Alice Cheryl Fitzpatrick-Williams is different from other girls. At least, that’s what her parents tell her.
When she’s three, her Mom tells her it’s because she has two last names. “I was told it was modern for children to keep thy... their mother’s names,” says her mom when Alice barrages her with a million questions about her name. She says Alice is for a character in one of the first books she had ever read. Cheryl for her aunt.
When she asks her daddy about Aunt Cheryl, he gets weirdly quiet. Alice thinks Daddy is mad at her and spends what feels like forever crying in her room until Mom drags Daddy in by his ear and forces him to play Tea Party with her. He still doesn’t talk much about Aunt Cheryl, but he says she used to draw all the time like Alice does.
That night, Alice draws a unicorn with a princess named Cheryl riding into battle on it. Daddy laughs and keeps it on his nightstand for years.
When she’s five, they tell her it’s because other girls and boys don’t have parents that fight demons. “But why not?”
“Because Daddy did things that other moms and dads didn’t do.”
“So how do they deal with the big scary dead-dead-deaditties?”
“That’s why I’m around,” he says softly, kissing her on the head.
When the pony at Kayla Livingston’s 6th birthday party turns into a Deadite, Alice sees this firsthand. Most parents run, but her daddy just guns him down and cuts him down with a lawnmower. She runs to her daddy and hugs him, expecting everyone else to do the same.
Instead, everyone is either crying or glaring.
Alice doesn’t get invited to many birthday parties after that. Kayla doesn’t even talk to her again until their first day of high school.
When she’s nine, she fires her first gun.
It was a quiet Saturday afternoon. Mom was out in the garden while Daddy was at work. Alice sat on the porch painting with her new watercolor set. One second, she looked up and waved as the mailman walked by.
The next second, she looked down and her mom was screaming.
The mailman had become a deadite and was running towards them.
Mom grabbed her shotgun and ran up the porch steps. “Alice, ru-”
The mailman pushed her onto the steps and knocked the gun out of her hands towards Alice’s feet.
To this day, Alice can’t remember much of what happened next. She remembers a bang coming from her hands as she fired and crying for hours afterwards.
Her daddy says she’s proud of her, but she doesn’t touch a gun again until she’s fourteen.
This time to save her daddy from the same threat.
Instead of crying this time, she goes out to get ice cream with her daddy. They get looks for being covered in blood, but they don’t care. “I’m proud of you, baby.”
“I know, Daddy.”
“Then again, I’m always proud of you.”
Alice smiles at her daddy before she quickly wipes the dark purple blood that’s dripping onto the table off his face with a sticky napkin covered in ice cream.
When she was sixteen, Alice felt the most unusual she had ever felt in her life.
Not for her daddy the demon killer with a metal hand or her mother the 13th century transplant. No, to her, those things were perfectly normal. It was everyone else who didn’t slay demons in their spare time that was unusual.
What was unusual this time was the fact she was crushing on a girl in her art class.
Lizzie Shellburn had choppy hair, a nose piercing, and the prettiest green eyes Alice has ever seen. She drew superheroes and mythical creatures in her sketchbook between assignments. When Alice saw her drawing a woman riding into battle on a unicorn, she can’t help but finally say something to her. “Y’know, I drew something like that when I was three.”
She looks up and gives a dazzling smile. “Really now?”
“Yeah. I mean, with less skill obviously. My Dad still has it framed on his nightstand though. He says it protects him from bad dreams.”
Lizzie laughs as she reaches out and touches Alice’s hair. “Has anyone told you that you have the prettiest hair?”
She pulls on a dark curl and watches it spring. Alice barely notices that she isn’t breathing.
When Lizzie draws the princess with the same dark curly hair, Alice practically blacks out.
The next day, Lizzie sits next to her in class and watches as Alice paints a deadite. “Is it a zombie?”
“Not quite. It’s just something I see a lot.”
“In your dreams?”
Three weeks later, Lizzie reaches for Alice’s hand under the table as she draws. Alice jumps at first, but slowly slips her hand into Lizzie’s and squeezes back.
A couple of weeks after that, her and Lizzie make out for the first time in her car after seeing a shitty horror flick together. She feels more alive under Lizzie’s lips than with any other boy she had kissed before and it takes her mind off of the terrible movie.
Alice tells her daddy that they were just going as friends, but she’s pretty sure that the hickeys on her neck are going to give her away. “Shit.”
“I think I have a scarf back here,” Lizzie says, scouring the back seat. “You can just tell him we went to the mall and you got it there.”
“No,” she says, closing the mirror as she opens the car door. “I’m going to be honest with him. It’s not like he hasn’t taught me to survive...”
Lizzie frowns, but doesn’t say anything as she kisses Alice on the cheek. “Call me, okay?”
Alice takes a deep breath and steps out of the car. As she dredges up the steps, the porch light turns on and her parents are standing in the doorway. “Alice dear,” her mom says with a grin on her face. “How was your... date?”
“Date,” she says a little too loudly. “Nonono... Not a date. Just me and Lizzie seeing a movie together.”
“Baby,” her daddy says with a smirk, “You may be as smart as your mom, but you have my lack of subtlety. Now invite your girlfriend in. I don’t want to be responsible for any repairs or surprise attacks.”
Alice feels a grin growing on her face. “Well, I was expecting more yelling...”
Her daddy just grins and pulls her in for a hug with his metal hand. “Baby, I am always proud of you. I could have never imagined having a kid as awesome as you. The fact that I don’t have to worry about your significant other getting you pregnant now makes you even more awesome, even if she did mark up your neck like that...”
Her mom hits him on the arm. “Ashley! I hope you will keep a civil tongue around Elizabeth! I shall not be responsible for any bad impressions you make!”
“What? Like you weren’t thinking the same thing!”
Alice laughs and goes back down the steps to retrieve Lizzie. “C’mon, they want to meet you.”
“Really,” she asks as she steps out of the car. “I wasn’t expecting that. Your parents must be as awesome as you.”
Alice blushes as she slips her hand into Lizzie’s and starts back into the house. “Oh baby, you don’t even know...”