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Hamlette 6

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I slid into the passenger seat of the Acenta and asked, “Where’s Bea?” using my best accusatory tone just so Liam wouldn’t know how excited I was to see him. Alone. All to myself.

Liam rounded the drive and headed back toward the gate. “She said she had stuff to do before you came over and asked me to come get you.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. Was he trying to play nonchalant? Or was he really disinterested? I couldn’t tell.

“Well, thanks,” I said.

He grinned and my heart leapt and melted at the same time. Seriously. I didn’t even know that was possible. “Always up for rescuing a damsel in distress,” Liam said. His green eyes slid to the overnight bag. “All for one night, or are you moving in?”

My cheeks started burning. I hate that, but I can’t help it; I blush on a dime. Is that even a thing? “Blush on a dime?” There’s probably a better way to say it, but you get the point.

At least Liam was too much of a gentleman to mention it. As red as my cheeks were, one could probably have navigated in the dark by their rosy glow.

“So . . .” Liam said, filling the awkward silence. “How’s school?”

“Okay,” I said. “How’s uni?”

Liam did rowing and played cricket and was known to join in a round of basketball now and again as well. I had no idea when he actually, you know, studied or slept or anything. But my hope was, with all those sports, he also didn’t have time to find a girlfriend.

“I like it,” he said.

“You sound surprised.”

“Well, I never really liked school,” said Liam. “But uni . . . I like it,” he said again. Liam is a scintillating conversationalist.

We’d come to the Polleys’, and I snuck a look at Liam to see if he was maybe a tiny bit disappointed to have to give me up. But if anything, he looked relieved. My questions about school had apparently taxed him.

“Hop on out,” he said, “I’m going into town.”

“London?” I asked.

“Meeting some friends,” he told me.

I rounded and leaned into the car, holding the open door with one hand. “A girl friend?” I blurted, and my cheeks started flaming again.

Liam laughed. “Yeah, some of them are girls,” he said. “Have fun with Bea!”

I slammed the car door shut and Liam backed away. I stood there however long, until Bea came out of the house and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I muttered. But the opposite was true. Everything was wrong.

,

Hamlette Continues . . .

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An index of the Hamlette posts is available here.

Bea and I took a plate of snickerdoodles upstairs and planned the best way for me to get in and out of my house with my stuff without having to deal with Eoin, and preferably not Mom either. “Bring the Land Rover back to poor Tim before he gets in trouble,” Bea pleaded. That’s Bea for you, always looking out for the little guys.

We decided I’d go back and pack and she’d come pick me up in the Polleys’ Acenta. Bea was sure her mom would let her borrow the car for just that quick trip.

So I went home, gave Tim back the car keys, and hightailed it up to my room. So far so good.

Packing was the hard part. I needed cute sleepwear in case Liam was around to see us in our pyjamas. And cute clothes for the next day, of course. And all my makeup. And my special shampoo because, good as Bea was with hair, I just couldn’t use any other kind of shampoo. Accessories—those were the hardest. I have a lot of cute jewelry, but I didn’t want to overdo it, and yet picking just a few pieces was impossible. I ended up dumping both my jewelry cases (I told you there was a lot) into my LV overnight bag and figured I would just rotate through by changing my accessories every couple hours.

Finally I was ready. I texted Bea and she said she’d be right over. And then used a winky face. Bea doesn’t get how to use emoticons.

I didn’t want to wait outside. And I couldn’t be found standing around the entry with my bag, either. So I told Bea to text when she got to the gate. That would give me just the right amount of time to rush downstairs and jump in the car for a quick getaway. Believe me, I had this down to a science.

A few minutes later, a text came from a number I didn’t recognize: “I’m here.” No emoticon this time.

I was torn. I didn’t really have time to carry on a “Who are you?” conversation via text, and I couldn’t see the driveway from my bedroom window. Was it the Acenta? I would have to take my chances. I grabbed my bag and headed downstairs.

We have one of those circular driveways with gravel that “poor Tim” (as Bea calls him) has to rake. But the road to and from the house is paved, and if you stay on the asphalt, it will take you around to the garages and a parking area. Handy when there are a lot of guests. The driveway really is just for pick-up and drop-off. Like at an airport.

As I threw open the front door, I could hear Mom’s voice echoing from one of the bazillion rooms: “Niss?”

“Going to Bea’s!” I shouted and slammed the door before she could answer.

The Acenta was there, all right, but Bea wasn’t in the driver’s seat. Instead it was Liam.

“Bea,” I sighed to myself, “you are the best. Friend. Ever.”

,

“When Did You First Know You Were a Woman?”

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Cross posted from spooklights.

I’m reading Bossypants by Tina Fey and really missing 30 Rock (though Parks and Recreation is good, too), and this question comes up when she talks about writing Mean Girls. And it seems like a lot of the answers to the question have to do with catcalls and men shouting at women, but I don’t have any vivid memory of that ever happening. Maybe no one has ever catcalled at me? Or, just as likely, I wasn’t paying attention and/or assumed they were shouting at someone else.

So when I thought about this question, I really had to cast my mind back, and the summer of 1989 sprang up almost immediately. I was 13 and in love with Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever and Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence. Seems very apropos in retrospect.

Two years before, we’d moved from Georgetown to Lewisville [Texas]. But two of my best friends were still in Georgetown, and I got permission to spend a month down there—two weeks at Emily’s, two weeks at Tara’s. We went and saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade over and over again, making ourselves sick on hot dogs and Nerds and oversized dill pickles.

Now, Emily is the same age as me, but she was always the more mature one, interested in boys long before I was. But Tara, who is like a sister to me, is four years younger. She and I lived right next door to one another and spent every possible minute together. I was as comfortable in her house as I was my own, and her little brother, when asked who I was, would often answer, “That’s just Mandy. She’s like my other sister.”

This is important because of what happened. I was staying with Tara and her family, and though I was 13 and physically mature, Tara (who was 9) and I were still playing silly kid games. We would play Indiana Jones, and I would be Indy and have to rescue her and so on. We had a game in which the entire goal was to avoid being kissed by the evil Fish Lips. Kid stuff. I was brilliant but a late bloomer in the socio-emotional sense. (Not uncommon for Asperger’s, I believe.)

Tara’s dad had a friend who would come over. His name was Mike. I didn’t think much of it, but after a while I became aware Mike looked at me a lot, in a way that made me uncomfortable, though I wasn’t sure why. Then Mike quit coming to visit. And I found out later Tara’s dad had given him a thrashing because of some things Mike had said about me. Inappropriate things. And Tara’s dad had reacted as any man might if someone had said those things about his daughter. So good for him, and I’m grateful for it.

Not long after, my dad’s friend Jim came to visit us up in Lewisville. I’d known Jim since I was itty bitty and thought nothing of sitting on his lap, same as I always had. But one day my mom took me aside and told me I couldn’t sit on Jim’s lap any more. She didn’t elaborate, and it took some mulling on my part to understand why.

Putting two and two together, I began to realize I had become interesting to men. That the bodily changes I took for granted were drawing attention. And for reasons I’d rather not go into, I thought this was the worst thing in the world.

I attacked the problem in a variety of ways. 1. I started wearing my dad’s t-shirts. They were huge on me and covered everything up. I also started wearing men’s hiking boots for some reason; I’m not sure what that was about. 2. I grew a curtain of hair to hide behind. 3. I quit eating. And no one could tell because I became skilled at pushing things around on my plate to make it look like I had eaten, and I had huge clothes on anyway.

Basically, I was trying to disappear in every way possible.

I didn’t know that at the time, of course, but looking back it’s pretty clear.

So, yeah, that’s when I knew I was a woman. And I fought it for as long as I could. Which is probably why I didn’t date much in high school. (I had two boyfriends, both very safe church boys.) At some point, I gave in. Cute dresses could no longer be foresworn or something.

Oh, but Tina Fey does also mention buying a white denim suit, and it reminded me of something similar in my life. I was at the mall with a couple friends, and I found a white v-neck sweater at . . . I dunno, Lerner New York & Co, I think it was. It was displayed with all these brightly colored turtlenecks, and my friend Christopher said, “Amanda, you have to buy it. That would look great on you.” And flattered that Christopher could be bothered to even think about what might look great on me . . . And also mollified by the fact the sweater was massive and would cover all the things . . . I bought it and a cobalt blue turtle neck. And I wore them as often as Texas weather allowed.

,

Hamlette 4

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We were sitting in the kitchen eating cookies when Liam came down, looking like he’d just rolled out of bed. Even half awake he’s hot. Like, maybe even hotter than when fully awake. Tough to call.

Liam has the same dark hair as his sister, but less curly. He’s got the same green eyes, too, but lighter in color than Bea’s. Like, hers are emerald and his are jade. And he’s tall. I mean, I’m five-seven, but even when I wear my wedges, Liam is taller in bare feet.

Bea and I were at the little table in the breakfast nook, shooting glances at each other while Mrs. Polley chattered at us and fed us cookies. And then Liam lumbered in, yawning and stretching, wearing sweatpants and a purple University of Manchester shirt with the sleeves cut off. His hair was sticking up everywhere, and I so wanted to go over and comb it down with my fingers. Instead, I found myself stifling a yawn too.

“Hey, Niss,” he said. He shuffled over and gave my hairdo an experimental pat, making the bun bounce. “What’s this? One of Bea’s latest creations?” He swiped the cookie I was holding and went to the refrigerator for milk.

“Liam!” Bea scolded. She knows I like her brother, and she doesn’t mind, mostly because he’s only ever treated me like another sister. I think it might freak her out if he ever showed any actual interest in me.

“There are plenty more,” Mrs. Polley said. “Snickerdoodles next.” Snickerdoodles are my favorite, and Mrs. Polley knows it.

I looked at Bea, torn. We really needed to talk more about her dream, and I needed to tell her mine, too. But on the other hand . . . Liam. Who took a seat on my other side and began scarfing down cookies. And snickerdoodles were coming.

“Why are you home?” I asked Liam.

“Easter break,” he said. He glanced at me, and I could see the wheels turning in his brain as he considered why I was home. Suddenly he sat up straighter and looked me in the eye. “Sorry about, you know . . .” His sincerity was heart-melting. “They’re doing, like, some thing at the Globe, right?”

I was impressed; it wasn’t like Liam to keep up with celebrity news. “I think so. Mom said something about it.”

“Are you going to go?” Bea asked.

I pulled a face. “I’d rather not. But I think they may make me. United front, happy family and all that.”

An uncomfortable silence fell over the kitchen.

“Anyway,” I said, feeling pressured to lighten the mood, “thanks for letting me come hide out over here for the day.”

“Of course,” Mrs. Polley said as baking sheets rattled in and out of the oven. “You can even stay the night, if you think your—” She stopped abruptly, and I could tell she wasn’t sure what to call them. “Mom and . . .”

“I just call him Eoin,” I told her. “It’s easier.”

Mrs. Polley smiled as she set a fresh plate of snickerdoodles in front of me. “Well, then, we’d love to have you.”

I looked at Bea, and she was grinning. I glanced at Liam, hoping he might look just as happy about my hanging around, but he was staring off into space. Specifically, he was staring at the far corner of the room and chewing a cookie about as placidly as a cow chews cud. Well, no one said you had to be smart to be cute, I guess.

,

Why I, Otter?

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I’ve been haunted by otters lately.

Not, you know, real-life otters. Or even ghost otters. But they keep turning up in weird places. Like on Facebook, then on TV, and then I stumbled across a random stuffed otter at the bookstore. So I bought it. Because I feel like maybe the Universe is trying to tell me something . . . Something about otters.

Well, no, otters typically symbolize playfulness and happiness and, by extension, good fortune. A certain amount of ease and effortlessness. They also represent transitions in life and recovery from difficult times.

So I don’t know exactly what the Cosmos is trying to say, but I think it’s encouraging. And anyway, otters are cute. I don’t mind stumbling across them now and again. Except not real, live otters. I’d feel bad if I tripped over one.

What’s in a . . . Year?

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All this Chinese Zodiac New Year stuff got me thinking. For some reason I have a lot of friends who were born in 1969, putting them some seven years older than me. Why is that, I wonder? What makes us so compatible?

Too, I have a handful of friends from 1971–2 . . . And then I’m not actually very close to anyone my own age, but I have some great friends who are three and four years younger.

Looking at a Chinese Zodiac chart (and trying to keep in mind the years actually go roughly from February to February), I see a lot of my friends are Roosters. So is my oldest son, and we’re very close, too. And then Pigs and in some cases Rats . . . And my daughter is a Rat . . . And then the two people who are most like sisters to me are both Monkeys.

I don’t know if there’s anything in this, but I find the pattern noteworthy at least. For example, most of my good friends are born in late Jan—early Feb (and then all those Valentine’s Day friends), late July (19—26), or late Sept—early October (many of them Sept 30, and then Oct 3–5, and one or two closer to Oct 10). There are exceptions, of course, but these concentrations are interesting.

So. Certain times of year, and certain years . . . I have friends who say their friends fall into similar “pockets” of having birthdays near one another, too. Maybe there’s a reason for it, astrological or otherwise. It’s definitely fun to consider.

Hamlette, Part 3

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I escaped the house before Eoin even bothered to show up for breakfast. Dad would have been up by then, have eaten, and been out for, like, a jog or a ride or something. Eoin was a slug by comparison. I couldn’t figure out what Mom saw in him.

Our house is out in the middle of a bunch of nothing, and still there’s a big iron gate and stone walls and stuff around the property. Which means walking to Bea’s is not an option. I have a bicycle, but didn’t want to turn up all sweaty and gross if Liam was going to be there. Same for riding—smell like horse? No thanks.

So I begged Tim for keys to the Land Rover. He was hesitant—he always is—but he can never say no to me. I have this look that’s just for Tim, where I make my eyes a little wide and push out my bottom lip ever so slightly so it’s not a full-on pout, more like a “might cry.” Works every time.

Bea ran out to meet the car, loyal as any dog, though I felt kind of bad about thinking of her that way. She threw her arms around me as I climbed out of the driver’s seat; she’s enthusiastic like that. I endured it, and even gave a little bit of a squeeze in return. Then she bounced back from me and up the stairs to her house, which is smaller than ours but also always smells like things baking, which I like.

“Peanut butter cookies!” Bea told me as we stepped inside.

“They’re not ready yet!” her mom called from the kitchen.

“She must get up to bake at, like, three in the morning,” I said.

“More like five,” said Mrs. Polley as she came out of the kitchen wiping her hands on a tea towel.

“Yeah, but she goes to bed at nine,” Bea said.

“And you’re the beneficiaries,” her mom said. “But it will be another ten minutes.” Then she tilted her head at me and made eye contact in that way grownups have when they have something serious to discuss. “I’m sorry about your father, Nerissa.”

“Thanks,” I said, grateful when Bea bounded up the stairs and cut the conversation short. I mean, what are you supposed to say when people tell you they’re sorry your dad died?

But Mrs. Polley is cool, and she was only doing what is required of her under the circumstances. It’s what everyone does: says they’re sorry. And at least I knew Mrs. Polley meant it. A lot of people don’t.

I hurried up the stairs after Bea, down the hall to her room which was painted a soothing aquamarine color. My room had been done by a decorator, and it was pretty in a magazine kind of way, but I liked Bea’s room more. It felt like a real, lived-in place, even though she kept it clean. Like, the carpet was worn in the places where she walked, and there were tiny holes in the walls from old posters. She had posters, for Christ’s sake, while my room had actual framed artwork hanging in it. Though one painting had been done by my dad, so I would never take it down.

Bea’s furniture was kind of little girlish in that it was white with gold trim, and the dressing table with the oval vanity mirror was short, as if made for someone more like six than sixteen. And while my bathroom is swimming with products, Bea’s vanity had exactly one lipstick, one eyeshadow palette, one mascara, and one bottle of Marc Jacobs. In fact, the whole room smelled of her perfume. It was nice.

“You need moisturizer,” I told her.

“It’s in the drawer,” she said. “Want me to do your hair?”

So here’s the thing about Bea and hair. She has short, dark, naturally curly hair that she can’t do a thing with. And I have long, straight reddish brown hair that I can’t do a thing with. But Bea has some kind of weird natural talent for hair—well, anyone’s but her own. I only wish I could return the favor.

I took a seat at the vanity, my knees almost too high to fit beneath the table, and Bea went to work. When I try to do my own hair, it just slips and slides out of whatever ‘do I’m attempting, even when I use gel and mousse and spray. But Bea’s fingers were flying, and I was sprouting a really intricate bun with tiny braids surrounding it. It looked awesome, and I was already regretting that I would have to take it out in order to sleep that night.

“So if I tell you something,” Bea said as she twisted and pinned, “promise not to, I don’t know, freak out on me or anything?”

“How can I promise that if I don’t know what you’re going to tell me?” I asked. By the way, is there anything worse than having to stare at yourself in a mirror while someone does your hair? Especially if the light is unflattering? Well, I mean, besides your dad dying.

Bea took a deep breath. She can be dramatic sometimes. “I had a dream about your dad.”

“Ew!”

“Not like that!”

Now, I’m sure I lot of people dream about my dad. He’s famous, after all. And some people probably even daydream about him. But yuck. Just . . . gross.

“Okay, I know it’s crazy,” Bea went on, and I think she was probably jamming those hairpins in a bit harder than absolutely necessary, “but I dreamt he tried to tell me something.”

A tingly feeling went all through me then. “Like what?” I asked, surprised that my lungs didn’t want to pull in air any more.

She pushed in a final pin and stepped back. “I don’t know exactly. Like . . . How did he die?”

“In his sleep. The doctors say it was natural causes.”

“But he was in really good shape, wasn’t he?” Bea asked.

The jogs. The horseback riding, and sometimes polo. Tennis. He swam, too. Yeah, Dad had been in great shape.

“Seems weird, don’t you think?” Bea pressed.

“Girls!” Mrs. Polley called from downstairs. “Cookies are ready!”

,

Stats

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So here is where things stand in regards to various projects of mine:

1. I’ve finished a rewrite of “St. Peter in Chains” (the first part of The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller). There’s a lot of new content, so I’m having my critique readers look it over to make sure I keep a consistent tone.

2. Because of my focus on Peter, I haven’t been working on Changers at all, so it remains half finished.

3. But I am doing this fun Hamlette thing just as a kind of writing joyride.

4. I had two scripts make quarterfinals in a competition. Only one of the two made semis, but that’s okay, I’ll take what I can get.

5. Have been collaborating on some other scripts as well . . .

6. And negotiations for the rom-com script I co-wrote continue. Hopefully we’ll get things settled soon.

In short, a lot going on. I have an unfinished Sherlock Holmes story sitting in the wings as well. And the K-Pro sequel. But my priority is to get Peter fixed up and sent back out to the couple of agents who want to see it again. Everything else is jostling for second place.

, , , , , ,

Hamlette cont’d

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“You buried him awful quick,” I said. I used my spoon to push at the creamy mushroom sauce that covered my chicken. Marta, our cook, must have remembered how much I like creamy stuff. Too bad I didn’t have an appetite.

“We were trying to cut down on people coming to the house,” said Mom. “There will be a public memorial at the Globe, if you want to go.”

Ugh. I didn’t much relish the idea of being photographed and . . . condoled to? Whatever they called it. The idea of people coming up to me and saying how sorry they were about my dad. They weren’t really sorry; they didn’t even know him. They were sorry an actor they liked had died and wouldn’t be making more movies or plays. But I’d lost my dad.

I eyed Eoin. He was a pretty poor substitute. Dropping my spoon, I stood up. “I’m gonna go call Bea.”

My mom started to say something, but Eoin said, “Let her go.” Damn him. I didn’t need his permission to call my friends, or to have my feelings.

Beatrice is my best friend, at least when I’m home. She goes to a regular school, and we email all the time, even though we almost never see each other. She had been one of the first people to send me a note after my dad died, and I loved that she was so genuine about the whole thing. I don’t even know what to say because nothing can make it better, and I can’t pretend to know what it’s like. Bea is like my little bit of normal in a crazy life filled with stars and wannabes.

“Hey,” was all she said when I called. I knew she was waiting for me to talk in whatever way I wanted, but I didn’t want to talk about Dad. So I asked about the boy she liked and whether he’d noticed her yet. Bea was happy to go on at length about all the times Finn almost looked at her, and I was happy to help her speculate.

“Speaking of boys,” Bea finally said, and I felt the heat rushing to my face before she even said his name, “Liam will be happy to see you.”

Liam is Bea’s brother, and I’ve had a crush on him for forever. Well, since I was twelve. Which might as well be forever.

“Can you come over tomorrow?” Bea asked. I told her I didn’t know, but I couldn’t imagine hanging around the house with my mom and Eoin. And if Liam was going to be around . . .

That night I dreamed of my dad, which I guess is pretty normal when someone dies, right? But in the dream my dad was telling me crazy stuff about how his brother had killed him. He was, like, sitting on the edge of my bed and saying that Eoin had poisoned him or something.

“How?” I asked.

“He put in my toothpaste.”

Like, what? But when I woke up I remembered that Dad did use a special prescription toothpaste, something to keep his teeth extra white. Did Mom use it too?

I found her at the breakfast table, thankfully Eoin-free. “Hey, Mom,” I said, striving for cheerful as I grabbed a plate from the cupboard. “How do you keep your teeth so white?”

She flashed me a smile; Mom loves nothing more than to be noticed, whether for her hair, her clothes, her teeth—totally doesn’t matter. “I go every three months for treatment. Why? You want to try it?”

“Maybe,” I said, though inwardly I was cringing. Twice a year was bad enough. “Do you have to use special toothpaste?”

“I use a whitening paste,” said Mom.

“That the dentist gives you?” I brought a plate laden in sausage and eggs to the table.

“No, I just get it from the store.” She sipped her coffee and went back to the crossword from the newspaper. Mom has this idea that she’s intellectual, but I’ve never seen her fill in more than about five clues.

“Then how come Dad had special toothpaste?”

Now she was looking at me funny. “What’s this about?”

“Nothing, except I was thinking of trying it. But I wondered what it was supposed to do.”

Mom understood vanity and required no further explanation. “Well, his was also for his soft teeth.”

Ah. I hadn’t realized Dad had soft teeth. Whatever that meant.

“I threw it out anyway,” Mom went on. “But you can try mine. Now, what’s a seven-letter word for ‘to overthrow’? Starts with T . . . I think . . .”

The sausage I was eating almost stuck in my throat. “Treason,” I croaked, and wondered if ghosts were allowed to send messages through newspaper puzzles.

,

Hamlette

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I didn’t even make it home for Dad’s funeral, which sucked enough without everything that came after.

Who am I? You shouldn’t even have to ask; I’ve been in the tabloids since the moment I was born. My dad was Bryce Dey. The actor. You know him from movies, but he got his start doing Shakespeare, and he could have named me any number of cool, almost normal names like Miranda or Ariel (except Dad said Ariel was a boy?), but instead he picked Hamlette.

I don’t go by it. God, no. I use my middle name, Nerissa. But there’s always that awkward first day of school when teachers look at the roll and call out my first name and I have to correct them. Then I spend the rest of the day explaining.

Well, not so much any more. I go to a boarding school, and now just about everyone knows me, or of me because of my dad. My mom’s famous, too, a little. Starting to be again, for all the wrong reasons, after all the scandal.

So, look, my dad died. I was away at school—even more away than usual because we were on a trip to Seville. So then there was a message at the hotel, and I had to hop a plane, and by the time I got home it was plastered all over the papers. “A New Dey!” And pictures of Mom and Uncle Eoin coming out of court, grinning and holding hands after having eloped.

I’m used to people taking pictures of me when I’m home. That’s no big deal. It’s when they shout at me that I get annoyed. While walking through Heathrow to where Marshall was waiting to drive me home: “What do you think of your new dad?” I wanted to flip them the finger but at the same time didn’t want to give them the satisfaction, or the opportunity.

Uncle Eoin is okay and all, I guess. He and Dad weren’t close, and then I wasn’t even home all that often, so I’d never spent a lot of time with my uncle. But talk about a weird vibe when you walk into your house and this person you hardly know has taken over. Like, everything looks pretty much the same, but nothing feels quite right.

Mom and Uncle Eoin were waiting for me, standing in the entry by the staircase. They were both grinning, which seemed really wrong considering my dad—her husband, his brother—had just died. My thought must have shown on my face because my mom reached out and gave my arm a little squeeze. She made that face that is meant to be sympathetic but is totally phony, that little grimace that shows she’s trying to push the corners of her mouth down but really wants to keep smiling.

“I know this is a lot to take in, Niss,” she said. Ya think? But all I said was, “I’m just gonna go unpack.”

I went up to my room and hid until dinner. When I came downstairs, it was kind of a jolt to see Uncle Eoin in Dad’s chair. I mean, they look a bit alike, and if I let my eyes blur a bit, Uncle Eoin could be the guy in all the photos around the house. Lighter hair, though.

“It was a lovely service,” Mom said. “I’m sorry you missed it. We’ve had people leaving flowers and balloons at the gate.”

“What a pain,” my uncle grumbled. Step-dad. Whatever. I’ll just call him Eoin.

“Not for you,” I said. “I mean, you don’t have to go out and move it all. I’m betting Tim does it, right?” Tim is the groundskeeper.

“It’s sweet,” Mom put in. “And it will die down soon.”

“Yeah,” I added, “not many people are going to want to come all this way just to toss a few flowers at our house.”

“Your father was loved,” Mom said.

“By his fans, at least,” I muttered.

All sweetness left my mother’s face. “I loved him, too.”

“Clearly, since you went and got another one just like him.”

“Nerissa!”

“It’s okay,” Eoin said. “Let her get it out in whatever way works for her.”

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