Maybe it was just like, the stress of being stuck in an airport, but I was thinking more and more about murdering my boyfriend.
Elian was like a hyper-ass herding dog with separation anxiety or something.
I was killing time in one of the airport’s five billion gift shops–maybe I’d pick up something for Sage–and my phone wouldn’t stop buzzing.
God, if I ignored him, he’d just send even more selfies–or worse. Seeing one mole was bad enough.
…But somehow his texts were worse.
Why didn’t tragic on-set accidents happen to people who deserved it? Was there really no way I could just like, off him without getting caught?
I was actually grateful to be roped into attending a kid’s birthday party. At least Elian wouldn’t be there–not without an appearance fee.
Or maybe my plane would crash before I made it home and like, all my problems would be solved?
How could I be looking forward to and dreading seeing my family at the same time? I missed them–so much–but I didn’t want to actually spend time with them. How fucked up was that?
I took an Uber home from the airport–and was immediately greeted by a sight that pulled my heart in like, a hundred different directions.
My dad goofing off with my kid brother, both of them laughing hysterically–probably at something incredibly dumb. It was like they were in a world of their own. Maybe dads and sons had a special bond? I don’t even know.
“Hey,” I said, “I’m home.” Kind of?
“Look, Dad,” Sage said. “One of my birthday strippers showed up early.”
“Psh, promised your mom I’d only hire the classy ones.”
“…Seriously? Oh my god.” Painful emotions swelled in my chest: anger, embarrassment, guilt, jealousy. The jealousy was the weirdest part, because it was like I was jealous of both of them–my dad for being Sage’s father, and Sage for being his son.
But then Sage flung himself at me out of nowhere. “Ivy, Ivy,” he said in a singsong voice. “Knew you wouldn’t miss my birthday. We’re going camping this weekend. Just us. As a family.”
“Camping? Can’t you like, have a pizza party or some shit with your friends like a normal kid?”
“But I can get pizza anytime, sis,” Sage said. “Getting my whole family together is special.”
“…You’re a weird fucking kid, you know that?”
“I take after my dad,” he said proudly. His hug saved him from seeing my face–something I was grateful for, because my mind went in a very bad direction.
“Damn right you do,” I said, glancing at Dad. “Maybe a little too much.”
“Dominant Strider genes, kid,” Dad said to me. “No escaping ‘em.”
I snorted. “Glad I took after Mom in the hairiness department.”
I decided to leave the boy and man-child to their goofing off and went to find Mom–but not before taking a lazy detour through the house. I sneaked into Sage’s bedroom first, so different from my own.
Mom still gave him two beds for some reason–hopefully he actually had sleepovers. And friends. …Why did he have a pic of just me and him in here? It was so old.
…God, I’d been so young. Way too young for a baby, but not too old to have a baby brother.
The memories were inescapable. They were all over the house, even without the photographic evidence.
The perfect little family. Even when he was little, Sage had always been like, weirdly obsessed with me. Or maybe he was just an attention whore who liked anyone who played with him.
I found Mom in the kitchen–no surprise there. She probably helped out with bake sales for Sage too. “Mom.”
“It’s so good to have you home, sweetie.” Her mom-arms practically squeezed half the life out of me, but I didn’t mind.
Once she secured me a cupcake–because of course she had one on-hand in preparation for my arrival–we sat down at the table. “Hey,” I said, “do you think it might be a good idea to talk to Dad, maybe? Sage basically called me a stripper just now, which is so not okay.”
“You know your dad–he says things, not all of them appropriate. Your brother knows when he shouldn’t repeat them.”
“But still, could Dad not say them in front of a literal child? Maybe if you said something–”
“I don’t think this is a discussion we need to have, Ivy.”
“You’re Sage’s sister. You shouldn’t be worrying about things like this–Sly and I are responsible for all of his parenting decisions.”
“So, what, do I get like, zero say at all now?”
“That’s the choice all three of us made,” Mom said gently but firmly, “so you could live a normal, happy life as a teenager. You were able to finish high school, go off to college.” Yeah, but not graduate, because my stupid ass took advantage of my newfound freedom to get drunk and and party nonstop. “…Do you regret it?”
Every fucking day. If I’d given Sage away–to like, a stranger or even Uncle Anders–I wouldn’t have to live with a constant reminder of my fuck-up. Or if I’d–if I’d gotten rid of him completely… No. I couldn’t imagine that now.
But I’d never forget that day–the day sealed my fate in some shitty rest stop a million miles away.
It was like Mom had chosen a “neutral location” as far from home as humanly–or fae-ly–possible. To meet her brother. Her twin. Cirrus’s dad. He and Mom both came without their spouses–Mom had wanted it to be fair, since she only had Dad.
She wouldn’t have even told him I was pregnant if not for Dad. “He should know, Clem,” Dad had said, and for once she actually listened to him.
Fox fucking Fox couldn’t you have buttoned your damn shirt for this you goddamn sex cultist
The telepathy was in full swing along with my pregnancy–a glamour hid my baby bump, but I chose to hide my telepathy too. “Mom,” I mumbled, “I’m scared.”
“It’ll be okay, sweetie,” she whispered. “I won’t let him hurt you.” But that wasn’t what I was afraid of, not at all.
Fox–my uncle–was staring at us.
She looks so much like Clem I wish I’d gotten to meet her sooner not like this
We were stuffed into the corner of the shitty diner, with a beautiful view of concrete through the window. Like the whole world wasn’t closing in on me already.
I’m a good mom not like ours I’ll make up for your son’s mistake you just watch I’ll take care of this baby no matter what
“This is really just a courtesy,” Mom said. “We’ve already made all the important decisions about the baby.”
“I discussed this with my husband and wife”–so fucking weird, to have both–“and we’d be happy to help Ivy and Cirrus raise our grandson in the fae realm. We know how humans can be…”
You remember nothing about humans nothing nothing you’re too fae
Mom’s face darkened. “Your nephew. He’s my son. Mine and Sly’s.”
My first grandchild will be my nephew instead of my grandson my grandson this is wrong Clem this is a lie I’ve never seen my son cry before and now I understand now I understand
“You won’t be allowed anywhere near the house–you or your…” Her jaw clenched. “Son. His involvement from now on is zero.”
Fox gasped. “Clem–”
“Did you seriously expect differently? After all this?”
“Stop,” I mumbled. My head was pounding. “Bio moms get to like, make decisions when they’re giving up their babies, right? Like if the adoption is open or whatever?”
“Fox, how dare you pressure my daughter after what your son did to her–”
He tricked her he tricked her HE TRICKED HER
“STOP,” I said, louder this time. To my uncle, I said, “I want my bab–brother to know his grandpa. Uncle. Whatever. And his dad–or cousin. I don’t want something like this to–to happen again.” And I didn’t want Cirrus to cry anymore.
“…I’d be grateful for that, Ivy,” Fox said quietly, “as would my son. If–if we can only see the baby as his uncle and cousin, we’ll accept those terms.”
How dare you how dare you HOW DARE YOU
Stay away from my family why can’t you leave us ALONE
You already abandoned me why can’t you do it again
“Any visits will be supervised–and my daughter will not be present,” my mom said through gritted teeth. “…Is this really what you want, Ivy?”
Of course it wasn’t. If Cirrus had been there too, I probably would’ve made a different decision. Why hadn’t he come? Was he just…done with me, after I crushed his heart? Could we have raised a baby together in the fae world?
But that was like, a decade ago now. I was an adult. An adult staying in my old teenage bedroom, which made me feel young and helpless all over again.
“Cirrus,” I whispered, “did I make the right choice?”
“Shouldn’t you be asleep, twerp?”
“I’m about to hit two digits,” Sage said. “That means a later bedtime. Mom says.”
Mom also said that she kept too tight a leash on me, and that she wouldn’t make the same mistake with Sage–that she’d let him be a kid so he wouldn’t get the urge to rebel later. Lucky him.
Well, if he went and got some girl pregnant the second his balls dropped, that wasn’t my problem. I was just his sister. “Do you want something or what?”
“Can I sleep in your room tonight?”
“What? No. You have your own room.”
“Pleaseeee? For my birthday?”
“You’re the best.” His expression of excitement was worth it.
Spending time with my little brother wasn’t like, the worst thing in the entire world, even if he never shut up. Maybe he really was more like Dad than Cirrus.
And after all these years, I finally had a use for that second goddamn bed.
I could be close to him like this.
Just for a little while.