Soul Bracelet

Alexandra felt certain that the heat was literally melting her flesh from her bones as she sat in front of the wheezing fan. This summer had been particularly brutal and the weatherwoman predicted no break in the heat on the horizon.

“Seriously, Grandma Jean, can we turn the freaking AC on?” The fan distorted Alexandra’s voice making it all the more pitiful.

“Language, young lady.”

“Freaking isn’t a curse,” she muttered under her breath.

“It’s the intent. And that’s all the more important given our abilities.”

“Yeah, yeah. Like I’m going to start a fire by saying freaking.” She’d heard the speech far too many times in the last year living with her grandmother. “About the AC?”

“I’ve managed to survive living here without air conditioning for a decade, I think you’ll be able to survive your next few years.”

“Then let me go to my friend’s house.”

“That boy is not your friend and no. There’s no point in becoming too close to humans, it’ll just make it harder later. Besides, it’s my birthday and I want to spend it with you. How about we go for an ice-cream later?”

“I’m not a child who can be bribed with sweets.”

“No, but you have inherited my sweet tooth. Now come on, let’s go to the basement. I have a gift for you.”

Alexandra felt her nose twitch in anticipation of the scents that would assault her when they descended those stairs. She wanted to argue, but it was Jean’s birthday.

“You’re supposed to get gifts, not receive them on your birthday grandma.”

“It’s my birthday and I can damn well do as I please.”

“Language?” Alexandra laughed.

“I’m older than eighteen and it’s my birthday.” She flicked on the light to the basement and flounced down the stairs in all her pink fluffy glory.

How she was ever a Guardian I’ll never know. Maybe she was only one in name, Alexandra thought as she was assaulted by scents that varied from vanilla to bergamot and lavender to sandalwood.

“I know it’s here somewhere,” Jean opened a velvet lined wooden chest and rustled through contents that clanked and rustled. She lifted out a tarnished-silver handled dagger and dug around some more.

“Ah ha!” She pulled out a flat black jewelry box with scuff marks in several places. “Here you go.”

“Uh… thanks?” Alex gently took the box from her.

What? Are you expecting it to bite you or something? She thought when she felt nothing more than its simply weight in her hand.

“Well open it girl, it’s not for show.”

The box revealed a shiny wire charm bracelet that looked remarkably like Jean’s.

“Uh, thanks. Now we have matching bracelets.”

“It was supposed to be your mother’s but she left rather than accept the burden and privilege of being a Guardian.” Jean reached into the jewelry box and plucked the bracelet out. With a tinkle of her own jewelry clicking together, she fastened it around Alex’s wrist.

“What does this have to do with being a Guardian?”

“That is a family tradition.” She touched the bracelet. “Each charm represents someone different. This one here,” she fingered a small diamond charm, “used to be an earring of a brand new Architect of Lore. She had become overwhelmed with her lust for human blood. She should have been taught better by her Maker, but she wasn’t. So I took her life.”

Alexandra nearly missed the last sentence. “Say what now?”

“It’s our responsibility to protect both human and Architect alike.”

“So each of those…”

“Each one is a reminder of the life I’ve taken.” Jean’s bracelets jingled and Alex realised for the first time that Jean was far more than she had ever realised. “Each is made from something that belonged to my targets.”

“Holy shit.”

“Language.”

“I think a little cursing after the bomb you just dropped on me is allowable. You’re a bloody mass murderer!” Alexandra flung her hand out to indicate the countless bracelets whose tinkling had suddenly taken on a haunting melody.

“Come on now Alexandra. You certainly didn’t think Guardians kept the Architects of Lore secret through words and smiles?”

“No…”

“And how do you propose we keep the humans safe from Architects?”

“Why can’t they just police their own?”

“Come on Alexandra, don’t be naïve. You know very well that Architects can be feral beasts when they go rogue. Most are caught by Clan Enforcers, but for those who aren’t we are the last line of defence for the unwitting humans.”

“It’s funny that you can make killing more people than Ted Bundy sound like a charitable thing.”

Grandma Jean’s jewelry tinkled as she laughed. “You have a way with words, Alexandra.”

“I just…” Alex searched for words to explain the emotion that was threatening to smother her.

“It’s overwhelming. I know. It’s why I didn’t stop your mother when she decided to turn her back on her people and live among the humans.”

“And if I choose to follow suit and leave?”

“I hope you don’t.”

“Why?” Alex folded her arms over her chest.

“Because you are a bright, gifted young woman and our community would greatly benefit from your presence. But you still have a year left to decide.” Jean waved a hand as if to physically push the discussion away.

“So this is my murder bracelet.” Alex looked down at the seemingly inoffensive silver bracelet.

“I prefer to think of it as a soul bracelet.”

“Well here’s to hoping mine remains fairly empty.”

“That would indeed be nice, but you’re a Firestarter and life’s a bitch.”

“Grandma!” Alex exclaimed at the curse.

“What? It’s my birthday. Oh. This is yours too.” She tossed Alex the tarnished blade. “It’s for rituals and stuff, oh and it belonged to your great-great-grandmother. She was a bit of a self-righteous cow, but she’d love that you were using it now.”

“Grandma!”

“What? Let’s go get some ice-cream and absinthe to celebrate.”

“Uhhh, I’m too young to drink.”

“Haven’t you heard, Alex? It’s my bloody birthday.”

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