Chapter 25: The chapter wherein Hero has a family history lesson with her late mother.
“Hey Baby took you long enough.”
“Mother?” I sighed into the phone, “Why are you on the phone?” I did have to admit, talking to her this way felt less strange.
“It’s safer this way, at least for now.” She paused, “What’s wrong?”
I admit I hadn’t planned on bawling to my mother, my long dead, and estranged mother about my boy troubles, but I couldn’t help it. I started to cry.
She let me cry, and even tried to console me, and murmured comforting words through the phone. It was strange to go to her for comfort. Maybe it was just that I couldn’t go to Dee. My mother had been out of my life long before she died, and I didn’t think of her as a mom.
I finally stopped sobbing and managed to tell her what had happened with Kyle.
“Oh baby, I’d hoped you wouldn’t inherit that from me.”
I looked at her blankly, “Inherit what? Bad taste in men?”
“Dangerous taste in men,” She said, and I could hear her smile. “Once this is all over, we’ll talk about dangerous men.”
I wondered if she would tell me about the dangerous men in her life, and I wondered if one of them was my father. I recalled my brief early years living with her – and the strange friends she always had around. It struck me that lots of those people were probably preters themselves. Perhaps they weren’t strange just less human than I had thought. Maybe some of her visitors with out-of-date clothes were ghosts. When I‘d called my mother over, she looked solid enough – maybe some of her friends were ghosts too. I recalled her dark-haired friends, the Fox sisters, and how they had always cooed over me. They’d seemed safe enough, but then I remembered the night she’d sent me to live with Dee.
The man who’d appeared in the apartment. He’d seemed like any of my mother’s friends. He kept trying to get me to pay attention to him. He’d started yelling at me, but I didn’t understand him. I kept trying not to look at him because I wasn’t supposed to. I pushed the memory aside. I was afraid to ask about him or my father. All the talk of danger reminded me that I still had no idea who had killed Dee.
“All over?” I managed a bitter laugh, “I still have no idea who killed Dee, or even why.” I managed to get the words out around my renewing tears.
“I’ve checked in with all the dead members of Sostris, and all of them claim that they don’t know anything.” She paused, and I felt a cool, mistiness brush my face. “I don’t think they are lying.”
“But how would they even know? Like do you guys watch us?”
She sighed, “Kind of. When lemuira reach the underworld, they can watch the living. It’s like a power switch. And my mom wasn’t the only lemuira in Sosostris. They had others, and some of them will check in on descendants. It’s not like there’s a lot to do once you’re dead.”
I felt my skin prickle. I didn’t like the idea that any of the creepy Sosostris types could watch me. I didn’t like the idea that any ghost could watch me. “Do you, did you check in on me?”
She laughed, “Oh no baby, no one can see a lemuria, even with your powers bound I couldn’t see you. I checked in on Dee sometimes and your friend Jenny. But until you called me, I couldn’t see you directly.” She sounded sad.
I wasn’t ready for more family issues to be resolved, so I ignored her sadness. There was too much I needed to say and ask before I could even begin to deal with family issues. “So, if it’s not Sosostris, who would want her dead?” I ran my hands through my hair, “Everyone I’ve talked to seems to think she was great or were too scared of her to try anything like this.”
“I’ve been considering that too. It’s got to be about the Gate. Someone wants it, but that means that someone has to know about it.” She paused, “Most people didn’t realize that she and my mom found it.”
“Everyone seems way too interested in the Gate,” I said and remembered I hadn’t told her about Vic. I quickly filled her in on the bounty hunter, explaining that he’d been hired by circe who’d claimed I’d stolen something from them. “I’ve been assuming they meant the Gate. They must think that Dee told me where it was.”
“And she didn’t?” My mother sounded genuinely surprised.
“No, she never told me anything about the whole preter-business, so how could she tell me about a door to the underworld? I don’t know where it is, so even if they get a hold of me, I can’t help them.”
“Oh you could help them, baby,” She paused, and the line went silent for a second. I wondered if I’d lost the call, but then she came back. “Sorry, Hero. I was interrupted.” She went on before I could ask her how she was interrupted. “Anyway,” she said, “Only a few people alive know what Dee and my mom did. Even most of Sosostris didn’t know they used the Gate. They assumed it was all Dee’s powers.”
That nagged at me, Kate knew that Dee had found the Gate. “There is someone who knows, a hecate student that Dee had. She knows that Dee found the Gate.”
Thana considered this, “If she was Dee’s student, she wouldn’t be able to hurt her. It’s unlikely she’d be powerful enough. And Dee must have trusted her to take her as a student.”
I absently pet HP, thinking about all the times Kate using magic had upset him, and how quick she was to suggest binding Kyle. I realized that I didn’t know anything about her. She was just some co-ed who claimed to know Dee. Dee hadn’t even mentioned her in the letter to me. “Mom, she’s a Wasteland Kid. One of the grandkids or great-grandkids of the breeding program.” I thought about Aidan telling about the children who were monsters with uncontrollable powers. It was Kate who’d claimed that it was a circe, or a group of them, who’d killed Dee. I racked my brain trying to remember if Kyle had even suggested it before Kate had arrived, but I couldn’t remember. “Could she have done this?”
There was a pause before my mother spoke. “I don’t know. Lots of those kids ended up… wrong. Way too powerful and unstable.” She paused, “I should know, I’m one of them.”
I felt my stomach drop. If she was one of them, what did that make me? I was part of some crazy breeding program? “Wh-what? Why would Lenore have gone along with that?”
My mother sounded tired, “I don’t know. It’s not like I could ask, and Dee would never talk about it.” She paused, as if she wanted to say something else, but remained silent.
“So what am I?” I managed to ask, my voice weak.
“My daughter.” Thana said, “And don’t let anyone tell you differently. Baby all this linage stuff is just dumb. You’re my daughter and that’s what matters.”
I tried to accept that, but I couldn’t. I felt sick. All the horrible stuff Aidan and Kyle had told me. I couldn’t stand the thought that I was related to any of that. I opened my mouth, ready to demand to know who my father was, but Thana cut me off.
“And baby don’t ask about your old man. Not now, and not yet. I’ll tell you, sometime soon. But I can’t, not right now.”
I heard the desperation in her voice. It didn’t help that she seemed afraid of my father. “So what I am supposed to do now?” I felt her cold, damp touch on my cheek.
“Go find out more about this girl and keep her close. If she killed Dee, she’d bound to try to get you to reveal the Gate. Does she know that you don’t know where it is?”
I swallowed, “I told her.”
“Well, maybe she’ll leave you alone for now. Keep her out of Dee’s books and stuff. Keep her close, and keep the cerberus, closer.”
HP raised his head and yipped at the phone.
“And by the way baby, far out calling him over. You’re powerful.” I could hear her smile, “I’m proud of you.”
I managed a weak smile and rubbed HP behind the ears. “He’s not going anywhere. I’m taking him to the funeral. If anyone there thinks that I’m an easy target, they’ll be surprised to see him.” I heard the fierceness in my voice, courage I hadn’t realized that I had.
“Keep an eye on the girl, see if she does anything hinky. And tell Jenny. She cares about you, and she’ll protect you.”
I wondered what my mom had seen Jenny do over the years. But whatever it was made her trust Jenny so much. But I added it to the list of things to ask her later. “I’ll talk to her. Do you think I should tell Kyle?”
Thana sighed, “His family’s always been good to Dee, serious allies. What does your cerberus think about Kyle,” she asked.
“Until Kyle went all scary after-school special on me, HP seemed ok with him.”
HP twitched his ears.
I smiled, “Short for HellPuppy.” I blushed, “I know not the most original name, but he needed to be called something.”
Thana laughed, “It works, but you could have just asked him his name.”
“Wait, he can talk?” I glanced at the dog laying next to me. He looked back but didn’t offer any verbal input.
“Not exactly, but just trust his responses to people. If he doesn’t like them, be wary.” She paused, “Now, I should go. If HP’s ok with Kyle, trust him too.”
I felt the same cool, mistiness across my cheek again.
“Now, send me back.”
I think I heard her sniffle and realized that I’d called her mom. It was the first time I could remember ever calling her that.
“Go, Thana Dorothea Fortier” I whispered. I glanced at the display on the phone and watched the psychedelic number shifting stop.
I didn’t feel nearly as exhausted as before. Other than feeling stiff from sitting, I felt fine. “HP, did you help with that?”
He looked at me and yawned, before settling his head between his paws and closing his eyes.
I assumed that meant he had helped. I hoped it wasn’t too much of a strain on him, he was, after all, only a puppy. I petted his head, “Thanks, HP. You rest now.”
He wagged his tail once.
I rested my head in my hands and considered what I’d told my mom. Could it be Kate? I didn’t want to think that. She seemed nice. But so many of the facts seemed to add up. But why would she send Vic after me, if she’d already known that I didn’t know where the Gate was? She’d had free run of the house for the past day or so and could have searched Dee’s office for information at any time, and no one would have noticed. No one was watching her, and Kyle even seemed to trust her. He’d sent her to meet me at the store, but then Constantine had fortuitously shown up. Could he be in on it too? The more I thought about it, the more reasons I came up for why it couldn’t be Kate.
I groaned. I wasn’t good at mysteries. I didn’t even like mysteries, and I didn’t like being all mistrustful of everyone. I rose from the bed, cringing as I felt the pins and needles of my leg. Great, I’d sat long enough that my leg had fallen asleep. I stomped my foot a few times, wincing a little with each step.
I glanced at the clock. I still had plenty of time before the funeral. It was time to talk to Jenny and see what she thought. I’d wait and see with Kyle. If he’d gotten his head on straight, we could talk to him.
As I came down the stairs, I heard the sounds of water running in the kitchen and the clatter of dishes. At least someone was cleaning up. I found Kyle sitting up and Jenny next to him. She was talking to him in a low voice. Vic was sitting alone at the dining room table, alternating between glaring at Jenny and looking at her with what I could only classify as longing. I shook my head and continued down the stairs. I didn’t envy Jenny the problems Vic was going to cause her. I made a mental note to talk to Constantine about that issue. If he was all super powerful hecate, maybe he could undo what Jenny had done.
Jenny and Kyle both turned to look at me. Kyle met my eyes briefly and then looked down. I had a choice to make. I either had to forgive him and move on, or I had to stop trusting him.
I looked at him a moment, trying to see beyond his handsome face and see him. For a second I saw his shimmering ghostly form shining out of him. It was so bright and so… the only word I could come up with was pained. I blinked at it was gone. Had I imagined it? Did I want to forgive him so much that I was seeing things? I looked at the bruises on my wrist, the ones he’d put there. I just didn’t know what to do.
I glanced at Jenny and she gave me a tired smile and nodded her head toward Kyle.
I took a deep breath and walked to the front door and gestured to both of them. I made my choice.