“Shouldn’t I be fixed by now?” I demanded. “Or does my Young, Haught and Rich syndication money cover your children’s college education as well as your mortgage–or maybe a nice log cabin in Granite Falls?”
I wasn’t sure that Dr. Puck even had children, or that he would claim them as his own and raise them in the human fashion, but it seemed like an appropriate if predictable line for this particular situation.
His dark brows rose, but only barely. After all these years, he was accustomed to my outbursts. “Do you consider yourself broken?”
He knew my family history–the entire sordid tale, from my parents’ divorces to the ups and downs of my acting career. But it was always comforting to talk about myself to someone who already knew me so well, like performing a famous play in front of an appreciative audience who’d already paid to see it a half-dozen times.
“It all goes back to my childhood, you know,” I began.
Sometimes I asked him to pantomime taking notes, like the mundane human therapists did. I knew he was as fae as I was, if not more, and would remember my every word, but I preferred a note of authenticity in my performances.
“Without a doubt. If I hadn’t chosen my mother over my father, everything would’ve turned out differently.”
I never thought that Finn would’ve chosen our father instead, before I could.
He was the son our mother wanted, quiet and thoughtful and attentive. For as long as I could remember, I heard stories of an uncle, my mother’s twin. He was kind, and gentle, and a dreamer, and other than his fae heritage, he sounded nothing like me at all.
But he was lost to her, and now she only had her sons. And then Finn chose him.
I was supposed to live with him. Our father and I had everything in common, except for our fangs and wings. We both loved attention and the finer things in life–I could never understand my mother’s preoccupation with the realm of the fae, when the human world held so many pleasures. He would’ve understood all of my girl troubles and schooled me in the art of seduction, not that I needed much help.
But then I lost both father and brother in one fell swoop.
I could’ve chosen to go with them. I would’ve, if I hadn’t found my mother on the bathroom floor, tears streaming down her face in the dark.
“Leaving me,” she whispered hoarsely. “They’re always leaving me.”
My father had always called her an unfeeling harpy during their fights. After all her awards, he should’ve known that she was a consummate actress, her mask only falling away when she was completely alone.
“I’ll never leave you, Mom,” I whispered. “I’m your son.”
“You are, aren’t you? You remind me of him…”
But as the years passed, I knew I reminded her of the wrong man. I was my father’s son, regardless of the physical distance between us.
She called any explosions of my temper “Graham moments.” Thanks to therapist-patient confidentiality, she never knew of the worst of those moments, after my show was abruptly cancelled and I showed up at Dr. Puck’s for an emergency appointment.
I could detect the subtle fae enchantment at the door, a nudge encouraging me to leave because he was otherwise engaged. Who was he to tell me to leave? I was Rhys Straud, television star. Didn’t that matter anymore, to anyone? How could my show be cancelled so unceremoniously?
And now I had nothing. No father, no brother, no show. And soon, no adoring fans.
I lost control of my glamour, one of the very first times I could ever remember doing so. An actor had to be in full control at all times.
And then I lost control completely, ravaging Dr. Puck’s verdant garden.
But he didn’t yell; he only asked if I was prepared to learn a few “coping exercises.”
He probably was worth the money, I decided, even factoring in my travel expenses from Starlight Shores.
“If nothing’s wrong with me,” I said, “why do my own brother and sister live in the same town as me and yet make no effort to initiate contact?”
“Have you attempted to reach out to them instead?” Dr. Puck asked.
“Why should I have to? I’m the eldest, and I have by far the most industry connections. If my sister wants to be an actress, she should’ve come to me, not Finn.”
Galatea had only been impressed by my acting career for less time than it took to microwave a frozen breakfast pastry.
“Do you want your brother and sister to be a part of your life, Rhys?”
Did I want anyone to be a part of my life?
It’s lonely at the top, or so they say, but I wasn’t at the top anymore. I was fighting for parts on shows that might never see the light of day–like one with a ridiculous premise called Blood and Bishops. I had auditioned for the role of a vampire hunter who defeated vampires…via chess. Ten years ago, I could’ve been on any show I wanted.
And now, I had to make do with the dregs. Even in my own home.
It wasn’t as if I had anything against vampires–my father and backstabbing brother were vampires, after all–but I was under the impression that vampires generally had a higher than average level of intelligence. Thus far, my personal assistant proved to be a disappointment.
My new butler was a little more promising, but his appearance nearly blinded me–quite literally. He had so much face. And he devoted more time to accommodating my personal assistant’s wishes than my own.
I’d rather enjoyed my first meeting with my private chef, fortunately.
Yes, I probably hired her because she claimed to be my “number one fan” and was clearly starstruck in my presence, rattling off some of Roland Rich’s more obscure lines. And because she was pretty.
Fae like pretty things, and humans are no exception. But if my mother thought I was like my father and would seduce any beautiful woman that crossed my path, she was wrong.
I knew that eventually my pedestal would crumble and the sparkle of admiration would die in even my biggest fan’s eyes–so it had gone with my former stylist’s best friend, my agent before last’s dog-walker, my previous personal assistant’s stepsister, my publicist’s niece, and all of the others who had been all-too-briefly thrilled for the privilege of dating Rhys Straud.
My new chef was off-limits, and I would admire the curves beneath that ostentatious chef jacket from a distance.
No, I would keep my distance from all of them. It wasn’t good to get too close to people who took your money to stay at your side. They worked for me, and nothing more.
But my own family…
“I think it’s too late for my family,” I told Dr. Puck.
For the first time in a long time, Dr. Puck’s question really made me think.