Friday Favorite: Girl Power

This is one of the favorite scenes from one of my works in progress. Yes, Apollo is the real Apollo from Greek mythology. Sarah is dating his son, Jack, who owns a music store in downtown Baltimore. They’re having this conversation on the rooftop deck of Jack’s apartment.

Apollo turned back to her. “So. Where were we?”

She stared at him for the longest moment. “Ah…close to death, I think.”

He looked insulted. “She came nowhere close. Now that war is imminent, their attempts to claim leverage will increase, but as you see, they lack the—”

“That was a female?”

Now he smiled and began to hang his bow across his back. “Had you a weapon and the knowledge, you could have defended yourself.” His tone turned a bit wry. “If you plan to draw blood from us on a regular basis, you should ready yourself for creatures who have been banished to this side.”

Soren killed the various creatures that regularly came after Jack. She’d never seen one attack from above, but it was going to make her think twice before relaxing on the roof again. She shivered, and this time the cold had nothing to do with it. “All the arrows in the world wouldn’t have helped me against that.”

He paused, then his eyes lit with fire. He lifted his bow again. “Try.”

Her breath caught. She felt his challenge in the air.

But still. “You just—you killed that…that thing, and you want me to pretend nothing just happened? What if more come? What if—”

“Every moment is a gift, Sarah.” He raised an eyebrow.

Next time, don’t take so long.

She reached out and grabbed the bow. It was heavier than she’d expected, the wood smooth and worn under her fingers. It felt comfortable in her grip, sturdy. Reliable.

Her thumb ran along the satiny length. She’d never been one of those people who could recognize what kind of wood something was, but this felt solid.

She had no idea what to do with it. The only arrow she’d ever shot had been part of a Fisher Price backyard kit at a neighbor’s barbecue, and the end had been capped in felt, with a plastic bow. She’d been six. The “arrow” had gone maybe four feet.

Had her mother known how to shoot something like this? Had she watched that young Sarah fail at shooting a plastic toy? Had she made a decision to deny Sarah her heritage, her opportunity to learn about her talents at a young age?

Had she been disappointed?

Sarah bit the inside of her cheek, thinking.

Apollo just stood there watching her. Waiting.

He hadn’t given her an arrow, and she didn’t want to ask for one. This was another test, she was sure. She stepped right up to him, reached over his shoulder, and pulled one from the quiver.

His eyes never left hers.

Sarah took a breath and swiveled around, trying to find a suitable target.

A target, she scoffed to herself. You’ll be lucky to fire it off the string.

She turned sideways. The building across the alley was higher than Jack’s roof. Even she couldn’t miss a brick wall, right?

She lifted the bow, trying to manipulate the nock at the end of the arrow to sit against the string, finally settling for letting it rest on her finger. She’d thought it would be easier to do this without looking at him, but now she was painfully aware of his eyes on her, watching her movements, knowing every error.

She drew back her arm, feeling her shoulders tremble.

Hands closed over hers, holding everything in place. “My son would be very displeased if I allowed you to shoot the fingers off your hand.”

“Me too.” Her voice was breathy. He stood close, right behind her, almost pressed against her back. He was warm and smelled like a lazy summer morning, and her body wanted to melt into him.

Focus.

His arms matched hers, his fingers pressing around her knuckles. He was strong; she could feel the muscled edge of his forearms under the bare skin of her own.

“Place this hand here”—he adjusted the hand holding the bow, practically prying her sweaty palm free to reposition it—“and lift your elbow a bit.” He pulled back on her hand, drawing the string with it.

“And,” he added, “we can do better than a brick wall.” He turned, and, being caged by his arms, she had to turn, too. Two blocks away was a billboard advertising internet access.

“There,” said Apollo.

She swallowed, knowing she’d never get it that far. His hands loosened a bit, still resting on hers, but enough that this was her shot.

“Commit to your target, Sarah.” His breath was warm against her cheek. “Anything less and you will fall short.”

She stared at the big C on the sign.

Commit to your target.

She took a breath. Blew it out.

“Fire.”

She opened her hand. The arrow whistled off into the night.

And appeared at the center of that big green C.

“Holy crap.” But then she scowled. “You did that.”

He was already pulling another arrow from his quiver. His voice was quiet. “You are not powerless, Sarah. Again.”

She sighted down the line of the arrow, putting her eyes on the O this time. The string was a heavy pull against her fingers; she could feel the strain in her arm. Like fighting with swords, her body was a part of the motion. She’d never fired a gun, but she imagined it would be nothing like this. Their weapons might be archaic, but there was an intimacy to putting her own strength into a weapon, something she’d never find with her finger on a trigger.

“If Gus intends to paint you as the aggressor,” Apollo said, “what you did cannot be undone. Fire.”

Bulls-eye!

Apollo pulled another arrow. “His power is simple words. They can wound, surely, but steel works so much better.”

More assured, she set the arrow herself this time, but she didn’t draw the bowstring fully. Talking to him was easier now that she had a task, now that she didn’t have to look at him. “You’re really not mad about what happened?”

He laughed, softly, almost under his breath. “Mad? I am furious. He seeks to undermine my House.”

“You think he’ll come after me again?”

“I have no doubt.”

“Why?”

“He could leave no clearer a message. He came alone, with no guardian. He does not see you as a threat. As I said, he thinks you are a pawn, something easily played. He believes he can use you against my House.” His voice gained an edge. “Right now, he can.”

She drew her arm back, pulling the string taut. His hand fell away from hers, and she hesitated, knowing the next shot would be hers alone.

She opened her fingers. The bowstring snapped and the arrow flew. “Tell me what you want me to do.”

With a crack, the billboard split and fractured at the point of impact. She gasped. Her arrow had gone right through.

Apollo smiled. “Make him regret it.”

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