Fatima hated these parties. Her father, Shane Hicks, and her mother Ruth Hicks, always forced her to attend them. She sulked in the corner as she watched the adults talking, wishing she was out of the baby blue dress they had forced her to wear. Her long hair hung to her shoulders in bright blonde curls and were tied at the nape of her neck with a white ribbon. She rested her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands, huffing in irritation. As much as she loved her parents, she wished they would just let her do what she liked to do which was get filthy in the mud with the boys. Her parents were very respected in the community, in the country. Everyone loved them with the exception of the Rutherfords. They were another high class, extremely wealthy family, but they would never carry the prestige that the Hicks had acquired.
“Why are you over here alone?” She looked up into the aquamarine eyes of her very best friend.
“Oh Lombard, I hate all this. I hate dancing and looking like a little princess. I just want to be normal.” She said as she stood, arms crossed.
He dropped down on one knee and smiled warmly at her. “How can you hate dancing? It is so much fun.”
“Not when they try to make me do it. Fun things aren’t forced.”
“You are absolutely correct. I am sure your father would not mind if I took a moment to ask you for a dance.”
“Really?” She clapped with joy. She grabbed his hand and pulled him into the middle of the large group of people. She was a lot shorter than he was so he let her stand on his feet. The song was fast and fun. He spun her around and around until she was laughing so hard tears were in her eyes. He always made her happy. The song ended and she stepped off his feet. “Thank you Lombard.” She hugged his waist and gave him her brightest smile.
“Now, go and find your mother while I get drinks for our guests.” He said and patted her shoulder.
“Yes sir.” She saluted him and ran off. She found her mother talking and laughing with a group of women. She hated the other women’s laugh. They reminded her of a bunch of hens, clucking away for attention. Her mother’s laugh was bright and happy and lit the room. She grabbed her hand and Ruth looked down, smiling warmly at her only child.
Lombard moved through the room with a tray of wine glasses. He kept his gaze straight ahead, never making eye contact for more than the briefest of seconds. These people did not respect him the way the Hicks did. He was part of their family even though Shane was usually incredibly strict. He often said Lombard was a one of a kind zombie. He was more human than humans. His father and grandfather had said the same thing. He enjoyed his life with this family. Ruth and Shane had been just as understanding as their predecessors and little Fatima was an angel. She was always so kind to him and was wise beyond her years. He served as her protector and archery coach. A young man waved him down and took two glasses of wine. He couldn’t help but catch the mild look of disgust. He believed this was because he had taken the liberty of dancing with Fatima when he should be working. He shrugged it off, knowing that if any man were to say a word to him that Shane Hicks would be there to defend him.
“Fatima dear, why don’t you play with the other girls?” Ruth said sweetly.
Fatima rolled her eyes. She didn’t want to hear them jabber on about who they had a crush on and who they were going to marry and how cute whoever was. She hated that. Even worse they would look at her like she was a venomous snake or like she had some sort of brain disease when she talked about how much fun Lombard was. They had been taught from birth that maids and butlers were like dogs, there to be ordered around and used for whatever the master of the house saw fit. She hated how stuck up they were.
“Do I really have to?” She asked, looking up at her mother pleadingly.
“Just for tonight please.”
“Oh alright, for you and father then.”
“Thank you dear.”
“You’re welcome mother.” She walked off, looking for the other girls.
Fatima sat there listening to the other girls prattle on about boys, one in particular Gregory Rutherford. They all thought he was cute, charming even. She rolled her eyes. She couldn’t stand Gregory, had even been quite clear on the fact, but he often followed her around and flirted with her. He was twelve and already acting like his father. “What about you Fatima, what do you think?” A girl named Alice asked.
“Oh why even ask her, all she can talk about is that stupid butler.” A girl named Sasha replied, making the others giggle.
“He’s not stupid.” Fatima snapped, coming angrily to her feet. “He’s my friend.”
“Butlers are just dogs in nice clothes.” Alice spat and Fatima felt her hands balling into fists.
“Take that back right now.” She screamed.
“Does he wag his tail when you talk to him?”
Fatima jumped on her, hitting her on the nose so it gushed blood. Alice screamed and cried, the other girls scattered, trying to stay away from the enraged girl in the baby blue dress. She was suddenly pulled off of Alice and out of the play room. She looked up to see her father and felt immediately ashamed. She had promised to be good and here she was breaking that promise.
“Lombard,” her father said over the noise and he walked quickly over to Shane, “young Alice Hannigan has had an accident please get her a rag for her nose and take her to her mother.”
“Yes sir.” He bowed and then moved off.
Her father took her upstairs and into her room. He released her arm and she stood there staring at her shiny black shoes. “Fatima, what happened?” He asked and she glanced up at him. He didn’t look angry.
“She called Lombard a dog in nice clothes then asked if he wagged his tail. I told her to take it back. I’m sorry daddy, so sorry.” She answered, her hands clasped nervously behind her back.
“If the little brat deserved it then the little brat deserved it.” She looked up at him and even though his face was serious, his eyes danced with amusement. “Now, go wash your hands and get back downstairs.”
“Yes sir.” She did her best to keep from smiling. He left and she went to the adjoining bathroom to get the blood off her fist.
Lombard could not believe Fatima had very nearly broken another girls nose. He didn’t even know why. He had not had time to ask. He saw Fatima coming back down stairs and made his way quickly over to her. There had to be a reason she had lost control of her temper. She looked down at her feet when she saw him and he grabbed her gently by the arm and lead her into the kitchen.
“Why did you punch that girl?” He asked calmly.
“Because she called you a dog.” She answered softly.
“You must learn to ignore them. She said that to get a reaction.”
“She got one, that’s for sure.”
“Next time just walk away. I do not take what they say to heart and neither should you.”
“Good girl. Everyone will be having dinner soon and I want you to promise me you will be on your best behavior.”
Fatima stayed near her mother until dinner time. She sat next to Ruth and ate happily once everyone was served. She loved the food. She had watched the cook many times and was learning all of his dishes very quickly. Her mother and father were proud of her for taking the initiative. There were many who looked down on her for being abnormal, but she didn’t care. She was who she was, her parents loved her for it and Lombard respected her. She cleaned her plate and waited patiently while the table was cleared and dessert was brought out. She noticed that both Alice and her mother kept glaring at her from the other end of the table. She smiled and gave a little wave.
She ate dessert, smiling when she realized it was her favorite strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting. She wondered if Lombard had asked the cook to make it since he was in charge of deciding what was for dinner. After dessert it was time for their guests to go home. She was supposed to stand by her parents at the front door and say good bye to everyone. It was her favorite part of nights like this. She stood happily next to her mother as everyone passed by. Alice and her mother moved quickly out. Gregory Rutherford came up to her and took both of her hands in his then kissed her on the cheek.
“It was really nice to see you Fatima. Your father said we have the same riding coach. Maybe we could get together some time. We are both homeschooled. We may as well learn together.” He said with a smile he thought was charming.
She pulled her hands from his and said, “We will see.”
After everyone was gone her mother took her upstairs and helped her out of her dress and into her nightgown. Ruth brushed her hair and then braided it. She pulled back the blankets and let Fatima crawl inside before covering her. “Would you like me to get Lombard to read to you?” Ruth asked.
“Yes please.” Ruth smiled and kissed her forehead. She was happy her daughter had bonded so well with Lombard. She had latched onto him from the moment she could walk. Ruth left and a few minutes later Lombard entered with a book. He sat down next to her and showed her the title. Little Red Riding Hood. She loved this one. He flipped it open and began reading. She giggled when he made the wolf’s voice extra deep. He was the best story teller. When he finished he sat the book down on he table next to her bed and gave her a goodnight hug.
“Sweet dreams.” He said as he stood and walked out of her room.
“Sweet dreams Lombard.” She whispered as she fell asleep.
Fatima ate as slowly as she could, not wanting to see Gregory. Her mother asked her to hurry since Gregory and his mother would be arriving soon. She pushed her plate away and gulped down her tea. She wiped her mouth and followed her mother to the front door. There was a light knock and Lombard opened the door, bowing as Catherine Rutherford and Gregory entered the house. She sighed, but greeted them with a curtsy. Despite having families that had always been rivals Catherine and Ruth were the best of friends. They decided out doing each other was for the men.
“Fatima’s riding coach should be here momentarily.” Ruth said and she and Catherine hooked their arms together and began walking to the library.
Fatima and Gregory followed them. She couldn’t help but notice he was staring at her. She rolled her eyes and kept looking straight ahead. She couldn’t wait until she was on her horse instead of standing next to him. Half an hour later her coach showed up and she and Gregory went with him to the stables. Two horses had already been saddled. Fatima’s horse Splash whinnied happily as she approached and allowed the stable boy to boost her into the saddle.
“You don’t ride side saddle?” Gregory asked as he pulled himself onto the other horse.
“No, I do not.” She answered and lightly kicked her horse so it walked out of the stable.
“How very unlady like.”
“Alright, lets see a trot.” Fatima clicked her tongue and Splash moved into a trot. She smiled when she saw Gregory having trouble. “Good Fatima, Gregory be easy not rough. Alright now a run.” She whistled and Slash took off at a dead sprint. She turned the horse, hooves kicking up mud. She raced back to her coach and pulled on the reigns so Splash reared up on her back legs. She settled back down and she patted the horses neck. “Very good Fatima. Soon you won’t even need me anymore.”
“Come now Mr. Larson I will always need you around. What if I forget something?” She smiled brightly and he smiled back. Gregory did not look happy that she was outdoing him and she was glad.
“Why don’t you ride the horses around for awhile practicing your jumps.”
Fatima amazed her coach with every jump and even making Splash march. She had a lot of love for her horses and treated them well. She allowed her body to respond to the movements of the animal rather than fight it. Mr. Larson called them back in and they walked the horses back into the barn. Fatima swung off and handed the reigns to the stable boy. She thanked her coach and made her way to the back of the house where Lombard had set the archery targets.
“The butler is your archery coach?” Gregory seemed disgusted and she almost slugged him right in the mouth.
“He is an amazing coach. No one can out shoot him.” Fatima stuck up for him with her words instead of her fists.
“You talk about him all the time. Do you have a crush on him or something?”
“No, I just respect him.”
She smiled at Lombard as he took off his coat and draped it over a chair on the patio. He handed her a bow and then helped put her quiver on. He did the same for Gregory. They took their positions, backs facing the house. “Get your arrow, now aim.” They both did and drew the arrow back. Gregory let his fly, missing. Lombard frowned but said nothing to him. “Remember Fatima just breathe and take your time. You have all the time in the world.” She breathed slowly in and out, focusing on the target. Everything seemed to slow down and she let the arrow fly. It spun and imbedded itself in the middle of the target. She jumped excitedly. “Very good Fatima. Both of you keep going until you have no more arrows.”
Lombard was very proud of Fatima. She was so confident in her abilities. The young boy Gregory made him a bit angry. He didn’t like how the boy constantly hounded Fatima. He was surprised she had not beat him until he was running screaming away from her. He believed she had took his words to heart and was trying to let it go. She hit the bullseye of the target every time, jumping with happiness. When she finally used her last arrow he took the bow and quiver from her. He would retrieve the arrows momentarily. He took the equipment from the boy too and sat it all on the ground.
“You should both head inside. Your reading lesson will begin in about twenty minutes.” Lombard said politely and Fatima gave him a hug then took off with Gregory close beside her.
“Maybe you can show me around while we wait.” Gregory said with his not so charming smile.
“Uh sure I guess.” She replied, not really wanting to, but wanting to be as polite as she could.
She showed him around the downstairs, taking him through the kitchen and library where they would have their lesson. She showed him the den and the living room. She took him upstairs and pointed out Lombard’s room and then went to her room. She took him inside where he looked at her ceramic horses and stuffed wolf she slept with. He turned and walked over to her, stopping a couple of feet in front of her.
“This is a very nice room. No love notes or anything from boys?” He said as he leaned down to stare at her.
“I’m ten so no, not yet.” She wanted to slap him.
“Most women are getting married at seventeen or eighteen. Seven more years and you’ll be mine Fatima.”
“Don’t count on it.”
He glared at her and she glared back. He might be the son of the second richest man in town, but she didn’t have to take his crap. “I will be talking to your father when the time comes. If he says yes then there is nothing you can do.”
“You are sorely mistaken. My father would never force me into anything.”
“You bloodsuckers are all the same. You think you are so much better than us humans. I’ll show you who is better and when I am head of this household, that little butler will be out on the street.”
“I would gladly follow him.”
She glanced at the clock on her wall and saw it was time for her reading lesson. She pushed passed him and walked out her door. She couldn’t stand Gregory and his snobby ways. He was nothing but an idiot with a big ego. She hurried downstairs to the library where her mother and Catherine waited. She sat down in a chair and her mother handed her a copy of Cinderella. She handed one to Gregory and she had them read to her, taking turns with each paragraph. They finished the story and Ruth told them how proud she was. She put the books away and they got ready to go. Fatima was very happy. She curtsied as they left and then sighed happily once their car pulled away.
“Everything okay Fatima?” Ruth asked.
“Just starving mother. Can we eat dinner in the garden tonight and can Lombard join us?” She looked up at her mother hopefully.
“Of course we can dear.”
She hugged her mother, squeezing tightly. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Lombard carried dinner out to the garden. It was sea bass with rice and broccoli. Shane asked Lombard to sit and join them. He hesitated for just a moment, but did as he was ordered, eating happily. He had already filled up on human meat, but he was willing to spend time with the family when he got to. “How did my princess do with archery today?” Shane asked.
“Excellent sir. She didn’t miss a shot.” Lombard answered then took another bite.
“How about horse back riding Fatima?”
“Mr. Larson said I may not need him soon.”
“Amazing sweetheart. Reading?”
“She was amazing. She has such a beautiful reading voice.” Ruth replied with a warm smile.
“You are growing up so fast. I can’t believe you are already ten. Have you thought about when you would like to get married?”
“You and Lombard are the only men I need in my life.” Her father laughed and patted her hand.
“My sweet angel, just what I wanted to hear.” She loved her father with all of her heart. He was such a sweet man even though he acted serious in front of others.
They talked until it was passed her bed time and Lombard quickly cleared the table. Ruth carried her upstairs and helped her out of her clothes and into her night gown. “Lombard will be in shortly my sweet. Please get some rest after your story. We are going to the Rutherford’s tomorrow.” Ruth said and kissed her forehead then left. Lombard came in with a book and read to her until she fell asleep. He hugged her and left the book by her bed like always. He believed if the book stayed then the story would follow you into your dreams.
Fatima woke on her own the next morning. Her mother would want to leave after breakfast. She called for Lizzie and she helped her dress in a deep crimson dress with a black bow at her lower back. She left her hair down and rubbed sunscreen on her face, neck and hands. She helped her into a pair of black pantyhose and then her boots. “You look so beautiful little miss.” Lizzie said with a smile.
“Thank you Lizzie.” She replied then headed downstairs to the dining room.
Her parents and breakfast were both waiting. She ate quickly and drank the cup of blood. She wiped her mouth and waited patiently for her mother. She didn’t want to go to the Rutherford’s. She didn’t want to spend the day with Gregory listening to him talk about how they would be married some day. Her mother finished eating and they both hugged her father.
“If that boy gives you any trouble I want you to show him what a Hicks is really made of.” Her father said and kissed her cheek.
“I will sir.”
Lombard was waiting for them out by the car. He handed Ruth in first and then Fatima. She was really disappointed he wasn’t going with them, but she knew he had work to do. He smiled at her as the carriage pulled away. She stared out the window, her chin resting in palm of her hand. She watched the world slip by, admiring the way the sun made everything glow with so many different colors. Her father had developed the sun screen that shielded them from the sun’s harmful rays. He had wanted Fatima to be able to enjoy playing outside like normal children. She sometimes wished he had not so she wouldn’t have to be in the presence of a boy she despised.
The driver rolled to a stop and jumped down to help them out. She followed her mother up the front steps and waited as she knocked on the door. It was opened by a man who looked at least sixty. She smiled at him, but he didn’t smile back. Catherine and Gregory waited for them in the entry way. She curtsied and gave them the best smile she could muster. “Gregory would you like to show Fatima around while Ruth and I talk?” Catherine said.
“I would love to.” He offered his arm and Fatima took it because their mothers were standing there. She let Gregory take her away and waited until they were out of sight before letting go of his arm. “You don’t like touching me?”
“No, I don’t because I don’t like you.” She replied.
“You will learn to. Father says all women learn.”
“Your father is an idiot.” He grabbed her arm and spun her to face him.
“Do not speak about my father that way.” He snapped and she saw his other hand ball into a fist.
“Get used to the truth. You are both spoiled brats.” She jerked her arm free and continued walking through the house. He followed angrily and she ignored him. The Rutherford house was beautifully crafted with very dark woods and wonderful detailing. It would never be as amazing as her home. Around noon they were called for lunch. Fatima practically ran to the dining room. She sat down and ate a little bit of fruit salad. Gregory was still glaring at her, but she didn’t care. She hoped he would hate her enough to stop flirting with her. After lunch Fatima found her way outside to their garden. It was beautiful and well maintained. She loved the tulips and lilies. She breathed in their scent, let it wash over her.
“I could give you all the flowers in the world.” Gregory said from behind her.
“But not all the love in the world. I could never love you.” She didn’t turn to face him, just continued to admire the flowers.
“Who says you need love to get married. We are from two of the richest families, we don’t need love.”
“Is that the same crap your father spouts to justify why he cheats on your mother. She loves him though and takes his crap.” She turned to face him and he slapped her. It was a shock at first, but it soon turned to rage. She slugged him in the face once, twice, three times and he was knocked back so he fell on his butt in the grass. “No one touches me.” She screamed and took off running. She quickly found her mother and demanded to go home.
“What happened sweety?” Ruth asked, worried.
“Please I just want to go home.” Fatima said and her mother nodded. She told Catherine bye and they headed to the car.
“Honey tell me what happened.” Her mother said once the car pulled put of the Rutherford’s driveway.
“Gregory slapped me so I knocked him on his butt.”
They rod the rest of the way in silence. Once they were home Fatima let herself out of the car and ran inside and upstairs. She got out of her dress and pulled on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. She needed to calm down before she cried. It wasn’t because she had been slapped, it was just adrenaline. She grabbed her sunscreen and reapplied it then went downstairs. Her father was waiting for her at the bottom of the steps and she ran into his arms. She cried for what seemed like forever.
“I am very proud of you Fatima.” Shane said and hugged her tighter.
“I know I promised to be good, but he hit me. You sad no one should hit a woman.” She looked up at him and he wiped her face.
“I’m going to have a talk with his father. It will be the last time he ever lays eyes on you.”
“Thank you daddy.”
“Now, why don’t you go have a drink. Have Lombard get you some blood.” She kissed her father’s cheek and ran off to find her closest friend. She found him in the library reading a book.
“Hello Fatima, is everything alright?” He asked as he marked his place and sat the book down.
“It is now. Could you get me a drink please. You know how daddy is about me going in the walk in freezer. He’s always afraid I’ll lock myself in.”
“Of course.” He stood and held out his hand. She took it happily and lead her into the kitchen. He had her wait as he retrieved a bottle of blood and brought it out to her. He twisted the cap off and handed it to her. She took a drink and got goosebumps from the cold. “Now, tell me why you and your mother are back so early.”
“Gregory slapped me.” She replied.
“He what? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I beat him up.”
“Good girl. I hope you did a real number on him.”
She smiled happily. “You would have been proud of me.”
“I’m always proud of you Fatima.” She hugged him and he told her he had to get back to work.
Fatima heard her mother calling her name and hurried out of the kitchen. “Yes mother.”
“Your father wants to see you in his office sweety.” She said with a smile.
She hurried to her father’s office and pushed the door open. She was surprised to see Gregory and his father sitting there. She froze on the threshold and Shane motioned for her to come to him. She walked across the room and stood next to him. “You wanted to see me daddy?”
“Yes princess. Gregory has something to say to you.” Shane replied calmly.
“I’m sorry I hit you.” He mumbled and crossed his arms. His eye was black and there was a bruise on his cheek.
“What about your daughter?” Mr. Rutherford asked.
“What about her?”
“Look at what she did to my son’s face.”
Shane stood and she saw Gregory jump. “Your little brat touched her first. He is lucky all he got was a black eye. The next time he even tries to touch her, I will come after him myself.” Shane said cooly. “Now take that little monster and get out of my home.”
They both stood, neither of them looking happy. They turned and left. Shane sat back down and hugged his daughter. “You should eat dinner sweetheart then go to bed. You have had a long day.”
“Yes sir.” She kissed his cheek then walked happily out of his office. She ate dinner quickly and then raced upstairs, getting ready for bed on her own. She waited patiently for Lombard and he entered soon after with a book. It was Peter Pan. He sat down and started reading, his deep voice soothing her. A quarter of the way through the book she drifted off. Lombard smiled and sat the book next to her bed.
“Sweet dreams little princess. Tomorrow is another day.” He kissed her forehead and left quietly, knowing his life would never be dull with her in it.