“The master suite is on the second floor,” my dad said, “and there’s a guest room and small library on the third floor.” Apparently he didn’t consider the garage a floor. “Would you like to change clothes and freshen up? Then maybe we can get to know each other better.”
“That would be great,” I said, trying to sound chipper, though now that I was here I felt nervous and awkward.
“Make yourself at home,” Dad said, gesturing at a door that I’d thought was a coat closet but that turned out to be a stairway. I guess since the Fae weren’t big on coats, they didn’t need coat closets.
I stopped with my foot on the first step, turning to look at my dad over my shoulder. “You’re not going to lock me in, are you?”
He looked shocked by the suggestion. “Of course not! You’re my daughter, not my prisoner. And I am not your aunt Grace.”
I sure hoped not. I nodded and started up the stairs, though I have to admit I was very tense as I climbed. When I made it to the third floor (or fourth floor, depending on your point of view), I saw that the guest room was about as inviting as the living room had been. Sparsely furnished, everything with that plain, stripped-down look of Danish modern, and instead of a cushy bed, there was a hard futon.
I felt better about the room when I saw my suitcase and backpack sitting neatly in the corner.
Never before had I been so glad to see my own clothing. I picked out my favorite pair of cargo pants and a heavyweight sweatshirt that might be enough to counter the chill of an Avalon early summer day. And I was more than ready to change into fresh underwear, since the ones I was wearing were still damp from being washed in the sink last night.
Feeling a bit paranoid, I didn’t close the bedroom door, afraid that if I did, I’d be locked in despite Dad’s promise. However, I did close the bathroom door most of the way as I hastily changed. I kept listening hard for the terrible click of a door closing, of a lock turning, but it didn’t happen.
When I was finished changing, I brushed my hair and secured it in a ponytail, then dabbed on some clear lip gloss. A light dusting of blush on my cheeks, and I looked almost like myself again, except for the haunted expression in my eyes.
Oh, well. I had a right to look haunted.
Feeling much more comfortable in my own clothes, I headed back downstairs to face my dad once more.
He was sitting on the sofa, which faced an oversized plasma TV instead of the view, thank goodness. An ice bucket on legs stood off to the side, and there were a pair of champagne flutes on the coffee table. I must have looked as surprised as I felt, because Dad answered my question without me having to ask.
“It’s not every day a man gets to meet his long-lost daughter,” he said. “A celebration is in order, don’t you think?”
“Um, I’m only sixteen.” The excuse hadn’t worked with Kimber and her posset, and it didn’t work with Dad either.
“I guarantee we won’t be arrested by the drinking-age police. Now come join me. We have a lot to talk about.”
At this point, I didn’t much want to talk about anything. I wanted to pretend for a while that this trip had gone exactly as planned, that I’d come straight here from the airport and this was the beginning of a better life.
I took a seat on the other end of the sofa as Dad went about opening the champagne. I was tensed and ready for the pop of the cork, but that didn’t stop me from jumping anyway. The corners of Dad’s eyes crinkled, but he didn’t full-out laugh at me.
He poured us each a glass, then handed one to me. I looked at it doubtfully. The milk, honey, and nutmeg in Kimber’s posset had toned down the taste of the whiskey, but this was pure champagne. I know a lot of other kids my age would be thrilled to get to drink something with alcohol in it. But those kids hadn’t lived with my mom.
“Drink up, Daughter,” Dad said.
It shows the state of mind I was in that I couldn’t force myself to take a sip until after I’d seen him drink. Why I’d suspect my father of wanting to poison me was anyone’s guess. Any day now, I was going to start worrying that “They” were watching my every move. I rolled my eyes at myself and took a tentative taste of the champagne.
The posset had been surprisingly tasty. The champagne … not so much. I couldn’t help wrinkling my nose at the flavor, though I suppose it was rather rude.
“It’s an acquired taste,” my father told me.
I put the glass down on the coffee table. “It’s not a taste I’m real anxious to acquire.”
“And why is that?” he asked, with a tilt of his head.
I looked away from him and gave him a half shrug. “Well, you know my mom.”
A beat of silence. “What about her?”
She’d been a lush since my earliest memory. It had never occurred to me that there might have been a time in her past when she hadn’t been. I swallowed hard.
“Didn’t she drink too much when you were dating her?”
“Ah,” Dad said, and he put his own glass down. “I understand. She drank no more and no less than most women her age.” He sighed. “But I’m not entirely surprised she developed a problem with alcohol. There is no place on earth quite like Avalon, and I imagine cutting oneself off from it entirely would be … difficult on someone who’d spent all her life here.”
His words detonated like a bomb somewhere inside me.
My mom hadn’t been an alcoholic when she lived in Avalon. She’d left Avalon not because she wanted to, but because she was determined to protect me from the hell that was Avalon politics. And leaving her home had been so hard on her, she’d started to drink too much.