Histories of the Void Garden, Book 1: Pyre of Dreams
She glanced at her niece, grimacing and
covering her mouth apologetically, “I’m sorry Spiff … Please don’t
ever talk like your Aunt Han okay?”
    Stephanie
frowned. She had been so excited to embarrass her father, regaling
her Aunt with stories of how depraved, and callous he was, and now
she was more frustrated that her Aunt’s slip up had completely
taken the wind out of her sails. She threw her little back pack on
the floor in contempt, the weight of Jean Valjean’s misery thudding
in satisfying syncopation with her own huff. She was sure if she
pictured poor Courgette’s plight, she’d be able to milk this
situation and squeeze out a tear (Cosette … she knew, but she
enjoyed her father’s exasperation every time he had to correct
her.) When no tear came, she tried humming a line of Castle on a
Cloud , before conceding defeat, growling at her Aunt, and
charging towards her, hugging her tightly around her waist.
    David smiled at
Hannah, shrugging to signal his confusion at Stephanie’s behavior,
“So, who’s bleeding you dry now?”
    Hannah ran her
fingers through Stephanie’s hair, then shook her gently by the
shoulders, rocking her in time to her words, “Oh, it’s just the
mean old Po-Pos.”
    Stephanie
looked up at her aunt, a slightly vindictive glint in her eyes,
“You got another speeding ticket?”
    Hannah pushed
Stephanie away playfully, “Gah, creep, get away from me. I knew I
didn’t like you.” Stephanie’s little hands flung about Hannah’s
back again, “You lurve me aunt Hannah. You buy me presents, and you
take me to the library, and you buy me ice cream, and you take me
to movies …”
    “Creep, creep,
creep, creep, creep.” Hannah rocked side to side in a mock attempt
at shaking off her niece. Looking up, Hannah noticed that David was
pinching the bridge of his nose with his right hand, his left arm
folded across his chest. She wasn’t fantastic with body language,
but right now, she was pretty sure that David was about to break
down. She turned Stephanie about, and launched her towards the
stormy seas, “Go hug your daddy, creep. He looks like he needs
it.”
    David laughed
feebly, but then the tears did come. Stephanie stood between the
two adults, glancing back and forth between them, tears starting to
well in her eyes, that heady mixture of confusion and empathy
building quickly. Hannah stooped close to her, kneeling down, “You
know what creep? Daddy will be fine. Go watch some T.V while we
talk about miserable grown up stuff, okay?”
    Stephanie
looked over her shoulder at her father, who forced a smile and
nodded, shooing her away with his right hand, his left arm still
wound tight over his chest. Stephanie understood the social
contract enough to know that she had been released from her
obligation.
    As he watched
Stephanie walk towards the den, David’s tears started to flow more
freely. Hannah walked towards the island in the kitchen, and leaned
the small of her back against the counter. She patted the stool
next to her, “Get over here David. Whatever it is, it can’t be that
bad.” She watched as his shoulders shuddered when he inhaled … bad
sign, “Okay, it’s that bad … is it the crap with Tiernan again?” He
walked over and took his place on the stool beside her, resting his
forehead on the cool slate-topped counter.
    “Oh god Hannah.
I’m fucked. I’m really fucked.” He sobbed.
    Hannah bit her
lip and glanced towards the den, patting her brothers back
tentatively, “What happened?”
    He sucked up
the drool that was starting to pool at the corners of his mouth,
“They think I’m lying! Hannah, it really sounds like they think I’m
involved in this.”
    She was quietly
glad that he wasn’t looking at her. She was nervous, possibly even
scared for her brother, but she couldn’t keep herself from smiling,
“David, chill.” She laughed, embarrassed at her own ineptitude,
“Seriously though … if they really thought you were involved in

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