Teapots & TreacheryBy: Donna K. Weaver
Hugh concentrated on the haze that should be the main hearth and willed it to come into focus. Nothing changed at first, but then the fireplace sharpened. His shoulders relaxed. At last, after struggling for so long, enough of his sense of self had returned.
And some of his power. Too little of his power.
How long had it been? Only on rare occasions, that he could recall, had he interacted with people in this new place.
He attempted to run his diaphanous hand along the mantel, frustrated when it passed through. Staring hard, Hugh grasped the single wooden-framed picture resting on it. The small portrait lifted into the air. He crowed, for once not caring that such a sound was beneath his dignity.
A gasp from behind startled him, and his hand turned translucent again. Without substance, his fingers lost their grip. The picture crashed to the hearth and shattered.
Livid, he spun, refocusing his energy. He fueled his will with anger and, for the first time in a very long time, felt his body take form. The gray-haired woman gave a satisfying shriek before covering her mouth with her hands.
“Remove yourself from my home at once,” he commanded, his voice low and menacing. He kicked a piece of broken frame, and it flew toward her. With a cry, the servant ducked and ran from the room.
Hugh straightened the ghostly cape of his Irish regimental uniform and turned back to the fireplace. More memories returned as he traced the mantel with his fingers. They had disassembled his home. With every stone they had carried away, it had been as though bits of him disappeared until he was no more than a single thought, drifting and lost. Tied always to the castle. How long had he been trapped in that purgatory state, neither heaven nor hell? Neither here nor there?
Away from all he had left of his sweet little Maire.
He ran his hand along the mantel again, searching for the pattern. His breath caught. It was not there. Frantic, he felt his way along the stonework again. Nothing. What had they done with it?
Hugh howled his rage.
LEANING MY HEAD AGAINST THE minivan window, I tried to block out the sound of my younger brothers in the seat in front of me. I loved the little punks, but after two days stuck in the car with their video game debates, I wanted to strangle one of them. Or both of them.
I gnawed on one of my only remaining fingernails.
“Lia, you’re doing it again.” Ezra reached over with his foot and nudged mine with it.
I glared at my twin from the corner of my eye but quit biting the nail.
“What is it now?” he asked.
I shifted in the seat to face him, a snarky answer on my lips. Before I said anything, though, he raised a hand and signaled for me to keep my voice down. Well, he raised it as high as he could with a sleeping seven-year-old sister leaning against his arm. Would serve him right if she drooled all over the open laptop before him.
“Why can’t we feel the same way about this move?” I hissed.
“That’s right, just say it out loud.” Ezra’s whisper turned into his teasing-mocking tone. “You’ve only ranted about it, what, a hundred times already?”
I turned away, stung. For the almost twenty years of our lives he’d always been my balance, helping me keep things in perspective, but he could be a royal pain too. Especially with his brutal honesty.
“I don’t have to be here, you know,” I said, trying to ignore him.
“Since you lost your job, it’s not like you have anywhere else to go.” Ezra grimaced as soon as he said it.
My eyes burned, and I turned away to watch the trees pass by. I’d lost more than my job when I’d been laid off. And he knew it. Punk.
“I’m sorry, Lia.” Ezra’s voice softened, all the edge gone. “That came out harsher than I meant.”
Mellie shifted on the seat between us, and I reached down to brush the curls from her little face. Her frail, skinny legs dangled over the seat. I wanted the simple acceptance and joy she had—that everyone else in my family had—about the move.
The unhappiness came from more than just moving a couple of states away from where I’d lived all my life. Dad had inherited a castle. A freaking castle. Who takes apart an Irish castle and reconstructs it in northern Washington? Some psycho Savage ancestor, of course.
“Help me be happy about this, Ez.”
“All right.” He turned thoughtful. As usual, his nerdy, black-rimmed glasses had slipped down his nose, and a long strand of hair kept falling into his eyes. “Answer this: is it really so hard for you to help Mom and Dad for a few months?”
“Of course it isn’t.” I leaned my head against the seat and stared at the car ceiling.
“Then what are you really afraid of?”
“That I won’t be able to go back to Sacramento,” I whispered, thinking of the culinary certificate I’d earned right before I’d lost my job.
“I’ve said this before—” He shot me a smug glance for emphasis. “look at it as a temporary summer job.”
Ezra had said something like that before, but I had blown it off. I heaved out a breath. He was right. I hated it when he was right. Still, as I accepted it, the horrible sense of being in prison eased a little for the first time since the letter had come from the attorney.