The events in this story happen when Kalyn is almost 3 years old. Although Anselm was at the hospital the day she was born, this is the first time he’s actually spent any time with her.
Lenoir City, TN
Anselm didn’t bother to knock before opening the door to Micah’s house; Micah already knew he was on his way. He was a little surprised, though, to see Kalyn in the living room. She was standing at Micah’s coffee table, a pile of plastic horses scattered over it. Micah was sitting on the couch, watching her with amusement.
Kalyn looked up at Anselm with large, solemn eyes as he came into the living room.
“So this is what you’re busy with,” Anselm said with a smile, before sitting in a chair.
“Yep, I’ve got munchkin duty,” Micah said with an answering smile. “Rob and Alice went out to dinner. It’s their ten-year anniversary.”
“Is it? I hadn’t paid any attention to the date. So I guess you’re not up for a movie tonight?”
Micah shrugged. “Depends on when they get back. Alice said they weren’t going to be out late; we might can catch one of the late showings. Anything in particular you were wanting to see?”
“Twister looked interesting. It opens tonight, I think.”
“Ah, the lovely Helen Hunt. I’m definitely there.”
Anselm glanced at Kalyn, who was still staring at him silently, her hands frozen on her toys. “That has to be the quietest child I have ever seen,” he remarked. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say anything.”
Micah scoffed. “You should have gotten here a minute earlier. She was explaining horse segregation to me. Apparently it’s important they be separated by color.” Micah gestured to the table; Anselm noticed that the horses were loosely grouped by color.
“That can’t be normal for a kid,” Micah said, his voice lowering; he sounded almost worried. “I mean, she’s not quite three.”
“It seems perfectly normal to me,” Anselm said, smiling at him. “Maybe she can explain organization to you in small words so you can understand.”
“Ow,” Micah said, grimacing. “That was low.”
Anselm shrugged, smiling unrepentantly.
They both looked at Kalyn, but she only stared silently at Anselm, a couple of horses in her hands, forgotten.
“Aren’t you going to talk to Anselm?” Micah asked her.
Kalyn glanced at Micah, then shook her head–her curly, red-brown hair bouncing a little.
She just shook her head again.
Micah leaned forward, looking at her. “Tell him about the horses.” She just shook her head again.
Micah looked at Anselm. “This is so bizarre. She normally talks all the time. She’ll even talk to herself if she can’t get you to listen. I wonder why she’s so shy around you? She’s not like this with anyone else.”
“I don’t know,” Anselm said honestly.
Micah gently pushed her towards Anselm, but she moved reluctantly. “Go say ‘hi’ to Anselm,” he pressed.
She shook her head again.
“Don’t make her do it if she doesn’t want to,” Anselm chided.
“He’s going to think you don’t like him if you don’t speak to him,” Micah said, whispering in her ear.
She continued to stare at Anselm with large, dark eyes, but didn’t say anything and didn’t move of her own free will.
“Maybe she doesn’t like me,” Anselm said, frowning. He didn’t know what he had done to make Kalyn dislike him, but he wished he could overcome it. He didn’t like being the only person she disliked; it made him feel… abnormal. Something about the way she looked at him made him wonder if she was instinctually afraid of him. But she clearly wasn’t afraid of Micah or Isaac.
“Do you like Anselm?” Micah asked. Kalyn turned, looking back at Micah. She finally nodded.
He gestured towards Anselm. “Then go tell him hello.”
Kalyn turned around again, looking at Anselm. He held out his hands for her, hopefully. She hesitated for a second, still looking at him intently, then she walked purposefully over to him and let him pick her up. He put her on his lap and looked down at her.
“Finally,” Micah muttered.
Kalyn sighed—it sounded oddly contented, more like something an adult would do than a child—and she laid her head against Anselm and closed her eyes. He put his arms around her, holding her, but was a little unsure of what to do with her past that. But she didn’t seem to want or need anything else.
“She’s still not going to talk to you, is she?” Micah said quietly after a minute.
“I guess not.”
Micah shook his head. “That’s just so bizarre,” he repeated. “She talks to everyone else.”
Anselm smiled a little. “Maybe she knows I have absolutely no clue what to do with children.”
“That should make you a shoe-in with her, though. Kids are like dogs—they can sense who doesn’t like them, and they make a beeline for them and don’t leave them alone.”
Anselm chuckled and looked down at Kalyn again. “Well, I think I’m there,” he told Micah quietly.
“Is she going to sleep?” he asked, surprised.
“She’s getting there.”
“That’s so weird; she doesn’t let anyone else hold her. If you pick her up, you’ve got about sixty seconds before she insists on being put down. She especially won’t let you hold her when she wants to sleep. She’ll sleep in the floor before she’ll sleep any anyone’s lap.”
Micah looked at her in amazement for a long moment, then shrugged and pulled a newspaper from the bottom of the pile of stuff on the couch. “Want me to see when the movie’s playing?”
“Sure. We can always go tomorrow too.”
Micah started to flip through the paper. “Let’s see what our options are.”
Anselm studied Kalyn while Micah read the newspaper. He hadn’t really spent any time with children since he had been turned—especially any so young. He found her strangely fascinating. She had the most peculiar smell. It was so sweet that it was almost unbearable—like old varieties of roses which could be almost overpowering in their perfume. The human part of her scent—what made her smell like something to eat—was almost an afterthought, barely noticeable under the sweetness.
Anselm wondered why they ever had to make a law forbidding taking from anyone under the age of sixteen. He found people that young almost too sweet for his taste; a child like Kalyn would be completely unappetizing. He couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to—even setting morality aside—although he knew it had happened in the past.
He held her a little closer. The thought of someone doing anything to risk the life of someone so small and innocent horrified him.
“There’s a showing at 7:50 tonight, and a bunch tomorrow,” Micah at last announced.
“If we can, we’ll go to that one tonight. Otherwise… what, noon tomorrow?”
“Sounds good.” Micah looked at him. “Do you want to put her down? I can clean off the couch.”
Anselm smiled. “Hmm, trade this for seeing your couch cleaned off? I think not. Namely because I know ‘cleaning it off’ would mean pushing everything into the floor.”
Anselm chuckled. “I’m fine.” He was reluctant to put Kalyn down. Strangely, he felt the same sort of pull towards her that he felt towards his own kind, although he didn’t know why. It just seemed nice—right, somehow—to hold her.
He looked down at her and touched her hair gently; it was as soft as silk. “I can see why you like children,” he said to Micah. “They are rather endearing, aren’t they?”
“Sure, when they’re sleeping.” Micah laughed.
Anselm looked up at him. “You’re not fooling me. You live for the toys.”
“I can’t wait until she gets older and we can get something more fun than Weebles,” he said excitedly. “Two more weeks and she’ll be out from under the ‘not suitable for children under three’ ban. And then I’m going to load her up.” Micah seemed almost gleeful.
“With Barbie dolls?” Anselm asked, perking a brow.
Micah shrugged. “Sure. They’re a hell of a lot better than Weebles. At least they come with clothes and stuff you can actually play with. Although I have a feeling that Barbie is going to dump Ken for G.I. Joe and his remote-controlled Mustang convertible with a gun rack trunk accessory. That’s what I’ve heard, anyways.”
Anselm laughed, shaking his head. “That is so wrong. Besides, shouldn’t G.I. Joe drive a tank?”
“Yeah, but you don’t take a classy lady like Barbie out to dinner in a tank.”
“But you do take her out in a car with a run rack?”
“Hell, yeah. Crime is rampant and C.O.B.R.A. has been pissed since the Wall fell. You let your guard down for a minute and they’ll get Communist on your ass. Freedom requires constant vigilance, my friend. If someone tries to pull some shit, even when you’re out on a hot date, you’ve got to deal with it. Besides, chicks dig men with guns.”
“I hope you don’t curse this much when she’s awake.”
“Of course not.” Micah sounded almost insulted.
There was a knock on the door a few minutes after seven. “That’s them,” Micah said, getting up. “Hey, Alice,” he said when he opened the door.
“How did it go?” she asked, stepping inside.
“Oh, we had a good time organizing the horses.”
“There was no ‘we’ to that, Alice,” Anselm said, looking over his shoulder at her. “Micah couldn’t organize an escape from a paper sack.”
“Did I forget your birthday or something? You have been brutalizing me today,” Micah complained.
Alice laughed and went to stand beside Anselm, her hand lightly resting on his shoulder. “How are you?”
She looked down at Kalyn, sleeping curled up in his lap. “Has she been a pest? She’ll talk your ear off, won’t she?”
“She hasn’t said the first thing since I walked in here.”
“Really?” she asked, sounding surprised.
“I never could get her to say anything to him,” Micah said, standing beside Alice. “I haven’t a clue why.”
“That’s weird; she normally doesn’t shut up.” Alice’s smile widened. “She’s takes after her dad on that.”
Anselm grinned. “No comment.”
“How long has she been asleep?”
Anselm glanced at Micah; he hadn’t paid any attention to the time. “About an hour, I guess,” Micah answered for him.
“Really?” Alice asked. “I’m surprised she went to sleep that early. I normally don’t put her down until seven. I expected her to still be awake, actually. She got a good nap earlier today.”
“I think she fell asleep about as soon as he picked her up,” Micah said. “Although it took a little convincing to get her to go to him. She’s shy for some reason.”
“Did she go to sleep like that?” she asked Anselm, looking surprised again. “With you holding her?”
She smiled. “Well aren’t you special? I’ve always had to put her down before she’d go to sleep.”
“She won’t let me or dad hold her either,” Micah commented.
“Maybe this is what I get in exchange for the silent treatment,” Anselm said with a smile.
Alice rolled her eyes. “She must like you best if she lets you hold her and she won’t talk to you.” They all laughed.
Anselm stood up, carefully holding Kalyn in his arms. She never woke. “You want me to take her home for you?”
“No, I’ve got her,” Alice said, reaching for her. She grunted as Anselm transferred Kalyn into her arms. “Maybe,” she said, her voice strained a little.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to take her?” Alice was so petite, Kalyn looked much larger in her arms. And… he really hated letting go of her, although he didn’t know why.
“That’s okay,” Alice said with a smile. “I’ll enjoy it while I can. Thanks,” she said, looking at both of them. “We really appreciate this.”
“No problem,” Micah said. “Happy anniversary.”
“Thank you,” she replied with a smile.
Anselm hurried to get the door for her.
“Thanks,” she said again, before heading out.
“We’ve got time to make the movie tonight, if you want to go,” Micah offered.
“Yeah, I want to go,” Anselm said absentmindedly, as he watched Alice cross the street. She had barely made it to the sidewalk when Kalyn started squirming, and she had to put her down. A moment later, Kalyn was running full-tilt to the house, calling for her daddy. Apparently quiet time was over.