if it’s just girls.”

I nodded. “All right. That sounds like a good plan, though I’m not sure what we’ll learn from it.”

“I’ll show it to Dad, see what he makes of it. You should come over at the weekend and meet him.”

My heart gave a little skip. “Are you sure?”

“Of course. He’d love to meet you. Us hunters have to stick together.”

I swallowed down my fear. “Okay.”

“How about Saturday?”

“Great.” I pushed some hair behind my ear. “I’ll tell Sylvie I’m going to help you with some science thing or something.”

“Pick biology.”

“What?”

“Say it’s for biology.”

I shook my head a little. “Why the hell does it matter?”

“She already knows I do engineering, so don’t pick physics. She might get suspicious.”

I gave a little laugh. “Sure. Whatever.”

“I’m just trying to be nice, that’s all. She’s your problem, remember?”

“Don’t worry, I’m unlikely to forget.”

It wasn’t long before there was a knock at the door and we descended the stairs to find Corey’s dad. I guess I wouldn’t have to wait for Saturday to meet him after all.

“Hi,” he said, shaking Sylvie’s hand, a huge beam on his face. “I’m Theo, Corey’s dad.” He had an American accent, just as promised. He looked like a broader version of Corey. They both had the same coffee-bean-coloured skin, dark-chocolate eyes, and brown hair. Walking down the street together, it would be obvious they were father and son, and it gave me a pang of jealousy, stupid as it was.

“Sylvie.” Sylvie’s smile matched his. “I’m Iris’s guardian.”

“Aunt,” I corrected. “Guardian sounds so stuffy.” I crossed my arms from my place two stairs up from the bottom. Corey was sitting on the bottom step tying his shoes.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Theo said. “And you, Iris. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

I raised my eyebrows at Corey who gave a chuckle.

“Before you ask,” Corey said as he stood up, “it’s not all good.” Now he was standing up, I could see that he was only about an inch shorter than his dad. “Dad, can Iris come over on Saturday? She was going to help me with some biology work I just can’t figure out.”

Theo shot me a look. He knew exactly what was going on here. “If that’s all right with Sylvie.”

Sylvie’s eyebrows came together, but only a little. “That’s okay with me. I can drop her round just after lunch.”

“Excellent.” Theo clapped Corey on the back as he pulled on his blazer. “We’ll see you on Saturday.”

Sylvie and I waved as they got into a black Range Rover and drove away.

“Corey seems nice,” Sylvie said as she shut the door. I wasn’t sure if it was her tone of voice, the way she was looking at me, or the words themselves, but inappropriate heat flashed into my cheeks.

“Yeah.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“What did you two get up to?” She crossed her arms and there was this unsettling smile on her face.

“We just talked. I don’t like where this is going.” I made my way to the kitchen, and she was right behind me.

“I’m just looking out for you.”

“Well, thanks. But please stop it.” I flicked the kettle on and got two mugs out. Sylvie wouldn’t stop looking at me. I ignored her as best as I could but slammed the fridge shut when I put the milk away. “Okay, you’re going to have to stop staring at me like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like that. With that smile on your face.” I handed her the mug. “I know what you’re thinking.”

“What? What am I thinking?”

“You’re thinking I like like Corey.”

She held up her spare hand. “You said it, not me.”

I laughed. “Please, don’t be such a mum about this.”

She smirked. “So you don’t like him?”

“Of course I like him, but not like that. He’s just a friend. Really.”

“Okay.”

“He is!”

“Stop protesting too much.” She blew on her tea. “But seriously, he seems lovely.”

“Well, good.”

“Just let me know when we need to have The Talk.”

I rolled my eyes. “We already had The Talk.”

“No. The other talk.”

I shook my head. “Stop it.”

She chuckled. “Well, when you’re talking be sure to be safe.”

I dropped into a chair and laughed. It was a freeing kind of laugh. Like at last there was nothing resting on me. Of course, there was a lot, but in that moment, there was nothing.

“But seriously, Iris. If and when you bring someone home, I mean it.” She sat opposite me.

“Of course, Mum.”

“And if you ever need to talk to me about relationships or sex or anything, I’ll be here. I guess that’s a plus with being your aunt. It might not be so awkward.”

I shrugged. “At least you’re not like Cait. I’m not sure Erin would have a safe place to go to if she needed to talk.” I gave her a smile. “I’m not sure you know how great you are.”

She grinned back.

“Sometimes.”

She gave me a playful whack on the arm.

“Anyway, you don’t have to worry about boyfriends. Or girlfriends for that matter.” I shot her a look, but she gave no reaction. “I’ve got enough to worry about.” And that was true even without the hunting. I had exams and coursework and picking my A’ levels and all sorts of things to worry about. Getting a boyfriend or girlfriend was really the last thing on my mind. Plus, I wasn’t really sure where I was on that. Other than having my first kiss with a boy named Tim when I was nine, which I wasn’t sure counted anyway, I’d never had anything of the sort. I’d never really felt that pull towards anyone, and I was pretty glad. From watching Erin jabber about Sam, it all seemed like a drama to me. A drama I could do without thank you very much.

“You sound like me.” She reached out and took my hand.

“You don’t feel like you’re missing out?” My voice came out soft, like I was afraid of the answer. If I hadn’t been here, would Sylvie be married with her own kids? I always worried she would. I didn’t want Sylvie to have her own child when I was little, I thought that would make me less, but now I was older, I felt bad about it.

“Missing out on what? No.” She shook her head. “I get to go to all my friends’ weddings without stressing about them. I get to see their kids when they’re the cutest and leave when they start to cry.” She laughed. “You forget I did it all with you.”

“Yeah, but, did you not want to do it again?”

“God, no!” She laughed again, and I believed her. “You cried a lot. I’m still recovering.” She squeezed my hand. “Don’t you be worrying about anything like that. All I need in the world is you. Everything else is just background. I don’t need anyone telling me what to do, you know that.”

I jumped up and gave her a hug, squeezing her tight. “I just don’t want you to miss out because of me.”

She pulled back and her smile was so genuine I wanted to cry. “Because of you, I didn’t miss out. I was never interested in dating and things before you, and I haven’t been interested since. I never thought of myself as a mother or a wife. I still don’t really. Being your aunt is the greatest gift I’ve ever gotten. And don’t you forget it.” She pushed some hair behind my ear. “If your dad was still here I’m sure I’d be round every day to see you. Our situation may have brought us together, Iris, but nothing could change who we are.”

“I love you, Sylvie.” I pulled her close again, and this time she squeezed me tighter.

“I love you too.”

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