She climbed into the big canopy bed and snuggled her favorite teddy bear close. His name was Bart and he wore faded denim overalls, one strap fastened with a safety pin. He was also missing an eye but the little girl wouldn't sleep without it.
Her daddy pulled her blanket up under her chin and kissed her on the nose. She giggled; his beard tickled her face. "Tell me a story, Daddy."
He perched on the edge of her bed and crossed his arms in his lap. "And what story would my princess like to hear," he asked his accent a shadow of the past.
"You know," she said, a sly smile on her lips.
"Now, now that is no story for bedtimes. You will be awake all night with bad dreams."
"No I won't," she said. She sat up in bed and cradled Bart in her arms. "I like the story; it doesn't scare me."
"You like it, eh?" Her father bestowed on her his secret smile. In truth it was more of a smirk. Right lip raised slightly to expose an endearing dimple beneath his moustache, his cupid's bow lips pursed so it looked like he was pouting. "I forget you are fierce, like she was."
"So you know I'm not scared. It's more of a love story, anyway."
He touseld her hair. "What do you know about love?"
"I know that real love is worth fighting for. Tell me about Mama."
"I was a mercenary, part of a group of soldiers hired by her father to protect his family. She was young, seventeen when we first met but I had just turned nineteen myself. She was beautiful, a mass of curly hair like an untamed lion. She had cat shaped eyes, too, deceptive eyes. Honey with flecks of green when she got her way, yellow, bright as the sun when she didn't. She had skin like pale honey and she was always warm."
He stared off into a corner of the room as though he could will...
... middle of paper ...
... crying into the house, passing over the unholy mess her killers made and found you in our bedroom. You were in your crib, next to your mother on the bed. She'd been..." He cleared his throat before moving on. "The blood had even sprayed you. The police came and took their reports but I knew who was responsible."
"And you killed them."
"Yes. Our neighbors had a large family; they agreed to watch you while I was away." He paused for a moment and then finished brusquely. "The mercenary who wanted to rape her the night she snuck out I disemboweled. Her father's throat I cut."
The little girl shook of her covers and crawled into her father's lap. He sobbed as she held him; his tears dampened the nape of her nightgown as she held him. She finished the story for him, whispering the last of it into his ear. "Because love is the only thing worth killing, and dying, for."
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