The thing is, it doesn’t matter how much you know your daughter is a competent young lady who can take care of herself. You’re always going to be nervous for that very first date.
“And you do know you’re gonna have to be back by nine, right? If you’re late, I’m going to probably call Rick at the police department and have him start searching the ponds for a body.”
“Dad! Dad, chill!”
Diana rolled her eyes as she came down the stairs. She seemed just like her mom did so many years ago. It tugged my heartstrings that she wasn’t here to see her girl right now. She spun around, showing off her dark blue dress. “How do I look?”
I developed a mocking expression, judging her. “Well, it’s a little short-” I gacked as she slapped my arm, “Because it’s winter and you’re going to be cold!”
“Well, then Marcus can loan me his jacket,” Diana grinned mischievously.
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t think a jacket will keep your legs warm, but you look great. I bet you’re not done getting ready though?”
“Gimme five more minutes!”
Five minutes turned to ten and I heard a knock at the door. Preparing for whatever Marcus would be, I opened the door.
Well, I certainly didn’t expect this shrimp of a kid. He was probably shorter than my daughter by a good three inches and looked even smaller in that jacket that was at least two sizes too big, with tousled red hair and thick rimmed glasses. He swallowed nervously before extending his free hand, the other holding a rose. “H… hello, Mr. McDowell! Is Diana ready?”
“It’ll be a few more minutes,” I grinned as I gestured him inside, “Come on in, you look cold.”
Marcus hurried inside and took a seat on the couch. “So, um, Diana said you worked at Anderson Equipment?” He said, swallowing nervously.
I nodded. “Yup. Enjoy it, but I’ll probably have to switch to a sales position soon. Getting too old for all that heavy lifting,” I jokingly flexed, “But I can still handle any punk who comes for my daughter’s hand.”
Marcus nearly pissed himself in fear judging by his expression. I couldn’t hold back my laughter, clapping the kid on the shoulder. “I’m kidding! Diana told me you share a math class and you sound like a great guy. I’m not the one you should be afraid of if you screw with her, anyway.” I paused as I heard heels clack down the stairs. “There comes Diana.”
Marcus scrambled to his feet, presenting the rose to Diana as she came around the corner. “Uh, hey Diana! Your dad’s been uh… keeping me company,” He laughed nervously, “You ready to go?”
Diana took the rose and smiled. “This is so sweet, Marcus, you didn’t have to go all out for our first date. Come on, let’s go get some dinner,” She looped his arm in with hers and practically bounced to the door. She turned and mouthed, ‘see you at nine’ before the door closed behind them.
With the house to myself, I just turned on the TV and settled down to watch some crime shows while waiting for my precious daughter to return.
I must’ve dozed off because I jolted awake to the door slamming and someone hurrying up the stairs. I grabbed my phone and my heart sank as I realized it was now 12:31 AM.
I dropped my phone and bolted up the stairs. I pounded on her door, trying not to knock off any of the cutesy drawings she’d hung on there over the years. It looked more like an art board than a door. I could hear the sink running and a quiet sobbing.
“Diana? Diana, please, open the door.”
The tap turned to quiet the stream of water.
“… It’s not locked…”
I turned the knob and walked in. Her bathroom door was open and I stopped dead in my tracks.
My daughter was soaked head to toe in blood. Her once dark blue dress looked black and was ripped down the sides. I saw that her right eye was swollen, blacked out. My worst fears were confirmed.
“You showed him, didn’t you?”
She sniffled before she nodded. Her appearance flickered before she showed her true form. Three sets of arms were wrapped around herself, I could see the eyes on her palms were leaking tears. Her bottom lip quivered, her right tusk chipped as she wiped blood off her pale blue cheeks.
“I thought… I thought he’d understand.”
I sighed and walked inside. “Get the dress off so I can burn it. Where’s Marcus?”
“In the trunk of his car. Most of him, anyway… I couldn’t scrape all of him off the seats.” She couldn’t look me in the face as she handed me her keys. “I’m so sorry daddy.”
“I can wait for the story until I get this mess cleaned up,” I leaned forward and kissed her forehead, careful to avoid the spikes protruding from her hairline, “Don’t worry. I’m not mad. Get cleaned up and into some pajamas, okay?”
It was a long drive out to the forest. Thankfully the streets were dead, giving me plenty of time to think about my daughter… and my wife.
I stopped at the treeline and there she was. I don’t think you’d see what I saw in her, you’d see this hulking creature with three pairs of arms and blue crystalline skin and you’d freak out. To be fair, I did too when we first met. Ciern is different.
But I wasn’t exactly normal when we met either.
“I felt you approach,” Ciern said, her layered voice echoing in my ears. I nodded and gestured her to the trunk.
I grimaced when I saw the scene in the trunk. That scrawny teenager I’d just seen hours ago was in pieces, his decapitated head twisted in an expression of pure horror. “Oh boy. She went full crazy on this poor guy.”
“She showed him?”
“Then it’s best that he’s dead. Those who don’t understand pose a risk. You understand.”
“I know.” I started throwing body parts on the ground. “Can you please help me hide the body? I’d have Diana do what you do, but uh…
Ciern hummed as she gathered up the parts. “Best hose it off tonight, when there’s few witnesses. I’ll make sure the body’s never found,” She said. The arm she held slowly frosted over, turning into crystal before she crushed it, the pieces shattering and melting on the ground.
I sighed and leaned against the car. “She’s not gonna have it easy, dating like she is.”
“I found you though, didn’t I?”
“I’m not exactly your only husband.”
“You are right now. And you’re my favorite.”
I sighed as I felt Ciern’s arms wrap around me. “You’re too good for me,” I said as she gave me a tight squeeze.
“I know. Now go home and talk with our daughter.”
I got home when it was closing in on dawn. I had to leave the car behind and ended up walking until I could get an Uber.
Diana was wearing her favorite pink bunny pajamas, but it was clear she hadn’t slept all night. She looked up at me, sniffling. “… He said he loved me and wanted to show it… so I wanted to show how much I loved him by showing him what I’m really like. Then he punched me and started screaming. I didn’t really mean to blow him up,” She said.
I shushed her and sat next to her. “There will be other guys, I promise,” I said.