Jeff buckled Tsunachu’s scabbard around his waist. The familiar pressure and weight brought unexpected tears to his eyes and a lump somewhere inside his throat.
It’s been a long time.
Such a long time.
Jeff ran down the sidewalk. The scabbard stuck straight out behind him like a swallow’s tail.
He slid the weapon into the scabbard.
He pulled it out in a fast, easy move. It was so easy and natural, just like stretching his arm.
He pulled it out again.
Hildreth smiled and got out of his way.
The vampire charged at him.
“Haaaaaa!” Jeff lunged forward.
And Tsunachu hit its mark.
But that vampire wasn’t alone. The other vampires emerged from the shadows.
Jeff danced with the memory.
And thrusting Tsunachu forward.
And Tsunachu sang.
And Tsunachu sang.
A keening melody of violence and bloodshed.
A keening song of loss and grief.
The last vampire fell.
Tsunachu went still.
Jeff stood there in a defensive posture, panting, as the memory faded.
“So.” Hildreth said. “You can still make the old girl sing after all.”
Jeff straightened up and grinned. “I’m surprised you ever doubted it.”
“Me? Doubt you? Never!”
Jeff rubbed the back of his gloved hand across his forehead. “Better not. Otherwise, you’d have to eat twenty-nine lemon custard doughnut holes.”
Hildreth fake-gagged. “Dang! You’re a brute.”
Jeff laughed and slid Tsunachu back into its scabbard home. “Only when necessary.” He friendly punched Hildreth’s shoulder. “Only when strictly necessary.”
Elsie’s stomach fluttered as Clarice fastened the last five buttons. “I can’t believe it. I’ve waited for so long for today to come. It’s been like twenty years worth of waiting.” She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “Mom? Is this real? Am I dreaming?”
Clarice fastened the last button and stepped in front of her. “Oh, it’s real all right. Ohh.” She covered her mouth with the tips of her fingers.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“My baby.” Her eyes teared up. “I always knew this day would happen. I just. I always thought that…you know.”
Elsie focused on putting on her father’s gauntlets.
“Elsie, he would have been so proud of you….just everything about you.” She laughed softly. “He would have given your hot man Hildreth a major grilling to make sure that he was worthy to marry you.”
Elsie tightened the top buckle on the right gauntlet.
“He would have loved the fact that you’re wearing his gauntlets.”
I don’t want to think about him.
She went to work on the left one.
Not now. Not ever.
But we were both at fault. We were both stubborn idiots, so afraid of being rejected by the one we loved.
She swallowed hard.
All I had to do was call. He would have talked to me. We could have made amends.
All it would have taken was one simple stupid call.
If he had called me.
If only he had called me.
“I know.” Elsie said. “It was Hildreth’s idea. He’s so crazy. I don’t even know how he gets half of his ideas into his head.” She smiled softly. “I have a bad feeling that he’s going to be waiting for me at the altar rail with his weapon on his back and stakes up his sleeves. But honestly? I don’t care. Oh, I’ll slap him upside the head. I might even punch him. But all that really matters is that he shows up. That he’ll be there. That he’ll still want me. That he’ll gladly marry me.”
“Elsie.” Clarice held her daughter’s hands. “Hildreth loves you. There’s no way in Heaven, Earth, or Hell that he won’t show up and say ‘I do’. He might even say his I do’s as you’re walking towards him.”
Elsie laughed. “He would do that. Mom. Mom, I love him. I love him so much.”
Clarice kissed her forehead. “I know.”