I’d made up my mind: The tall guy with the dark brown hair was an idiot.
Our history lesson was about to start and Seth (the idiot in question and, unfortunately, also my twin) was leaning over Amber Scott’s desk and looking at her longingly as she texted on her phone. Occasionally she batted her eyelids in his direction and I was sure that if I got closer I would see drool leaking from the corner of his idiotic mouth.
As our teacher, Mr. Dawson came into the room, Amber leaned up and (still texting) whispered something into Seth’s ear. He practically floated to his desk, grinning like the village idiot that he was. I groaned and banged my head on my desk several times to stop myself from going over there and slapping his stupid face.
My friend Dylan leaned over and whispered, “Bet she was texting Sarah.” He nodded in a ‘you-know-what-that-means’ kind of way and moved away again.
Behind me Annie stage-whispered, “Does he seriously fancy her?”
I lifted my head off my desk and tried to concentrate on Mr. Dawson’s intro to the topic of the month – Mao Tse Tung’s
. All I could think about was that Seth was either going to make a major fool of himself or get his heart broken into a gazillion pieces. I wasn’t sure what would be worse. China
Why couldn’t he have fancied Annie Poole? One of my best friends and a totally cool person with her tie-dyed t-shirts and her fringed bags. Annie was a throw-back to the sixties, a child born in the totally wrong decade. She even had the slightly eerie, breathy voice of one of the perpetually stoned, although in Annie’s case it was simply that she found everything in life astonishing – every day was a gift to be investigated and then savored. Annie’s like a walking encyclopaedia – okay, multi-coloured, hippie encyclopaedia, but she’s a genuine memory-girl and a great friend. On my birthday she bought me a tie-dyed shirt from the local New Age shop and a cute crystal angel. The shirt was purple, green and pink so I wore it to bed rather than out in public but the angel was gorgeous and came in a tiny chiffon bag with a small card inside. The card was hand printed in teeny writing. It said “This is an angel to keep my best friend safe.” My angel went with me everywhere.
? Alice Frost was a pretty girl too – in a mousy, nervous sort of way. She was the kind who walked along with her books clutched tightly to her chest and her head down in case anyone spoke to her but she had these liquid brown eyes framed with the longest, darkest lashes I’d ever seen. Why don’t guys look beyond the obvious and see the true beauties sometimes? Alice
Or even Claire Anderson – Claire was cute with a blonde chin-length bob and big blue eyes. Her skin was perfect – peaches and cream layered over mother of pearl. To me, Claire always seemed to have a kind of inner glow that formed an aura of happiness around her. Okay, so she wore a skirt that skimmed her ankles and went to church four times a week but hey! Being deeply religious doesn’t make you a bad person!
Unfortunately it also doesn’t make you a member of the ‘it’ crowd.
Amber Scott was a member of the most popular crowd in school and she was a total babe – small and curvy with a flat stomach, skin the colour of caramel and glossy auburn hair that cascaded down her back in a waterfall of loose curls. In our school she was second only to Sarah King – queen bee of
. Sarah is a total Rainey High School wannabe – she’s skinny with long blonde hair, big boobs and pouty lips. I’ve never actually heard her say anything remotely sensible but she has this throaty giggle that guys seem to go nuts for. Personally I don’t get it. I mean, she’s a total bitch! Jordan
Seth and I moved here from
when we were twelve and Sarah’s first words to us were, “Move out of the way you inbred American assholes.” See what I mean? Total bitch! When she found out that our mum is a single parent, well, she really went to town on that one. I’m not going to repeat the words that she used, the names that she called us but I’m willing to bet that you can imagine. Seattle
I don’t like her much. (No, really!)
Sarah dates Adam Farlow. If I didn’t already detest her, then that right there would be the clincher. Adam is …well he’s…oh, he’s totally gorgeous! Floppy blond hair, dark blue eyes, wide shoulders, narrow waist, cute butt…he’s on the rugby team and the rowing team so you can imagine the muscles under that school uniform. Well, I can imagine every lickable inch of them anyway. He’s delicious. And I get to stare at him during Biology and English Lit. Of course, so do the rest of the girls in the class.
Amber used to date Ritchie Phillips (he of the multi-millionaire Daddy and model-turned-fashion-designer mummy) but they split up about three weeks ago and, since we turned sixteen last Thursday, Seth seems to have had some kind of common-sense bypass. He asked Amber out the day after our birthday and she told him it was too soon after Ritchie “but maybe next week.” So there we were – Seth following Amber around like a little puppy and Amber stringing him along with little whispers and flirty looks.
I was right, he was an idiot.
History dragged on and on. Mr. Dawson is a decent human being but he makes history as exciting as watching old wallpaper curl. Bless him! He always asks the class “How did I do?” at the end of a lesson and looks inconsolable as Dylan makes a ‘poor guy’ face and pats him on the back on the way out. I’ve tried to explain to Dylan that a little sugar coating might be better but Dylan can’t tell the man a lie and he believes that constructive criticism is good for the soul.
Yes, Dylan is a nerd, but in a nice way. He knows everything there is to know about mathematics and computers. He is also loyal to his friends and completely honest, alarmingly honest sometimes. When Annie asks, “What do you think of my hair?” (She’s constantly changing the colour of it), Dylan always answers truthfully – which is sometimes “Dreadful. What the hell colour IS that?” Dylan is an average height with a halo of dark curls and intense blue eyes. He kind of looks cross a lot but his brain just seems to be wired differently to everyone else – Dylan thinks about everything really deeply and doesn’t cope well with minor annoyances. He will also argue about ANYTHING!
At lunch Dylan, Annie and I sat outside at the picnic tables in the quad. It was a beautiful day with the sun high in the sky and everyone in good spirits. Seth joined us for a while but soon disappeared to look for Amber because I gave him such a hard time about her.
“He thinks you don’t think he’s good enough for her,” said Annie after Seth had left. She was nibbling on an apple, leaving tiny little bites all over it.
“I don’t think that!” I sighed loudly. “She’s not good enough for him.”
“She’s pretty ‘though,” mused Dylan, watching Seth’s retreating back.
“Yes, thank you, Einstein,” I snapped and then was instantly sorry. “I don’t mean to take it out on you guys but I just think Seth’s going to get hurt. She’s either just playing with him to make a fool out of him or she’ll use him to make Ritchie jealous and Seth’ll end up getting a smack in the mouth from Ritchie.” I see sawed my hands “Smack in the mouth or broken heart. Tough choice.” I huffed into my cheese sandwich until the bell sounded and we trooped off to class.
The bus ride home was stifling. The driver opened some of the roof windows but there were so many bodies pressed close together that it was still too hot. Seth and I had to stand all the way to our stop, along with about twenty other little sardines. As we walked up the hill towards home, I tried to talk to my twin, to apologise for giving him the wrong impression, to caution him against his present course of action. Seth ignored it all and we walked into the house silent and tense.
Mum was waiting for us in the small living room. Her eyes were red-rimmed and she was holding a wadded up tissue. She looked up at us slowly and the only thing I could see written on her face was defeat.
Seth and I immediately forgot our fight. We dropped our bags and were beside our Mother in seconds. “What happened?” “Are you okay?” “Has something happened to Grandma?” “Or Gramps?” “Is it work?” “Did you get fired?” We were, as usual, like machine guns - question after question.
Mum held up a hand to slow us down. My heart was pounding and I looked at Seth. He looked back at me, his face strained. Bad news was coming, we could feel it.
Mum managed a watery smile and patted the sofa on either side of her. We sat down and she smiled at us and took a deep breath.
“I received a letter this morning,” she began. “It was a letter from your…Father.” She spat out the word with such venom that Seth recoiled from her a little. I gaped. Mum didn’t ever talk about our dad. As far as we knew she had chosen to be alone, had chosen to have kids without a husband or partner around to help. Of course we knew that there had a to be a “Dad’ somewhere in the mix (we had learned about all that stuff way before Miss Cafferty started teaching us about it in biology) and although I guess we’d been curious, I suppose we’d known that it was a touchy subject.
Mum swallowed, made a face, opened her mouth to speak and closed it again. She grinned at us. “I’ve been planning how to tell y’all this all day and it all seems much more difficult now you’re sitting in front of me.”
Seth took her hand and smiled at her. “Whatever you have to tell us, mum. It’s okay. We’re old enough to hear it now.”
I looked at Seth in astonishment. He caught my gaze and looked up. You just had your sixteenth birthday, Buster, not your thirtieth, my look told him. He blinked and his jaw clenched; stay out of this, he was clearly saying, the adults are talking about grown up stuff. I rolled my eyes. Well, there was no grown up way to deal with him!
Mum sighed. “You remember when I told you that we were moving back to Deans Lynn?”
Seth and I nodded. “Because Gramps was ill and you wanted to make peace with him and let him know that he had grandchildren.” I said.
Mum nodded slowly and chewed the inside of her cheek, her eyes watching me closely. Behind her, Seth rolled his eyes at me. I wanted to hit him. Really hard. Preferably with a high heel. Or a baseball bat.
“Well,” mum began again, “It wasn’t exactly like that.” I raised my eyebrows at her. “I hadn’t spoken to my parents for a long time. They didn’t even know that you were born.” She spread her hands wide. “They were always good Christian people, church goers, y’know? I felt…ashamed.”
Seth was mirroring my frown. “Lots of people have children outside marriage, mum. Besides, Gramps and Grandma seem like pretty relaxed folks.”
Mum smiled sadly at him. “I know, baby, I know. I was young when I had you. I had all these things fixed in my head – I forgot that, at the end of the day, they’re still my parents and they love me.”
A thought struck me. “Were you ashamed of us?” I asked and I was embarrassed by how small my voice sounded.
Mum turned to me immediately, her eyes shocked. “Oh, no, sweetie. Never ever. You and Seth have always been the most perfect things in my life. You’re my angels.” She grimaced and then smiled again, taking my hand in hers. She looked down at her hands entwined with ours. “I got word that your Father was looking for you and I panicked and …we ran.”
“Is our Dad in the mafia?” Seth’s eyes were wide.
I giggled and then looked fearfully at my mum. She wasn’t giggling, she wasn’t even smiling. She made a kind of strangled mewling sound and began to cry again. Seth dived for the box of tissues on the coffee table while I put my arm around her shoulders. She sobbed loudly, gulping for air while my brother and I sat with our arms around her and let her. We didn’t look at each other, there was no need. I knew that Seth was as confused and afraid as I was.
Finally her cries got quieter and she blew her nose. She grasped our hands tightly and took a deep breath, gathering all the strength she had left. “Your Father’s name is Asmodeus.” She leaned over and lifted a crumpled sheet of paper from the table, shaking it at us. “He is a lord of demons and I think he wants to claim you, his children.”
There was silence so loud I was certain that Seth and I could hear each others hearts pound. I wanted to laugh. More than that I wanted my mother to laugh, to tell us it was a joke, to get up from the sofa and make pancakes with honey. If she’d stood up, danced a jig and told us that she’d lost her mind and needed to be committed, that would’ve been good too.
Instead she sat looking at the floor, her shoulders quivering and the letter in her hand.
I looked over at my brother. He was caught somewhere between laughing aloud and passing out. He slowly lifted a hand, pointed at our mum and then twirled a finger beside his right temple. I shrugged. Was she nuts? I couldn’t seem to have a coherent thought – my brain was zipping through possibilities faster than I could decipher them. I opened my mouth, closed it again. My head hurt from trying to make sense of the impossible.
Mum’s shoulders were shaking harder. She was crying again, quietly this time which somehow seemed more terrible. I hugged her. “Are we going to move again?” I asked.
“It’s a bit late for that,” said a voice from the kitchen.
Seth and I jumped to our feet as my mum said softly, “The letter was hand delivered this time.”
I swear I heard Seth’s chin hit the floor as a woman walked from our tiny kitchen and into the living room. She was tall with hair the colour of corn and eyes of sparkling jade. She was built like a supermodel and wearing a cat suit that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. Seth seemed incapable of doing anything other than gaping at the cheap tramp that had been hiding in our kitchen. For some reason that made me madder than hell.
“And you are?” I asked tartly.
Her sultry eyes swiveled in my direction. “Call me Rosie.” she purred and Seth swallowed noisily. I looked at him in disgust and he gave me a sheepish grin without taking his eyes off her. Boys and their bloody hormones!
“So you’re what? Secretary to Daddy dearest?” I folded my arms and shot her the dirtiest look I could muster.
She smiled lazily and licked her lips, causing my brother to twitch and lean a little closer to her. “Seth!” I admonished and he frowned, finally looking in my direction.
“What?!” he growled.
“She has mum in tears and you’re looking at her like …I dunno, like she’s a chocolate fudge sundae with extra cream.” Seth looked at Rosie and back at me, his expression saying Yeah? So? Have you looked at this woman?
“I’m your Father’s…well, you could call me his P.A.” Rosie said. Her tone and expression were amused. I was not.
“So let me get this straight,” I said, beginning to pace. “He loves us sooooo much that he waits twelve years to get in touch, loses track of us and then waits another four? Sorry, but he doesn’t sound too keen.”
Rosie tilted her head to the side and regarded me with her unnerving eyes. “Time is different for him.” She said.
“Yeah, well, we’ve managed without him perfectly well up till now. Toddle on back and tell him that we don’t need him and we don’t want to meet him.” I flapped my hands at her and knelt down to hug mum, dismissing Rosie with as much bravado as I could. In truth I was getting seriously wigged out. This weird woman appears in our kitchen and my mum tells us that our Dad is some demon king. My rational mind couldn’t make a path through all the craziness. Reality had slipped into the twilight zone while I wasn’t paying attention.
“There is no option,” Rosie said, “You will come and meet him.”
“Why?” Oh, good, Seth had finally found his voice.
Rosie looked at him in surprise. “Because he has decreed it.” She said, sounding astonished..
I waited for Seth to argue and when he didn’t I looked up at him. He was nodding slowly, his face serious, as though she’d just said something totally understandable. I was looking around for something to throw at him when mum spoke up.
“When?” she asked.
Rosie smiled at her. “Tonight. Your escorts will arrive just before eleven.”
“Eleven?” I squeaked. “Not midnight?”
Rosie frowned in confusion and I suddenly found it all hilarious. I began to laugh and couldn’t stop. Rosie endured it for a few minutes, her face wrinkling in disgust. With a few last instructions she left, glancing back at me several times which made me laugh harder.
After she left my laughter turned to hot, salty tears. Seth crawled across the floor to me, his eyes concerned and his face dark with his own fear and confusion. I couldn’t bare it. I pulled away from his embrace and dashed upstairs to our room, slamming the door behind me and throwing myself onto my bed.
Mum let herself in a few minutes later. I felt the bed dip as she sat down on the edge of it.
“I don’t know what to say, Em,” she said softly. “I know how all this sounds, especially to you. You were always the practical one, the one who figured things out. Seth was always much more of a dreamer. Something weird happens? He goes with the flow until it sorts itself out.” She sighed and her breath hitched. “This won’t sort itself out.”
I turned onto my side and propped myself up on an elbow. “You’re seriously telling me that our Dad is a demon?” She nodded. “From Hell?” Another nod. “Fire- and-brimstone Hell?”
“I don’t know. I…never went there with him.”
I opened my mouth and closed it a few times. Laughter threatened again but I forced it away by looking at my mum’s grim face. This was incomprehensible. My brain scrabbled frantically to look for an explanation. “So, er, how did you guys meet?” I asked lamely.
“At a nightclub in
,” She said, her voice totally flat. New York
“Riiiiight.” I shook my head. The woman was nuts. “And the horns growing out the top of his head, the cloven hooves, sharp tusks and red skin didn’t put you off at all?”
Mum looked at me and her eyes flashed with anger. “If he had looked like that then we wouldn’t be in this mess!” She shouted.
“Well, how did he look then?” I shouted right back.
“Like a bloody angel!” She retorted. “Like a bloody angel,” she said again, her voice quiet now, all the anger wrung out of it. She sighed, rubbed her eyes with her knuckles and looked back at me. “He looked like Brad Pitt in ‘Thelma and Louise’, without the Stetson and the boots.”
I raised an eyebrow.
She swung away, putting her back to me as she looked out the window. “I thought he was beautiful and he made me feel so special. We met every week for about six months, sometimes at the club and sometimes at my apartment. When I found out that I was pregnant I ran away, left
. I couldn’t face him.” New York
“Why?” I was staggered. My image of my mother as the frumpy, pancake making, brownie baking, 38 year-old was crumbling fast.
“I don’t know why. Maybe because I was scared. Maybe because I knew that he wasn’t the one.”
“The one?” I snorted. “As in Keanu Reeves in the Matrix? Or are we venturing into chick flick territory here?”
“Hey!” Mum reached back to swat me and before I knew it we were pillow fighting and giggling like the mad people we obviously were.
Seth opened the door and stood there watching us for a minute. “Ok, so I’m confused.” He announced, making mum and I stop for a moment and look at him. “Are we having a crisis or are we not having a crisis?” He gestured towards us. “Going on the evidence we’re having a pillow fight.”
Mum launched a pillow at him. It hit him square on the face and he made a muffled ‘oomph’ sound. Mum looked at me and I nodded. Giggling we both launched ourselves at Seth, battering him with my pillows until we all collapsed in a giggling heap on the floor.
We lay there breathing heavily, smiles on our faces and sweat on our brows. “So,” I said, “We’re demon spawn.”
“Em…” mum began.
“Wow,” Said Seth a note of amazement in his voice. “Does this mean we have, like, special powers and stuff?”
“Seth…” There was a note of warning in mum’s voice.
“Of course we do,” I said. “Mine haven’t shown up yet, maybe I’m not mature enough or something. But yours have been evident for quite some time.”
Seth and mum were eyeing me with suspicion.
“Okay, I’ll bite,” said Seth finally. “What’s my special power?”
I grinned at my brother. “You can completely level a room just by farting,” I told him, earning a snort of disgust from him and a bray of laughter from mum.