Author’s Note: Spoiler Warning. The following entry references specific events taking place in the novel The Matriarch: Guardians.
For the longest time after I killed him, Hector remained bitter toward me. I couldn’t exactly blame him.
Since then, I’ve dreaded his appearance after visiting Becca and Denton, his two surviving foster children. The usual conversation that followed was a critique on my non-existent parenting skills, but the main reason for my visits was to ensure the kids were safe and provided for — and to ensure Denton’s permanent ghouling wasn’t affecting him too adversely.
The truth was I had no idea what I was doing; all I had were pavement-quality good intentions.
On a particular Friday night, I had just said my goodbyes and was leaving their foster residence when Hector appeared to me in the car.
I heard him before I saw him. “This isn’t working.” When I glanced over at him in the passenger’s seat, he seemed older than his usual middle-aged self, again wearing his favorite pipefitters union windbreaker.
“If this is another critique,” I replied in the nicest tone I could fake, “can we skip ahead to the part where you tell me I’m not qualified?”
His expression suggested he was also struggling with niceties. “This is something you can do. He needs a mentor.”
I kept my cool. Mostly. “So, after all the times you’ve said I wasn’t…”
“As a Vampire,” he clarified.
Huh. Okay, he surprised me. “Except Denton’s not a Vampire.” We were hoping he wouldn’t turn into one, either. Our researchers at Cedarcrest Sanctum theorized he might still become one if he died, completing the interrupted transformation.
“But he is different.” I’d only ever heard that tone of concern once before from Hector — the night he told me to take his life to save Becca’s. “He’ll listen to you. He knows you struggle with what you are. He can sense it.”
“He’s in middle school,” I argued. “How am I going to relate to anything he’s dealing with?”
“Do you think he can relate to anyone at all his own age right now? He’s close to Becca, but she doesn’t have your perspective — not to mention you’re the adult.”
“Why not Eric or Cole?”
Hector chuckled. “I noticed you left Travis off that list.” He became serious again. “No, Denton is more trusting of…female authority.”
“What does that even mean?” It sounded ominous.
“It has to do with how he wound up in foster care. It took him a long while to warm up to me.”
“Oh.” I decided if more details weren’t being offered up, I didn’t need to know them.
We both sat in the car quietly for a few moments outside of the home. A mentor? Like a big sister? Besides worrying about craving a snack, I couldn’t imagine myself working closely with kids anymore; my old life plans of becoming a grade school teacher had been murdered with me. Even the idea of being trusted alone in a classroom full of temptation made me shudder.
Hector spoke again. “I want to help you help him. It has to be you. I can’t help if it isn’t.”
I couldn’t help but smirk. “So you need me.”
“Denton needs you — because I can’t be there for him except through you.”
That sobered me up. I looked back toward the house and noticed two pairs of eyes staring out from the dining room window. Becca and Denton were probably wondering why I hadn’t left yet, but it made sense to present the idea to Denton while I was still there. I paused just as I was about to open the car door.
“What are you waiting for?” Hector asked.
“I was wondering what kind of activity I could suggest we do together, like a bonding exercise.”
“He used to talk about those Matrix movies, the kung fu fighting. I introduced him to some old Bruce Lee films, too. If we could have afforded it, I would have liked to enroll him into a Judo class or something, but I was also afraid of him getting hurt.”
I smiled. “I don’t think that will be a problem anymore…the money or him getting hurt.”
“A little discipline can go a long way.”
“For both of us,” I added, raising a suspicious eyebrow at the ghost. “So if I do this, are you finally going to lighten up on me?”
“Hell no.” Hector’s tone was gruff as always, but there was an unusual hint of joy. “Not even a little.”
Keep each other safe.