“I’ll get this guy, Will, and my friend Carmel,” I say. “And don’t say anything. I know I’m having some trouble keeping people out of my business.”
Gideon sighs. “Ah, Theseus. This was never meant to keep you alone. Your father had many friends, and he had your mother, and you. As time goes by, your circle will get larger. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
The circle’s getting bigger. Why does everyone keep saying that? Big circles are more people to trip over. I have got to get out of Thunder Bay. Away from this mess and back to my routine of move, hunt, kill.
Move, hunt, kill. Like lather, rinse, and repeat. My life, stretched out in a simple routine. It feels empty and heavy at the same time. I think of what Anna said, about wanting what she can’t have. Maybe I understand what she meant.
Gideon is still talking.
“Let me know if there’s anything you need,” he says. “Even though I’m just dusty books and old stories from an ocean away. The real work is for you to do.”
“Yes. Me and my friends.”
“Yes. Smashing. You’ll be just like those four chaps in the movie. You know the one, with the oversized marshmallow.”
You’ve got to be kidding me.
My mom and I sit in her car on the edge of the school parking lot, watching buses roll in and unload, spilling students onto the sidewalk to rush in through the doors. The whole process is like something in an industrial plant—a bottling factory in reverse.
I told her what Gideon said and asked for her help making the herbal blend, which she said she’d do. I notice that she’s looking a little frayed around the edges. There are dark, pinkish-purple circles under her eyes, and her hair is dull. Usually it shines like a copper pot.
“You okay, Mom?”
She smiles and looks over at me. “Sure, kiddo. Just worried about you, like always. And Tybalt. He woke me up last night, jumping at the attic trapdoor.”
“Damn it, I’m sorry,” I say. “I forgot to go up and set the traps.”
“It’s okay. I heard something move up there last week, and it sounded a lot bigger than a rat. Can raccoons get into attics?”
“Maybe it’s just a bunch of rats,” I suggest, and she shudders. “You’d better get somebody out there to check it out.”
She sighs and taps the steering wheel. “Maybe.” She shrugs.
She seems sad, and it occurs to me that I don’t know how she’s getting on here. I haven’t helped her with much on this move—not around the house, not with anything. I’ve barely even been there. Glancing into the backseat, I see a cardboard box filled with enchanted candles of various colors, ready to be sold in a local bookshop. Normally I would have loaded them for her and tied the proper labels on with lengths of colored cord.
“Gideon says you’ve made some friends,” she says, looking into the school crowd like she might be able to pick them out. I should’ve known Gideon would spill. He’s like a surrogate parent. Not like a stepfather, exactly—more like a godfather, or a sea horse who wants to stuff me into his pouch.
“Just Thomas and Carmel,” I say. “The ones you’ve met before.”
“Carmel’s a very pretty girl,” she says hopefully.
“Thomas seems to think so.”
She sighs, then smiles. “Good. He could use a woman’s touch.”
“Mom,” I groan. “Gross.”
“Not that kind of touch,” she laughs. “I mean he needs someone to clean him up. Make him stand up straight. That boy is all wrinkles. And he smells like an old man’s pipe.” She fishes around in the backseat for a second, and her hand comes back full of envelopes.
“I was wondering what happened to all my mail,” I say, flipping through them. They’re open already. I don’t mind. They’re just ghost tips, nothing personal. In the middle of the stack is a large letter from Daisy Bristol. “Daisy wrote,” I say. “Did you read it?”
“He just wanted to know how things were going for you. And to tell you everything that’s happened to him in the last month. He wants you to come to New Orleans for some witch spirit skulking around the base of a tree. Supposedly she used to use the thing for sacrifices. I didn’t like the way he talked about her.”
I smirk. “Not every witch is good, Mom.”
“I know. I’m sorry for reading your mail. You were too focused to notice it anyway; most of them just sat on the mail desk. I wanted to handle it for you. Make sure you weren’t missing anything important.”