remember is blurrily noticing Sam and Daneca kissing on the floor. I want to get a glass of water, but I don’t want to disturb them, so I stay where I am and close my eyes as tightly as they will go.
When I wake up, Sam and Daneca are curled up together on the rug under an afghan. I go to the kitchen, sticking my head under the sink and guzzling as much water as I can get down.
Out the window I can see by the light cast from the kitchen that it has stopped raining. I can also see Grandad sitting on a lawn chair, a beer in hand, looking at the dark expanse of his muddy backyard and ramshackle shed. I still feel a little tipsy.
I let the screen door slam behind me as I join him. He barely even looks up.
“Hey,” I say as I fumble to unfold another chair.
“You look a little worse for wear,” Grandad says, pulling out a pipe from his pocket and packing it with tobacco. “Better sit down before you fall down.”
I sit unsteadily. The chair creaks. “Since when do you smoke a pipe?”
“I don’t,” he says, lighting a match and touching it to the tobacco. “Quit years ago, after Shandra was born.”
“Right,” I say. “Silly me.”
“We couldn’t have kids, me and your grandmother. Mary kept having miscarriages. She really took it hard—went on bed rest as soon as she thought she might be pregnant. The doctors said we had the Rh factor, but I kept thinking that it was really because of my death work. I thought maybe the blowback made it so I couldn’t make healthy babies. Could be superstition, but when I stopped killing people with curses, your mother got born.”
“I didn’t think you were allowed to quit that kind of job,” I say.
“The Zacharovs wouldn’t have let me stop being a killer, but no one gets to tell me how to kill.” Sweet smoke rises from his pipe. “A man’s got to be an expert at his own trade.”
“Ah,” I say. Even though I saw him kill Anton, it’s still hard to think of my grandfather as really dangerous. But I have to remember that he was already an assassin when Lila’s scary dad was still a boy.
“Magic gives you a lot of choices,” Grandad says. “Most of them are bad.”
He takes another sip of his beer.
I wonder if that’s my future. Bad choices. It certainly feels a lot like my present.
“If I’d done things different,” Grandad goes on, “maybe your brother would be alive right now. Me and Mary spoiled your mother rotten, but I didn’t keep her out of the life the way I should’ve. We thought that because she never officially joined up with one of the families, that meant you kids would have a chance at another kind of life, but then I let you all come down here in the summers. I wanted to see my grandkids.”
“We wanted to see you, too,” I say. My voice sounds a little slurred. For a moment, I miss being a kid with a painful intensity. I miss my dad being alive. I miss running around on Grandad’s lawn under the sprinkler.
“I know.” He claps his hand against my shoulder. “But I didn’t keep you three out of the life either. I guess I thought that even though I was leading the horse directly to the water, it didn’t mean I was making it drink.”
I shake my head. “We were born into the life. Just like every other curse worker kid in the world. You couldn’t have kept us out if you tried.”
“Philip’s dead at twenty-three. And I’m still around. That’s not right.” He shakes his head.
I have nothing to say to that, except that if I had to pick him or Philip, the choice would be easy. I’d take him any day. Since I know he doesn’t want to hear that, I take a sip of Grandad’s beer and join him in contemplating the muddy lawn and fading stars.
I WAKE UP SUNDAY MORN-ing with a pounding headache and a mouth that tastes of death. I get up out of the lawn chair in the chill sunlight. Grandad’s not there. When I head to the basement, I see that Daneca and Sam are gone too, but at least they’ve left