The first bread Trevor Belmont ate while living his newly orphaned vagabond life was so dry it cut at the inner walls of his throat. He swallowed each bite with grimace after grimace, knowing that despite the pain, the already hardened child of thirteen could stave off starvation for a little while longer. Until he tasted the faintest tinge of copper on his ruined tongue.
Putting those years far behind, he now stands in front of a wooden counter, blurry eyed and with a yawn reminiscent of a sun drunk cat. It seems clean at first glance but in every corner Trevor notices fragments of past meals which he tried wiping away once they were finished and placed on a more pristine table meant for family. Bits of salt, half minced vegetables, and crumbs of bread much softer than the ones belonging to a later childhood he would rather forget. This kitchen, warm in its early morning sunlight, was the final installment of the manor, newly risen from the ashes. Or rather, simply rebuilt thanks to the calloused, blistered, and splintered hands. No more ruined stone, no more fire blackened beams holding together little less than an architectural skeleton. The somewhat mirror image of Trevor’s lost home has been faring better than the castle. Too many memories, fresh, ranging from bitter to incomprehensible.
Slowly, he grows conscious of his surroundings and his own self. A continuing habit of being the first to wake not just in this manor hold but in life. Reluctantly opening his eyes prior to dawn covering the landscape while still traveling alone only to drag a pair of worn boots back along a similar muddy road. Trevor never wanted to wake up before the sun. He just couldn’t bear to stay in the same place for much longer whether due to the laundry list of dangers or more often than not, his newfound hatred of whichever backwater hamlet he unfortunately found himself in.
He’s happy to wake up early. Happy to never feel a need to leave or escape, happy to know that lack of food replaced with pints of liquid pleasure mixed with death will never plague him again. Happy to prepare breakfast in a hot iron pot over a well stoked fire. What he thought he lost forever has come back, along with new additions to the family he’s carved out.
Another presence bounds her way into the kitchen and ambushes Trevor from behind. He’s not old—not yet, he’ll give it time—but years of drinking have made their permanent stay, dulling the more acute senses. Makes it easier for a five-year-old to catch him off guard. Trevor’s eyes bolt open as tiny arms hold him in a tight cage.
“Good morning, papa!”
His ears ring at the sound of Mirele’s loud voice, but at least he won’t have to worry about nodding off. He stares down at the youngest Belmont who looks as though someone had split Trevor and Sypha straight down their centres into four pieces and sewed each differing half onto the other in order to create a new person. A homunculi of messy dark chocolate hair, bright eyes shining with blue ice, full rosy cheeks somehow conspicuously smeared with some sort of dirt or jam, and enough energy to wear out an electric powered jackrabbit.
“How’s my little monster doing this morning?” Everything Trevor says is laced with his own personal touch of affection and Mirele loves it.
“Mama and papa are still asleep. Help me wake them up! Pleaseeee?”
This doesn’t surprise him; Sypha has always preferred to savour her last moments of sleep longer than normal and Alucard is… well, Alucard.
“Tell you what.” Trevor places a lid onto the simmering pot with a heavy clank. “While this heats up for our breakfast, we’ll go wake up those lazy bones.”
“Right!” Hand in smaller hand, the two make their way upstairs into the shadowy master bedchamber. Curtains drawn with only a sliver of light cutting its singular path across the floor and over two distinct lumps covered by blankets and furs. They seem conjoined, linked in each other’s arms, unaware that a third party has been missing for long enough. Mirele plunges into the room first, jumping onto the bed as all children do when parents refuse to join the land of the conscious. She playfully shoves and cuddles her way between the two bodies who sink deeper beneath the covers, lazily moaning like ghosts.
“Mama! Papa! Wake up! It’s time to get up!”
Trevor hopes that his tactic of throwing open the weighted curtains works in a more effective manner. Listening to the rising chorus of wordless protests coming from behind, he’s pleased with the results. “Never thought I would be the one setting a good example for our daughter.”
“Do not get cheeky, especially this early.” Sypha’s response spills out like running water. It’s clear her mind isn’t quite all there yet. But she can scoop Mirele into her arms, find every ticklish spot, and illicit giggles that only canines might hear. “At least we both know how to have fun, right my sweet?”
“Vampires… nocturnal…” A deeper, muffled voice emerges from under one of the pillows.
“Something you’d like to share with us, Alucard?” Trevor quips, amused at how the other father of the household can never seem to shake off his morning dishevelment. Perhaps sleeping in a coffin would help—a very large one so he doesn’t have to be alone. Alucard reluctantly removes the pillow as tangled heaps of gold fall over his face.
“Vampires are supposed to be nocturnal. Would you rather I burst into ashes upon contact with the sun? Think of our girls, Trevor.”
“We’ve all seen you in the sun before, it’s about as dangerous as a clove of garlic.”
“I have my own means of physical protection. Far beyond your measly human comprehension, love.”
“Personally, I’ve been able to comprehend you plenty.”
Mirele stares up at Sypha, her bushy brows furrowed. “What does… comp… sshhheshion mean?”
“It’s just another word your fathers use whenever either of them want to feel smart.”
Alucard gives Sypha a gentle pinch on either side of her abdomen. “I thought you were on my side.”
“What about my side?” Trevor asks, excelling at the greatest strength he possesses—the ability to never take anything seriously, only when he must.
“I’m hungry,” Mirele speaks up. “Hungry and bored. Can we eat now?”
This life is not normal, but then again it is. It always has been for them. Normal once meant coming together because of violence, encroaching darkness, and some flimsy prophecy stringing them along the road one dead body at a time. A prophecy which never said what had to be done after they followed it to the hard earned letter. Perhaps that’s why Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard floundered afterwards. No instruction on how to live their upturned lives.
They made this life by their own standards and in accordance with their own desires. They loved how they wanted to love and no prophecy could have foreseen Mirele. How she calls for her father while both Trevor and Alucard turn their heads at the same exact second. How she quickly calms herself when presented with a bowl of warm oatmeal drowning in honey and wild fruits hand plucked from the surrounding forest. But it’s not enough. Nothing ever is for someone always growing, always wanting more from life at such a young age.
“Can I have bread?”
Trevor, half way through his bitter coffee, turns to Sypha then Alucard as all three parental figures exchange glances. They haven’t the heart to tell Mirele. No bread at the ready, only the necessary ingredients and a considerable amount of flour bags to blanket Enisala. There’s the option of making it themselves, yet it depends on a certain someone’s capacity for patience.
“How do you feel about baking our own?” Trevor’s voice wavers, which he tries to mask with his characteristic dry tone. It’s been a long time since he’s made bread. Then again, helping the manor cooks was a somewhat selfish endeavour as it meant extra servings for the baby of the Belmonts. Yet his proposal goes over well with Mirele, whose inherited eyes light up at the prospect of trying something new.
“I wanna make bread! Can we? Can we please?”
“When was the last time you baked anything, Trevor?” Alucard asks, genuinely curious and with a healthy dose of skepticism. “You still won’t tell us much about anything concerning your former life, let alone the sort of foods your family ate.”
Trevor feels a twinge in his gut—still better than a punch. His two lovers, even his daughter, they only know of his mother; a matriarch in her own right. They know her name, the monsters she killed, and not much else. Trevor’s excuses: he doesn’t remember anything about her, despite the fact that he does. He didn’t know her for very long or very well, so there’s no point in missing her. Trevor did know Sonia and he does miss her, sometimes more than he can handle. Then the easiest excuse: it’s just another self-preservation tactic.
Out of this inner reflection comes an idea. It breaks tradition in a way. For the Belmonts and other Jewish families, everything is passed down through the mother—recipes, forms of worship, blood memories, centuries old tactics of bruising one’s knuckles and temples. Trevor doesn’t think this slight deviation from his culture’s norm will make him any less of what he’s always been. Mirele will simply have to pick up where he left off when she’s grown.
He doesn’t want to think about that now. She’s only five after all. One lesson at a time.
“Alright. Gather round, pupils. The bread we’re making isn’t just any bread. Forget everything you know and everything you’ve been taught because this will be the closest thing to heaven you’ll ever taste.”
“How dramatic…” Sypha mutters under her breath. Alucard joins her amusement with a subdued chuckle.
“I believe you were partially his influence.”
Trevor knows how much trouble he’ll be in if he puts Mirele through the most agonizing cruelty of waiting a second longer than necessary. Fearful of her pint-sized wrath, he gives everyone the order to start gathering ingredients: flour, eggs, honey, and some indulgent herbs to make this particular bread something special. As much of a strategic leader in the kitchen as he is when the world is coming to an end. With everything spread out on the countertops, Trevor guides his family step by step through the only recipe he remembers. He calls this bread “challah”, which Mirele immediately strains her freshly green vocal chords, trying to pronounce the word exactly as her father does. She quickly gives up and focuses on mixing the ingredients with an intense look—almost to a fault as bits of sloppy dough fly out of the bowl. Good. This enthusiasm is what Trevor wants to see.
Kneaded and allowed time to rise, the next step is the most important. Trevor divides the dough into four halves, then again, and again until each participant has their own handful of raw unbaked strips.
“We have to braid them?” Mirele asks following his explanation.
“That’s right. It’s what makes this bread different from all the rest.”
“Just like when papa let’s me braid his pretty hair!”
Every pair of eyes turns to Alucard, whose smile widens in that way which causes his eyes to shut tightly. Fangs happily bared as he pulls Mirele into his flour and dough covered arms while she giggles in delight. After they all return to work, her loaf turns out the same way as the braids she gives to him—lopsided, uneven, lacking a few outsticking stray hairs, but filled with affection and genuine resolve.
Three loaves are placed into the oven, including a fourth crudely constructed but still adequately done piece. Mirele is now more willing to play the waiting game—so she claims. Sitting in front of the oven while staring directly into its insides, utterly fascinated, oblivious to her surroundings. Unaware that her three parents are whispering behind her back. Eventually, Sypha has to gently pull her away with her bottom dragging along the kitchen floor.
“How about you and I do something a little more interesting while your fathers keep watch over things.”
“But what about the c… the calla!”
“Don’t worry, they will look after it. And we are not going far, my sweet.”
“We’ll make sure nothing burns down.” Trevor assures, despite it being Sypha who usually revels in cinders and ashes, intentionally or not.
The two retreat down the corridor past diamond shaped stained windows and into one of the manor’s smaller libraries where the cabinets reach the high ceiling painted in deep blue hues. Scattered from corner to corner are constellations of stars and midnight clouds obscuring each phase of the moon. Once when Alucard found Mirele curiously asleep atop a number of pillows when she should have been in her own bed, it was his decision to paint the library in new colours. Sypha moves aside an entire shelf of thick volumes as though trying to find a carefully hidden switch that will lead them into a secret chamber. It’s what Mirele hopes but turns mildly disappointed when the books do not in fact magically shift to reveal a stone passageway. Her soured anticipation is only countered when Sypha places a box on the desk.
“Can you guess what’s inside?”
“Is it treasure?”
“Close! You are almost right.” Sypha opens the lid just as Pandora did except there are no horrors, no evils to be wrought upon humanity. Mirele peeks inside and her eyes shine with the glistening silver of trinkets, pendants, and talismans. She resists the innate urge to reach her hands, still white with flour, into the box only to briefly experience the sensation of holding one between her fingers. Even children know when something is sacred.
“These belonged to your grandparents. They used them for protection and strength. A long time ago, before you were born, their home burned down and everything was destroyed.”
Sypha nods, grateful that this story now has its happy ending, slight as it may be. “However, when your other father started building the manor we live in, he found this box trapped amongst all the rubble. It managed to survive.”
“What do they say?”
Mirele points to one pendant molded in the shape of a sword. Inscribed along the curve of its ash-riddled blade are the Hebrew names of angels which must have been muttered by Sonia or Gabriel. The longer Mirele stares, attempting to decipher yet another new language, the brighter her cheeks grow red with frustration. Her mother acts quick just as her eyes begin to water.
“It’s alright if you don’t understand what any of them say.”
“I can learn! Please, mama? I promise I’ll study really hard!”
Sypha’s lips curl as Mirele continues her begging. Oh the mind of a child. How quickly it changes.
The kitchen feels hotter, wafting through the air. Enveloping the room and everything caught between its walls. Trevor stands by the oven, a thick cloth ready in his hand. It shouldn’t take much longer. At least there’s no stench of something burning. Almost makes him pine for the days of his family’s massive stone oven and how he would sneak around at night and pick out leftover morsels from inside like an insatiable mouse. Not unlike the actual beasts which he hunted throughout the hallways before moving onto larger prey typical of a Belmonts’ work—or as large as his own runtish body mass could handle.
Minutes of quiet pass, still eyeing the loaves with a keen gaze. Trevor’s concentration soon broken by the feeling of two arms wrapping around his softening yet still robust midsection. Slow and careful, until his back is pressed against an equally broad chest.
“Can I help you?” He asks as Alucard buries his face into the curvature of his shoulder blades.
“You’re already helping.” The dhampir, unchanging in his physical appearance (a revelation both Trevor and Sypha refuse to acknowledge for the time being), tightens his embrace.
“No… I just enjoy feeling how much softer and warmer you’ve become.”
Trevor’s cheeks blush ever so pinker and not because of the oven’s heat. By now he should be used to Alucard’s sudden bouts of outward affection.
“You even smell better.”
There it is. Trevor thought he would be waiting forever to hear that little jab, though said with nothing but a good heart.
“That might be the herbs you’re smelling.”
Alucard shifts around so that the two of them are side by side, cheek to cheek, as he chuckles in Trevor’s ear. “Come here.”
He doesn’t offer a kiss, not where Trevor was expecting. Instead of his lips, Alucard singles out every patch of stray flour on his face, kissing, wiping, even licking them clean. Cheek, jawline, and nose. Trevor’s expression twists into a ticklish, surprisingly delighted facade.
“You’re a half vampire, not a cat.”
“Better to clean you now than later.”
“Always so fucking odd…”
“You love it.”
Much to his lucky stars, Trevor manages one curse mere seconds before Sypha and Mirele return. They let their daughter speak at a breakneck speed neither one can fully comprehend—something about silver pieces and whether they can teach her a new language—until one series of questions finally sticks.
“Is the bread ready yet? Can we eat it now? Can we please?”
Trevor placates Mirele by revealing the fruits of their joint hard earned labour: four freshly baked and perfectly shined challah loaves each representative of whoever did the braiding. She bounces in her chair before simmering down to an excited tremble once Trevor warns her of how they need to cool. In order to make this more of a meal, he rummages about in search of two other beacons from his childhood. He’s rewarded with one of the few fresh apples they have left while Sypha, ever in tune with his inner thoughts, grabs another small pot of honey for him.
Trevor thanks her by gently running his palm across her lower abdomen, over the growing bump. He keeps it there for just a second longer, a subtle gesture of love noticed by Sypha. Fingertips intertwined with each other, they join Alucard and Mirele at the table as the midday sun shines golden through the windows.