Strange how I could move all the way to Avalon, find out I was a Faeriewalker, have people trying to kill me, and yet some parts of my life remained exactly the same. I’d hoped that once my mom stopped drinking, she’d also stop being a drama queen, but that was obviously asking too much. It also occurred to me, as Finn and I hurried through the streets of Avalon to my dad’s house, that with both me and my dad going off to Avalon, my mom’s house arrest was about to come to an end.

The thought made my stomach tie itself in knots. No house arrest meant no way to stop her from drinking. No way to stop her from drinking meant that when I came back from Faerie (assuming, of course, that I made it out alive), Mom the Drunk would be here waiting for me.

Once upon a time, I’d let myself believe that if she would just sober up for a little while, my mom would come to her senses and decide she was staying off the booze forever. Dad tried to explain to me that we couldn’t cure her alcoholism by force, but I hadn’t wanted to believe him. The fact that she still wouldn’t admit she had a drinking problem made my dad’s point of view more convincing.

My head wasn’t in a good place when I arrived at my dad’s house, and I wanted to talk to my mom about as much as I wanted to stick my head in the toilet. I’d halfway decided to tell my dad to just deal with it, but when he opened the door and I saw the glassy look in his eyes, I swallowed my words. I didn’t like it, but I was far better equipped to handle my mom than he was.

“She’s in her room,” my dad said as he led the way up the spiral staircase from the garage to the first floor, which was where his living room, kitchen, and dining room were located.

As soon as I set foot in the living room, I smelled the distinctive scent of tea in the air, although I saw no sign of any mugs. Then I saw the dark, wet stain against the wall beside the plasma TV.

“Let me guess,” I said with a sigh, “she threw her tea at you?”

Dad crossed his arms and nodded. “I’ve never seen her like this before.” He looked completely mystified, and if I weren’t caught in the middle of the mess, I might have found it amusing.

“I have,” I grumbled. I looked back and forth between Dad and Finn. “You guys stay down here no matter what, okay? She’s not going to throw deadly weapons at me, but you’re a different story.”

Finn was giving me a look of pity I could have done without, but I think Dad was just glad he didn’t have to face Mom again in the near future. With a sigh of resignation, I trudged to the door to the stairway and climbed to the third floor.

Mom’s door was closed, and I braced myself for battle before I knocked on it.

“Mom?” I asked. “Can I come in?”

The door opened almost before I got the last word out, and before I knew what was happening, I was wrapped in a smothering hug, Mom’s arms so tight around me I could hardly breathe.

“Dana,” she said, then started to sob, holding me and rocking me like she’d just found out I had a terminal disease.

I let her hug me for as long as I could stand it, then wriggled out of her grasp. She looked terrible, her eyes all swollen and puffy, her nose red, her hair disheveled. But at least she’s sober, I reminded myself. For now.

I invited myself into my mom’s room and sat on her bed. Sniffling, she reached for a tissue and scrubbed at her eyes.

“I’m not going to let him take you,” she said. Her voice was hoarse, either from all that crying or from an earlier shouting match with Dad.

She didn’t have the power to stop him, and we both knew it.

“I’m sure Dad told you what will happen if I don’t go.”

She dismissed that with a wave. “Some nonsense about your aunt Grace. I don’t believe it for a moment. He’s just using that excuse to scare you into doing what he wants.”

My dad can be majorly manipulative, but he wasn’t sneaky about it, at least not with me. I wasn’t sure Henry really would have me arrested and carted off to Faerie if we refused the “honor” of the Queen’s invitation, but I was sure my dad believed he would.

“I want to go,” I told my mom. It was a total lie, but I wasn’t above lying if it was the only way to get my mom to calm down. She’d obviously run through her repertoire of hysterics with my dad, and if I could get her to skip the repeat performance with me, I was all for it.

She shook her head. “It’s too dangerous.”

“Not if I’m the Queen’s guest. I’ll be fine.”

I’d been angry with my mom for almost as long as I could remember. Angry at her drinking, angry at her neglect, angry at the way I had to function as the adult of the family from the time I was about four. Until I’d run away from home, I’d been real, real good at hiding that anger, stuffing it down inside me so I could do what I had to do to take care of her and run the household.

I was out of practice keeping my anger under control, and I ground my teeth to keep myself from saying anything about how absurd it was for me to be comforting her under the circumstances.

“Dana, honey,” Mom started, but she couldn’t seem to figure out where to go from there. At least she wasn’t throwing things.

She came to sit on the bed beside me, her head bowed, her shoulders slumped. “I can’t stand the thought of you going off somewhere where I can’t protect you.”

A little more tooth-grinding was in order. Since when had she ever protected me? It wasn’t that she wouldn’t protect me with all the ferocity of a mama bear if I were in danger and she were sober enough to realize it. The will was there, and I knew that she loved me. But being willing to protect me and being able to protect me were two very different things.