I sniffled, then dashed the tears from my eyes. If there was one thing I’d learned in my life, it was that tears didn’t get me anywhere. I was the one who always had to keep my head while my mom had hysterics over the crisis-du-jour. I’d gotten very good at setting my own feelings aside to be dealt with later, so that’s what I did now. It was harder than usual, but eventually I managed to pull myself back together.
Ethan was gone when I finally ventured out of my cave. Kimber was clattering around in the kitchen again, and I headed toward the sound. I smelled something cooking. At first, I thought it smelled like rice, but I realized that wasn’t right. My stomach, having thoroughly emptied itself of its meager contents, thought whatever it was smelled pretty good.
When I entered the kitchen, Kimber was mashing something the color of paste and the consistency of vomit through a strainer. Suddenly, it didn’t smell quite so good anymore. Thick, off-white liquid dripped through the strainer into a small pot sitting on the stove. When she’d forced every bit of liquid she could out of the strainer, she dumped the contents into the trash.
“Almost ready,” she said, not looking at me, her whole concentration fixed on her task. Steam wafted into her face, and I saw that a fine sheen of sweat coated her skin. Whatever she was doing, it was hot work.
“I’m afraid to ask,” I said, “but what’s almost ready?”
She poured a good-sized dollop of honey into the pot and stirred it around. Then she turned on the stove, and low blue flames caressed the bottom of the pot.
“Your hot posset,” she said, reaching into the cabinet over the sink and pulling down a bottle of something that had the distinctive amber color of alcohol.
“What’s a posset?” I asked as I watched her pour a generous dose of—I squinted at the label—whiskey into the pot.
“It’s what you give someone if they have a cold. Or if they have a headache. Or if they’ve had a bad day. Or if they can’t sleep. Or if’”
“Okay, got it. Cure-all remedy. But I’m too young to drink.”
She laughed, wiping the sweat from her brow with her forearm. “Legally, I am, too, but that’s not going to stop me. I had my first posset when I was five. You’re older than five, aren’t you?”
I sniffed the air, trying to identify the smell, but all I could recognize was the whiskey. “But what is it? What’s in it, other than enough booze to make me wear a lampshade on my head?”
She shrugged and stirred the posset, which was steaming merrily. “Milk. Oat meal. Honey. A bit of nutmeg. And the fine Irish whiskey, of course.”
Oh, gross! Oatmeal? Who puts oatmeal in a drink? I wondered how I was going to get out of drinking it without being completely rude.
Kimber turned off the stove and got out a couple of mugs, filling each one to the brim with the thick, milky liquid. I’m sure I was making a face, but that didn’t seem to discourage Kimber. She thrust one of the mugs at me, and I took it almost by reflex. Then I just stood there staring at it, wondering if I was going to have to make another run for the bathroom.
“I promise it’s not poisonous,” Kimber said as she blew on her posset, then took a delicate sip. “And there’s almost no situation a good, hot posset can’t make better.”
I hesitated a moment longer. Then I thought about being attacked by Spriggans last night, about looking through the Glimmerglass this afternoon, and finding out that I was the one and only Faeriewalker currently in existence, and I decided that drinking the posset couldn’t possibly be such a big deal after all.
I took a tentative sip, and, of course, instantly burned my tongue. And the sip continued to burn as it slid down my throat and spread into my chest and stomach. I pounded my chest with my fist.
“Smooth,” I said in an exaggerated croak.
Kimber grinned, the expression making her look more like Ethan than ever. “Have some more. It’ll grow on you.”
“What, like mold?” I asked, but I took another sip anyway. The whiskey and honey tastes were both very strong, so I was able to halfway forget I was drinking milk with oatmeal in it. And, though I would never admit it out loud, the stuff was definitely warm and soothing, with a decadent, creamy texture that told me not to even think about how many calories were in it.
We drank in companionable silence for a while, Kimber cleaning up the kitchen so it was once again pristine in its never-touched perfection, me just leaning against the counter. The posset burned less and less with each sip, and I tried to tell myself that the alcohol was steaming off. I’d never had more than a sip or two of anything alcoholic before, but I doubted it was the warm milk that was making my limbs feel all loose and warm.
“You really drank this when you were five?” I asked. Did my words slur a little bit, or was that my imagination?
“I’m sure the ones my mother made me were considerably weaker. And I think she used wine instead of whiskey. But yeah.” She smiled again. Gee, the posset seemed to be having a nice effect on her, too. “You can see why it’s a cure-all, huh?”
My head felt woozy when I nodded, but it wasn’t too bad. The posset had calmed the last of my nerve-induced nausea, and I was now positively famished. Luckily, Kimber had anticipated the return of my appetite, and before I had a chance to ask her for food, she produced a plate of sliced fruit and finger sandwiches from the refrigerator.
Still standing in the kitchen, we took turns picking goodies off the plate. I particularly liked the little cucumber sandwiches and the fresh strawberries, and I probably could have eaten the whole plate myself. Then again, that posset had been filling.