A few days had gone by since she woke from the fight. Lizzie and Adrian were sitting in their living room, watching her favorite kung fu movie. He still had a black eye and his split lip was nearly healed, but she looked like she had been hit by a truck from either side. Her face was still half covered in multi-colored bruises, her left arm in a sling with a hairline fracture and a sprained rotator cuff. Her broken ribs were wrapped and sitting up hurt, plus she had a random smattering of other minor injuries. Winston intended to stay home and hover over her like a hen. She had to beg her Aunt Jill to make him leave, and he finally agreed once Adrian volunteered to play nursemaid, not that she felt she needed one.
No one had spoken much about that night since she came home. She thought they all blamed her for bursting in instead of waiting for Mathers. In a way they were right, but she wasn’t going to apologize. We saved her, that girl, she told herself. They were all still alive, and she had a part in that. That’s what Hunting was about. Aunt Jill said they had no reports of a vampire in the area prior to her and Adrian’s discovery. Their best guess from their interview with the girl was that he had arrived just the day before. No one would tell them anything more, they were only recruits after all. The Hunters at the infirmary assured her they had both passed, but that didn’t really seem to matter anymore. All Lizzie cared about was that everyone was safe, and the vampire was gone.
She heard her father come in from the garage and he walked into the room and looked at her, then the TV. “Glad to see Adrian got you to take it easy.” Lizzie rolled her eyes.
“Here, this is for you,” he handed Adrian an envelope and threw his coat on the back of one of the couches before heading into the kitchen. Adrian slipped a finger under the flap and pulled out a folded letter.
“Is it your assignment?” she asked excitedly, trying to crane her neck to see it, then she winced at the pain in her ribs and sat back.
“Yeah… I’m in Chicago,” Adrian said, surprised. It was rare that an Acolyte was assigned to a Hunter from their home district. He continued reading to the bottom of the letter, “I’m assigned to Mathers.” He looked up at her and a smile crept over both their faces.
“Dad?” she called out.
“Yes, hon? What do you want for dinner, pizza or spaghetti?” he asked holding a jar of sauce.
“Uh… pizza. Hey, did they give you my assignment yet?” she was hoping for some place with a beach. She had never seen the ocean.
“No, they didn't,” he said curtly and walked back into the kitchen.
“What was that about?” she asked. Adrian shrugged.
She moved to get up and Adrian stood to help her, but she waved him away. She shuffled her way into the kitchen where her father was digging through the mail looking for pizza coupons. “Dad, is something wrong?” she sat at a counter stool. Her head started to throb a little, her concussion would still affect her for a while, the doctor had said.
“You should be lying down! You need to rest.” Her father moved to usher her back into the living room but she pushed him off.
“Dad! I’m a little banged up, that’s all. I’m not crippled. Leave it.” She couldn’t handle his over protective act right now.
“Lizzie you almost died!” he said raising his voice at her.
“That’s ridiculous! A few cracked ribs and a banged up shoulder is far from dying. I’m going to be all right. Now what’s going on?” She gave him a stern look. Winston wasn’t good at lying to his daughter.
“You didn't get an Acolyte assignment,” he said, then went back to digging for coupons as if he hadn’t just delivered the most crushing news of her life.
“What?! They said I passed! Why not? What did they say? Is it because I got beat up? That vampire wasn’t even supposed to be there!” She was furious. How could they fail me?! she thought. She had put her life on the line, ripped open his throat herself. This was a kill on her record at sixteen years old. She could feel her blood boiling and she wanted desperately to hit something.
“He’s trying to pull you out,” Adrian said from behind her, leaning casually against the pocket door frame.
“What?! You can’t do that!” she screamed and turned back to her father. He wouldn’t meet her eyes and then she knew it was true. “Why?” she asked in confusion rather than anger. He took a pair of scissors to a page, ignoring her. She took a deep breath trying both to calm herself and handle the pain her outburst had caused her body. No one said anything.
Adrian cleared his throat, “He’s scared.”
“Scared?! Why the hell is he scared?” She knew her father wanted peace but she also knew that what the Hunters did was important. Until he could get the vamps to the table, Hunters had to continue the fight. He was doing his part, she needed to do hers.
“I thought I’d lost you,” her father gave her a look that managed to be determined and sad at the same time.
She felt the rage deflate out of her, “Dad, this is my choice.”
“So you’re just going to throw your life away for glory?” he asked in a harsh voice.“You think that’s what this is about? When I was little I heard all the stories about you and the other Hunters. Courage, righteousness, adventures and heroism - it all sounded so amazing, but I’m not some wide-eyed five year old anymore. I know what going on the Hunt means. I want this because it’s right, and I can save lives. Last night a woman was almost killed… made into someone’s meal for nothing other than being pretty. We saved her. She is alive because of us. That’s why I want to do this. Not for some childish sense of notoriety. I thought you knew me better than that.” She stared at her father in disbelief. She couldn’t stand to look at him anymore and hobbled away to her room.