“Could you tell me more, Mr. Anon? If you’re comfortable with that, I mean,” The woman asked me. “Of course. It’s been about five or six years now...” I thought back. I had been in a relationship with Emily for a few years at this point. We were living together in one apartment to save money. One day, out of the blue, there was some kind of accident. All over the world, women were experiencing something weird. Emily was one of the unlucky ones. She called me from her work, begging her to pick me up. I work from home so it wasn’t a huge deal. Twenty minute drive there. Emily had vomited and was now shuddering horribly. A few other women in her office were experiencing similar effects. I drove her right home, carried her inside and placed her on the bed. She was breathing heavily, her skin was red on her arms and legs, she kept scratching the top of her scalp. I had no idea what to do, “Are you in pain?” I asked, in a panic. She shook her head, “Uncomfortable,” She said weakly. “Can I get you anything? Water? Ice packs?” She shook her head again and reached her arms towards me, silently asking me to hug her. I sighed and climbed into bed with her. I hadn’t even gotten comfortable before she grabbed me in a bear hug. I held her head at my chest. Thankfully she drifted off to sleep quickly. I fell asleep after an hour of worrying about her. “Anon. Anooon,” I heard a voice call to me. I woke with a start, sitting straight up, “What? Are you okay?” It was three in the morning. I looked at Emily. I could hardly tell it was her. She had taken her clothes off, or they had been torn off. There were horns coming off the top of her head, leathery green wings spread out behind her, scales running down her arms and legs ending with clawed hands and feet and to top it off she had a tail as well. She had gotten taller, went from five seven to roughly six five. She pushed me back and climbed on top of me, pressing her lips against mine. She breathed heavily on my neck as she kissed me. She kept whispering things like ‘I love you so much,’ and ‘I need you, Anon.’ It was almost terrifying but I wanted her too. We had intercourse for the first time ever that night. I’ll spare you the details. I woke up to Emily squeezing me tight against herself as she woke up, “Anon?” She whispered. “Yeah?” “I didn’t hurt you, right?” “No, I’m fine. How are you holding up? She let go of me and rolled onto her back, “Honestly, I feel great!” She looked down at her body which had gone from kinda chubby to toned. She ran a claw over herself, “I look great!” She turned to me with a huge smile on her face. She looked down at me, running a claw through my hair, “You look great too Anon,” I saw a hunger in her eyes. “I hope you still like little ol’ me with that hot body of yours,” I joked nervously. “I could never leave you Anon,” I got grabbed in a really tight bear hug, nearly snapping my spine, “You’re MINE.” I laughed nervously again. “Emily come look at this,” I called Emily to look at the news. She stumbled over to me, still getting used to her new body. She came over to me and sat on my lap, nearly knocking the wind out of me. I played the news recording that I had found on the internet, “Our main news tonight, women all over the world being afflicted with a strange disease. This disease leaves them with horrible discomfort before their body is changed before they sexually assault their partner or even a stranger. The affected women are now being barred from public spaces as others hope not to come into contact with the disease. More news once we learn more.” I looked up at her. She brushed her long brown hair aside, “I’ll just have to work from home with you from now on with you!” She smiled at me and ran her hand through my hair. “I gotta do all the shopping now, huh?” I reached up and pat her head. Turns out Emily got pregnant. I expected her to be devastated, but when we found out she was delighted. Eventually, the ban on monster girls from entering public places ended. No matter where we went we got dirty, hateful looks. People were being fed information that people like her were the devil. Not like those fags would do anything. Emily was huge and intimidating. Anywhere we went together, she would clutch my hand with an iron grip. “Are you alright, Mr. Anon?” The woman asked me. “Yeah... Yeah, sorry. I just miss her, is all.” “What happened?” Nine months into pregnancy, she went into labor. I rushed her to the hospital. Thankfully the doctors were willing to work with us, excited for the chance to work with someone like her. We had converted our office into our daughters room, picked out clothes, everything. The only thing we didn’t have was a name. I was in the room with her as she was giving birth, holding her hand and all that. She was crushing the hell out of my hand by the way. Everything was going well. All of the sudden; Emily turns to me, tears in her eyes, “Take care of Bridgett, okay Anon?” She closed her eyes. I was physically forced out of the room before I knew what was happening. Hours later a doctor approached me. He explained that they didn’t know what went wrong. My daughter was in a very healthy condition. Emily didn’t make it. I got to hold her. Bridgett I mean. She had my dark brown hair and her mother’s blue eyes. I finally cried, holding my baby in my arms. Touching her little claws and horns. She was so cute. I practically had to beg for the money just to have Emily buried. My parents finally chipped in. Her parents wanted nothing to do with it. My entire savings and what little my parents would give me. Just an unceremonious burial. The attendees were myself, Bridgett and that kind priest who felt that someone needed to say some holy words, no matter who was being buried. I left peonies on her grave. They were her favorite. It was just me and Bridgett now, and I would fight for a good future for her. “Do you want to take a break, Mr. Anon?” “I just need some water.” Anyways. Bridgett grew into a fine girl. Ever since she could crawl, she would follow me anywhere I went. I couldn't take a crap in peace. She was like a cat, reaching under the door trying to get to me. If I put her in the crib she would scream and cry until I took her out. She demanded to sleep in my bed as well. My favorite thing ever was when she was big enough for me to put in one of those front facing baby carriers. See look at this picture of her! Ah, sorry. I’m getting distracted again. I didn’t have the momma dragon with me anymore so people were constantly trying to fuck with me, telling me my six month old was a menace to society and shouldn’t exist. It took every ounce of willpower for me not to buy a gun just to shoot these people. I would just aggressively tell them to fuck off and get bent. When she turned one, Bridgett decided she didn’t like it when dad got angry and figured out the best way to resolve any conflict I had with strangers was to spew fire in random directions until the yelling stopped. It was great. I had to get her to stop so I wouldn’t get thrown out of the store I shopped at. She refused to sleep alone, crying unless she got to sleep curled in a ball next to my face. Her first word was dada. Like I said, I work from home. I got to spend lots of time with her, which I’m thankful for. When she got old enough, she asked me why people were always getting angry at papa. What was I supposed to tell her? I told her that they just don’t understand. Don’t worry about them. That’s really it. I’ve been scraping by for a few years. Thankfully you all came through those portals and are in power now so she can have a good future. “I-I’m sorry, Mr. Anon. This must be difficult for you to talk about.” “It’s not that bad anymore. Things are different now thanks to people like you.” “Daddy are you going to marry this lady?” Bridgett blurted out as she ran into the room. Her bright blue eyes sparkled in the light . She wore a cute white dress with little watermelons on it and a green bow in her short brown hair. Less than a week ago the mamano force had come through their portals. This was after over a year of important individuals disappearing from numerous countries. World leaders vanished plummeting the world into a bit of chaos, ripe for the mamano force to take over. This was day two of these government agents visiting my home. The first day was a sort of census going around. When they saw Bridgett and I told them I was a widower, they said they would send someone else to talk to me about a partner pairing program. I had told Bridgett they were going to find me a wife. This succubus seemed important on account of having her own security detail. The census fold had been a group of four, all armed, “No, dear. She’s here to help me find a mom for you,” I explained, gesturing to the succubus sitting on the couch across from us. The succubus had blue skin, white hair and yellow eyes. The dress shirt and skirt she wore were a little too revealing for my tastes. “Oh! What about her?” Bridgett pointed to the large red oni guard that was with the succubus, “She’s totally daddy’s, uh, type!” The oni blushed and tried to distract herself by fiddling with her sword in its sheath and picking at her chainmail armor. “She’s married already, dear. As am I,” The succubus explained, “Mr. Anon. I just have a few more questions related to Bridgett here, then we can discuss a possible wife for you.” “Of course,” I nodded. “Hmm, what kind of schooling has she received?” “She has received preschooling from me. She will hopefully be going into kindergarten at the end of this summer.” “Mhm. Five years old, hm?” The succubus smiled at Bridgett. “Yeah!” My daughter shouted, spewing a little bit of fire. I grabbed her and set her on my lap, holding her tight. I really didn’t want her to light the woman on fire. “So, wife-wise, what kind of girl were you thinking?” “I just want a good mother for Bridgett here,” I explained, patting her on the head. “Mr. Anon. That is the easy part. I need to know what you want in a woman.” “Someone who will be patient with me, sweet, and caring I guess. Does that help?” “That narrows it down quite a bit, actually,” She wrote something down, “I will contact you again soon.” The woman stood up and waved at Bridgett, “Bye pretty ladies!” Bridgett called. They left. Bridgett locked the door behind them. “We need to work on your ‘not embarrassing daddy in front of the new world order’ skills.” “What does that mean?” I sighed, “It means you’re really cute, dear.” “I’m not cute! I’m scary!” She demanded. I was taking time off work as the world around me changed for the better. I was still stuck inside as monster forces put down any sort of resistance. Bridgett sat on my lap while we watched the local news. It had already been taken over by monsters, the host was now some kind of squirrel girl. She was detailing how minor countries were surrendering to the mamano forces. They were in control of USA, Russia, China and most of Asia quite actually overnight. There were a few countries that were trying to stay independent like North Korea. I wasn’t too thrilled that people were becoming second and third class citizens in some of these countries, or even flat out disappearing. But I remembered being yelled at when trying to buy groceries with my baby and then I realized I was fine with it. “Daddy, what was mommy like?” Bridgett asked during a commercial break where a monster couple were walking on the beach with two kids. I didn’t know what the ad was for. Probably just trying to get men to marry monsters. “She was a very beautiful woman. My childhood sweetheart. Sweet, caring, loving...” I tried not to think about her too much. Bridgett reminded me so much of Emily when we were younger. It almost hurt me physically. “Do you miss her?” “Everyday,” I hugged my daughter and turned off the news. I got up to go shower but was interrupted by a knock on the door. Before I could move, Bridgett dashed over and opened the door. It was the succubus from yesterday along with two guards this time. The same oni and an armored tiger woman. “Good morning!” Bridgett greeted them. “Good morning to you, dear,” The succubus replied. She turned her gaze to me, “Mr. Anon I am sorry for coming here so early. My department has decided to fast track you through the pairing process after hearing your story. I have multiple girls for you to choose from!” She seemed very excited and gave me a large smile. She sat on the couch near me and quickly opened her briefcase. I was handed a stack of files. I spread them out on the coffee table in front of me. Roughly fifteen to choose from, “This is kind of overwhelming,” I told her. “Take your time sir. If you have any questions feel free to let me know.” I thought about asking about what happened to those people who vanished before monsters came through the portals. I decided against it, “Lady, can I get you some water?” Bridgett asked. “Yes please, dear.” I narrowed it down to three. I was sure the others were wonderful ladies, but I didn’t think they’d be a good fit for me or my little dragon. I had narrowed it down to a kikimora, a lamia and a weresheep. I browsed through their files one more time. They all seemed like what I wanted in a mother for Bridgett, but I needed to pick one. The kikimora was a skilled chef and loved to clean. The lamia was a successful business woman. The weresheep worked for the new world government. There was something in the weresheep’s bio that caught my eye. She couldn’t have children of her own. It wasn’t expanded upon. I had already lost one woman in my life to childbirth. I was terrified to lose another to it. I held up a photo of the weresheep in a cute dress for Bridgett to see, “What do you think?” “She looks fluffy. Does daddy love her?” “Daddy hasn’t even met her yet. I think we’ll like her.” “Have you made a decision Mr. Anon?” The succubus asked me. “Yeah. This one,” I handed the file to her. “Wonderful, excellent choice. I can have her here later today, is that alright with you?” I wasn’t sure how fast I could be ready. I was so desperate to feel love again from another adult that I told her, “Yes, that will be fine,” This felt like some prostitution ring. I was almost uncomfortable. The succubus took her leave once more. I guess I looked really sullen, because Bridgett reached up and pushed my cheeks back forcing me to smile, “Be happy daddy!” I gave a small smile and a chuckle. I looked around my small home. Unwashed dishes in the sink, Bridgett had toys piled in a corner in the living room, I knew both of our rooms were a mess and that the bathroom could do with a cleaning, “We gotta clean this place up. Can you clean up your toys for me?” She nodded. I got to cleaning the kitchen while Bridgett cleaned up her toys and helped me unload the dishwasher. We cleaned the upstairs next and the bathroom. We both got showered and dressed. Bridgett was wearing in a light blue dress with a white bow in the back. I wore black dress pants and a light blue polo. Bridgett pouted, “Daddy I don’t want to look cute! I’m a dragon, I’m scary! Raaawr!” She stood on the couch and breathed a little bit of fire. “You’ll scare off your new mom doing that. Just try to be friendly,” I pat her head gently. She still pouted as smoke billowed from her nose. I anxiously awaited my guests arrival. Bridgett kept making fun of me, “Daddy’s got a girlfriend,” She giggled. “I haven't even met her yet!” I cried, “You’ll have a boyfriend some day, then I’ll make fun of you,” I threatened. “Boys are gross,” Bridgett told me, going back to playing Wii Sports. She liked the bowling game a lot. I spent most of my time browsing my phone anxiously. The wait was killing me, “Daddy, can you play with me?” I nodded and took the remote from her. I absentmindedly waved the remote around to throw the bowling ball, “Daddy. What’s wrong?” “I’m just really nervous, dear,” I got down on one knee in front of her, “Daddy’s not exactly popular with ladies.” “Like when they yell at you at the grocery store?” “Those aren't ladies, my child, those are walking garbage heaps,” I said with a smile, “I mean real people who can actually feel love.” “Like the blue and red ladies?” “Exactly.” Her ears perked up, “Car!” She ran to the front door and looked out the window next to it, “Daddy the sheep lady is here!” I couldn’t see my daughter’s face because she had it pressed against the window, but I knew she had that big goofy smile on her face. My heart pounded in my chest and sweat formed on my brow. I took a deep breath and thought back to the prom with Emily. She told me to just fake confidence, fake it till I make it. I watched Bridgett bounce up and down waiting for our guests to get close enough to the door. Bridgett cracked the door open and poked her head out, “Hello!” She yelled at our guest. “Oh, you’re so cute! Is your father here?” I assumed that was the weresheep. “I’m not cute! I’m scary!” The woman laughed, “Alright, alright darling. May I come in?” “Mmmh, yes. You may,” Bridgett threw the door open for her. I had seen how cute she was from the photos earlier, but I wasn’t ready for her otherworldly beauty in person. She had cream colored hair that was straight on top and curly as it neared the shoulders. She had light brown curly horns coming out of the sides of her head. She had light green eyes above rose colored cheeks and full lips. Her neck was covered in a fluffy ring of wool that matched her hair. She wore a plain light green shirt, white skirt and a small bell around her neck. Her forearms and ankles were also covered in wool and her legs ended in hooves. She had a duffle bag in her hand. We stared at each other, waiting for the other to make a move. Bridgett wasn’t having any of that. She grabbed the weresheep by the hand and drug her over to where I stood. Her face lit up red as we stood two feet from each other, I knew mine was red too. Smoke poured from Bridgett’s mouth, “Daddy! Say something to the lady!” She shouted. “H-hi,” I stammered. So much for faking confidence. “I-its nice to meet you,” She gave me a nervous smile. “Are you two getting acquainted yet?” The succubus entered through the door that had been left open trailed by that huge tiger lady from earlier. She dragged a large sack in behind her. “They’re both scared,” My daughter had sold us out. “You two are adorable! I’ll leave my number, if you have any problems don’t hesitate to call me,” The succubus set as piece of paper on the stairs, waved at us then left, leaving the large sack and another duffle bag behind. “What’s your name, lady?” “G-Gwen. What is your name, darling?” She introduced herself. “Bridgett. Daddy’s name is Anon. He likes computers.” “I can introduce myself,” I said quietly. I looked down at my feet, my mind was racing on what to do next. “Gwen can I get you some water?” Bridgett asked. I have no idea why she asked everyone that. “Please. Go as slow as possible doing it,” Gwen told her. As soon as my daughter had walked into the kitchen I felt soft fingers touch the side of my face, “Are you well?” I looked up at her. She looked so concerned, “I-I’m okay. Thank you.” “You don’t look okay. I heard your story, Anon. I’m so sorry.” “Its not like you killed her, Gwen.” “She wouldn’t have died if my kind hadn’t been doing those experiments.” “Don’t feel responsible, please.” “I could say the same to you,” She put her other hand on my face, “The guilt and pain is so plain on your face.” I just stared at her for a few moments, unsure how to proceed, “I- You-” “It wasn’t your fault. If I was in the same position as you, I’m not sure I would be able to carry on. I know I can’t replace her in your heart. But I hope I can fill that void in your heart at least a little bit,” She smiled at me before wrapping her arms around my neck and holding on tight. I just wanted to fall asleep surrounded by her soft wool. I hugged her back and rested my head on her shoulder. Her neck fluff was incredibly soft. “I’ve got the water!” My daughter shouted as she entered the room, startling the two of us. We broke the hug and awkwardly stood next to each other. “Bridgett, could you go set the table for three? I’ll start dinner soon.” “Okay!” She ran back into the kitchen, taking the water with her. “She has so much energy,” Gwen said to me. “You’ll get used to it. I hope.” Bridgett was pestering Gwen while I prepared dinner. Gwen had never even heard of video games and that's all Bridgett wanted to talk about, “Bridgett, can you talk to her about something else?” I asked her, trying to save Gwen from my daughter. “Okay,” Bridgett paused for a moment, a devilish grin spread across her lip. She leaned over to Gwen and whispered something. I could hear her mocking tone but not exactly what was being said. “Bridgett,” Gwen spoke quietly, “Your father has been through a lot in a few short years. He has every right to be sad.” “Dinners ready,” I told the two of them. I had cooked up some chicken breast and made a nice salad. I sat across from Gwen with Bridgett to my right at the circular table. As expected, Bridgett went for the chicken and Gwen had salad. Gwen thanked me quietly and Bridgett asked when we would have burgers next, “I haven't been to the store in a while. The whole world being thrown on its head will do that to a guy.” “I hope you two haven't had to go hungry,” Gwen said apologetically. “Nah. I always have too much food to be honest.” “Daddy thinks he’s going to have friends over but never does.” I clenched my fork, “I’m sure your father will soon, right, Anon?” Gwen asked. “I don’t have friends,” I said darkly. “Daddy I finished my chicken, can I go?” Bridgett showed me her clean plate. I nodded as I put my head in my hands. Bridgett placed her dishes in the sink and ran off. Gwen looked at me, “Does she always talk to you like that?” “We tease each other a lot. Only recently has it been hitting way to close to home. She’s only five. She doesn’t understand what she's doing.” “Are you alright?” She reached across the table and put her hand on mine. I pulled away from her, “No. I’ve given up so much. I’ve lost so much,” I rubbed my face. “I- I know what loss feels like, Anon. Its okay to feel sad. May I clean your plate for you?” I nodded and Gwen took my plate to the sink. “I think I’m ready for bed,” I got up. Gwen came up behind me and gently put her hands on my shoulders. I recoiled and pulled away from her, “I was just going to ask if you wanted me to rub your back...” “I’m sorry. I’m just on edge,” I sighed. “That’s alright. Oh! I’ve brought something for you,” Gwen’s eyes lit up. She went into the entryway. I followed, “I brought some items that I made,” She reached into the bag that had been dragged in earlier, “Here!” Her eyes lit up as she handed me a pillow and a blue wool blanket, “I made them both myself. The blanket is made of my wool and the pillow is full of my wool.” The blanket was really soft and so was the pillow, but also kept its shape when weight was applied, “Thank you. Is this, uh, your wool?” She laughed, “Of course! I would have made you pajamas but I didn’t have time to knit it, nor did I know your size.” “That sounds really nice,” I rubbed my face against the wool and let the tired feeling take over. It did a really good job of staving off the sadness. She laughed again, “Are you going to fall asleep standing up?” I nodded and moved to the couch, “Anon, are you planning on sleeping here?” “Yeah,” I stretched after I sat down. She looked at me in disbelief, “But you have a bed...” She thought for a few moments, “Oh, you’re just nervous about sleeping together,” A sly smile on her face. “N-no, that’s not what it is.” She gave me a small laugh as she walked over to me, her bell jingling. She sat on my lap facing me, “Anon. I’m all yours,” She ran her fingers through my hair. She gently pushed my chin up, forcing me to look her in the eyes. She was giving me bedroom eyes, “Anything you want, dear,” I could see nervousness in her eyes. “This is going a little too fast for me, Gwen,” I told her. It felt like I was having heart palpitations. “Sorry! Sorry!” She rolled off me onto the couch and sat next to me. Her expression had changed from sexy to nervous-- maybe afraid even. “Gwen,” I sighed, “What’s going on?” “I... have no idea what I’m doing. I see girls catch men by acting sexy or charming or forcing it. I-I don’t want to force you, Anon.” “I thank you for that,” I took her hand in mine, “I do think that you’re charming, Gwen. I’m just so slow to... befriend someone.” She clutched my hand, “I know. I see the pain and wear on your face so clearly, I just want to hold you and tell you everything will be alright.” “You look pretty sad yourself. You said earlier you knew about loss.” Gwen looked at me and clutched my hand with an iron grip, “I don’t want to talk about that right now, Anon. I don’t want to ruin this feeling of meeting a great person for the first time,” Her expression changed from sadness to a small smile, “I know that you want a mother for Bridgett, but you need someone for yourself too. I want to be a mother for your daughter... and at least a friend to you.” “Thank you. Gwen, I want to be a husband to you. You look like you need me just as much as I need you.” We sat in silence, looking at each other sheepishly while holding hands. Gwen finally spoke, “You’re so cheesy,” She laughed. I laughed too. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- “Anon, can you play that for me again?” “Of course, Emily. You sure like John Denver, huh?” “No, that’s not it... I just like your voice when you sing to me.” “Alright, alright. Here’s my cover of Annie’s Song. More like Emily’s Song. Heh.” “How does Annie sound?” “Huh?” “For our daughter, dummy! You could play that song for her all the time!” “Its a love song, dear. Her boyfriend could sing it. I’m not too keen on singing a love song to my daughter.” “Mpph, fine. What song could you sing to her?” “There’s always Rocky Mountain High.” “What about NOT a country song?” “Maybe some Led?” “Mmmmm. Sure. Can you play Going to California? Oh, oh! Hotel California!” “Okay. Here’s Wonderwall!” “ANON NO!” “TODAY, IS GONNA BE THE DAY--”
I woke up from the dream. Another memory of Emily come back to haunt me. Why now? Why does it have to happen more frequently when I know I need to let go? I glanced around the room lazily. It was just me here. Alone. The two girls had gotten up. Gwen had given me space last night and Bridgett slept with her head on my shoulder. I tried to get her to sleep in her own room for once but she wasn’t having it. I rolled over and checked my phone. Eight in the morning. Three more hours than I usually get. Sunlight streamed into the room over curtains. I got up and let the light flow into my room. I looked outside. The world around me was starting to look a lot different. More monster girls were out on the prowl of course, I watched as a group of heavily armored monsters busted into a neighbor’s home. I turned my attention elsewhere. The trees were starting to change, looking gnarled and black, a small creek was starting to turn a pink color, and vegetation was starting to encroach on any available soil. I assumed the monster energy was doing this. They had basically bombed us with their energy before arriving in this area. Anywhere with any sort of significance had turned to a monster controlled territory overnight. The sun never rose and the moon was a blood red. There was nothing humanity could do as more of the female population turned into something they didn’t and couldn’t understand. Then, their main force arrived. Any monster who was already here joined up quickly. Firearms, vehicles, electronics in human territories ceased function as magic and monster made steel rained down on human troops. I can’t call it a massacre, as almost no humans died in the conflict. The metal that monsters used only incapacitated on strike. Human forces were no match in hand to hand. I snapped out of my reminiscence. How long had I been standing here? I looked again at my neighbor’s home to see her get dragged out kicking and screaming and thrown into a horse drawn carriage. Despite having my town forcibly taken over by a magical force, I was feeling more at ease than ever in the last six years. I honestly did hope these people were being dealt with humanely, at least. Do any monster girls actually eat people? I asked myself. I doubted it. They seemed like nice people. Nicer than the humans I’ve had to put up with in the last few years. I got out of bed and started looking for my daughter. Her room was empty. Her laptop was out on her bed, it was cold. I headed down the stairs. I could hear Gwen and Bridgett talking in the kitchen. I eavesdropped, “Two cups of all... purpose... flour. You bake with flowers?!” Bridgett exclaimed after misreading. “Wrong kind of flour dear. What else do we need?” Gwen asked. “Two eggs.” “Thank you. What do you think about your father?” “Oh, I love daddy. He’s really nice. Except when the trash people start yelling at him at the store.” “Why do the, ‘trash people’ yell at him?” “...Me,” Bridgett sniffled. I knew the crying tone. “Bridgett, don’t cry. Shh, it’s not your fault. Those people can’t bother him anymore. They’re gone now.” “Where-where did they go?” “Don’t worry about it dear. Now, would you mix this bowl for me?” “I can do that!” Her tone had changed to one of excitement. I stomped near the bottom of the stairs to make my presence known, “Daddys up!” I walked in the kitchen and stretched, “Morning,” I mumbled. Bridgett was standing on a chair at the counter, mixing ingredients in a bowl. “Good morning, Anon. You’re looking much more rested today,” Gwen gave me a cheeky smile. She was watching my daughter and giving her tips on proper technique. “Looks like wool of yours might be magic after all,” I joked. “Daddy, I wanted to give you breakfast in bed,” Bridgett mourned. I walked over to her and pat her head, “I don’t want to make a mess on my new blankets. I’d rather eat with the two of you anyways,” I looked down at the grey-brown viscous liquid she had mixed together, “What are you making?” “Pancakes. You used to make it all the time.” “It was all her idea,” Gwen told me. I sat down at the dinner table and eagerly awaited my breakfast. “Oh!” Bridgett hopped down from the chair and started rummaging through drawers. She grabbed a pen and a notepad. Gwen and I both watched as she cleared her throat and walked up to me with a smile on her face, “Hello, sir. Welcome to-- Gwen, what's our restaurant name?” “Pancake... palace?” “Pancake Palace! Can I take your order?” I played along and thought for a few moments, “Can I get some waffles?” “No,” The smile dropped off her face, “You can have pancakes or you can leave.” “Alright, alright,” I got up, trying to leave. “Daddy, no! Come back!” She cried. She clung to my leg. She was big for her age, heavy too. She was young but she naturally had muscles. I sat back down and Bridgett regained her composure, “ I’ll take a stack of pancakes, please,” I told her. “That will be-- Gwen, how much for pancakes?” Gwen was standing by the stove trying not to laugh, “He can have them for free.” “Mmm. Okay. But just because I love you.” “I love you too, princess,” I gave her a kiss on the forehead. Bridgett grabbed the chair and pushed it to the stove. Gwen instructed her on how to make the pancakes. Bridgett turned the stove on and touched the pan with her claws. Gwen freaked out, then realised that she was immune to it. Gwen took a deep breath and resumed her instructions. The three of us sat at the table and spoke quietly. Bridgett was talking about the Pokemon anime. Gwen tried her best to follow along. I kept out of her monologue. The pancakes were dry and a little burnt, just the way bridgett liked it. I covered up the taste with peanut butter and syrup. Gwen did the same, “Thank you for the food, Bridgett,” Gwen thanked her after clearing her plate. “Yeah, it was good,” I followed up. Bridgett beamed at me. “I think you’ll be a great baker when you grow up!” Gwen’s compliments made her smile even more. I took Gwen’s plate and got to doing dishes. She tried to stop me, “Gwen, you did the cooking. I can clean up at the very least.” “Okay, I will allow it just this once.” “Daddy, what are we doing today?” Bridgett asked as she finished up her food. “Shopping?” Gwen suggested. “Yeah, we need food,” I told them, “What exactly do you eat, Gwen?” “No meat. That’s really it.” “Daddy, I want burgers! And fries!” Bridgett interrupted as she threw her plate into the sink. “Sure, dear. We can do burgs soon. I’ll have to make something else for Gwen though. Anything you’re hungry for?” I asked, picking up Bridgett and giving her a kiss on the head. “Mmmm, I’ll have to look. I’m not very picky.” “My car won’t start,” I told Gwen, charging back inside after trying to get my car started up. Gwen and Bridgett were still getting ready. Gwen was doing my daughter’s hair in braids. Something I had never been able to do. Gwen wore a black shirt with what I guessed was the name of a band on it; Maddie’s Hatters it was a purple whimsical logo. Her shorts were a matching purple and the coat she wore was a light brown. She left it open so people could see the shirt. Bridgett wore a red shirt and dark blue jeans, “I heard that might happen. I’ll call someone to pick us up,” Gwen told me. “Are we gonna like... magic over to the grocery store?” I was confused. “No, no,” She chuckled, “It’s completely mundane.” “That’s a little disappointing,” I shrugged. “Daddy wants to be a wizard,” Bridgett explained. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, dear, but you can’t be a wizard,” Gwen told me apologetically. I looked at her, disappointment on my face, “You have to be a virgin for a very long time to achieve it.” “Well. I’d rather have my daughter than magic,” I told her. “What’s a virgin?” Bridgett asked. Gwen and I started sweating. “I’ll tell you when you’re older,” I said quickly. Bridgett pouted and Gwen laughed at me. “Hairs all done!” Gwen sang. “Thank you, Gwen!” Bridgett hugged her. Gwen looked overjoyed, “Any time dear. If you want me to do your hair more often, just let me know,” She hugged Bridgett back, “I-I’m going to call a cab.” “Are you crying?” I asked. “N-No! I’m just really... happy,” She left the room quickly. “Gwen is funny,” Bridgett told me. I nodded, “Daddy, do you like her?” “She’s really nice,” I fiddled with my phone. “You didn’t answer the question,” Her voice was monotone, almost upset. “I’m warming up to her. Its hard for daddy to feel again,” I sat down at the table. “You miss mommy again, huh?” “I always miss her, princess. She left a hole in my heart that I don’t think will ever be filled.” “Then why is Gwen here?” She tilted her head to the side. Genuinely confused. “You need a positive female role model in your life.” “But, what does daddy need?” “You ask a lot of questions,” I was getting frustrated. “You don’t answer a lot of my questions.” “I don’t know what I need.” “Tell me!” She demanded. “Bridgett--” I started, trying to stop her. “Tell me!” She demanded again. I broke, “I just need a friend! Okay? Is that what you want me to say? Admit that I’m a pathetic, lonely loser?” I shouted. I put my head in my hands. The dark, sad feeling returned to my soul. I stayed there, sulking for a few minutes. I could hear Bridgett sniffling in front of me. Eventually, I heard the noise of hooves on tile; Gwen. I looked up finally. Bridgett stood in front of me, tears in her eyes. Gwen stood behind her, hands on Bridgett’s shoulders. She looked so guilty, “Bridgett, don’t cry. Please. I’m sorry I shouted.” Bridgett gave me a hug, “Its ok, daddy.” “Do you want to talk about it Anon?” Gwen asked. “There’s not a lot to say. When monsters started becoming a thing, groups were quick to demonize them. I was told to turn my back on Emily by my parents and friends. So, I turned my back on them. My family tried to come back into my life when Bridgett was born, but I refused. I had a friend hit me up last year, but that fell through when I mentioned my daughter,” I explained in my usual monotone voice. “You’ll meet new people soon enough. Maybe you should get in contact with your parents again!” Gwen suggested. I scoffed, “They’re gonna blame me for monsters taking over, somehow. Or hopefully they disappeared. Either way I don’t care about them.” She sighed, “If my parents were still around I’d introduce you to them. They always wanted a son.” “You two are both so sad,” Bridgett said as she walked over and gave Gwen another hug, “I always see happy mommies and daddies on the TV. Why can’t you two be happy also?” “We’re working on it, dear. Thank you for caring so much,” Gwen dropped to her knees and wrapped her arms around my daughter. I sighed and got on my knees and hugged the both of them. We waited on the front porch for our ride. All the houses on my street were pretty much the same. Compact and cost effective. Other houses in the neighborhood were different with more bedrooms, bathrooms even a pool in some.The outside of my house was kept pretty well, the landlord of this area hired people to tend the grass and trees. I had a small lawn with a small tree. Next to the porch was a few small bushes. I couldn’t tell what kind they were. To me they were just green plants. I sat on the concrete steps up to my house with Gwen. Bridgett was drawing with chalk on the driveway. Gwen was telling me about her homeland, “Where I lived it was a lot like here. With less tech of course.” “So it was comparable to the medieval times from what you tell me. Though having magic seemed to stagnate scientific endeavours,” I thought aloud. “I do not know much about your history, but you may be right. We have a few monsters who deal with tech like gremlins but the bulk of monsters are content using magic in place of tech.” “Then why did you come here? I’m glad you did but I just don’t get it.” “The humans back home hate us. Religious fanatics who fight for their god. Taking them on would lead to horrible losses on both sides.” “So you came here, easily defeating humanity with your magic.” “Yes. Disabling your weapons and tech was easy enough and secured our victory.” “How did you get here?” “We came here as a combined effort from the humans there and monsters,” Gwen explained. “Why would they help you? They don’t seem like they like you,” I replied. “That's why they helped, to get rid of us. We moved here and all we had to do was send humans we didn’t want back there before we closed the portals for good.” “So that’s what happens to people,” I finally had an answer. “Well, not anymore. Most female humans get monsterized and the males are married off to someone.” “What do you mean most?” I asked nervously. “Some people just don’t come back. I doubt they’re executed but I’m honestly not sure. That’s not my department. I’ve heard rumors but I don’t want to look into it. I’d rather not know,” She sounded afraid as she explained. “What is it you do?” I was trying to change the subject quickly. “I’m a document analyst. I finalize official documents and publish them. I also sell wool products on the side. What is it you do Anon? I’m afraid I don’t really understand the title they gave you on the information I received.” “Freelance digital graphics artist. I draw on the computer. I make logos for people who pay me as well as drawing on commission.” “Oh! I understand now. Could you draw me?” She asked sheepishly. “I guess so. You did give me that blanket after all. I’ll work on it next time I have time off. I need to see if the people who commissioned me recently are still around.” “I apologize if your livelihood was jeopardized.” “Its not your fault. Don’t look so down,” I put my arm around her shoulders and gave her a small shake. “Daddy, look!” Bridgett shouted. I got up and walked to her. Gwen followed, “I drew us!” She had drawn herself standing between Gwen and me; holding hands with both of us. There was a large heart around the three of us. She had drawn all of us looking happy. “Wow! Good job, Bridgett!” Gwen praised her. “Good stuff, kid,” I pat her head as she beamed at me. I heard the sound of a horse trotting down the road, “Oh, that must be her,” Gwen told me. A horse lady-- a centaur trotted up to my driveway, “Long time, no see, huh, Gwen?” She said. She had long blonde hair, blue eyes and her horse body was black. She wore something similar to a skirt over her horse body and a red coat. She towered over me. She was pulling a cart behind her. “Yes, it has been some time. I lost track of you before we went through that portal.” “They had me moving gear around for the military while you were sitting at a desk, right?” She sighed, “Yes. Oh, Anon, this is Marie.” “This the guy? Huh. Hmm,” She looked me up and down. “Daddy, she’s HUGE,” My daughter said to me shaking my leg. Marie laughed, “I like this kid! You all hop in, I’ll get you where you need to go.” Bridgett, Gwen and Marie all talked all the way to the store. I sat in the back and rested my eyes. Bridgett kept asking how Marie got so huge while Gwen and Marie caught up. I took the time to look around. People mostly were traveling on foot or by carriages usually pulled by real horses. Open carts pulled by centaurs were less common. People were on walks, either wandering or traveling somewhere. Children played in the streets. I didn’t see a single car on the road. I didn’t see many humans either. Most of the people that were out were monsters. A few had human husbands with them, but not many. My store of choice had been renamed to Monster Market. I groaned. Marie parked herself out front and pulled out a book, “You three take your time, I’ll be here,” I climbed out and lifted Bridgett out then helped Gwen out. Bridgett grabbed Gwen’s are and dragged her inside. I lagged behind just watching them go, “Hey,” Marie spoke to me, “You take good care of her. She needs someone like you.” “I need someone like her too,” I retorted before walking away. The two of them were waiting for me just inside. I grabbed a cart and started pushing. We went to produce first and picked up a variety of vegetables and some apples. We slowly went through the store grabbing anything that looked good, “You look so tense, Anon,” Gwen told me. “I’m just used to dirty looks and some yelling when I come here. I’m not used to everyone being so friendly,” I explained. “Ah, well-- Wait, where’s Bridgett?” Gwen suddenly panicked. She was right, Bridgett was gone. I sighed, “She likes to wander off. Come on.” I lead Gwen over to the aisle that had candy in it. Just as I expected Bridgett was here, “Can you get me that pink one, please?” Bridgett asked a fox woman who was with her husband. “This one, honey?” She grabbed the bag and handed it to Bridgett. Bridgett thanked her and looked over the package, “No... I don’t like watermelon... Sorry.” The fox woman chuckled and took the bag back and put it back on the shelf, “Anything else you need, honey?” “Bridgett, are you bothering this woman?” I asked as I approached. “N-no...” She looked at her feet. “You gotta stop wandering off like this, you make me worried,” I scolded her gently. “She’s yours? She has such good manners!” The fox woman said to me. “I’m sorry if she was bothering you,” I apologized to her. “Oh, not at all. Take care now, honey,” The two walked off. I picked up Bridgett and put her in the cart, “You’ve lost your walking privileges. What candy were you looking for anyways?” She perked up, “The hot ones!” “Do you want anything, Gwen?” She shook her head. I could tell she was still panicking from Bridgett wandering off. I grabbed a pack of hot candy, some sour candy and some chocolate for Gwen. We got home quickly. A lot faster than I expected to by horse. Marie trotted back to my place, trying to get conversation out of Gwen. Marie looked pissed at me the few times she looked back at me, “Gwen,” I whispered, “What’s wrong?” No reply. Marie stopped in front of my home and I got Bridgett out again then turned to help Gwen. She wasn’t moving, just giving the thousand yard stare. “What did you do?” Marie seethed. “I didn’t do anything. Bridgett wandered off and she freaked out,” I explained. Marie’s gaze dropped, “She must be thinking about--” She stopped herself, “Take her inside, would you? She’ll come around.” I nodded. With Marie’s help I picked her up out of the cart and carried her inside. Bridgett was a big help bringing the groceries in. I set her on the couch to let her rest. I gently put my hand on her forehead. She wasn’t sick. The hopefull light in her eyes was gone, “Daddy, what’s wrong with Gwen?” “I don’t know. Let’s get the food put away and make something for lunch. What do you want?” I asked. “Burgers!” “That’s a dinner food. What else?” “Chicken sandwich!” “Go get the bread and meat out,” I turned back to Gwen. I gave her a quick hug. As I tried to pull away she grabbed me, silently begging me to hold her. I did as she asked, setting her on my lap and folding my arms around her. She put her face in the spot where my neck and shoulder meet, nearly gouging my eye with her horn. She smelled really nice, like flowers. I did the same thing I do with my daughter when she’s upset. I pat her head slowly and gently, held her close and whispered soothingly; “Everything is okay,” I told her, “Sssh,” I could feel tears on my neck. Bridgett came back over, she was about to speak but stopped herself. She climbed up on the couch with us and hugged Gwen. We sat there for what felt like hours, “Thank you,” Gwen whispered, finally moving. She removed herself from my neck and wiped her face. She looked at me, “I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.” I pat her head again, “You get to look forward to coming back to us though. I’ll have a nice dinner ready and everything.” “Okay. Can we have lunch?” She still sounded really sad and a little out of it. “Yeah. Let me get something together. Bridgett can you keep her company for me?” She nodded. “Here, Gwen,” I set a plate of fresh vegetables in front of her as well as some dressing. What little I knew about her diet was that she really liked salads. I followed a recipe from a book of Gwen’s blindly. I hoped it was good. “Thank you,” Gwen said me weakly. I put a chicken sandwich in front of Bridgett, “Thanks, daddy!” I slipped some vegetables in there. She didn’t notice as she gleefully at the sandwich, “Gwen, what’s wrong?” “Bridgett, let her eat in peace,” I told her. “No, its alright, Anon,” Gwen interjected. She glanced around trying to find the right words, “But, perhaps it would be best if Bridgett did not hear it,” Bridgett pouted in response. “I’ll give you your candy and an extra two hours of screen time if you give us some time,” I told Bridgett. “Okay!” She quickly finished up her sandwich. “Are you not eating, Anon?” Gwen asked quietly. “No appetite right now,” I explained, fiddling with my phone again. Gwen chuckled, “Worried about me, hm?” She gave me a sly smile. “Yeah. I have the capacity to empathise, okay?” I told her in a deadpan tone without looking up. “All done!” Bridgett got up and put her dishes in the sink, “Daddy, can I play the roller coaster game?” “I’m sure you know where it is, go ahead and grab it,” I gave Bridgett a pat on the head before she ran off. I turned to Gwen, “What’s up?” “I won’t beat around the bush, Anon. My family, mother, father and two sisters were all taken from me. The small, peaceful village I lived in was attacked by a group of religious zealots. I ended up losing track of everyone in the chaos. I ended up taking a turn that I know they didn’t and I managed to escape with a small group.” I was shocked. I took a few moments to speak, “Christ,” I didn’t have much to say. “Losing Bridgett at the store gave me flashbacks to that day. Screaming, fires, bloodshed... I saw all of it again,” She gripped her fork tightly, “I miss them, Anon.” “You said earlier that you don’t think you could have gone on if you were me. How did you?” “I didn’t lose a husband, Anon. That would have devastated me. This still hurt me but I knew I had to continue, its what my mother would have wanted. I was taken in by what is now our government. I was taught reading, writing, law, foreign languages and document processing. I was given something to do. Something important,” The guilt on her face, the sadness in her eyes and the tears on her cheeks made me feel for her. “You’re a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for. I don’t think I could keep going if I lost everything like you did,” I reached over and touched her hand. “But you did lose everything!” She pulled back from me suddenly. “I didn’t lose Bridgett. Without her what would I have?” Gwen looked at me with no response, mouth slightly agape. She leaned forwards and took a bite of vegetables. I felt slightly smug but did my best not to show it, “You’re a lot stronger than you think, Gwen.” “Thank you, Anon. Can I ask something of you?” I nodded at Gwen, “Can you... hold me again?” I smiled and shook my head, “Of course. Let me eat real quick. You better eat the food I made you as well.” “Daddy?” Bridgett was shaking me gently. I was lying on the couch with Gwen. Gwen had fallen asleep with her face on my neck. I had dozed off as well with my arms wrapped around her. “What’s up?” I asked groggily, reaching over and patting her head. “I’m hungry,” Her mouth was stained red from the candy. “What time is it?” I couldn’t reach my phone since I was stuck under Gwen. “Seven thirty. Are we still having burgers?” “Probably not, its a little late. Burgers will be for lunch tomorrow. Gwen, wake up,” I shook her gently. She grumbled and sank deeper into me. I shook her again, “Whaaat?” She asked quietly, yawning wide. Gwen always looked drowsy but this was on another level. “Its past seven. Its time for dinner.” “Can I cut carrots for you?” Bridgett asked. “I’m just going to hit the hay. I’ve got to be up early for work tomorrow,” She climbed off me and headed for the stairs. “Good night!” Bridgett shouted. Gwen waved back at her, “Daddy do you love her?” I turned to my daughter and crouched down, getting to eye level with her, “What about you, do you like her?” “Yes! I like her friend too!” She suddenly thought for a few seconds, “But she got mad at daddy. I don’t like that. I change my mind, I don’t like her,” She crossed her arms and frowned. I laughed and gave her a hug, “Marie was just worried about Gwen. Don’t be too mad at her.” “I don’t like it when people yell at daddy,” She growled. Her eyes went from round pupils to lizard-like slit pupils for a moment, reverting back after she blinked. It made my heart skip a beat for a moment. I had seen her mother do this before. I touched the left side of my body, memories of the burning returned to me, “Daddy?” I snapped back to the real world, “Let’s get a pizza heated up, okay?” “Extra pepperoni, please,” Bridgett demanded. I laughed, “Of course, princess.” I woke up to Gwen’s alarm. Her face was buried in my sleep shirt. Bridgett had actually slept in her own bed for once. I shook Gwen gently, “You gotta get ready for work, Gwen,” I told her, ruffling her hair a little bit. She looked at me, blinked, then put her face back in my shirt. I rolled her off of me, “Get up,” I was more forceful this time as if I was dealing with my daughter. “I’m awaaake,” Gwen yawned, sitting up and stretching, “Good morning, Anon,” She smiled at me, in a much better mood than yesterday. “Morning. Got everything you need for a shower?” “Of course. Go ahead and get more sleep, dear. See you later,” Gwen grabbed some of her clothes from her luggage and headed for the shower. I hopped up and headed downstairs, headed for the kitchen. I got a pot of coffee going. I loaded some of the salad I had made the other day into a container and grabbed a bunch of grapes and packaged those up as well. I wrote her a note telling her to have a good day with a big heart on it. I put all these things in a little bag for her. I heard Gwen coming downstairs. She was wearing a blue dress that went down to her knees that had patterns of pink and white flowers on it as well as a matching lightweight white jacket. “I told you to go back to sleep, Anon,” She told me, she actually looks kind of angry. “I just wanted to get you a lunch together. Salad and grapes. A little something to keep you going,” I handed her the bag. She stared at the bag in her hands for a few moments. She looked up at me, tears in her eyes, “T-thank you so much, Anon!” She wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a squeeze. “Coffee's ready too,” I gasped for air from her iron grip. “Thank you again. I’ll get myself some toast, go ahead and get some more sleep.” I shook my head, “Nah, I’m awake now. Let me make you toast too while you finish getting ready.” Bridgett was reading books on the floor while I worked. This was the usual routine, I had my work computer set up in the living room so I could spend more time with my daughter during the day. I had just finished sending out emails to my backlog of customers, trying to figure out if they were still alive. I wasn’t about to go through with a commission for a person who got sent to another dimension. I was thankful I charged in advance. I spun around to look at my little princess. She was reading some old children’s books. A bit above her age level, but I taught her well. She mouthed the words to herself, only stopping on harder words and asking me how to pronounce words she had never seen before. Pronunciation was a little hard for her. Math was beyond her grasp as well. She got those genes from me, for sure. Bridgett closed her book and grabbed the next one, “Daddy, can we go to the library soon?” “Already done with those books?” I turned around to face her in my chair. “Yes!” Bridgett waved her claws around the stack of books, “I need more!” “You’re gonna have a hoard of books one day,” I chuckled. “But dragons hoard gold, daddy. You know that.” “I know, I know. You’re different though. You don’t fly around razing villages.” “Razing?” She asked, cocking her head to the side. “Destroying, killing, all that,” I said with a distasteful tone. “Oh. Does daddy not like that?” She was getting into the question after question mode. “All life is priceless. You don’t hurt people who don’t deserve it, but if someone tries to hurt you-- if an adult tries to hurt you, fight back, Bridgett. You have deadly weapons, use them if you have to. Teeth, claws, fire, everything,” I got more intense than I meant to. Bridgett seemed to understand. She nodded, “Okay. Only hurt bad people. Trash people too?” “If they’re bad or are trying to hurt you,” I pat her head, “I’ll get burgers going soon, okay?” “Okay!” “I’m home!” Gwen called as she entered the front door. “Welcome home!” Bridgett got up and ran over to her and hugged her. Bridgett and I were lying on the floor, I was helping Bridgett with math. We were working on addition and subtraction. I was using blocks to help her visualise the math, it wasn’t helping much. “What did you do today?” Gwen asked my daughter crouching down to get on eye level with her. “I read books and daddys helping me with math,” Bridgett told her excitedly, “Daddy did worked and drawed.” “Its ‘drew,’ princess,” I corrected her, picking up the books and blocks. “He drew today. He also typed a lot.” “I sent emails to my contracts,” I explained, “Seeing what people and companies are still around. I’ll probably look for more contracts tomorrow,” I finished cleaning up and sat back down on the floor. “Daddy, I’m gonna go play computer,” Bridgett told me before giving me a hug and running upstairs. Gwen watched her go. She turned to me once she hit the stop. There was a look in her eyes, one of need and desire. Hunger. She slowly walked to me, taking her coat off and dropping her purse on the floor, “I saw the note that you left me, Anon.” “Y-you did?” I backed up from her, fear audible in my voice. “Mhm,” She smiled. I was up against the wall. She pressed herself up against me. She was only an inch shorter than me. She stared into my eyes, her chest pressed against mine and her arms gently wrapping around my head, “It was really sweet, thank you.” My face was pressed against her fluffy mane of wool. My eyelids felt heavy almost instantly. She rubbed her cheek up against mine, giggling softly, “I’m glad you liked it,” I mumbled lazily. “Are you falling asleep?” She giggled. She pulled herself away from me to get a good look at me. I nodded. I could still see that look in her eyes, but her soft wool lowered my guard. She reached up to touch my face. I flinched, I wasn’t ready for it. She quickly pulled her hand back from me and stepped back. She sighed, the look was gone from her eyes, “I’m sorry.” “Gwen, I--” “Anon. Its okay. I understand,” She said sadly as she walked away. I just stood there like an idiot as she picked up her things and went upstairs. I sat back at my computer to try and pass some time. I wanted to die. I woke up to Gwen’s alarm again. I was glad to because it kept the dreams away. Gwen was on the opposite side of the bed from me, facing away from me. I gave her a lot of space on my side as well. Bridgett was in between us, taking up as much space as possible. Gwen quickly got out of bed and turned off her alarm. I sat up, ready to get her lunch together again, “Go back to sleep, Anon. I’m going out for lunch today with some coworkers.” “A-alright,” I laid back down. “Bye, Gwen!” Bridgett shouted. “Bye, Bridgett. I’ll see you later,” Gwen gave her a quick hug before heading for the bathroom. Bridgett turned to me, a sparkle in her eyes. It went away quickly as she saw my face, “Why are you sad, daddy?” I rolled away from Bridgett, “Don’t worry about it.” She grabbed my side and rolled me back over. I didn’t struggle, I knew her sharp claws could accidentally claw into my side, “What is it?” She whined at me. “I made Gwen sad. I don’t know what to do,” I told her. “Make her happy,” She demanded. I thought for a few moments, “I’m just--” Bridgett was giving me a really intense look, “I’m getting there.” “Why can’t you make her happy now?” “She wants to date your daddy. I’m just terrified.” “Terrified?” She said it in her ‘I don’t know that word’ tone. “Scared. I’m scared of losing someone else,” I sighed. “Like mommy and your friends and your parents?” I hated how smart she was sometimes. Just like Emily, “Yeah. Its hard for Daddy to love again.” “I love you daddy,” She gave me a hug. “I love you too, princess.” “I’m home,” Gwen said quietly as she opened the front door. I was at my computer and Bridgett was on the floor nearby. “Hi, Gwen!” My daughter shouted and ran up to her. “What did you do today?” “I did a lot of drawing. Just like Daddy!” Bridgett proudly presented her crayon drawing of the three of us. “Wooow, Bridgett. Its really--” Gwen took a closer look, “Why did you draw everyone sad?” “Daddy said that you’re sad. That makes daddy sad. I’m sad because you two are sad.” “I’m sorry, Bridgett. I’m going to talk to your father, alright? How about--” “Daddy wants you to be happy! Daddy is... terry- terrifd- scared to lose you like he--” “Bridgett,” I got up from my seat and walked over to the two of them, “Daddy can talk to Gwen on his own, okay?” “But--” “Go upstairs,” I said firmly, cutting her off. She looked down at her feet and trudged up the stairs. I couldn’t make eye contact with Gwen. We stood silently across from each other, “Do you want me to leave?” Gwen asked quietly. I looked up at her, shocked, “No!” I startled her, “I said that I want to be there for you, I mean that. I just can’t get past this barrier in my head preventing me from having feelings again!” Gwen stared at me. She put a hand on my cheek, bringing my eyes to meet hers, “It’s okay. Take your time, Anon. I’m ready whenever you’re ready.” “Thank you.” “Why did you sign up for the program?” She suddenly asked, “The question has been eating at me for a while now,” She explained sheepishly. “I wanted a good female role model for Bridgett. I can teach her things like how to be strong and dependable. A woman could teach her how to love, feel, everything that I can’t.” “Do you have any particular reason for picking me? I apologize if I’m asking too much.” “It said in your bio that you can’t have kids of your own. What little I learned about monster girls is that family is a huge deal,” I explained, “I also can’t go through what happened to Emily again. Was that selfish?” “No, you’re fine. Thank you, Anon. I thought no one would choose me because of that. I never thought it could be a selling point,” She was smiling but she had tears in her eyes. I wanted to know more about her condition, but I didn’t want to push her. My intuition told me that there was a story behind it. I leaned over to her and gave her a hug, “I’m gonna get dinner going soon, anything you’re hungry for?” “Can we have that meatless taco salad?” She buried her face in the my neck. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- “Anon, what was that song?” “Oh, its just some old folk song.” “Its haunting... Any more ideas on our daughter’s name?” “Mmh. I’m trying to find something with meaning.” “Something dragon-like? You used to play a lot of that tabletop game with dragons.” “Dungeons and Dragons. But draconic names in that are always like Wraxora, meaningless names to us. I want her to have a regular name like you.” “Ah, alright.” “Wanna hear some Led Zeppelin?” “Sure, Anon... Oh! I think I felt her kick!” “Really!? Let me feel!” “Do you feel anything?” “...No...” “Maybe you’ll just have to keep your hands on me until you do~”
The weekend had rolled around. The usual routine of waking up early, making a lunch for Gwen and then doing my own work. I would work and spend time with my daughter, Gwen would come home and the three of us would have dinner together. I usually had to make two dishes, a meat based dish and a vegetarian dish. Gwen and I had been living together for a week. I still wasn’t completely used to having her around. Gwen and Bridgett got along really well at least. The two of us still had rough patches. My daughter wasn’t in the room. I had no idea if she had slept in my bed. Gwen was lying with her head on my shoulder. I closed my eyes, listening to her breath. Her warm breath gently grazed my neck. The warmth of her body crept into my cold soul keeping me warm. I theorized she had some sort of built in magic regulator that kept me warm but not too warm. It was really nice. Her wool was still incredibly soft and warm too. It was hard for me to not keep running my hands through it. I yawned and rubbed my eyes. Gwen slowly woke up. She rubbed her eyes and blinked at me, “Good morning,” She whispered. She let out a small adorable yawn. “Morning,” I mumbled. “Any plans for the day, dear?” She whispered. “Nope. Maybe we can hang out.” “Mmm, I don’t know. Maybe I can squeeze you into my busy schedule,” She teased, running her hand through my hair. “Is there even anything to do around here right now? I don’t have a car so we can’t go too far,” I lamented. “Don’t be too sure about that~” Gwen sang as she got out of bed. “Be sure about what?” “Don’t worry about it, Anon. Oh, Marie said she might swing by later with her husband. We should go to the market with them! I haven't been to an open air market since I was a little girl.” “Sure, I’m up for it.” “Good. I’m gonna take a quick shower, see you in a bit.” I sighed and lay back down. I heard the shower start. I unplugged my phone and got to browsing. I had received emails from about half of my contracts. Some of those had been taken over by new management and the new management didn’t want me to design a logo for them. I shrugged and wrote a note for myself to stop those projects. Free money I guess. I got up and headed downstairs. Bridgett was playing Wii Tennis in the living room. “Good morning!” She said to me as she swung the remote. “Morning. You winning?” I asked, taking a seat on the couch behind her. “Yeah! They’re no match for me!” “Are you hungry at all?” “Nope!” She went back to focusing on her game intently after losing a point. I knew she was just trying to extend her morning screen time. I gave her unlimited time before breakfast. I looked at the clock, it was getting close to nine, “Well, I guess I’ll have to throw out that discount bacon I got.” “No! Daddy make the bacon!” She ran over to me, grabbed my arm and dragged me to the kitchen. “I’ll make it. Go back to your game.” She gave me a hug and ran back over to the TV, “Thanks, daddy!” I put the bacon in the oven and went back over to Bridgett. A pounding came from the front door. Bridgett looked at me expectantly. I got up and unlocked the door, I opened it slightly, looking at whoever was there, “Hey, Marie,” I greeted. “Yo, Anon. Gwen around?” Marie pushed past me and entered my home. She had to squeeze through the doorway. She wore a white blouse and a brown skirt over her horse body. Her blonde hair was done in an elegant braid. She was followed by a man with short black hair who was wearing a grey hoodie and jeans. He held his hand out for me to shake, “Ethan.” I shook it, “Anon. Gwens upstairs getting ready, Marie. Uh, make yourself at home.” “The huge lady is here!” Bridgett shouted after her match had ended. Marie laughed, “See? This kid is great!” She smelled the air, “You makin’ bacon, Anon?” “Yeah. Did you want some?” I asked. “We’d love some, thanks,” Ethan answered for her. “Daddy, I wanted all the bacon!” Bridgett pouted. “You can’t eat two pounds of bacon yourself, princess,” I told her. “You call your daughter princess?” Marie mused. “Its what I called her mother. Its part of how I remember her,” I seethed. I wasn’t having any of this. “Quick to get aggressive? What--” Marie glared back at me. “Marie, cut it out,” Ethan elbowed her in the ribs. “Daddy, stop being mad!” Bridgett was billowing smoke out of her mouth. She reached up and grabbed the left sleeve of my ill-fitting sleep shirt and gave it a pull. She pulled the neck hole of my shirt down over my shoulder revealing the scars underneath. I heard a gasp or two. One from Gwen who had just come downstairs and one from Marie. Ethan looked away, it was hard to look at, I knew that. Bridgett was apologizing quietly, looking at the floor. I pat her head, “Its okay, princess. They’d find out eventually.” “Anon?” Gwen spoke up as she approached me cautiously. I took my shirt off, revealing the left side of my torso. From my shoulder down to hip I had burn scars. My skin almost glowed red. The burning feeling and the memory came back to me all at once. Gwen gently touched my skin, “How did this happen?” She asked in disbelief. “It was an accident,” I put my shirt back on. “Did... Bridgett do this?” Gwen whispered into my ear. “No. Emily did,” I sat down and took a deep breath, preparing to tell my story. Marie sat on the floor between the TV and couch, Ethan sat on her back. Gwen sat to my right and Bridgett sat to my left, still looking really guilty, “Emily and I were downtown. We were headed to a restaurant then to a store to shop for a some baby clothes. Emily had gotten increasingly protective as time had gone on, glaring at anyone that looked at me and threatening anyone who spoke ill of me. They could say anything about her and it would just bounce off her hard scales but say something mean about her ‘greatest treasure’ and she would rip your head off. Anyways... We got jumped by a group of, uh, trash people. Emily protected me the best she could but there were too many and I ended up getting punched in the face. I was dazed but I could hear the raging fire and screams of terror around me. I came to and witnessed a thug being thrown the window of a clothing store. Emily had transformed into an actual dragon covered in green scales and towering above everyone on the street. Crowds formed to see what the commotion was. Emily had never unleashed this power before and was operating only on instinct. She let out a deafening roar and started charging up her fire breath to unleash of the crowd. Being the fool I am, I jumped in front of her, begging her to stop. I ended up getting burned because I was too slow. I blacked out again and woke up in the hospital, Emily crying over me. She was really depressed since that day, constantly telling me she was a ‘horrible disgusting monster.’ I did everything I could, music, art, jokes. Nothing could cheer her up.” I sat in the silence of the room for a time. The quiet was broken by the oven beeping signaling the food was done. I asked Bridgett to go take it out of the oven, “Daddy. I don’t like that story,” She shuddered. “I know, princess,” I gave her a hug before sending her off to the kitchen. “Has Bridgett ever turned into that form?” Gwen whispered. I shook my head. Gwen seemed to not know whether to be relieved or not. “She doesn’t look like she flies much either,” Marie commented. “Bridgett can really breathe fire and fly?” Ethan was enthralled. Bridgett came back, “I put it on the stove,” She was quiet. Everyone thanked her, which made her smile a little. Breakfast had been quiet and awkward. The air in my home had become stuffy and tense. Conversations were kept to the topic of work while most everyone snacked on bacon. I had to keep myself from comparing the bacon to my skin. I cursed my dark sense of humor. I knew that would have killed what little good mood the group had. We were loaded up in Marie’s cart. The outside air was fresh and chilly, nipping at my skin. Gwen was wearing a warm coat and jeans. Bridgett was in a blue dress with a floral pattern on it, she didn’t wear coats, she was usually too hot. I wore a lightweight jacket over a t shirt and jeans. Ethan was sitting on Marie’s back as she pulled the cart. I stared out at the people walking by and letting the sun wash over me, “Daddy?” Bridgett asked, “Are you mad?” “No, princess. I got that off my chest and that feels pretty good,” I admitted, “Anyone else wanna talk about anything on their chest?” I asked the group. “I have a mole on my chest!” Bridgett told me, she started trying to take off her dress to show me. I stopped her. Marie looked back expectantly at Gwen. Gwen sighed, “I suppose I have something to say,” I looked over at her, she was staring me in the eyes, “Its about having children, Anon.” Brigett’s eyes lit up, “Are you two going to make me a little brother!?” Gwen looked like Bridgett had just torn her heart out of her chest with that question. I spoke quickly, “Bridgett. We can’t have a child together,” I explained calmly. “Why not?” She looked heartbroken. “I’m barren, dear. I can’t have children,” Gwen explained. “Why?” “The bad people from my home. They didn’t want us to have more children and to prevent us from having those children they got together their best arcanists and clerics to weave an arcane spell to make that happen. It was tested on the village I lived in,” Gwen’s lip quivered. Bridgett hugged Gwen, “I’m sorry, Gwen.” “Its okay, dear. You didn’t know.” I was about to say that didn’t sound so horrible. I stopped myself, remembering the importance of family. The thought of Gwen having to live with that feeling being unable to do anything about it, “I’m here for you,” I gave Gwen a smile and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Thank you, Anon,” The three of us sat in the back of the cart clutching each other. Ethan had a wide smile on his face like he was about to tell the funniest joke in the world, “Don’t you dare,” Marie seethed. The market was bustling. Full of people meandering through the stalls. I had been to regular human markets before, but this was completely different. Monsters and humans peddled their wares, homemade milk, baked goods, art, weapons, and much more. They heckled passerbys, trying to get them to stop and browse their goods. I was intimidated by the mass of people. I helped Gwen and Bridgett out of the cart while Ethan helped Marie take the cart off. I turned to Bridgett, “Stay close to me, please. You don’t want to make Gwen sad again, right?” “Right!” Bridgett took my hand. “Are you two staying for lunch?” Gwen asked the couple. “If you’ll have us,” Ethan replied. “Sure. I’m making spaghetti for lunch. Hope you’re alright with that,” I said. They agreed to that. Bridgett spoke up, “Are we still making rolls tonight, daddy?” “Uhuh. Pretzel dogs too.” “Are you some kind of masterchef, Anon?” Ethan asked. I shrugged and walked off into the market. Gwen stuck close to me with Ethan and Marie close behind. A short woman yelled at me, “Hey, you look like you need some protection, champ!” I stopped out of curiosity. She was selling swords and armor. I had always wanted a sword. “Daddy! I like that one!” Bridgett pointed to a huge sword. “Anon, you don’t think you need a sword, right?” Gwen begged, trying to drag me away from the stall. “Every man needs a good sword!” Marie told Gwen. “The centaur is right! You have a right to protect yourself, champ. What are you in the market for?” The short woman brandished some of her merchandise at me. “Uh, I could use a new pocket knife, I guess,” I scratched my head. Her face scrunched up, “A knife!? You’re killing me, champ!” I shrugged and walked away, rest of the group in tow while the short woman yelled at me to come back. I let Gwen lead me around taking me to various produce stalls. She made me carry the basket for her. Marie had bags that draped over her large body allowing her to easily carry as much as she needed to. She looked at me smugly. I rolled my eyes at her. Gwen paid in silver and copper coins. It seems shops did take USD but it was quickly being phased out for this more primitive currency. “What am I supposed to do with the money I already have?” I voiced my concerns. “We can take it into an exchange office and get your physically money changed. The money in your bank should be exchanged automatically,” Gwen explained. I breathed a sigh of relief as she put a head of cabbage into my basket, “Are you alright? You look so nervous.” “The money thing had me worried.” “I’m sure that’s not the whole story, Anon,” She pressed. I gave in, “I mentally steeled myself to be distant and hostile to people in public for five years.” “To protect Bridgett, right?” I nodded, “Its really hard to relax, even a little bit, in public. I’m on edge at all times.” “Its okay, Anon. I understand,” She smiled at me. “Yo, Bridgett, check this out!” Marie turned around holding a small black shirt that said, ‘FIRE’ on it in bold red letters, “Its perfect for her!” We all stood around, waiting for Bridgett to shout something. She wasn’t with us. I groaned. The other three were starting to panic, “Calm down,” I ordered, “Keep your head on and we’ll find her. Gwen I will backtrack and you two search around here. Text me if you find her,” I turned to Gwen and gave her a hug, “Don’t freak out. I’ll find her. You need to stay calm.” Gwen took a deep breath and nodded, “Alright. Let’s find her,” She hugged me back. I nodded to Ethan and Marie and stopped off, Gwen in tow. I pushed my way through the crowd of people calling for my daughter. I stopped to ask a few shop owners if they had seen her. No one had. I was starting to get worried too, “Anon?” Gwen suddenly grabbed my arm. “What?” I panted. “Should we split up? We can cover more ground if--” “Daddy!” I heard a familiar voice shout. Bridgett ran up to me and clung to my leg. I stopped myself from shouting at her. Gwen picked her up and gave her a hug, “Bridgett you make us worry when you do that,” Gwen scolded. “You need to stop running off,” I sighed. “Its okay!” Bridgett was ecstatic. “Its not okay, Bridgett,” I scolded. Bridgett turned to me, she had a big happy grin on her face but tears streamed from her eyes, “Mommy led me here!” “What?” Gwen asked. “Look! Mommy!” Bridgett pointed into the crowd. Between the bustling people I saw a kind face, smiling at us. I knew that face. The world around me melted away as I stared at the face that haunted my dreams. The love I had lost. Emily. My vision blurred. I blacked out. I came to, slowly pushing myself off the ground. Gwen grabbed my arm and helped me up. I felt a hot liquid on my face. Gwen said something to me. I didn’t hear it, a ringing in my ears drowned out the sound of the market. I felt a tug on my wrist, I looked down. Bridgett looked up at me, big smile still on her face. She spoke to me. My ears turned deaf to my daughter’s words. I had a flash of memory in my mind of Emily when we were young, when she was human. When we were both innocent and pure children. I fell to my knees and wrapped my arms around my daughter. When I pulled away from her, I saw red on her shoulder. I touched my face and looked down at my hand, I was gushing blood from the nose. The crimson liquid mixed with her naturally occuring scales. Another memory in my mind, one of Emily protecting me, blood dripping from her claws. Rage in her lizard-like slit pupils. Scars on her skin. Her stomach bulging slightly from the child she was carrying. I gently touched my daughter’s face as she gave me a confused look. “Daddy?” “Anon, what’s wrong?” “Is he alright?” “Is that blood?” “Anon?” “Daddy, you’re being weird.” “Anon!?” Voices swirled in my head. The ringing increased. My pounded in my chest. I looked around, I saw Emily all around me, each one speaking nonsense... Calling my name... Telling me that she misses me... Telling me that she wants me... Telling me that she loves me. I looked back down at Bridgett. She looked up at me, terrified. Terrified of me. I fell backwards onto my ass, clutching my head in my hands. The ringing finally stopped. I looked up and around, I didn’t see Emily anywhere. I breathed a sigh of relief. Bridgett was hiding behind Gwen’s legs. I slowly got up, my head spinning, “Where am I?” I mumbled. “At the market,” Bridgett said quietly. “Anon, are you okay?” Gwen asked apprehensively, “You’re bleeding!” She gasped. “I’m fine,” I scratched my head and held my nostrils closed. “Hey, you two found her!” Ethan said as he and his wife walked up to us. They looked at the three of us, “You three ready to go home?” Marie asked. “Please,” I mumbled. I sat quietly in Marie’s bumpy cart. I was staring at the road underneath the cart. I couldn’t get those visions out of my head. I sat in the corner, Gwen to my left and Bridgett to her left. I felt the warm sun on my skin. My body felt hot and sweaty, especially my scars. I quickly took my jacket off, trying to get some cool air on my skin. I clawed at my skin as if I was trying to tear it off. I felt a hand on my shoulder. I jerked away and turned quickly to the person. Gwen looked at me, hurt. “I’m so sorry,” I sobbed, trying to reconcile with her. “Its fine,” Gwen snapped, turning away from me. I wanted to die. “Gwen, what’s wrong with daddy?” Bridgett whispered. “Ssh, Bridgett.” “But he saw mommy! He should be happy!” Bridgett demanded, “I saw her too! She said... she said... um...” “Did you, Anon?” Gwen said without even trying to hide her annoyance. She was incredibly upset with me. “I did,” I mumbled. “You... really did?” She looked at me in disbelief. I retold the nightmarish vision to her going into horrific detail. I stared at her, waiting for her to say something. She reached up and touched my forehead slowly. She pulled her hand away quickly, “Fever. You need rest,” Her anger had completely melted away and was replaced with concern again. She breathed a sigh of relief, “You’re not crazy. Well, not completely.” “It was a fever dream?” I sat back and thought on what I had seen. “Even if it wasn’t real, that still sounds horrific,” Marie added. “Sounds like that woman really left a mark on you, mentally and physically,” Ethan dissected what little he knew about me. “Are you really afraid of losing someone, or are you afraid of Emily?” Gwen asked. “What, are you all suddenly psychologists?” I scoffed and folded my arms. “Anon, we’re all worried about you. No need to get defensive,” Gwen spoke calmly and gently trying to get me to call down. “Daddy! I remember what mommy said!” Bridgett suddenly shouted. “Oh?” Gwen felt her forehead too, “She... doesn’t have a fever?” Gwen made a confused face and looked back at me. “What did she say, princess?” I asked my daughter. “She said that she loves me! And... she’s proud of daddy. And that I should call Gwen mommy now. She wants us to be a family,” Bridgett wedged herself in between us, “I want mommy and daddy to be happy now, please.” “She-- She called me mommy, Anon,” Gwen looked at me, tears in her eyes. She laughed, “She called me mommy!” Gwen hugged Bridgett. Bridgett had thought she would never see her mother. Gwen thought she would never BE a mother. Both of them had been proven wrong in less than an hour. I truly believed that Bridgett saw her. Did I see her? I couldn’t say. Gwen and Bridgett happily laughed together. I hugged the two of them. Marie had stopped the cart. Her and Ethan looked back at us, “You three are adorable,” Marie said quietly. “Why aren't you that cute?” Ethan teased. “I’m going to tear your head off, Ethan.” Ethan and Marie had declined hanging out since I had a fever and all. I was lying on the couch, a heavy blanket draped over my tired body. Gwen and Bridgett were in the kitchen working on some mystery food. They wouldn’t tell me. Lunch had been peanut butter sandwiches. I lazily played video games, hardly paying attention. My mind was stuck on what Gwen had asked me about Emily. Was I afraid of another death, or was I too stuck on Emily for me to move on? I groaned and rolled over after getting another game over. I smelled something baking. I listened in on what the girls were talking about. “You’re doing such a good job, dear,” Gwen praised. “The dough keeps sticking to me...” Bridgett mourned. “That’s alright. Was your mother beautiful?” “Very pretty. Not as much as you, mommy.” “Th-thank you, dear. You’re such a sweet girl. Roll it into balls, dear.” “Okay!” There was a long pause, “Do you think daddy did a good job?” “With what?” “Being a daddy.” “He did a very good job, Bridgett. Now, put those in the oven for me.” “When are you going to marry daddy?” “Whenever he is ready.” The rest of the conversation was too small for me to hear. I started browsing my phone, checking my emails again. Nothing important anywhere on social media or email. I heard claw on tiles headed towards me. I closed my eyes. I felt claws on my face, “Daddy’s still sick,” She stomped away on those deadly claws of hers. “I wish I had noticed he was sick earlier. I could have prevented this trauma,” Gwen beat herself up. “Tram-- Traul-- Trauma?” “Pain. Your father is in a lot of pain. He needs his rest.” I managed to fall asleep as she gently pat my head. I woke up to freshly baked rolls in front of my face. I quickly sat up. Bridgett was holding a plate for me, “Here, daddy!” Bridgett excitedly pushed the plate of rolls towards me. “Thank you,” I said weakly, taking the plate from her. I slowly ate the rolls. “Sounds like the man himself is awake,” An unfamiliar high pitched female voice called from the kitchen. I slowly walked over, I saw two people at the table. Gwen, in all her beauty and a small person with green hair done up in two buns and motor oil stains on her face. She wore a stained yellow jumpsuit as well. She was chowing down on rolls, “Anon, this is Meg.” “Sup, nerd,” Meg sassed. “Hi... sassy child,” I grumbled. “Child? I just fixed and upgraded your car, Anon! I will blow that car up if you talk like that to me.” “Meg, please. He’s sick right now,” Gwen chuckled. “The high level of mamano mana in the air shouldn’t cause your car to freeze now. The demon realm goin’ on here even powers it. I also got bored and did some other stuff like cooling seats, cup holders that keep drinks colder and hotter longer. Some other stuff is in there. I was drinking for most of the work so I don’t really remember,” She laughed. I didn’t like how that sounded. “Mommy, I wanna see the car blow up!” Bridget blurted out, “Meg, blow the car up!” “Sure, kid. Let’s do it,” Meg cackled malevolently. “Please don’t. I like that car,” I coughed. “Meg, come play video games!” Bridgett demanded. Meg agreed reluctantly. “Was this the surprise you had for me?” I asked Gwen while stuffing more rolls in my mouth. “Yes, it was. I’m sorry we fought earlier,” Gwen told me. “It wasn’t your fault. It was mine.” “Anon, you had a horrible experience. You aren’t at fault here.” We looked at each other and both realized we were about to fight about something incredibly stupid. We couldn’t help but laugh about it, “You’re so pretty, Gwen.” “Do you mean that, Anon?” She whispered. “Of course, Gwen. I’m so ready to move on with my life with you,” I took her hand and looked her in the eyes. “Then hurry up and get over this slump, Anon. You... big, goofy... handsome, caring man.” I was in bed first. Gwen was tucking Bridgett in, still nearly crying tears of joy whenever Bridgett called her mom. I let the weariness of the day weigh heavily on my body. The wool blanket on my body weight even heavier deterring movement. I kept thinking about Gwen’s question about me and Emily. The cold sweats dripped slowly down my forehead. I moaned softly. Gwen quietly entered the room, doing her best to silently crawl into bed. She inched closer to me until she was inches away. She didn’t dare sleep on top of me for fear of getting sick. She grabbed my hand and held it tightly, a small smile on her face. I smiled back, “Did you take your medicine?” She pestered I groaned and rolled away from her, “No...” “Take it, you need to get better before Monday.” I nodded and took it, gagging on the taste, “Ack!” “Good job, Anon. Sleep well.” --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I stood in a field of flowers and chest high grass. The sky was a wonderful blue and the hot sun beat down on my skin. I looked around at the sprawling hills surrounded by snowy mountains. I walked through the grass in a random direction, letting my hands run touch the grass. The coarse sensation gave me chills. I grabbed a handful and yanked it from the earth with a mild amount of force and let the gentle breeze carry it away into the sky. I looked up at the clouds. Shapeless forms floated past lazily. I breathed in the sweet mountain air and let out a sigh. There was a gust of wind behind me. I turned around slowly. Emily smiled at me, her hair blowing gently in the breeze. I tried to speak but it was like my mouth was full of cotton. “This way,” She beckoned me to follow her. I did as she said, watching her large, powerful, yet elegant form pick peonies from the grass, bringing them to her nose and taking a small whiff before letting them fly away on the wind, “You look so much older now, Anon. You’re working yourself to death,” She mused without turning to me. I tried to respond again. and nothing came out. Her polished scales bounced the sunlight off of them with an almost mirror-like sheen, “I can’t believe Bridgett is almost six now. Where does the time go?” She lashed out at some stalks of grass, almost angrily, easily cutting them down. No response from me. We kept marching. The scenery around us began to change slowly. The sun was setting quickly. The tall grass had melted away to show a black ground. The black tar of a parking lot. The white stripes of parking spots. I looked out towards the sky, past the edge of the cliff, looking at the top of the softly glowing neon buildings. The orange sky contrasted the soft purple clouds. I looked back at Emily, she sat on the hood of my car. She left me a spot next to her. I sighed and sat next to her. A strong arm wrapped around my shoulders. We looked up at the sky again. The memories of this place washed over me like a tidal wave of emotions. This had been our favorite place. We’d come here and just watch the sun set. Emily looked down, with a mourning look on her face, “You’re doing such a good job, Anon. I’m so proud of you,” She put her claws on my face and locked eyes with me. “I miss you,” I told her finally, tears rolling down my face. “I know, honey. But Bridgett needs you. Gwen needs you.” “You won’t hate me for being with her?” The realization of my fears all came to me. I really wasn’t afraid of losing someone again. I was afraid of what the one I had lost thought. It was funny, in a way. Like a Greek play. “Every waking minute I spent with you was the best of my life. I’ve had my fill of your love. Its time for you to move on and give that love to someone else, Anon,” She had tears in her eyes too. I nodded, looking down the cliff again. “I should go soon,” I told her. I got up and started to trudge away. A strong claw grabbed my wrist and pulled me back to her, “Can you sing for me? One more time?” I nodded and sat down at the edge of the cliff. Emily put her head in my lap and looked up at me, “Any requests?” “Perhaps Love,” She smiled, the tears flowing uncontrollably. "You sure know how to pick a song,” I laughed and sobbed. I closed my eyes and sang the song for her despite the tears, letting the sound of my voice wash over her. I finished the song and looked down at her again. She was gone.
I woke up quickly, the light of the late spring sun greeted me as it flowed through an open window. Gwen had already gotten out of bed. I got up quickly, sickness and weariness gone from my body. The memory of last night’s dream was still fresh in my mind. I quickly rummaged through my closet looking for a specific item. I threw boxes aside and found my prize. I grabbed the dusty guitar case and threw it on the bed. I put in the number lock on the case and undid the latch. It had been two years since I had last played. I sat on the bed with my instrument in my lap. I had no idea if I could still tune by ear. I tried anyways. I got pretty close I think. My electric tuning assistant wasn’t turning on so I just rolled with what I had. I heard a noise, I turned to the door. Bridgett was peeking in, eyes wide, “Is daddy gonna play?” “Good morning to you too,” I cracked a smile. “You didn’t answer my question,” She entered the room. “Where’s Gwen?” “Downstairs in the kitchen.” “What should I play for her?” My heart pounded in my chest. I was completely out of practice. “That song you used to play for old mommy!” “No, no... Ventura Highway? That’s not a love song. Um, Longer? I think that will work...” “Daddy looks like he’s gonna puke!” Bridgett laughed. “I’ll make sure I puke on you if I do!” I jokingly threatened. “Eeek! No!” We both laughed. “What are you two doing in here?” Gwen entered the room. Her kind face was illuminated by the sunlight. Her beauty accentuated by her rosy cheeks. Her cuteness made obvious by her soft and fluffy wool. I was stunned by her radiance, just being in her presence made my heart flutter and my brain functions cease. I stared at her, confusion on her gorgeous face. “Daddy! You’re missing your chance! Play!” Bridgett snapped me back to reality. “Right! Uh...” I started strumming with my fingers, giving the music a softer sound. Without even thinking, I started playing Annie’s Song. It was the closest to how I really felt after all. Gwen had never heard me play before, I hadn’t even mentioned it before. My voice was shaky in front of such a wonderful woman, but my fingers were deft and hit the notes that I needed. Gwen stared and listened to me, mouth slightly agape. Bridgett watched me closely. I stared Gwen in the eyes and gave her the most sincere smile I could muster. As my love song ended, a smile formed on Gwen’s face and tears in her eyes. I slowly stopped playing, thumbing the last notes. I looked Gwen in the eyes and spoke quickly, “I love you, Gwen,” It was I could say. All I needed to say. “I-I love you too, Anon. You’re so cheesy,” She sat next to me on the bed, putting her head on my shoulder. I dried her face with my sleeve and looked in her eyes again. She looked back into mine, love in her eyes. I slowly moved my face towards her, my lips prepared to press against her soft luscious lips. She grabbed the back of my head and pulled me against her without hesitation. We had to hold ourselves back from getting any lewder, Bridgett was still in the room after all. Gwen gently pulled her lips away from mine. She panted gently, the desire and hunger mixed with love and passion was almost scary. I felt the same way towards her. “Daddy!” Bridgett interrupted us, “Play more!” Gwen whispered in my ear, “I’m going to be ‘playing’ you later~” She giggled before giving me another kiss on the cheek. I laughed nervously before playing more music for my daughter. “Anon?” Gwen approached me sheepishly. She was wringing her hands in front of her. “What’s up?” I was lying on the floor, Bridgett was placing blocks on my stomach. “Could you help me with something?” “Of course,” I started to get up. “Daddy, don’t move! I’m almost done,” Bridgett scolded. I nodded and lay back down, “Mommy, is it urjt-- urnjent?” Bridgett placed a block on my face. “No, its not urgent,” Gwen admitted. “Then you can wait your turn for daddy,” Bridgett kept placing blocks on me. “What is it you need?” I asked, removing the block from my face. “M-my wool is getting a little long. I- I was wondering if you would help m- me shear it,” Her face got red. I felt like there was something more to it that was embarrassing her. I didn’t push it, “Sure. I can do that.” “Can I help too, mommy?” Bridgett asked excitedly. “No, dear. This is something important for us to do together.” Bridgett gave a knowing smile, “Ooooh, its THAT. Okay,” She giggled. “N-no! You’ve got the wrong idea,” Gwen quickly explained. “Daddy is done. He's a robot now!” Bridgett proudly presented the random assortment of blocks that she had placed on me. “Wow, good job, dear.” “Beep boop,” I did my best robot voice. “Can you make him a human again?” “Of course!” She started taking blocks away, “You’re human now daddy.” “I’m dead,” I told her. “No daddy! Come back!” She screamed while shaking me. “Okay, okay. I’m back. I’m going to help Gwen now.” “You two have fun!” Bridgett went back to playing blocks by herself. Gwen grabbed my hand and pulled me upstairs. We went into the bathroom together. The bathroom wasn’t too small, “Sit on the floor against the wall, Anon,” Gwen demanded. I did as she said, still confused. She locked the door and started undressing. “Woah, wait, can you explain exactly what we’re doing first?” I stopped her. “You’re helping me shear my wool, Anon,” She reached into a drawer and produced a pair of shears, she still seemed really nervous. “That seems really mundane,” I admitted. Gwen gasped, almost offended, “This is one of the most intimate experiences we can have together. Especially our first time. You will be the first man to aid me in shearing my wool. I will make you a wonderful pajama set with it!” She explained. “Oh, okay. Then let’s do it.” Gwen nodded and took off her clothes, I hadn’t realised that wool grew over a lot of her body. She had wool on her hips, neck, most of her arms and legs as well as her breasts and groin. I suddenly understood why she was so nervous. This would be a lewd act. She sat on my lap, back to my chest. She put the shears in my hand. They were made of that weird metal that I saw most monsters use for metal work. They looked sharp, I would need to be careful, “Don’t cut it too short. I just want it short, not shaved or buzzed.” “Got it,” My heart was pounding. I needed to calm down. I grabbed my phone and put on some music to give me something else to focus on. I started with her legs, I found the shears easy to use. I managed to cut it all evenly, the soft wool I cut off fell to the floor, “We should talk, it’ll make us both less nervous.” “O-okay. My work is having a beginning of summer celebration at the park on Friday. You and Bridgett should come,” Gwen pressed herself against me. “Sure. It’ll be a good chance for Bridgett to meet some other kids,” I started with the arms. “Mhm. You’re doing a good job Anon.” I leaned forwards and kissed her ear, “Only the best for you.” I cut the neck wool with ease as well as the hips. I chose to do the breasts next. Gwen had to turn to face me. The way the breast wool was I needed to put my hands on them. I took a deep breath and pushed the first one up so I could get to work. Gwen made a lewd face. As I worked. I got that done fast enough. She pressed herself back up against me. Only one more spot left to cut. “You’d never do something like this with another woman, right?” She asked as I started working. “Of course not.” “Good.” I had finished cleaning her up. I looked at the piles of fluff around us, clumps of white wool covered the floor. I set the shears down and wrapped my arms around Gwen, pressing my face into her neck wool. It was a lot shorter now so I couldn’t drown myself in it anymore. It would grow back at least, “Done,” I whispered as I ran my hand through Gwen’s hair. “Could you touch my breasts again?” She mumbled. “What was that?” “Nothing!” It was getting late in the day. I had just fed both the girls dinner, a vegan burger for Gwen and a real burger for Bridgett and myself. I stared out at the sky, the clouds had gone away and the sun was starting to go down. I had an idea, “Get your coats on,” I told them. “Why, daddy?” Bridgett finished off the last of her fries. “We’re going on a drive. We gotta go soon if we’re gonna see it.” “See what?” Gwen asked, cleaning off her lips. “Its a surprise,” I ran upstairs to grab my instrument and a coat. Gwen looked at Bridgett who only shrugged in response. They both hurried to grab coats. We all climbed into my car after I threw my guitar and a few other things in the trunk. The dash was all reorganized and looked like half of these new gauges were jury rigged. I opened the garage and turned the key, the car roared to life which spooked Gwen. Bridgett giggled. I pulled the car out and started down the road. There were still carriages and such out on the roads. I easily passed them. There were a handful of cars out including mine, they probably had the same work done on them. As soon as I got out of town the number of people on the road drastically decreased. I sped towards the hills, eager to make it to my destination on time. Bridgett gasped, “I know where we’re going!” She boasted. “Don’t spoil it!” I told her. She smugly sat in her carseat. “What’s going on, Anon?” Gwen asked. “You’ll love it. I swear.” “I trust you, Anon. What’s with this change of mood this morning?” “Well, I had a dream last night...” I told her about the dream, finishing right before we arrived. Gwen didn’t say anything. I couldn't tell what she was thinking. I pulled into the parking lot, making sure to face the sunset. I got out and opened the trunk, grabbing my guitar. Bridgett got out and took a seat on the hood. Gwen looked around at the disused asphalt with the paint lines nearly worn completely off. I took a seat on the hood of my car. I looked out over the city before me, the sunlight glimmering off of the buildings. Gwen apprehensively took a seat next to me. I gently strummed the strings trying to come up with something to play. “Mommy?” Bridgett looked past me at my love with concern plastered on her face. Gwen was still pondering what I had told her. She came to, “Hm? Sorry.” “Are you okay?” I asked her. “I just don’t feel like I can the woman I need to be for you,” Gwen admitted, looking wistfully out into the sunset, “You both have been talking so much of Emily and I keep getting reminded that I’ll never be her. I feel like I’m not what you need or want.” “Mommy, you’re silly,” Bridgett giggled. “What?” Gwen gave her a quizzical look. “She’s right,” I added, “You’re Gwen. We both love you. We don’t expect you to be someone you’re not. You’re not Emily. That’s fine. Be you. Be the wonderful woman that you are, not the woman that someone else was. We love you, Gwen. Don’t ever feel like we don’t. If you need a reminder, you can ask either of us.” Gwen wiped her face and looked at the two of us, “You’re so cheesy, Anon!” She burst out laughing. She calmed down and looked me in the eyes, “I love you so much,” She put an arm around my waist and placed her head on my shoulder. “Mommy, Its starting!” Bridgett pointed out at the sky. The sky turned orange slowly, then to a dark purple. The clouds went from dark purple to black at the same rate. We all watched in silence letting the beauty of nature wash over us. When it got dark enough I got up and opened the trunk again. Bridgett saw what I had and gasped with excitement, “Sparklers!” “Mhm. I’ve got a whole bag of em, go nuts,” I handed them to Bridgett. She grabbed them excitedly and immediately burnt the end of one with her breath. She ran around giggling waving the sparkler above her head. “This is nice,” Gwen smiled at me. “Mhm. We used to do this all the time,” I didn’t mention coming here with Emily before that. “Well, I’m glad we don’t live in eternal darkness because of the demon realm. We got lucky, I suppose. I hope we can come here more,” She admitted. “Any time you want, just say so,” I started strumming again for her, I settled on Ventura Highway, even if it wasn’t a love song. After a long day of the three of us spending time together, we headed home. Gwen had fallen asleep on the drive home but woke up when I took her out of the car. I helped her put on her little nightgown and put her in bed while Gwen went to our bedroom to prepare it, “Daddy, I want to sleep with you and mommy,” Bridgett protested. “Not tonight. I need you to be a big girl tonight and sleep in your own bed, okay?” I tried to convince her. “Okay... Good night,” She grumbled. “Good night, princess,” I kissed her forehead, handed her a stuffed bear and turned off the light. “Daddy, you handed me the wrong one.” “What?” “You handed me Mr. Bearington. I need Mrs. Catty.” I sighed and turned the light back on and looked around for the cat. I found it and handed the cat to her, “Better?” “I need Curt too.” “Who?” “The hippo. He’s Curt.” I grabbed it and gave it to her, “Okay, I’m going to bed now. Sleep well.” “You too, daddy. I love you.” “I love you too, princess,” I turned the lights off. I walked quickly to the bedroom to find Gwen on the bed. I didn’t even realise she was naked, her natural wool covered up her naughty bits like lingerie, “Oh, Anon, how nice of you to join me,” She gave me a sly smile. The room was mood lit with candles. “I’m really nervous, Gwen,” I told her apprehensively. “Come here, dear. I will take care of you,” The caring look on her face lowered my guard. I climbed onto the bed. Gwen grabbed me and pushed me onto my back. She placed a kiss on my lips, goading me into opening my mouth enough for her tongue to enter, touching my own. She pulled back from me, our lips wet from our exchange. Gwen kissed my chin, then my neck, gently pulling my shirt off. She kissed down my chest, then my stomach, stopping at my shorts. She kissed my already hard member through my pants before tearing them off. She paused for a moment, taking in the sight of my nude form before she got on top of me. She rubbed her hot, wet pussy on my shaft while biting her bottom lips and looking me in the eyes, “Are you ready?” She whispered into my ear before gently biting it. I nodded, heart pounding in my chest. She kissed me on the lips again to keep me quiet as she put my member inside her. We both moaned softly as the hot and wet interior closed around my penis. She gently moved her hips, easing me into her loving act of passion. I was a moaning squirming mess as she had her way with me. I was quickly brought to orgasm. When she felt I was about to cum, she slammed her hips against mine, milking out every drop she could. She covered my mouth with one hand and held my other hand in a finger lock as I shot inside her. I stopped shaking and started panting, most of my energy sapped instantly. Gwen looked at me lovingly, “Good boy~” She praised. She pat my head lovingly while staring me in the eyes, fingers still interlocked with mine, “I’ve waited so long for this. I hope you’re not spent already, I have my needs too.” She started moving her hips again, her love juices pooled on my groin as she rode me. She picked up the pace and ferocity. She made lewd faces at me as she used my body to pleasure herself. She grabbed my other hand as well, locking fingers with me on that hand as well. I was at her mercy, putty in her hands, unable to resist her body. She brought herself up and then slammed her hips into me one last time, letting out a sigh as her body shuddered and her pussy quivered, trying to get me to orgasm again. She brought her lips to mine again, forcing me to moan into her lips as I came once more. I was completely spent now. Gwen slowly pulled me out of her breathing heavily. She passionately pressed her lips to mine again. She pulled away and looked down at my body, “Oh, Anon! You’re such a mess. I should clean you up, come,” She dragged me to the bathroom and got a hot shower going. I was still panting and exhausted. True to her word, she cleaned me up gently as well as herself. She kept teasingly grabbing my ass and dick, just trying to get a rise out of me, “Do you want to go again?” I shook my head, “I can’t tonight. Tomorrow night if you still want me,” I bargained with her, hoping to spare myself more pelvis smashing. She laughed, “Alright, Anon,” She planted a kiss on my lips. We were in bed again. Gwen’s head was resting on my chest, one hand wrapped around me, the other was holding one of mine. She kept gently kissing my chin, neck and chest while giggling, “What’s gotten into you?” I grumbled. “I’m just very happy, Anon! I love you so much!” She told me, reaching up and giving me a kiss on the lips. “I love you too. But please, we should sleep.” “I don’t want to. I want to keep staring at you and kissing you,” She gave me another kiss. I sighed and kissed her back, “Do what you want, I hope you get enough sleep for tomorrow.” “I will. All I need is you right now.” “Mhm.” “I love you.” “I love you too. Good night, Gwen.” “Good night, dear.” --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- “Anon, I’ve got a name!” “Oh yeah? For our daughter?” “No, for the dog. YES for our daughter you dummy.” “Lay it on me.” “Only if you promise to play me a song.” “Bleh. I promise, princess. Now, what is it?” “Bridgett.” “How’d you decide that?” “Well, she’s going to be a dragon like me. Fire and dragons go hand in hand. Bridgett means fire.” “I like it. I accept it.” “Good. Its settled then.” “Mhm.” “Now. Play for me, jester.” “As you wish, Madam.” “It better not be Wonderwall.” “...Damn.”
I pulled my car up to the park, Bridgett nealy bouncing out of her seat with excitement. Gwen put a hand on mine, “You’ll do great, dear,” Gwen’s aforementioned Friday-work-get-together had rolled around and I was not excited to meet her coworkers. “What if I really embarrass you?” I asked, nervously itching my arm, “I can’t handle social situations very well.” “You can’t embarrass me. I love you too much. Just stay close to me and we’ll have a great time, Anon.” “Okay, okay. Why did you make me bring the guitar?” I parked in an empty spot and put the car in park. “I... mentioned how good you are to a few coworkers and they demanded I get you to play,” Gwen explained quickly. “Mommy, where are the other kids?” Bridgett interrupted while scrambling to get out of her seat. “Just wait a moment, princess, we’ll find them in a moment. Anon, you’ll be fine, just be you.” I grumbled a little bit, “Okay...” “I love you for being you. Don’t feel like you need to be someone else,” She gave me a sly grin. “That’s my line... Well, let’s get out there I guess,” I climbed out of the car and helped Bridgett out as well. “Daddy open the trunk!” Bridgett demanded. “Yeah, yeah,” I opened it for her and she climbed in. Bridgett grabbed the ball she had brought with her and looked at us expectantly. “Anon,” Gwen brought my eyes to hers by gently pushing my chin up, “Relax. We’re here to have fun.” “And eat some burgers!” Bridgett exclaimed. “Right,” I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, “Let’s go,” I grabbed the guitar case. Gwen smiled at me and grabbed the cooler. “Daddy looks like he’s gonna puke again!” Bridgett laughed. “I’ll puke on you!” I picked her up with one arm. “No!” She pushed my face away from her. Gwen laughed, “You two settle down.” We didn’t have to walk far, Bridgett rode on my shoulders and I held hands with Gwen. The gathering was in a small clearing amidst some trees. There was only about 30 people there. I quickly spotted Marie, Ethan, Meg and even that succubus that introduced me to Gwen, “Daddy,” Bridgett whispered, “Its blue lady!” Her supposed casual wear was quite revealing. “I can see that. Let find a spot to sit,” I told her. We approached the group, Gwen quickly introduced me and Bridgett to everyone we didn’t know already. I still didn’t know the succubus’s name. I felt like there was a reason for it, “Anon,” She spoke, “How are the two of you doing?” She had a knowing smile on her face. “Me and Gwen? Or me and my daughter?” I gave her a cheeky grin. She smiled wider, “All three of you then. How’s my favorite little dragon?” I set my daughter down, “I’m okay, blue lady! How are you?” “Oh, you are just so cute and polite! I’m well, thank you!” She laughed. She pinched Bridgett’s cheek. Bridgett gave an unhappy grunt as smoke gently poured out of her nose, “How are the two love birds?” “We’re doing well, thank you,” Gwen answered for me, “Thank you for everything that you have done for us.” “No trouble at all dear. You are like a daughter to me after all,” She gave Gwen a hug. I gave them a quizzical look, “Really?” “Mhm, I took Gwen in after her village was attacked. She’s such a brave girl.” “Does that mean I can call you grandma!?” Bridgett shouted. The succubus laughed, “Of course, darling!” She looked up at me, “You may refer to me as Mother, Anon,” I didn’t like the smile she gave me. It gave me chills. “Grandma, where are the other kids?” Bridgett demanded. “Well, there’s those girls. A bit older than you, but I’m sure you can convince them to play with you,” Mother pointed to a group of ‘kids’ who couldn’t be older than 14. There was a boy and three girls, a fox girl, a crow girl, and a minotaur. Bridgett slowly trudged over to them nervously. She tugged on the pant leg of the fox girl to get her attention. I couldn’t hear what Bridgett said from this distance. The fox and crow girl immediately started fawning over her. I turned my attention back to Gwen and Mother, “I wish she could make some friends her age.” “She’ll be going to school at the end of summer, right? She’ll meet plenty of kids there,” Mother comforted me. “I still can’t believe how old she is now.” “Yo, Gwen!” Marie shouted at us by a picnic table, “Bring your man and come sit down!” “You two have fun! I’ll talk to you again later. Oh, and, Anon? I’m looking forward to hearing you play later~” Mother gave me a small smile before strutting off. Gwen pulled me over to a table with Marie, Ethan and Meg, “How’s the car, Anon?” Meg asked. “Good. I still don’t know what that metal box in the trunk does,” I answered. “Don’t worry about it.” “Anon, you gonna play for us?” Marie asked. “Why is everyone so interested in that?” I mumbled. “Gwen told us about how you serenaded her with your wonderful voice. She had tears in her eyes the entire time she talked about it,” Ethan explained. “I don’t want to sing love songs for all of you!” I laughed. “Then sing something else, Anon,” Meg said, “You gotta know something else.” “You should play that highway song, Anon,” Gwen told me. I felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest, “There’s that puking face Bridgett keeps laughing at.” Marie laughed, “Jeez, is it that nerve wracking for you, Anon?” Ethan nudged her, “Leave him alone, Marie.” “Can I see the guitar, Anon?” Meg asked. The others were talking about work stuff. I nodded and pulled it out of the case. It was a standard dark wooden body with a dark brown pickguard and six strings. I held it out for her to examine, “Something you’re looking for?” “Electronics. I’ve been pretty interested in music stuff. Was hoping you had an electric.” “Ah, well. I do have one at home. I don’t use it a lot. No one is a big fan of metal ballads anymore. You’ll have to come over some time.” “If you’re gonna have her over you gotta have us all over, Anon,” Marie interrupted, “I gotta have that cooking that Gwen raves about.” “I’m not THAT good of a cook,” I laughed quietly. “You talked about wanting to host friends, Anon. You have friends now,” Gwen put a hand on my shoulder. I looked around at the people around me. I laughed, “I forgot what it felt like to have friends. Sure. Come over some time and I’ll make something good,” I gave the guitar a few strums, interrupted by Bridgett suddenly shouting. “Hey!” She shouted. I looked over, the minotaur was holding the ball above her head, trying to goad Bridgett into exerting some of her draconic powers, “That damn punk,” Marie started to stand up, anger on her face. “Let Bridgett handle it herself,” I told her, “She needs problem solving experience.” Bridgett was trying to jump for the ball, the minotaur continued to torment her, the fox girl was trying to get her to stop. “You sure that’s a good idea?” Gwen inquired. “Dragons are one of the most powerful monsters,” Mother explained, she had come and sat down with us without me noticing, “Are you sure she is prepared?” “I think she is--” I was cut off by Bridgett suddenly screaming, wreathed in fire. I knew what this was instantly. Her form grew into that of a large dragon, her green scales covered her entire body as she changed in a quadrupedal form with massive wings and a long tail. She breathed heavily, staring at the minotaur, “Give me the ball,” Bridgett squeaked. The minotaur set the ball on the ground and dashed away. The other kids slowly backed away from her as well. Bridgett reached for the ball and stopped, possibly noting how large her claws suddenly were. I got up and slowly walked towards her. I looked around and noticed that all eyes were on us. She sat on her haunches, shaking the earth as she slammed into the ground. She looked at her hands and arms. “Bridgett?” I called softly. She turned around quickly, slamming her tail into a tree, cracking it in half, “Daddy?” She stared at me, “Why are you so small now?” She stepped towards me, her claws chewing up the earth. I laughed, unafraid of my own flesh and blood, “You got big so fast!” She looked at me, confused. I pulled out my phone and took a picture of her. She tried to give me a smile, baring her fangs. I showed her the photo. “Daddy?” “Yes?” “Do I look like old mommy?” I sighed, “Exactly like her, princess.” Bridgett pressed her large head against my chest before being covered in fire once more and transforming back into her usual child form. She pressed her face into my stomach and grumbled, “Daddy, I want burgers.” “We’ll have some soon,” I laughed, picking her up and carrying her back to the table. Looks of relief spread on peoples’ faces. It was early on a Sunday morning. Gwen and I had been together for about two months. It was summer, Bridgett was about to turn six, Gwen was doing excellent at her job and I was still pretty low on work. Gwen wanted me to just quit and focus on being a house husband or a musician. I declined, wanting to contribute in some way to our finances. I was lying in my bed, Bridgett next to me. Gwen grumbled and rolled out of bed. “Feeling bad again today?” I asked. “Mhm. I’ll be right back,” Gwen got up and trudged into the bathroom. “When is mom going to feel better?” Bridgett asked. She had recently started acting older by replacing words like ‘mommy’ with ‘mom.’ I didn’t understand kids much, despite raising one myself. “Soon, I hope. She’s been feeling sick for a while. I’m worried about her,” I gave my daughter a hug, “Unrelated, but, what do you want for your birthday?” Bridgett thought for a few moments, “A party.” “Of course. You deserve one, with a cake and all. What else?” I pat her head. “I want you to marry mom,” She told me, completely monotone. “We’re already-- Well, not technically married yet in traditional human style,” I admitted, “I’m planning on marrying her traditionally, princess.” “Then do it. That’s what I want for my birthday, dad.” “Alright, alright,” I grumbled. We both lie down on the bed, waiting for the other to speak or for Gwen to come back. “Mom’s been in the bathroom for a while,” Bridgett commented. “I’ll go check on her,” I pat my daughter’s head lovingly as I got out of bed, headed to the bathroom, preparing for the worst. As I neared the bathroom door, I heard a quiet sobbing. Panicking, I went for the door handle only to find it locked. The sobbing ceased. I knocked, “Gwen? Are you okay in there?” She was quiet for a moment, “No,” She admitted behind the closed door. “Can you let me in?” “Only if you promise not to hate me,” Gwen demanded. “I could never hate you,” I told her. She opened the door slowly, her eyes were puffy and red from crying, “What’s wrong?” I pulled her into a hug which see resisted. I could feel my heart shatter. Pushing away from me, she avoided eye contact, “This,” She held up a small white device. It took me a moment to register it as a pregnancy test. It read positive. “You’re... pregnant?” I asked in disbelief. “Mother said that I had symptoms of pregnancy. I didn’t believe her but she convinced me to buy a tester, just to be safe,” Tears rolled down her face. “Why are you sad? I thought you wanted to have children?” “But you don’t!” She cried. “I always wanted two kids, Gwen,” I admitted. “Then why would you pick me, Anon?” “I saw you and it felt right. You photos, biography, details all looked like what I needed for Bridgett. The whole unable to have children thing was what pushed you into my number one spot, to be honest,” I tried to brush her hair aside and dry her face but she pushed my hand aside. She glared at me, tears still rolling down her face gently, “Why are you angry with me?” “Because--” She blinked at me, the anger melting away slowly. She looked at me, confusion on her face, “Anon, what’s wrong with me?” She started crying. “Let’s get you back in bed,” I sighed as I gently picked her up in a princess carry. I picked up her soft body in my arms and carefully carried her back to our room. Bridgett was playing with my phone as I lying Gwen down on the bed. I wrapped her in a blanket and propped her head up with a few pillows. “Anon, I’m sorry,” Gwen blubbered. “For what?” I asked as I sat next to her. “Being mad at you for no reason. I forgot we already talked about not being able to have kids together,” She wiped her face with the blanket, “Why are you so sweet to a brat like me?” I laughed, “You’re not a brat.” “Dad, why is mom being weird?” Bridgett whispered. “You’re going to have a sibling, Bridgett. I’m going to have a child. Anon, we’re going to have another child,” Gwen was delirious. She grabbed Bridgett in her arms and started crying again. “I GET A BROTHER!?” Bridgett screamed with a sparkle in her eyes. “Or a sister,” I told her. “I want a brother!” “We don’t get to pick, Bridgett.” She pouted as Gwen kept hugging her, “Okay...” She grumbled. I sat on the bed and pat Gwen’s head, waiting for her to calm down. “Anon?” She called to me eventually, “Can you get me more of that chocolate peanut butter ice cream?” “Anything for you, dear,” I leaned over and kissed her forehead. I got up and started getting ready. “Can I have Pringles, dad?” Bridgett asked. “I’ll get you some. Be back in a bit. Take care of your mother, okay?” I got in my car and headed to the store. Despite what my gut told me to do, I called Mother rather than any of Gwen’s friends. The phone rang only once before she picked up, “Hello? Anon? How are you?” “Hi, Mother. I’m fine, you?” “Good! Good! Hubby and I are taking a nice relaxing day. Anything I can help you with?” “Look, I don’t understand monsters and magic at all. Gwen’s pregnant and I have no idea how that could have happened,” I explained. She scoffed, “Obviously, its because you had sex with her.” “But she’s barren!” I shouted. “Mamano magic and human mana together can make miracles happen, Anon. Do you want me to come over?” I shrugged even though she couldn’t see me, “Do what you want. I’m headed to the store right now to get her ice cream.” “I’ll head over. I want to see Bridgett again anyways,” She chuckled. “See you soon, I guess.” I returned home with the desired food as well as another surprise. I put the food away and headed up the stairs. I pushed the door open to my room to find Mother already here, sitting with Gwen. Bridgett waved at me. Gwen looked like she had finally calmed down, “Hello, Anon,” Mother called. “Hey. I put the ice cream in the freezer for you,” I told Gwen. “Thank you,” She stood up to stretch. I swooped in, grabbing her hand and going down on one knee. Mother gasped while Gwen looked at me, confused, “I know this isn’t the most romantic occasion. But I feel this needs to be done.” “What are you talking about, Anon?” Gwen asked, trying to pull away from me gently. “Gwen. Marry me,” I presented her with the ring. “Aren't you already my husband?” “Marry me in the traditional human way, Gwen. I love you and want you to be with me forever. What do you say?” She sighed, “Of course, Anon. How could I refuse that handsome face?” I stood up and was assaulted with a deep and passionate kiss on the lips. “This is so surreal, Anon,” Gwen panted as she lie on the hospital bed. “I know, Gwen. You’re going to have children of your own!” I clutched her hand as she prepared to give birth. “I already have a child, Anon. I’m already a mother,” She smiled at me, “I wish our little dragon could be here.” “She’s waiting for us in the other room with Mother. You should have seen how excited she was.” Gwen gave me weak laugh, “We should have gotten the ultrasound,” She expressed her regret. “You’re the one that wanted their genders to be a surprise the day of!” I snuck her a small kiss on the lips when the doctors weren’t looking. “I know...” She mumbled, weakly trying to pull her hand away from me. “How are you feeling?” I asked, changing the subject. “Fine. How about you? You don’t look nearly as nervous as I expected,” Gwen smiled. “Really? I feel like I’m gonna vomit.” “Don’t throw up on me,” She warned, “You nearly passed out when--” Her eyes suddenly went wide and she squeezed my hand. Doctors quickly sprang into action as Gwen went into labor. Bridgett slammed the door open, “Where are my babies!?” She demanded. “Walk, Bridgett,” Mother said firmly, following closely behind. “Let me see!” Bridgett started climbing up onto the bed. I picked her up and set her at the foot of the bed. Bridgett slowly crawled over to look at the two bundles. “Did you two figure out names?” Mother asked. I took the baby boy, “Ross,” I told her. The boy had a little bit of hair that was the same color as Gwen’s. “And the girl?” “Samantha, after Gwen’s mother.” “Dad, she looks like you,” Bridgett said, noting the hair color shared between the three of us, surprisingly, it looked like her wool color would be light brown too. She had little horns sticking out of her head. “Yeah, she’s got my hair. I can’t believe we had a boy and a girl,” I handed the boy back to Gwen who had been silent this whole time. “Gwen, are you well?” Mother asked. She looked up, tear stains on her face, “L-look at them, Anon. Our own flesh and blood.” “I know, Gwen,” I gave her a kiss on the cheek, “You did such a good job.” “Thank you, Anon. I’m so tired.” “We can go home soon, okay?” I gave her another kiss as she nodded in response. “How’s the new place?” Mother asked. “It’s nice. Five room, two and a half bath, the nice stuff.” “You two going to have a fourth?” “No way, these three will be difficult enough,” Gwen told her. We were at home, Gwen and I were cuddling, Bridgett was sleeping next to us, and the babies in their crib. I wanted to hold them more. We had spent close to ten hours at the hospital. Gwen deserved sleep more than anyone. I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to tease her about her pregnant belly. She was happy with her new motherly body at least. I was too. I glanced at my phone again. 2 A.M. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t roll or move without disturbing my two girls. I sighed. “Anon?” I heard a familiar voice whisper. “Hm?” I looked to the side to see a form come towards me from the darkness. “You five are all so cute.” “You really think so?” “Mhm,” She leaned down and gave Bridgett a kiss on the cheek, “I still can’t believe she’s six.” “Yeah. I can’t believe I had more kids.” She chuckled lightly, “You always told me you wanted three.” “I know. You wanted more than ten once you turned into a dragon,” We both laughed softly. “Are you happy with her, Anon?” “Of course I am, Emily. Doesn’t stop me from missing you.” “Forget about me already, Anon.” “How can I--” “Promise me you will, for the better of your family.” I sighed again, “I will.” “Promise me.” “I promise,” I crossed my fingers under the sheet. Gwen stirred, “Who are you talking to?” “No one,” I looked at where Emily had been standing to see nothing but darkness. “Can’t sleep?” She kissed my chin. “No, I can’t,” I kissed her forehead. “I love you.” “I love you too.” I lay my head back and slowly drifted off to sleep.