"Do you think it was too soon?" Annie asks as she washes blood out of my shirt.
"I was nine when I first killed. Gloriana will be fine."
Annie's face turns sour and she turns to face me with her eyes narrowed.
"That's because you were shipped off to Alaska. And you want to send Gloriana there too."
I sigh and rub my temples.
"Annabeth, are we really gonna have this conversation again?"
"I don't like the idea of sending my child away."
I want to bring up the fact that we sent Isabella there, but I know it is far too soon to reopen the wounds. I blink back tears and look Annabeth dead in the eye.
"Every member in my family has done this. Gloriana won't be the first one to be sent away and she won't be the last. She'll be fine, Annie. I love her, if I really thought that this would be bad for her then I wouldn't send her. Killing runs in my family. We have our enemies blood running through our veins. Assassinating is the thing we do best. It's the only thing we can do."
Annie crosses her arms.
"Is that really all your family can do? Or is that just what Stoneripper says?"
Tension flowed through the air.
"Gabe, what if Gloriana decides that she doesn't want to do this-"
"Do you wanna know what happened to my grandmother, Annabeth? She decided that she didn't want to be a killer and she herself was killed for it. I watched her die in front of my eyes. I was seven, Annabeth. If Stoneripper is heartless enough to make a little boy watch his mother die, how empathetic do you think he would be towards our little girl?"
Annabeth stayed silent.
"I'll admit, I've done a lot of bad things to our children. I've made them look at dead bodies, I've made them kill people. So many innocent people. But everything I've done I've done for my family. I am preparing our children for the cold reality they'll have to face one day. Believe me, stripping them of their innocence now is a mercy compared to what it will be if I shelter them and throw them out onto the battlefield."
I take a deep breath and hug Annabeth.
"Gloriana's getting sent out in a week. We have to do this."
I knock on Gloriana's door but hear no answer. All I can hear on the other side is a small sniffle. Great job, Ambrose, you made her cry...again. I open the door and sit on the edge of her bed. We both sit in silence for a moment before I speak.
"I'm not a good father. I know that. But a week or two from now, you'll realize that I only ever wanted the best for you. I had to watch people die at your age. And you know what? It made me stronger. You don't even know what's waiting for you in a week. And believe me, it will break you. But it won't destroy you. You'll learn how to bend so that you won't break anymore. I promise. One day, you'll have this same conversation with your kids, if you ever have any."
I look over at her. Her ginger hair is sticking to her face with sweat. Her eyes are a bloodshot red, but they're also filled with a sense of understanding. I hug her.
How I wish I could keep her long enough to hear her call me that a thousand times more.