|Chapter 7: The Wrath of Knives|
Meryl: Vash and I were sitting at the kitchen table, nursing cups of coffee. “Vash, tell me about your people,” I demanded. “The Plants. Call this crazy, but Knives’ grudge almost makes sense if humans are abusing Plants like he told me.”|
“Don’t listen to him-he’s paranoid,” he replied.
“I wouldn’t listen, but Milly and I have to take our turns watching him!”
“Since Knives and I were raised like humans, we can’t imagine existing the way most Plants do,” Vash explained. “But the ones I’ve talked to-they really don’t mind. Being one with energy puts them in touch with the universe. It’s a different form of existence, but it’s not an unhappy one.”
“Could you control people’s minds the way you said Knives can?” I asked.
“I dunno,” he stated, somewhere between somber and flippant. “I never tried.”
“Why not?” I pressed, as he stood up and walked to the window.
“Because that kind of power is addictive,” he said, gazing outside. “I could use it once, for a good cause-then I’d start using it for less worthy reasons. To get money, sex, power…”
“I don’t think you would-”
“It’s a weapon, Meryl. Some weapons are better left unused.” He turned from the window. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it,” he said with a sigh, collapsing back into his chair. “I just don’t see how I can rehabilitate Knives.”
“Vash, surely you know by now you can only encourage people to change-you can’t make them.”
“But if I don’t convince him, the world could be in danger again.” He rested his chin in the palm of his hand. “And I can’t kill him.”
No, you can’t, I found myself thinking. But maybe..maybe someone else can. I imagined myself holding a derringer to Knives’ skull. No, I couldn’t do that. Not after that speech I gave the townspeople on why they had no right to kill Vash. I shuddered at my wicked thoughts.
“What’s wrong?” Vash asked curiously.
“Nothing,” I lied. “Chilly, I guess.”
“Seems plenty warm to me.”
I hurried to change the subject-to anything else! “Did you see the puppies this morning? They’re getting so big, so fast!”
“Vash,” I began seriously, leaning forward over the table. “I heard somewhere that you and Knives are immortal. That can’t be true, can it? But you’ve acquired scars from wounds that should’ve killed you.”
He sighed. “I don’t know what our life span is. And I guess we are plenty more resilient than humans. But I’m sure I’ll die someday. I mean, if I were in an explosion, I’d be blown to bits, wouldn’t I? How could I recover from that?”
“I see. But, Vash, I still think we ought to increase how many people are with Knives at one time.”
Meryl: Knives, to be frank, gave me the creeps. Most strongly, I felt his virility-I suspected he would have raped me if he could have gotten away with it. He looked like Vash, I suppose, but somehow he seemed so ugly. Same kind of face as Vash, yet…I guess your personality can help or harm your looks.
Milly: Meryl and I were taking our turn watching him. He appeared to be sleeping, but we both had our weapons at the ready-that’s how much we trusted that loser!
Meryl: Outside the room, I could hear a commotion. “Grandma!” Vash cried. “Why are you pointing that gun at me?” My confused husband-to-be walked into the room, backwards. Grandma Sheryl was pointing a gun at his chin. Lina followed. She had a handgun that Sheryl had given her upon her last birthday.
Milly: I had been watching all this, stunned. Vash wouldn’t do such things, would he? No, of course he wouldn’t. I glanced over at Knives. He had one eye open, as though winking at me, and a slight, sneering smile, as though his victory was ensured.
Meryl: Sheryl still had her pistol aimed at Vash, but her hand was shaking with uncertainty. I retrained my derringer on Knives, who just smiled coolly. “Oh, you won’t kill me. Vash won’t let you. See, it’s more dangerous to be under his influence than mine. Just shoot me-I’ll recover, then this will start all over again. I’ve spent most of my life recovering from one-”
Meryl: So, like a shepherd boy had taken down Goliath with just a slingshot and some stones, the supposedly all-powerful Knives had been rubbed out by a child. It turned out that Lina hadn’t been under Knives’ full control all along. When the strong-willed girl recognized his intrusion in her head, she pretended to go along, trying not to think too much so that he wouldn’t read her true thoughts. When the opportunity presented itself, she attacked. She knew Vash wouldn’t approve, but she realized that Knives would never reform. She carried a grudge against him not only for what he had done to Vash, but also to Wolfwood. She was fond of Wolfwood for having helped her out.
Milly: When she grew up, she became a Ranger, red coat and everything!
Meryl: And grandmother Sheryl lived with us the rest of her years. But getting back to that time when Knives was killed…
|Chapter 8: Right Now|
Meryl: I was in my waiting room, with my Mom, Milly, and Peg, the lady who was doing my hair and makeup. I sat on a salon chair, and in a moment of giddiness, spun around. “I’m wearing white! And I really can wear white!”|
“Have you told Vash about your thomas riding accident?” Mom pestered.
The one where I broke my hymen. I sighed. “Yes, Mother.” It had been an awkward thing to bring up to him.
“Oh, you mean--?” Milly began.
“It’ll make it easier for you tonight, dear,” Mom continued. “Not only comfort wise, but if he knows, he won’t get suspicious.”
“Mom, can we talk about something else?”
“What-are you afraid to talk about sex with your own mother? I’m the one who got that book off the shelf when you were thirteen and taught you everything.”
“So, you like talking about sex with your relatives?” I wondered irritably.
“Well, not all the time-”
I smiled in triumph.
“But this is a most appropriate time!” she finished, beaming in victory.
Meryl: We held the wedding outside on the grounds of the town’s largest landholder, who lived outside the town proper. It was actually a fairly normal wedding. I wore a pretty country bridal gown, which I tripped over, and Vash was decked out in a tuxedo. I must say, he looked good in black! Milly was my maid-of-honor, but there was no best man or bridesmaids. If Wolfwood were still around, Vash said he would have picked him as best man, but, well, you know…The vows were standard. It was all perfectly tame, of which we were glad.
Milly: I never told Meryl this, but I came in the annex to find her and Vash, and I could hear them, um, carrying on.
Meryl: You what?
Milly: Oh, it’s okay. I certainly didn’t hang around! I hightailed it out of there, and just told everyone they were “busy” or “couldn’t come right now”.
Meryl: Well, the reception wasn’t that bad, actually. Although I was annoyed at having to chat it up with Karen. “So, Meryl, how’d you get your hair all sweaty like that?” she asked. “I’m really into beauty secrets.”
Do you believe my Mom, after all that teasing me about I was going to have sex, actually chided me for not waiting until after the reception? But I don’t think Vash could have waited any longer. I don’t know what he’d been up to all those years before I met him, but since I met him, I don’t think he’d seen any action-of the sexual kind, that is.
That night, Vash was like a whimpering puppy, trying to apologize. He thought I must be really mad at him, and that our marriage was already in jeopardy.
We didn’t go out of town for a honeymoon-someone suggested Jeneora Rock, with its scenic giant stone windmill, but Vash promptly turned the idea down-too many bad memories for him.
Speaking of Milly, in spite of all the wedded bliss, one night I found myself crying bitterly. At first, I could not answer my husband when he asked, “What’s wrong?”
Vash awoke to find me putting on my clothes.
I don’t know why, but that was the best time since the first time we made love. After a little rest, we were inspired to finally brave the real world again. It was Vash, actually, who made the first effort. He glanced out the window. “Oh, look, it’s almost noon! The diner should be serving lunch soon. Let’s go!”
|Chapter 9: Baby Boom|
Meryl: Now that Knives was out of the way, we were no longer tied to No Name Town, so we decided to move on. But what city or town would accept us? At first, we drew blanks trying to think of where to go. But then the answer struck us all at once-a place that didn’t curse Vash, but adored him. Inepril. |
When we got there, the townspeople for the most part were still friendly, instinctively knowing Vash wasn't really to blame for Augusta and the Fifth Moon. We secured a house there. There was a bedroom for Vash and I, one for Milly, one for Lina, and one for Sheryl.
As Milly’s pregnancy grew more and more obvious, I felt myself growing protective of her. Strange, I hadn’t known how I would feel about it-resentful that she achieved this stage before me, perhaps? I don’t know. Or maybe I’d still be upset she was no longer an innocent maiden, and still sore at Wolfwood for deflowering her? But what I felt instead was a nurturing kind of sisterhood. I had to protect her; I had to care for her.
It wasn’t long before I had another reason to feel empathetic. I’d been having problems-feeling queasy and the like. When I mentioned it to Milly at a lunch date, she piped up with, “Gee, that sounds just like morning sickness.”
I didn’t finish the rest of my meal.
Not long after visits to the doctor, I sought out Vash. He was sitting on the front porch step, just idling time away. I knelt down behind him, putting my arms around him. “Vash? You remember when we were talking about having children?”
“I don’t suppose we should, Meryl,” he said, sounding distracted.
“The decision is no longer in our hands,” I stated, sitting down one step above him.
He looked around, curious. “‘The decision is no longer in our hands.’ Hmm..what do you mean by that?”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re the one who’s supposed to have superhuman intelligence. You figure it out!”
Puzzled, he thought a moment. Or two. “You’re infertile?”
“Oh, Vash, you’re such a moron!”
He pointed to himself. “I’m infertile?”
I banged my forehead against his. “Listen Vash we are having a baby,” I stated, my words punctuated by contact with his thick skull.
“A little less than nine months.”
“Oh, okay,” he said casually, then stared ahead, as he had been doing when I found him.
I looked at him, dumbfounded. This was his reaction? I was about to smack him, when he gasped, leaping to his feet. Suddenly, he started laughing maniacally. I couldn’t tell if he was delirious with ecstasy or if he was insane from angst.
“Meryl, Meryl!” I went over to him, and he hugged me fiercely. Tears were streaming down his face, and I realized he was ecstatic. “My sweet, sweet Meryl.”
“I thought you didn’t want a child.”
“It’s not that I didn’t, I just didn’t know how he or she would turn out.” He stroked my belly. “But now-now that the child is here, I’m going to love every minute.”
I sighed in relief, and rested my head against his chest.
“Um, one more question,” Vash began.
“Can we have sex when you’re pregnant, or is that taboo?”
“Oh, you’re too much!”
Melinda: So, I take it Vash was an affectionate husband?
Meryl: To say the least! He never took me for granted. He was a lovesick puppy!
Melinda: Ah, that I should be so lucky! To have a legend love me and a man so caring!
Milly: All rolled into one!
Meryl: But I still am amazed that he saw anything in me! I’m frumpy-hardly glamorous!
Melinda: But back then-
Milly: She wasn’t glamorous then, either!
Meryl: Oh, and you were?
Melinda: Let’s get back to the subject of babies. Tell us about when the son of Nicholas D. Wolfwood was born.
Milly: I woke up one morning, bathed in sunlight, which came pouring through the window. It felt so good; I stretched in it and luxuriated in it. The suns’ brightness in my eyes reminded me of how Nicholas and I had made love in time with the coming of the dawn. The feel of the suns on my skin reminded me of how I had lay snuggled against his warm, bare body.
Milly: Not long after, Meryl was with me as I lay on a bed at the Inepril Clinic. Vash was in the building, too, but Meryl had kicked him out of the delivery room. “Oh, Meryl, I don’t think I can do this!”
Milly: I’ve heard of some mothers being so mad at the pain labor causes them that they swear revenge on their men. But it wasn’t like that with me. This was about all I had left of Nicholas. I was in agony, but the pain was bittersweet, and, to be honest, my moaning reminded me of similar noises on that night nine months ago. It was, if you pardon my pun, a real labor of love.
Milly: I was holding my pink and tiny baby, who was wrapped up in a blanket. Meryl and Heloise were cooing over him.
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