She'd started to read Missy Debussy's The Remainder of Our Secrets on Monday, and, by Wednesday, she'd finished no more than the first chapter. She'd packed the novel in her sports bag, to read after tennis, but, instead, she found herself preoccupied with the invitation she held in her hands.
She wanted to throw it away; it was laughable! How would she attend a dinner or a dance looking the way she did? Wearing an evening dress!
Alone, she left to look herself over in the mirror in the club's bathroom and was, momentarily, surprised to find that the cuts and bruises of her dreams had not followed her into her waking hours.
She felt just like crying.
She sat in her car in the parking lot, reading the novel she'd brought along, but she couldn't get into it. A laborious half an hour later, she put away the novel in time to kick open the car door and fall outside to bring up her lunch.
Tears poured down her face, then.
She'd managed to pick herself up, standing on unsteady, shaking legs, when her trembling thoughts were interrupted by someone's rendition of Under the Bridges of Paris and she was met by a warm, playful smile and gentle arms.
Though it was not cold, he rubbed her arms, and the repetitive motion seemed to soothe her as she imagined shooting him, and all of the blood and gore that could come of such an action.
She forced her eyes shut and waited for him to leave as he always did, praying that she'd not be seen by anyone who knew her – any of the club members or staff – and thought mentally ill, standing motionless in the middle of the parking lot, her car, its door thrown wide – letting in the heat; flies – standing only feet away.
Lyle began to hum Lilac Wine, and she refrained, with painful exertion, from stomping on his shoe. Oh, how she wanted him to just die!
She wanted to shout at him in hysterics, 'Where do you even pull all of this crap from? I thought Asians did it for you? I'm not Asian, you fuckwit!' She swallowed it all, and stoppered up her tears. When he'd gone, she knew just what she was going to do.
She waited in Snow's bedroom, lying back on racing car sheets and eating strawberry ice-cream from the tub with a teddy bear spoon, waiting for him to arrive home from school with the Sweeper David had assigned to the task since her hospitalisation.
She hummed Under the Bridges of Paris, idly.
Returning home from school, Snow paused in the doorway, uncertain, before he gave himself a mental kick and stumbled into his bedroom. Jeez, this was his mom, not some scary monster!
He dropped his schoolbag and walked up to his bed with a casual stride. "What's up?"
Emily sprung up into a sitting position, training her eyes upon his face.
His eyes widened, before he could stop them, but he caught the backward leap.
"What's up with Allison?" she asked, in a cheerful, stuck-indoors-too-long voice.
He shrugged. "I don't know," he answered, thinking himself lame, but not knowing what else to say.
Emily popped a spoon of ice-cream in her mouth. "Why am I stupid?"
Snow dropped his shoulders. He couldn't believe she'd actually remembered that! He thought she'd forgiven him. "I was upset, mom. I didn't mean it," he whined.
"Then why'd you say it?"
He couldn't decide if she was playing the good-natured puppy dog or the tease, and it made him uneasy. She was his mom! "I'm not him," he told her, regretting it the moment the words left his mouth. What an idiot!
"You're not who?" she asked, feigning stupidity.
"I'm not Lyle," he uttered painfully, only managing to mouth the last word.
He wanted to turn and run out of his room. "Sonny can see. She's better." He turned and raced for the door.
Emily's first thought was of when he'd started to call his little sister Sonny – a small rebellion against David's Allison and Ally, she was sure – and frowned, the meaning of his words finally sinking in.
Farfalla could see!
She came down from upstairs, Farfalla's sleeping body bundled up in her arms, and found him drinking apple juice at the kitchen table.
"He's voodoo, mom," Snow told her. "You should know better than to mess with that shit."
"Where did you hear that?" she asked.
Snow didn't answer, but sipped his apple juice. "He's the fucking Apocalypse! You're sweet; you're an angel. You're on the wrong fucking sides, mom. Don't you get it? You can't love him."
"I don't," Emily replied.
Snow made a face, and got up to refill his glass with the bottle from the refrigerator. As if. He laughed. "Jesus, mom! You are Lin!" He stomped his foot. "You're his wonderful Lin, so wonderful her own fucking brother fell in love with her!"
Emily frowned. "Jarod's not in love with me," she told him, chiding. Not like that. She couldn't understand where he'd come onto such a notion.
"Fucking Kyle!" Snow howled, face reddening. Tears turned his blue eyes into ponds that reflected the midday sky in summer. "Oh fuck! Shit!" he ranted, and fled, dropping the full glass of apple juice.
The sound of smashing glass and apple juice splashing against the floor and refrigerator door barely registered in Emily's mind. She was hurt for Snow, for what was happening to him, dragging him from her, from his little sister.
She turned to return Farfalla back to her nursery. She'd need to clean the mess and glass up before someone hurt themselves on it.
As she walked up the stairs, she thought how silly it was that Snow had thought she was Lin. Lin was Asian; she was not. The idea wasn't even plausible.
"Have you ever heard of anyone called the Apocalypse?" she asked David after dinner, joining him in his study and taking up in front of his bookcase.
"The Apocalypse Child," David replied. "But not the Apocalypse, no."
Emily smiled, shrugging a little. "So who is he, or she?" she asked, smiling a bit more.
David shut the journal he'd been reading and placed it down at his desk in front of him, shifting his attention to her. "Back in the sixties the Center got their hands on this super Empath – they'd have us believe he was a Pretender, and many still do, but Pretenders aren't able to take the upgrades, so far as we know."
"You sound sceptical," Emily told him.
He gave a short derisive laugh.
She smiled. "So what are 'the upgrades'?"
"You can think of them as like bionic implants, except they're only possible in science fiction. Ours are real."
"'Ours'?" she teased.
"The Center's," David corrected.
Emily shook her head, fighting back a laugh. "You're being silly!"
"I kid you not, Libby," David told her. "In fact, you know the project I told you about a while ago-" He stalled.
Emily's smile disappeared as a shiver ran through her body, but she nodded.
David couldn't meet her eyes; instead, he looked at the cover of the journal sitting on his desk. "That is why we needed the Empath," he said, subdued.
Emily nodded, her eyes bright. "I think it's just great!" she told him in her most enthusiastic voice. "They're going to help so many people!"
David's face shot up and his gaze snapped to hers. "That's not what they're for, Libby," he explained, softly reprimanding. "You should know that. They're to make money, for us. The Center. You and me. Our kids."
Emily stopped smiling. "I get it," she said, after a long silence.
David only bowed his head.
Emily turned and left the study, pulling the door to a jar after her, then, at the sound of David's chair scraping – as though he meant to stand – she pulled it shut to save him the trouble.
"Does he love me?" she asked, lying down on the bed beside her son.
Snow didn't reply, as though hoping she'd think him sleeping and leave.
"Does Lyle love me?" she pressed.
Snow made a face, annoyed that she'd said that name. You don't speak the name of ruin, it will find you in the shadows and bring you to your death. But maybe he was overreacting a little, playing it up to more than it was, and Lyle was his dad. Great, he thought. Yeah, great. What a comforting thought, 'ey, kiddo! "He's crazy about you, but he's also just fucking crazy," he told her, not daring to look over at her face.
Emily's voice was quiet when she spoke, dull. "He hurt me."
"He thinks he's protecting you, from the evil Empath hordes! He thinks they know shit! But they're fairly fucking much in the dark!" He sniggered. They were total idiots, in actual fact!
Emily turned over so that she was facing him.
He clamped his eyes shut.
He bit back a sob. Jeez, now he was going to have to say something painful. "I'm not him," he told her, his voice as blunt as he could make it, "I shouldn't have to answer for him."
He felt a warm, rose-scented weight descend on him and realised that she was hugging him. (Rose was David's pick-me-up; in the old days, she'd always smelled of lavender.)
'I'm sorry,' he wanted to mumble, to her and to Breca, but the words wouldn't come out.
Emily went into her and David's bedroom and lay down on the bed. She didn't know what to think. She thought of Snow telling her that Kyle had been in love with her, and wondered what that had been about. She thought of once being known as Lin. (If it had ever been once, it'd had to have been before she was 17, before the memory loss, and if she wasn't 17, then she was too young for comfort.)
She lay half thinking to herself until David came in. "Where'd you hear this thing about Noah, anyway?" he asked.
"Who?" she giggled. She didn't remember asking anything about anyone called Noah.
"The Apocalypse Child; Missy Parker's honest-to-God twin brother." (David refused to call her Miss, he'd told her, despite the fact that others did. Miss wasn't a fitting first name, so he called her Missy, as he'd never been privy to her real name.)
"Missy?" She sat up in bed, peering at him.
David refrained from an eye roll. "I've never met her, quit throwing me those Envious Eyes."
"Oh?" she teased. "Is this on record, or off record?"
He laughed. "This is seriously," he replied.
She smiled. "So, she has another twin brother," she turned her eyes to the side for a moment, in thought, "who isn't really her twin brother?"
"Yeah," David affirmed. "The man you met- The Empath."
She scrunched her nose up, taking hold of a pillow if she needed to defend herself. "Are you being silly?"
David frowned. "No," he replied.
Emily lied back on the bed. "So what happened to Noah?"
"He died," David answered.
She turned her head to look at him. "How?"
"A group of Catherine Parker's idols, one would think, thought they'd try their hand at 'rescuing' him."
Emily giggled. "Catherine Parker? Is she related to your Missy, by any chance?"
"She's not my Missy," David bristled slightly, "and, yes, she was her mother. She's dead, now, too."
"How did she die?"
"'Rescuing' Center subjects."
Emily pulled a face.
David shook his head.
"I thought we called them volunteers now," Emily said.
David didn't bother to turn his gaze to hers. "Not ours."
"You own them?"
David rolled his eyes. "Yes."
"Do you own Mr. Parker?" Emily asked.
"Lyle Parker," David corrected. "Yes, we own him."
Emily smiled. "Are you mad at him?"
David looked at her, finally, and moved over to sit down on the bed. He took her hands between his. "Yes, I'm mad at him. But not at you."
"I don't like the sound of your project," she told him. "I don't want him to have any advantages. I wish you'd killed him."
David frowned. "So do I, but he's too important for that."
"Aren't there more of these Empaths?" Emily asked, looking down at her hands in his.
"Yes," he said, "but it's better this way. He's a bad person."
Emily's eyes turned apologetic.
David reached over and pulled her to him. She didn't have to say she was sorry, he understood where she was coming from very well. Sometimes it was hard to think of them as people instead of assets, or appliances