Before the Thaw

"Aim right for the center," he whispered in my ear, "Aim right for the heart."

I held the bow steady and pulled back the arrow, breathing slow and deep and even, willing myself to be one with the weapon.

"You want to aim at the middle of him, see. You want to aim at the widest part so you'll have the best chance of bringing him down."

I lowered the bow and turned, and my father frowned deeply.

"Papa," I said, "I know that if I want to kill 'em I've gotta get 'em in the brains."

"Right," he agreed, face softening. "But a good hit to the chest will slow them down every time."

I turned before I sighed, so Papa wouldn’t see me rolling my eyes at him. I got back into position and aimed like he told me, at the center of the target that was hanging around the neck of a dummy I had made to practice with. I breathed in and out, concentrating hard, and then let the arrow go.

It sailed into its target - not the center like Papa had told me, but into the forehead of the dummy instead. I could see the arrow from here. I had pierced clean through where the brain would have been, the point of my arrow sticking out the other side of the dummy’s lumpy head.

“Marissa,” Papa said, his voice behind me filled with disappointment. I turned to meet his gaze, then let my eyes fall to the ground. 

“Don’t you understand that it’s my job to protect you? That everything I do, it’s for you? Why won’t you just listen to me? Why won’t you respect me?”

There wasn’t a hint of anger in his voice. I looked up to see his sad, tired eyes, his wiggling lip. Would my father actually cry? 

I was filled with shame. I dropped my bow and ran to him, feeling his shock and slight resistance as I threw my arms around him and cried. 

“It’s okay, little heart, it’s okay.” 

Papa rubbed my back while I cried, just like Mama used to do before they got her. 

“You just need to listen to me,” he whispered as I trembled. “The thaw is coming and you are a big girl now. Eight years old! If you listen, I can teach you to protect yourself.”

“In case anything happens to you, right?”

“That’s right, little heart, that’s right.”

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Grace O'Malley gave me this prompt: Aim right for the center.. I gave kgwaite this prompt: Write about the birth of something.

I stewed over this prompt, and then finally wrote the first thing that came to mind just before the link up deadline. Who the hell knows who these people are? Sometimes writing things is a complete mystery to me, and this mystery is part of what I love so much about it.

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