It took me a moment to regain control of my thoughts, nevermind my body. Once I did, I closed the door and turned around to see Hennessy taking off her jacket (I took it, mechanically, and hung it on the coat hanger) and then her boots, stashing them beneath her jacket. She was wearing a light blue sweater underneath, and pink socks.
She didn’t even spare me a glance and instead went from the hallway into the kitchen, looking around with the same serene, slightly slack-jawed expression she’d shown nearly all the time I’d seen her until now.
Much like before, it was impossible to make out her emotions from her facial expression or her posture, as she looked around the kitchen. Which was quite infuriating, because I didn’t dare spoil the moment by trying to communicate directly.
Never mind her not being capable of normal conversation anyway.
So I just… kind of hung around in the doorway, leaning against the frame as I watched her walk around. She didn’t seem to pay me a lick of attention. I counted the seconds while I watched her. She had a… peculiar way of moving. Normally, you can tell a lot about a person, just by watching them move around. Forceful, careful, bold, shy. Open minded or suspicious. Flirty or cold. And so much more. All things I’d learned to tell, just by watching the way a person moved, or stood, or went about menial acts.
Despite her lack of expression, Hennessy did have tells, and it was perhaps the first real clue I got as to her personality. She moved gracefully, deliberately. It wasn’t like her every step and motion was measured, like she’d trained herself to convey only what she wanted to convey through her movements – but there was a kind of natural deliberation to the way she put one foot in front of the other, the way she reached out to open a cupboard and look inside, or how she rose up on her tiptoes to check out another. Like she was very, very aware of her body, and what it was doing, even when she wasn’t really paying attention.
She got that from me, I thought, and a thrumming pang went through my chest. God, if only I’d been here for here. I could have protected her… taught her. Better than my dad ever did – gently. Only the things she wanted to learn, to excel at her normal life.
All possibilities that were gone. I hadn’t been there for her. She’d lost even the slightest possibility for a normal life, because I hadn’t been there to protect her.
And Elouise… my other daughter – the child I’d never have wanted even if given a choice. Not that she was ever going to hear that from me. But if I’d been here… would I have found out? Probably, I thought. I had no illusions about the Matriarch’s motivations. I didn’t believe for a second that she’d cared for her daughter in any way beyond the use she could be to her. She’d have used her to control me, I dare say. Used her to get an in with my father, most likely. If she’d actually known who he was.
And even if she didn’t, from what I knew of the woman, I wouldn’t put it past her to have a child with me, simply for the sake of getting the world’s third-most powerful speedster under her control.
I always hated Dad for how he screwed me up… how he tried to turn me into his perfect supervillain… but in the end, I screwed up way, way harder than he ever did.
I had to blink as my vision grew cloudy for a moment, and when I opened my eyes again, Hennessy was standing in front of me, just barely an arm’s reach away. Her eyes were fixed to my face, and I realised that a few tears had escaped. I wiped them away quickly. “Sorry,” I said, uselessly. “I’m just glad to see you.” That wasn’t even a lie. It just so happened that I was also many other things at the same time.
She tilted her head, slightly – the closest thing to an expression I’d ever seen on her. Then she simply stepped past me and back into the hallway, and from there to the living room. I followed her like a (too tall, gangly, nervous) lost puppy, never letting her out of my sight.
Despite all the dark emotions that my mind was dredging up, I was actually taking a strange kind of pleasure from seeing her here. Watching her move about, in my house. Do all fathers feel like this? Her presence also shut up the monkey. Blessed silence.
My eyes followed her as she moved about the living room, poking the cushions here and there, checking the television (a really outdated model, I should ask Cartastrophy for a recommendation on what to replace it with) and my liquor cabinet.
She lingered there for a moment, standing right behind the seat I’d been on when Journeyman had visited me. Then she turned and went by me again, up the stairs.
The same scene repeated itself over the next twenty minutes (my house wasn’t that big, but she took her time). She’d walk around, going through room after room, with me watching her and trying not to focus too much on all the guilt and self-loathing I was feeling. Instead, I simply enjoyed watching her. I could quite honestly say that I had never felt this way before.
Finally, she came to my bedroom. She checked the bed out first, lying down across it for several seconds before something caught her eye and she sat up again.
I knew what she’d seen, and didn’t bother following her gaze. I’d quite deliberately not taken a look at it myself since I’d come back.
She got up and walked slowly towards the wall, as I approached her, closing the distance for the first time. I stopped three steps behind her, and looked at it.
A small table stood there, with a (badly) knit red scarf laid across it like a tablecloth. Three picture frames hung on the wall over the scarf. My most prized possessions.
The left one showed a thin, tired and sweaty woman in a hospital bed, her mousey brown hair plastered to her head and face as she held a newborn in her arms, smiling the most gentle smile possible while she nursed it. She looked horrible, really, like she was trying to put women off of having children for good, just with that one picture.
The right one showed the woman, again, wearing a blue bikini as she sat at the beach, her back to the photographer, the setting sun in front of her. A small boy with wild black hair was sneaking up on her from behind, holding a small bucket up over his head – I remembered how I’d run halfway across the beach to get the ice cubes I’d put into it from a beverage stand.
The center one provided the best view of her. A mousey woman, short, petite, with a heart-shaped face and gorgeous brown hair in cascading curls that reached her waist as she sat on an armchair, looking at the camera with an amused smile that lit up the entire picture. She had warm, dark brown eyes behind rimless spectacles, a small nose and fine-fingered, delicate hands, which she’d folded on her lap. She was wearing a simple medium-length blue skirt and a white shirt with long sleeves, as well as brown stockings.
Hennessy took some time looking at her, then turned halfway around to look at me.
I carefully schooled my expression, and tried to curtail the emotions those pictures evoked, as I felt an inquisitive sensation wash over me.
“That’s my mother,” I told her. “Her name was Wanda.”
Once more, she tilted her head. It took me a moment to figure out the emotions she sent my way, but then I was pretty sure she wanted to know what happened to her.
It was pretty obvious I was torn up about her, I was sure. Especially with her power.
“She was murdered when I was nine,” I explained, speaking slowly both for my benefit as well as hers.
I guess the slow speech along with the emotions beneath the surface were enough to convey my meaning, because her eyes widened a fraction, and I felt a wave of… it was hard to describe. Pain, sadness, grief… but somehow remote. A step removed…
“Thank you,” I said. “But it’s alright. It’s been a long, long time.” Not long enough.
She got my meaning, because she didn’t press the point. I don’t think I could’ve kept up my manly-man-act if she’d actually hugged me.
Instead of delivering such a crushing blow to my masculinity, she turned back to the pictures and reached out, tapping the wall to the left of the central frame with a delicate finger. At the same time, she looked at me again, questioning me with her power.
I was still a little (alright, a lot) off-kilter, which might explain why it took me a minute and then some to figure out what she wanted to know. Fortunately, she was quite patient. Probably used to it.
“Ah, that,” I said. “I don’t have any pictures of him. We’re… our relationship… it’s complicated. We have a lot of bad blood between us.”
I felt a strange, twisted sense of amusement radiate from her as she lowered her arm again. It was easy to imagine what she was thinking – It seems to be in the blood.
A dark, self-depreciating chuckle escaped my throat. “Peas in a pod, Hennessy. Peas in a pod,” I said, though I could almost immediately tell that she didn’t get it.
Before I could try to come up with a way to explain it by way of emotions, she left the room without waiting for me. Not that that was necessary, because it seemed that I was glued to her, following her without conscious thought.
She returned to the living room and sat down on the couch, pulling her legs up with her arms wrapped around them. After a moment of just enjoying the cute, homely picture, I joined her on the couch, sitting down at arm’s reach.
Everything went quiet, save for the sound of our breathing. She was staring straight ahead, her eyes half-closed, while I still couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She looked so… so perfect. Flawless in a way that went beyond what a mere superpower could achieve. Her face, seen in profile, seemed to belong onto an ancient Greek statue, a panorama worked into the walls of the Parthenon or a painting drawn by one of the great masters. I could write a book about her features and still not do them justice.
So I just watched, quietly, as I slowly relaxed – I hadn’t even noticed how tense I’d been – and as she seemed to relax as well. Her arms relaxed, her legs slipping off the couch as she leaned further back into the dark red cushions, her arms loose at her sides. Only her chest moved, slowly, up and down, as she breathed. Her long, dark hair fanned out around and over her shoulders.
After what felt like an eternity, but was most likely closer to five minutes, we’d remained the same, just enjoying the company. Or at least I did. I couldn’t tell how she was feeling.
On a hunch, I rose up and went to the kitchen, taking a glass out of the cupboard and filling it with some cool water. Then I went back to Hennessy and offered her the glass. She took it, sipping from the water. I got a wave of gratitude from her, and mixed in, an odd bit of… amusement?
That confused me for a moment, as I tried to figure out what she was amused about. Then it clicked.
“Oh, you crafty little minx,” I breathed, smiling at her in sudden comprehension. She looked stoically at me, though I felt a dash of embarrassment radiate from her. And a little pride. And more than a little bit of concern. Oh, no reason for that, my dear. “I didn’t even notice you pushing me around,” I told her, trying to convey my pride.
She seemed to pick it up, because she relaxed almost imperceptibly as I sat down next to her again, this time a bit closer than before. She emptied her glass and put it down on the table.
Now that I was alert, I started to notice her power much better. It was always on, to some degree, I had to guess. Softly feeling me out – literally – and pushing and pulling with equal softness on my emotions. It turned into a game of sorts, me trying to figure out what she was doing, her trying to mask it from me.
We spent nearly half an hour on it, until light dawned. “Oh. Oh. You really are crafty, aren’t you? I wonder if you taught yourself, or if someone coached you?” She probably only got the first half of that, but that didn’t bother me.
She’d have had to learn, I would bet. It’s her sole reliable means of communication, isn’t it? And she’s been like this for years now – she’d have learned out of sheer necessity.
All this time – probably since the moment she’d arrived – she’d been manipulating me. Trying to make me relax. To make me open up. To draw my attention to her.
“But why?” I asked, after I explained my conclusions to her as well as she could understand. It seemed to embarrass her a great deal.
“Why would you do that… Helping me relax is one thing, but why make me open up, why draw my attention…” Then it clicked, and I suddenly felt like crying again (not very manly, I know).
I saw her shift around uncomfortably, the biggest physical tell she’d given so far, even as she seemed both embarrassed and mortified.
“You weren’t sure I’d want you around? Really?” I asked, my face carefully empathetic – not sad or angry. “You weren’t sure I’d give you all my attention? Oh, Hennessy…” I seriously deserve this, don’t I?
I scooted over, closer, and for a moment, she panicked. I didn’t know why, didn’t even bother to guess at the source of her panic – I just scooped her up, pulling her onto my lap so her butt was on my lap and her right shoulder on my chest. Then I squeezed my daughter for the first time in our lives, holding her tight.
Maybe someone more skilled in the use of words could adequately describe how right it felt to hold her in my arms like that, but that had never been one of my strengths, so suffice it to say that I wouldn’t mind holding onto her for the rest of my life – and then some.
She didn’t move. No resistance, no acceptance. Only a quiet, throbbing panic that was slowly but surely swept away by a warm feeling that I remembered all too well – I’d felt the same way, once upon a time, when the world had still been right. When my father had held me in his arms while he and mother sat in front of the fireplace, her demonstrating that, for all her talents, she would never be even passable at knitting, while father just told some story to entertain us. As much as our relationship had been twisted and poisoned after my mother’s death, there were some things no corruption in the world could touch. This feeling was one of them. Safe. Warm. Content.
I just held on tight, hoping against all hope that this might be enough to fix a relationship that had never had a chance to even get started until today. I couldn’t give anyone an accurate recounting of my emotions during our first hug, or her precise reactions, or how long it went on.
All I know is that, when she finally relaxed again and wrapped her arms around my neck, I’d never felt half as content before.
Whether it was any leftover strain from her rampage, or just the load that my return had to be on her, or a result of her interacting so much with me, for whatever reason, Hennessy didn’t last too long. It was barely noon – the hug had gone on for a long time, and then we’d somehow passed right into awkwardly holding each other, neither wanting to let go, I think, nor wanting to seem too clingy, perhaps – when she began to droop.
“I should get you home, shouldn’t I?” If only so your girlfriend doesn’t kill me. Camille’s opinion seemed to have improved, judging by our run-in last night, but I didn’t want to stretch my luck with her – especially if the two of them turned out to be into it for the long run.
She agreed, if barely, and gently disentangled myself from her. “I’ll be ready in a moment, just wait,” I told her as I laid her down on the couch. She didn’t even bother to reply in any way, so I just hurried to the hallway and put my bare feet into my shoes. A quick check in the mirror showed that I was presentable enough by my standards. My father would have considered a slight case of bed hair, a slight beard shadow and rumpled clothes unacceptable, unless the image was deliberately constructed, but… well, his advice hadn’t exactly served me well in my life, so why care?
I picked up her boots and her jacket and walked back to her. She’d fallen asleep, one arm hanging off the couch, her face half-hidden behind her hair. It was… utterly adorable and I took a picture of it, with my phone, without even thinking. Then I took a minute to gently put her boots (fortunately, they opened all the way down to her ankles, making it much easier) and her jacket back onto her. She offered all the resistance of a rag doll.
Don’t ask me how I felt while this went on. Never. I’d just embarrass myself by babbling incoherently, because my emotions had moved into utter, perfect terra incognita by that point.
Then I picked her up, carefully, cradling her to my chest, and turned towards the door.
She mumbled something incomprehensible and shifted a bit in my arms. I was halfway to the door when a single understandable word escaped her lips, so quiet I barely understood it.
I hadn’t even been able to put to words how I’d felt hugging her for the first time. Hearing that word, like that, just slipping out unexpected?
Saying it blew my world was too weak a phrase. I might’ve dropped her out of sheer shock, except I’m pretty sure I was physically incapable of letting her go in that moment.
After what must’ve been a geological age or two, I squeezed her for a moment, then went to my car, putting her carefully into the passenger seat, buckling her in. She roused for a moment, but subsided again once she saw me.
That made me feel… warm. Warmer. Made me wish I could keep her with me forever.
Not an option though. If Camille doesn’t kill me, Tamara certainly will. So I buckled myself in and drove off.
The gatekeeper waved me through as soon as he saw Hennessy in the passenger seat, and I drove straight to her house.
I’d barely pulled up before the door was pulled open and the little princess came shooting out, a pink-and-blue blur that almost slammed into my door before I opened it.
“Hello!” Princess Charity squealed as I ruffled her hair.
“Hello, your majesty,” I greeted her with a smile as I got out of the car. “I brought your sister back,” I said as I walked around the car to pick Hennessy up.
“That’s great! She just left! That was mean!” she said, turning it from a squeal to a whisper as soon as she saw that her sister was asleep.
Though that didn’t stop her from climbing onto her lap – and thus into my arms – while I was still bent over and getting her out of the car. I gave her a queer look, but she just smiled adorably and let me carry her along with her sister into the house.
Tamara was already waiting, and she seemed on the verge of tears – happy ones, too. I smiled at her, and mouthed, “She spent the entire morning with me.” She nodded and accompanied me up to Hennessy’s room.
Together, we put her into her bed and took her jacket and boots off again. It was… strangely painful. We’d been meant to do this, together, over the last eighteen years.
And for just a moment, I could see it all in front of my eyes. Me, returned from the war after the clusterfuck, to find her waiting with our newborn daughter. Pardoned, able to be openly with her, going down on one knee to ask for her hand in marriage (I’d bought the ring before shipping out, and she was never, ever going to learn that). Her moving into my house at Merlin Street, as we raised Hennessy together. We’d have more children, of course. Many more, if only because we wouldn’t be able to keep our hands off of each other. I’d get a job, perhaps something to put all those stupid lessons my father had given me on social interactions and negotiations to good work for once. I’d come home ever afternoon to-
Stop. Just stop. You’re just torturing yourself for no reason, I reprimanded myself as I picked Charity off her sister and put the little slip of a girl onto the floor.
Tamara gave Hennessy a kiss on the cheek, then turned to a stereo beneath a poster of a seriously stacked teenage girl with multi-coloured hair, playing a huge keyboard. She pushed a button and a soft, ethereal melody began to play. Then we left, with the little princess shooting off into her own room as soon as we closed the door to Hennessy’s.
The two of us walked down the stairs without talking. I guess it was just awkward.
“How’d it… go?” she asked, finally, as I was already opening the door.
I turned around to smile at her. “Good. Great even. I mean, it was weird at first, but… then we hugged and-“
“She let you hug her?” she asked with clear shock. “She hasn’t let a man hug her since… you know, since…”
I shivered – more in anger than anything – and nodded, suddenly understanding where that panic had come from. Oh wow, I almost ruined it there, didn’t I?
But I didn’t let my mortification show. Instead, I shrugged. “Well, she certainly seemed to enjoy it. And later, she… um, she actually said a word, later. When she was asleep,” I said. “I didn’t know she could.”
“She does that, sometimes,” she replied, exhaling a breath I hadn’t noticed she’d held. She looked… happy. “What did she say?”
I will forever and always deny that it ever happened, but I did blush there. “She, ah, called me… Papa…” I gave her a sheepish grin.
She rewarded me with one of the dazzling, wide-mouthed grins that I’d originally fallen in love with, back when she used to mess up my stunts and make fun of me and my whole act, then followed it up with a hug that might’ve dislocated some bones if I’d been a normal human.
I didn’t dare hug her back, though. No sense in risking that.
“That’s… that’s wonderful,” she sobbed, and I felt my t-shirt get wet. “I… it’s more than I could’ve hoped for. Even after… Camille told us what… what happened to you, during the w-“
“Shshshhh,” I hushed her, gently extricating from her hug and holding her at arm’s length to look her in the eyes. “That’s all in the past. Let’s not waste time on it – just look forward to a better future, alright?” I wiped some sparkling tears off her cheeks.
“I have to go now,” I said. “Got some things to work out. You be safe, alright? And if there’s anything – I gave Hennessy my number. Don’t hesitate to call, no matter what it is. Alright?”
“Alright. Thank you, Aap… I mean, Kevin,” she replied. “That’s weird. I never would’ve taken you for a Kevin.”
I chuckled. “Well, I was quite surprised when you told me your real name, back then. I would’ve expected something like Felicia or Felicity, to be honest.”
“Why that?” she asked, a small laugh escaping her.
“Just my imagination, I guess.” I grinned at her. “Be safe, Tam. See you soon.”
“You too, Kevin.” She leaned up on her tip-toes and kissed my cheek before I left.
It burned pleasantly all the way back home.
Of course, once I was back home, my good mood didn’t survive for long. Whether Hennessy had actually intended it or not, her subtle (and not so subtle) use of her power, as well as her simple presence, had quite managed to take my mind entirely off of the troubles I was facing, and focused me completely on her – not that I regretted that.
Still, I did have some rather pressing matters to deal with. Chief among them being the Ascendant and the Gefährten.
I didn’t have any delusions about my chances against them, if they moved in strength. Though they’d never been a very… obvious part of the metahuman world, the Gefährten had been there since the beginning, even before the Syndicate had been formed, acting in the shadows. Amassing power, knowledge and a reputation that rivaled Weisswald’s own in terms of terror elicited, even if far fewer people really know enough about them to be properly terrified.
I might stand a chance, if only the Ascendant isn’t acting with the full backing of the Gefährten behind him. This might be a personal matter, with him only getting rudimentary support from them.
In fact, it was far more likely that he was mostly on his own than that he was acting under direct orders of their leadership – the way he’d acted so far was simply not their style, openly attacking an established villain – a legacy, even – and sending hitmen after a simple Syndicate agent…
Memo to self, take Sara up on that meeting and find out why they were after her… and who sicced those assassins on you.
So, there was a good chance that he was acting on his own. But still…
I don’t have the resources to deal with even a small fellowship, even if it’s not an officially sanctioned one. Or at least, I am unlikely to deal safely with it.
More to the point… I might not be able to protect Elouise and Hennessy. They were both so powerful, confident in their own way, surrounded by allies… so, so vulnerable.
It’s a big risk, either way. I had to get rid of the Ascendant. Even beyond the revenge factor – and oh boy, was I looking forward to some slow, drawn-out, delicious vengeance – he had to die, if only so he couldn’t threaten my girls, or anyone they cared about, ever again.
I can’t guarantee their safety, I thought, and immediately, the monkey was back, howling and clamouring for ultra-violence. It didn’t want me to think. It just wanted me to go out and start killing people. Just start killing, and keep killing until no one was left to threaten those I cared about…
I shook my head, banishing the visions of violence its howls called up. I was smarter than that. The monkey, for all its power, couldn’t plan, couldn’t see the future coming. I couldn’t rely on it for this, at least not until the very end, when it came down to only fighting.
My hand slipped into my jeans pocket, and I pulled my cellphone.
Then I almost crushed it, when the monkey followed my train of thoughts and went crazy. I doubled over, my hands to my head as it threatened to split in twain.
“Stop!” I roared, forcing it back down. “Not your decision! No decision at all! I’m just thinking!”
But now that I started thinking in that direction…
I called up the picture I’d taken of Hennessy on the couch, standing in the middle of my living room, my eyes glued to the too-small screen. I need a picture of Elouise as well, came a random thought to my mind, but I shook my head and focused on Hennessy again.
I had to protect them. I had to act. But I couldn’t do this on my own. I couldn’t rely on the heroes, not with all the chaos that was currently tying up their resources. I couldn’t rely on Elouise’s organisation – she had tried to sugarcoat it, but just two of the Ascendant’s people had almost been too much for her people to take, and she’d lost far more than they’d had.
I stared at the phone for what seemed like an eternity, burning the image of Hennessy even deeper into my brain than it already was. An indeterminable amount of time passed.
“What did you say to me?”
I shook my head, sitting on the couch, in the same spot Hennessy had sat in.
“You heard me, you asshole. Fuck you! Fuck you! I’m not going to do it!”
“Son, watch your tongue. This is a great opportunity and you would be a fool to ignore it.”
I groaned, leaning back as that particular memory fought its way into the forefront of my mind.
“No! No, I won’t do it! I’m sick of this! I’m fucking sick of your fucking games, you fucking asshole!”
“Boy, if you weren’t my son, I’d-“
“You’d what? Kill me? Torture me? Try and break me? Like you’ve been teaching me how to do?”
The last time I’d seen or heard my father.
“Son, this is your chance. You could join the Syndicate, not as my protege, but on your own terms. You could be-“
“What, a new figurehead for you to use? A new patsy to rally the Syndicate members who oppose the Dark behind? For what!? Another doomed attempt to oust him!?”
“It’s important work, son, the opposition is growing since DiL’s origin was revealed, the Dark’s position has never been weaker…”
“Oh, fuck you! Fuck you, and fuck the Dark, and fuck the Five and fuck the Syndicate! Fuck your sick little games, all of you! We both know it’s not going to work, whether you lead them or not – the Dark is the Syndicate, so why bother!? He’s unassailable!”
“Even the Greatest may fall. No one’s invincible, I taught you that. This game we all play is one were even a god may stumble over an ant, to tumble down below – and the Dark is not nearly a god. He, too, can fall. You could be a part of this game, more than a figurehead, a symbol of power, of independence. Wouldn’t you like that?”
“Like that? Like that? Why the fuck would I like that!?”
“Just think of the power!”
“Power!? You dare say that? What the fuck is that power good for? What the fuck is your power good for, eh? All your mind games, your allies, your great powers and your great plans – and you couldn’t even protect the woman you professed to love! What do I want this power for, when it couldn’t even protect Mom!?”
“Son…” I remembered, that had been the first time since mother’s death that he’d shown any weakness, a hint of grief and guilt. Not that I’d been in any mood to appreciate that.
“No! No, I’m done! I’m done with this! I want out!”
“Well, what is it? Don’t try to play for time! I told you, I don’t want this, so give the fuck up!”
“What do you want, then?”
“What do I want? I can tell you what I don’t want! I don’t want your lessons! I don’t want the Syndicate, I don’t want the power! I don’t want the games and I don’t want the intrigue! I don’t want to kill people, or learn how to torture them or how to brainwash them! I don’t want your Nepotism, I don’t want your Experience, I don’t want your good intentions! I. Don’t. Want. You!“
“Oh, that hurts, doesn’t it? Well, I’m not done! I want out! I want away from this, from you! I want my own life! I want to be free, to fucking live again! I. Want. You. Gone!“
“So be it.”
“What did you say?”
“I said, so be it. If that is what you wish, then so shall it be. Go. Take whatever you need, whatever you want. Go and make your way. I won’t interfere. I won’t even watch. I won’t check up on you. I won’t be there. I’ll be well and truly, out of your life.”
“You promise that?”
“I do. I swear, by everything I hold dear, past, present and future, that I shall, from now on, neither interfere in your life, nor inform myself of it, aside from knowledge gained indirectly, due to my duties. I shall, simply put, stay out of your life entirely.”
“Al… Alright. That’s good. Thank you.”
“Fare well. May you find what you seek… somewhere.”
I’d left our house a mere half hour later, with only two changes of clothes, the pictures of Mom (those without Dad in them), a little cash and a few books; and we’d neither met nor spoken again since. I’d been fourteen at the time. More than two decades had passed since then.
I sighed, as the monkey continued to rage behind my eyes, the mere memory of my father’s voice, so vivid, enough to drive it into near-berserker rage.
My eyes remained on my phone, and I zoomed the image in on Hennessy’s sleeping face. Then, at that point, I knew that I’d do anything to protect her and Elouise.
For you, and for your sister, baby girl.
I dialed a number I’d memorised a long, long time ago.
The phone didn’t have a chance to ring even once.
“Aaron,” spoke his voice – strong, and smooth, like steel wrapped in silk and drenched in honey. The first voice I’d ever heard. And the name I hadn’t heard since I’d left that day. I couldn’t even begin to make out the tangle of emotions that I heard behind his words, carefully though he tried to conceal it.
“Father,” I replied, my voice less stable, my emotions less curtailed. Part of me wanted to hang up on him, right now, just to spite him. “I know… how I left things. I know what I said. But I think I need your h-“
“I’ll be at your current location in ten minutes.”