Dark Currents Page 60


Yeah, I know. You can\ win them all. I started looking into ways to break the blood-bond anyway.


Amanda Brooks at the PVB was outraged at the invoice I submitted for cowslip dew and a linen tablecloth. I stood my ground, reminding her that I\d delivered big-time on her request for pretty, sparkly fairies, and that I could certainly tell them to cancel their appearances if she didn\ want to reimburse me.


In the end, she relented and paid it, which was good, since it meant I could pay my rent that month.


Mogwai approved and begrudgingly forgave me, so long as it meant his bowl was filled with kibble whenever he deigned to visit.


Terri Sweddon married the youngest Dalton boy in the Episcopal church, looking like a vision in a sleek Vera Wang-inspired satin gown Mom made for her, flanked by bridesmaids in ivory-hued sheath dresses they might actually wear on another occasion. Even the mother of the bride looked surprisingly stylish.


I know, I know, you don\ care, but Pemkowet is a small town, okay? And in a small town, these things matter to us.


Plus, my mom rules.


And my father\s voice had gone remarkably silent since the showdown at the Locksley residence.


I was good with that, too. Forbidden fruit and all.


A month after Thad\s death, I attended Music in the Gazebo for the first time since the night his body had been found there. I was hoping to shake the association, and Jen needed cheering up after Bethany\s defection, so I invited a few other people: Mom, Lurine, Cody, and Sinclair Palmer. Everyone but Sinclair came, and to my surprise, Caleb and Jeanne Fairfax and their two boys joined us, too.


’’I hope you don\ mind that I invited them.’’ Cody lowered his voice. ’’I think it\s good for them to get out of the woods every once in a while.’’


’’I\m glad they came,’’ I said, meaning it. The Fairfax clan might be insular, but they\d come through for us that night at the Locksley place.


We spread our blankets and set up our folding chairs on the grass in front of the gazebo. The band was called Swing Time Revue, one of the last touring holdouts from the big swing music revival that went on ten or fifteen years ago. Despite the August heat, they had the whole look going on: the high-waisted pegged pants, long coats with wide lapels and padded shoulders, natty hats. The lead singer was sweating buckets as he exhorted us to jump, jive, and wail, but the band was good and the music was infectious.


’’Think you still remember how to do it, Daisy?’’ Mom asked me with a mischievous look.


Cody chuckled. ’’You took swing dancing classes?’’


’’No.’’ I pointed at my mother. ’’She did. She made me practice with her. I was, like, ten years old.’’


’’Twelve,’’ she corrected me, then gave a mock sigh. ’’But I suppose you\ e far too grown-up for it now, huh?’’


Lurine lowered the oversize sunglasses that rendered her semi-incognito and gave me a stern look. ’’Oh, for God\s sake, cupcake, dance with your mother.’’


I eyed Mom. ’’Do you want to lead or shall I?’’


She smiled. ’’I will.’’


So I danced with my mother on the trampled grass, both of us laughing as we held each other\s hands and tried in vain to remember how the basic steps went, eventually giving up and just making it up as we went along while the trumpets wailed and the lead singer mopped his sweating brow.


We weren\ alone. Adults danced, some badly, some of them rather well. Little kids danced, entranced by the rhythm. Older kids hung around pretending like they didn\ wish they dared to shed their inhibitions and join in the fun.


Cody and Jen danced together, the young Fairfax boy-cubs tumbling around their feet in some complicated feral game of their own invention while their parents watched with a mixture of benevolence and concern. At least Cody\s nephews weren\ yipping and growling aloud this time.


On the band\s first break, Sinclair turned up, picking his way through the crowd when I spotted him and waved. After introducing him to everyone, I scooted over on the blanket to make room.


Sinclair plunked himself down next to me. ’’Am I imagining things, or is that Lurine Hollister you just introduced me to?’’ he whispered.


I sighed. ’’Yeah.’’


’’Cool.’’ He nodded. ’’I didn\ know.’’


’’Didn\ know what?’’


’’I can\ say for sure, but let\s just say she\s sporting an almighty powerful aura for a B-list actress who starred in some awfully crappy movies, even if she was the best thing about them,’’ Sinclair said with amusement, his shoulder brushing mine. His voice changed, taking on a different shade of emotion. ’’Your mom\s pretty. Got a pretty aura, too. Tranquil. Not what I expected, I guess.’’


’’Exactly what did you expect?’’ I asked him.


’’I\m not sure.’’ He shrugged. ’’Given what you are, I guess I assumed she\d seem more like someone inclined to traffic with demonic forces. No offense I know you said it wasn\ her fault. She seems really nice, that\s all.’’


’’She is nice,’’ I said firmly. ’’She\s the best person I know. And the, um, trafficking was an accident.’’


The band returned to the stage, expending a tremendous amount of energy endeavoring to invoke a zoot-suit riot. The sun sank in the west, gilding the dome of the gazebo. Soft violet twilight hovered, and the white fairy lights lacing the gazebo\s latticework twinkled to life. The steam-wheeler replica Pride of Pemkowet returned from its sunset excursion to Lake Michigan, its paddle wheel churning the river\s murky waters.


’’Hey, sistah! I still owe you.’’ Sinclair bumped me, nudging my shoulder with his. ’’Maybe I could buy you dinner sometime?’’


Cody glanced over at us, a hint of phosphorescent green flashing behind his eyes. Jealousy, maybe? Interesting. But it wasn\ like I hadn\ laid my cards on the table and given him every opportunity. Maybe a little jealousy wouldn\ be such a bad thing. And although I didn\ know him well, from what I did know, I genuinely liked Sinclair. Maybe that was worth exploring on its own merits.


’’You sure about that?’’ I asked Sinclair. ’’I mean, given what I am and all?’’


He nodded. ’’I\m sure.’’


I looked into his clear brown eyes with their steady pupils. ’’I\d like that,’’ I said honestly. ’’It would be nice.’’


’’Nice,’’ he echoed. ’’All right, then. I\ll call you.’’


Nice.


It shouldn\ be a laden word, but in a way it was. Nice could be a consolation prize, like Cody\s hug in the driveway of the Locksley place. Nice could be taking the easy way out, like accepting an ordinary date with Sinclair while avoiding Stefan, who offered something that tempted and scared me.


But nice didn\ necessarily mean making the safe choice, either.


My mother\s niceness was clean and pure and good, and she made a hard choice because of it.


Knowing what I was, having conceived me against her will, she chose to have me anyway.


When I was thirteen or fourteen, some kids at school, Stacey Brooks and her friends, started calling me Rosemary\s Baby. I\m sure they got it from their parents, since the movie was, like, twenty years old before any of us were born, and that was right around the time a group of parents unsuccessfully petitioned the school board to kick me out on the grounds that I made the other kids uncomfortable.


Anyway.


I wanted to know what it meant, so Mom and I watched Rosemary\s Baby together. It left me shaken. If you haven\ seen it, it\s pretty creepy. Especially the ending, where Mia Farrow finally accepts her destiny and begins rocking the cradle that holds her creepy goat-eyed infant hell-spawn.


It made me cry. I didn\ want to be that baby, and I think it was the first time I truly understood that I was that baby.


It was Mom who argued that the ending was left open, that no one knew what happened next. That maybe the movie\s ultimate message was that the strength and purity of a mother\s love was enough to redeem even the spawn of Satan, let alone a lesser demon and sometime incubus like Belphegor. And I believed it, because she believed it.


She still does.


So do I.


And yeah, I was willing to give nice a try.



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