Sweet Venom
Page 27

 Tera Lynn Childs

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“No, Gretchen,” I argue. “I don’t want to—”
She stomps out of the room without another word. I don’t want to follow her. I want to stay here, to talk and get to know her and ask more questions. Does she sneeze in threes too? Does she hate cherries and love avocados? What’s her worst subject in school? I can’t just walk away from all of this. I can’t just walk away from her.
If we’re twins, like I have to believe we are, then her heritage is also mine. Her duty to hunt monsters is also mine. Is it fair to let her continue to carry that responsibility all on her own?
But as much as I want to embrace this new part of myself, I’m a little scared. I can see that her lifestyle is dangerous. I mean, she took down three mythological monsters by herself tonight. They probably don’t go down without a serious fight. She got injured on her ankle and her neck, and I bet that’s nothing compared to other injuries she’s had. It’s dangerous and probably potentially deadly.
Maybe Gretchen is right. Maybe I should go back to my safe world, with parents and a brother who love me very much and would be devastated if I got eaten by a chimera. If I stay and try to help, I might even get Gretchen hurt in the process.
My heart sinks at the thought of going back to my ordinary life and pretending this night never happened, but it might be for the best. For both of us.
Quietly, I follow Gretchen down to the car. As I drop into the passenger seat and she revs the engine, I can’t help feeling like a total coward. That somewhere, wherever she is, our birth mother is ashamed. Buildings blur by my window as I wipe a tear from my eye. But I don’t say a word.
Coward it is.
Chapter 8
After a night of horrible and heartbreaking dreams, I finally drag myself out of bed Saturday morning with only an hour to spare before it turns into afternoon. As I face the mirror in the bathroom Thane and I share, I’m amazed I still look like myself. So many things changed last night, it seems impossible that I haven’t.
I squeeze a dollop of toothpaste onto my brush. While I scrub back and forth across my teeth, memories flash through my mind. The minotaur. The griffin. The feathered snake and the fire-breathing lizard. Gretchen. Her Mustang. Her loft. Her library. The tight feeling in my chest when she told me to get lost. The look I imagine was on my face when I surrendered to my fear.
I spit into the sink.
“It’s not like she wanted me around anyway,” I say, trying to convince myself. “She wanted me gone.”
As much as I might want to know my sister, she obviously doesn’t want to know me. And I’m perfectly happy to pretend that monsters and Medusa are figments of myth.
“Minotaurs don’t exist,” I tell my reflection.
Maybe if I pretend hard enough, I’ll actually believe it.
I stare into my silver-eyed reflection, willing myself to embrace the lie. To forget about Gretchen and minotaurs and my mythological heritage. To never see a monster again.
I sigh. “No such luck.”
“Trying to will yourself bigger boobs?”
“Thane!” I gasp, spinning and throwing a hairbrush at his privacy-invading head. “Get out of here.”
He ducks, avoiding death by hairbrush, and grins. I should be angry, but it’s hard to be mad when he’s in such a good mood. Especially after he was so angry at me for ditching the club.
“About last night,” I say, knowing I need to apologize. “I should have told you before I left.” Although it’s hard to say your good-byes when you’re hanging over someone’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
He bends down to grab my brush, and when he stands back up, his entire demeanor has changed. “You should be.”
“I—” How can I explain this without explaining this? “I was just so . . . excited to see my friend. She’s really the only person I’ve connected with in San Francisco.” True. “I didn’t stop to think.”
His expression doesn’t change, but I can read the silent Obviously as clearly as if he’d shouted.
“I’m sorry,” I repeat. “It won’t happen again.”
He nods, accepting my apology, and I’m relieved. As much as I hate lying to my family, I hate being in fights with them more.
“Family breakfast,” he says, handing me my brush. “Mom made pancakes.”
Mmmm. “I’ll be right there.”
He vanishes as silently as he appeared.
I take a few minutes to wash my face and run a brush through my hair. From the outside, I look like my normal self on a normal day, ready for a normal family breakfast. Well, at least one of the above is true.
I feel like I’m being pulled between two different worlds. On one side, there’s the only family I’ve ever known. The mom and dad and brother I love more than anything and who love me back just as much.
On the other side, there’s the family I never knew I had. The family I always dreamed about finding. A sister who, whether she wants to accept it or not, is as close to me as a person can get genetically. Somewhere, maybe, a biological mother who has answers about who and what we are. And a biological father too.
I don’t even know which side my mythological lineage comes from, but it’s a lineage that dates back thousands of years, to ancient Greece and beyond, to prehistoric myth.
How can I just pretend I don’t know about any of those things?
“Gracie!” Dad calls down the hall. “Hurry your behind out here before your brother eats all the pancakes.”