Dark Hunger


CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO



"I must apologize again," I explained to Dr. Taylor as I handed her my squirming ward. "Truly, Elizabeth and I wish to be more tactile with BabyJon."

"Tactile?" Dr. Taylor snorted, an unlovely sound. "It's stuff like that that's preventing you from being any kind of parent. It's being a mom and being a dad. And that's it. It's not chopper parenting or tactile parenting or attachment parenting or being a martyr mom or slow parenting. She is the Mommy. You are the Daddy. The end."

Somewhat taken aback at the good doctor's vehemence (which, in truth, Elizabeth and I both deserved), I could only attempt to finish explaining. "Our good intentions, however, keep getting tossed with every crise de la semaine. I was wrong to let our baby remain at the mansion last night." In truth, leaving my boy had been close to a prayer... or an offering. Knowing Betsy wanted the infant to spend more time with us, I had been unwilling to let Dr. Taylor take him again. This will prove I am a worthy husband, a worthy king, a noble father. Karma will take note and return my queen.

At times I am a stupid man.

"You and your excuses." When she rolled her eyes, my mother-in-law looked remarkably like my wife, so much so that it was a near-physical pain to me. "'I've been kidnapped. My wife is trapped in the future. My wife is trapped in the past. My wife was kidnapped by the Antichrist.' Blah-blah."

"Yes, well." The only son I would ever have was birthed by a woman my wife despised. It was to the queen's credit that she held none of it against the infant, a fine, strong, handsome boy. It was to her mother's credit that this was as close as she had yet come to our deserved scolding. "I am come with another poor excuse for an excuse."

Jessica peeked around me. "Hi, Elise!" She had asked to accompany me and I had acquiesced. I was more than grateful now. I surmised Jessica had wished to reassure my mother-in-law that we were well on the way to retrieving Elizabeth. In truth, my queen's absence left me grateful for any company. What had I become?

Dr. Taylor feigned startlement. "Oh! Jessica, I didn't see you there."

"Yeah, sure, very funny." She stepped to my side, the great curve of her belly preceding her, and stroked one of BabyJon's black curls. He smiled at her and popped a thumb (his own) in his mouth. "He's sooo sweet! Betsy says he's the kind of baby that tricks people into having them."

"She would know, as she was that kind of baby herself," Dr. Taylor said, smiling. "She hardly ever cried. She only minded being hungry. Nothing else could touch her; she slept through an actual tornado once. Literally. A tornado. My ex-husband and I spent the night cowering in our basement and our baby only got pissy when I was slow to get her a bottle. It took a while," she added, "what with the kitchen being half gone."

"She still sleeps like that," Jessica commented. "She slept like the dead before she was dead. Listen, d'you mind if I come in to-"

"You know where it is," she replied, stepping aside. Though I had other things on my mind, I could not help wonder: Food? The guest bath? Whatever it was, Jessica indeed knew where it was. "Eric, if I didn't know something was awfully wrong with you, I would now."

"Beg pardon?"

"It's broad daylight... sort of," she added, squinting at the cloudy sky. "Lunchtime. This-the sunshine-it's too new to you. You wouldn't flaunt it and you wouldn't be careless about it. And right now, even though you're doing something denied you for decades, you couldn't care less, couldn't you?"

"I have more pressing concerns," I admitted. In truth, there could have been a raging tsunami and I would be indifferent.

"No doubt. Why don't you stay for a bit? I wanted to-oh."

I had heard the car; I had noted the driver had shut off the engine. My phone, tucked snugly into an inside jacket pocket, shook gently. Tina notifying me of Dr. Taylor's guest. Surely it would not be this simple.

Jessica turned to look. "Oh boy."

My sister-in-law climbed out of her car, her fresh loveliness masking her bitter soul. She checked when she saw us standing on the front sidewalk with Dr. Taylor, faltered, then walked toward us.

Mmm. It was going to be this simple.

The silence as Laura Goodman approached was profound, almost like a living thing. It would not have surprised me to see her actually pushing through it like a mime. And oh, how I wanted to hurt her. I wanted to strike her and make her bleed and force her to return to me my queen.

I must not do that yet.

Dr. Taylor handed the infant to Jessica, who clutched him to her chest without looking away from the new guest. I recalled what Elizabeth had said about the Antichrist's penchant for all things maternal: She collects mother figures. Even though she loves her adopted mom, she's known for years her bio mom was out in the world somewhere. Then she met her and yikes, right? So whenever she meets a friendly woman who's the right age, she's kind of drawn to them.

As she approached, Dr. Taylor greeted her with a calm "Laura, I told you I was sorry about your mother, right?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Good." I saw what would happen and did not move. In fact, I indulged in an internal smile. Laura's penchant for maternal figures, while understandable-

Crack! Dr. Taylor's palm slammed into the left side of her face.

-might in this case prove fatal.

"Whoa," Jessica said, taking two steps backward, still clutching my infant. In those two seconds I saw something remarkable. Laura's eyes, normally a pure blue, flared poison green and then faded to what I can only describe as banked blue coals.

"I understand why you did that," she said politely, touching her reddened cheek. "Please don't do it again."

"She's my only daughter! What did you think would happen?" If I had not had occasion to make note of this behavior before, I would now. My mother-in-law was a formidable woman on and off the playing fields of academia, and ought not to be fucked with. "How dare you even think of coming here without an impressive apology in your mouth? And my daughter in your company!"

Laura just looked at her and for a long moment, no one said a word. Not even BabyJon, who merely watched us with a baby's peculiar intensity. Elizabeth referred to it as the "there's a monster sneaking up behind you!" look.

"If I did have an apology," she said at last, "that slap would have smacked it right out of me."

"You come in here right now," Dr. Taylor ordered. "You come in and explain yourself. And also have Rice Krispies bars."

Her face lit up even as Dr. Taylor's handprint deepened. So Elizabeth was correct; her half sister had an inclination for mother symbols, something I could use to my advantage. "All right. Sure, I will."

Dr. Taylor swung the front door open wider and stepped back to let the Antichrist in. She appeared to have forgotten us completely until Jessica, loitering in the hallway, cleared her throat. Then she ran a distracted hand through her white curls and said, "And you guys, too, I s'pose." She turned to follow Laura, leaving the door open for us.

"Wow." Jessica's eyes were so wide they seemed to swallow her small, pointed face. "That went a lot better than I thought it would."

"It could have been worse?"

"It might still get worse. Want some advice about your ma-in-law?"

This woman had cleaved herself to my queen years ago; except for myself, she knew my queen best. I had great respect for her opinion on all things Elizabeth. "You have my full attention."

"It is a bad, bad plan to piss off Elise Taylor. Betsy didn't turn out as Betsy all by herself."

"What a simultaneously horrifying and comforting thought."

Jessica laughed as I stepped aside so she might walk ahead of me. My son laughed, too, peeking at me over her shoulder and waving his chubby hand as if to beckon me forward.

Obedient, I followed.

Copyright © novelfull thefreeonlinenovel.com All Rights Reserved.