What started out as a modest flame soon erupted into a full burst fire, a burning bush of prophecy. The new Slayer is rising.
"Today, you're going to learn how to use a crossbow," Bob announced, placing the weapon in Livvy's arms.
"Isn't that a little advanced for a first lesson?" said a wide-eyed Gerard.
"Your target," Bob continued on as he pointed at a red and white bulls-eye board across the room.
Livvy took a minute to admire the bow. It was definitely old, judging from the condition of the wood, yet it was still sturdy. It was loaded with a sharpened wooden arrow with the metal arrowhead detached. She took her time positioning herself from the target and slowly raised the crossbow. She shut one eye and took aim. She pictured a vampire at the other end. It needed to pierce through the heart for a successful kill. The arrow zoomed across the room and hit just inches above the bulls-eye. Livvy grinned proudly as she turned to see Bob's approving nod.
"Good," Bob said as he patted her shoulder. "Next time, use both of your eyes."
She could see her father in the corner of her eye nervously squeezing his hands. Livvy tried to ignore him as Bob explained the history of the use of crossbows. She was fascinated to find out that the Native Americans were one of the first to exterminate vampires with their use of a bow and arrow. It was a theory that the first Slayer could have been Native American. Sometimes, the sharpened edge was dipped in Holy Water or lit on fire. Was it coincidence that the crossbow was in the shape of a cross? Bob explained that its entire design was created to ward off vampires.
So Livvy fired arrow after arrow until the bulls-eye was overcrowded with the wooden sticks. She couldn't explain it; it all came easy to her. She could feel the power coursing through her veins, her mother's power. She was on her last arrow and she could hear Gerard telling her to be careful. She rolled her eyes, questioning whether or not he saw her fire the other arrows successfully. He was nagging her and asking Bob whether they would be finished after her ammo ran out. Her concentration was wearing thin and the sound of his voice only further heated her temper.
"Livvy!" Gerard shouted from across the room. "Be careful with that thing! Hold it tightly or you might drop it and hurt yourself!"
"I WON'T!" Livvy shouted through gritted teeth, turning around to face her father and accidentally firing the arrow his direction.
Gerard stared at the sharp wooden edge inches away from his eyes. Bob had caught it in midair with one hand. Gerard flinched as Bob broke the arrow in half with the same hand he caught it with. It was a mere squeeze of the fist and the thin object snapped and fell to the floor. Livvy stood frozen with the unloaded crossbow dangling in the air being held by one arm. Bob winked at her and smiled.
"I'm going to have to teach you how to do that," he said, pushing the broken arrow pieces aside with his foot.
"Are you okay, Dad?" Livvy asked, full of guilt and concern.
Gerard gulped as he nodded.
"I guess we should call it a day," Bob suggested, stifling a laugh from the look of Gerard's face.
"Aww...," Livvy whined. "Can Bob have lunch with us, Dad?"
Gerard glanced at the man who saved his life seconds ago and gave his approval.
"Yes, please join us," he said, a bit shakily.
Lyvia had never seen the dining table so complete. For once, there were no empty chairs. Iris had spent the last half hour bombarding Bob with questions about Slayers and vampires. Livvy laughed to herself at her cousin's persistent curiosity. It turns out that Bob's mother was a Slayer and he learned everything from her. At the age of seven, he was already skilled at defending himself from demons.
"She died at the age of 35," Bob said softly. "She was an amazing woman."
While Iris and Livvy sympathized the loss of Bob's mother, Gerard swallowed his water roughly at the thought. He knew that Slayers rarely lived to their 30's and it killed him to think of burying his child. She would never have a stable career, it would be a challenge for her to finish college, and starting a family of her own would mean leaving them behind early. He wanted to cry at the thought, but he shook it away. He was not going to let this happen to her, he reminded himself.
Livvy watched Gerard toy around his plate with his fork in deep thought. He hadn't eaten much of his food and he only occasionally sipped at his drink. All color had left his face, leaving him to look sick from worry. His bottom lip would quiver from time to time as he kept his eyes on the table's surface. She could see the growing moisture around his pupils. She wanted to feel bad about being the cause of his worrying, but at the same time she felt justified for being trapped indoors for most of her life. She had never been so happy and her father had never been so miserable.
The doorbell rang and Gerard volunteered to answer it. He caught Bob's knowing grin and sighed in exhaustion. It was probably Ray or maybe they sent the whole Council over just to persuade him into giving up his daughter. Gerard shook his head in frustration as muttered angrily to himself.
"Send one freak and you send them all," Gerard grumbled as he opened the door.
A woman dressed in a flimsy white robe smiled politely and stared directly in his eyes. She was just about his height with her black heels on. Her hair fell in spirals of dark brown curls that danced around her tan shoulders with every movement. She was thin, but Gerard couldn't help but notice her complimentary wide hips.
"Hi," Gerard said as he gazed into her shining brown eyes.
"Hi," she replied, widening her smile.
"Raquel!" Bob greeted as he joined Gerard's side.
"Hey Bobby," she teased as she gave him a friendly hug.
"So...who are you exactly?" Gerard asked, slowly shaking off his nerves.
"My name's Raquel," she introduced herself. "And I'm the Head Witch for the Council's Headquarters of New York."
"Oh," Gerard replied, still in complete confusion.
"A real witch?" Iris exclaimed in pure admiration.
"Are you a witch in practice?" Raquel asked, already feeling vibes of potential emanating from the young girl.
"Well...I do know a few things," Iris replied modestly.
"So why do we need a witch, again?" Gerard finally asked.
"Is it part of my training?!" Livvy added excitedly.
"Well, I assume Daddy is worrying to death about his daughter going off to fight creatures of the night on a daily basis," Raquel began.
"That's an understatement," Livvy muttered, receiving a scolding glare from Gerard.
"You're going to need a witch around to cast out the evil spirits," Raquel explained. "With safety spells to guide our Slayer back home."
"Safety spells?" Gerard repeated skeptically. "If there's such a thing as a safety spell, then why do the Slayers end up getting killed?"
"Because no spell can change destiny," Raquel said matter-of-factly.
Gerard turned away, he was so sick of that word. There was a Slayer, a Guardian, and a witch in his home. It seems like the supernatural just followed him everywhere he went. Even when he tried so desperately to isolate himself and his family from it. Destiny was his worst enemy.
"Are you going to teach me how to do a few spells?" Livvy asked Raquel.
"When we have the time. You need to focus more on what Bob teaches you," Raquel said with a wink. "I'll show you how to mix up a few things to cure poisoning."
"Alright," Livvy agreed, but as soon as her father was out of earshot she saw Raquel's smile turn into a mischievous grin.
"But, more importantly, you need someone to keep your father home and convince him to let you out," Raquel whispered in Livvy's ear. Livvy engulfed her into a thankful hug as she imagined leaving her home every night exploring the city to save lives.
Gerard climbed the stairway into the attic which he had not revisited for years. The room was decorated with abandoned spider webs and clouds of dust. Towards the very edge of the room was the box he had not opened for almost 17 years. He reached inside, felt around, and took out the first thing he touched. It was a notebook he had put together filled with Autumn's letters to him. He flipped through the pages, chronologically arranged. Some of the pages were worn out from being folded too many times, some had patches of dried moisture, and some were merely notes on a napkin. Autumn wrote letters to him from restaurants on the napkins whenever The Council needed her to travel to other countries. He never lost a single letter. His fingers grazed over the inked words, tracing her familiar handwriting. He almost had the urge to check the mailbox. It was only three years ago that he finally stopped hoping he would get one last letter from her. No matter how impossible it seemed, he believed it for 14 years. Until he figured out exactly what the word impossible meant.