Have you ever had one of those days where absolutely nothing goes right? Me too.
I looked outside the Library door miserably. It seemed like the city had been ravaged by a tidal wave during the few hours I'd spent researching. Rain poured down from the overcast sky and if that didn't soak the pedestrians then the spray from the passing cars did.
And there I was about to brave the storm when I hadn't even brought a coat with me that day. I had to resign myself to it though: I had to go outside or I'd be late for work. Of all the mornings that the car wouldn't start it had to be that one. I'd already lost a good chunk of study time waiting for a mechanic to pick up the useless accumulation of scrap metal. Then I had to find another mode of transport.
I was quickly realising that preferring books to the computer was not a good enough reason to go through all the hassle. I should have just done my research at home.
The rain drenched my sweater as soon as I stepped out. To get to work I had to get to the subway. To get to the subway I had to walk against the wind so water blew into my eyes and made the world go fuzzy. I wrapped my arms around myself to try to keep warm. It didn't work.
If my body hadn't been so ridged with cold I might have jumped when a horn sounded off right next to me. Instead I barely managed to turn my head and see the car which was pulling up.
Robert was driving it. He was motioning for me to get in.
The untrained eye might think this was a good thing. 'Your Dad just happened to be there to give you a ride? What good luck!'
Well it wasn't lucky. There were few people in the world that I disliked more than Robert Lightwood; who I would never call Father again. I had no respect for him anymore.
I stared at him through the window; my view of him was distorted by the water on the glass. I couldn't help but think that wasn't any different from the way I'd always seen him. The version of Robert that I knew had always been behind a filter. There was a whole other side to him that I'd only recently met. A side I didn't know and didn't want to know.
He pushed a button and the glass between us slid away; reminding me that I didn't have a choice about how I saw him anymore.
"Alexander, just get in!" He yelled impatiently. It was like I was a little kid being scolded. Like he had any right to do that after what he'd done. But cars were all beeping horns at him now and I couldn't just let him hold up all the traffic. So I got in. I could have used a free ride anyway.
The inside of his car was warm and inviting. Or it would have been if it wasn't for the awful company. It was the same car our family used to travel everywhere in and I had good memories of long our drives together which seemed so long ago now. Playing games with Max to keep him from crying when he was a baby in his car seat, pulling Izzy's plaits out when she was staring at the trees. All that seemed a lifetime away.
By the time I'd shut the door the window was back up and I was sealed in with Robert.
"Are you on your way home?" He asked. Even though his voice was calm there was a tense undercurrent to it. There was always tension between us now. Far too much had gone unsaid for too long.
"Actually I'm going to work." I snapped back. Then realised I hadn't told the man where I worked. "Do you know where Java Jones is?"
He shook his head. I didn't expect him to know. Robert always hated small-time enterprises. You wouldn't ever catch him in one-off store or family owned business. He was all about the brand name. The corporate logo. He'd rather drive three miles for a Starbucks than sit in a mismatched chair and observe the work of talented no-name artists adorning the walls. I loved JJ's. Of course I had loved it more when I was the one drinking coffee instead of serving it.
"You started work?" Robert made it sound like it was shocking. He was trying to be funny the way parents do. Like when they find you making dinner without being asked and pretend that it's a big deal. Granted, I'd never had a job before, but it wasn't as if I couldn't work. Before Robert left I never had to. They'd told me to just make sure I got good grades. But now Mother's salary only just paid the house and utilities. Food, clothing, petrol and school supplies were now down to me and my sister. Because the Angel knew Robert wasn't contributing.
"Take a left here." I said. I wasn't going to dignify his attempt at humour. Nothing about Robert was funny.
We were both quiet for a while. He drove and I gave him directions while I watched the raindrops racing down the window. I remembered sitting in the back during long drives cheering on droplets in a race to the bottom. Mother used to laugh while Robert sat at the wheel with a forced smile plastered on his face. It was always like he wanted to be somewhere else. Now I knew exactly where he had wanted to be. With his mistress.
"I was in the house that day, you know." I informed him. The day that Mother wised up to what was going on and kicked him out I was the only one home. My siblings were out with their friends; it was just me that heard every word of the argument. Out of the three kids I knew the story best. I hoped that the others would never have to know.
"I know." Robert grimaced at the road. He obviously didn't want to talk about it. There was a reason he'd avoided the conversation by keeping Max and Izzy around us all the time. Of course him being uncomfortable only made me want to talk about it more.
"I'd never seen Mother cry before then." I continued. He didn't reply and I hoped that meant I was getting to him.
Robert felt a number of things about his breakup: annoyance at being forced out of his home; worry that his other children would come to hate him like I did. But he didn't feel remorseful like he should have been. He should have been sorry about all those years of cheating.
"You were on the phone when you left. It was to Anna wasn't it?"
We both knew that it was. The day that Mother had screamed him out of the house he was deaf to the sound. He had his mistress talking in his ear like she had been his entire married life and he didn't care what anybody else had to say. Now that he was forced to listen he sped up the car in his haste to drop me off. A large part of me didn't mind. It isn't like I wanted to be around him. In the meantime, though, I wasn't going to play nice. For once my siblings there to make me watch my mouth.
"She said you met in college. Her first year, your last one." I started to drum my fingers on my leg. We'd all gotten introduced to 'Annamarie' just two weeks after the breakup. The two of them were all loved up in a house with two bedrooms and a garden for when they had kids of their own. It was wrong. So wrong. As if they'd been waiting to get caught so that they could play house. Anna was one of those. You know the type; the ones who want the picket fence and the two point five kids even though it isn't for them. Three children from a previous marriage weren't in her life-plan, nor was dating a married man, but she would gloss over that. Pretend she had the love story. The fairytale. The life she stole from us.
"That's right." Robert confirmed while I was lost in my own resentful thoughts. I noticed that I was gritting my teeth and stopped. "Then I fell in love with Anna-"
I made a disgusted noise in my throat. I didn't care that it was rude; I wasn't prepared to hear more of his drivel. It was always the same.
'You can't help falling in love.'
'You can't help who you fall in love with.'
Him loving Annamarie wasn't the problem. The problem was that he had started his relationship with her the very same year he had married our Mother. He thought it was noble to marry her because she was pregnant. What was so righteous about it if he never had any intention of being faithful? It was sickening.
"You must be glad to get out of the family." I said. "You never wanted us."
"That isn't true. I love my kids. You're still my kids." Robert protested. There was a rubbery sound from his hands as he gripped the steering wheel a more tightly.
He was a liar.
"Stop the car." I demanded. We were only a few streets away from JJ's anyway.
"Alexander..." He tried to reason. I had no intention of listening to him.
"Stop the car, Robert." I reiterated. This time I shot him a look and his face hardened into one of his signature stony expressions. We came to a halt at the side of the road.
I got out and slammed the door without another word. A little rain couldn't hurt me, but that man was a home-wrecker.
A long-ish introduction, I hope that you'll continue to read. Next Chapter: Meeting Magnus