I wouldn't call myself a pacifist, but even I know better than to pick a fight with Mr Anderson. He has the classic opinion of any boy that his daughter associates with - the bad influence, the playboy - all tags that I didn't like that much, but then I've hardly ever paid attention to what people think of me. Claire's dad was off his face anyway, I don't ask questions as to why, it's not like her family life's any of my business. So I leave them, motioning to Claire when she was between rageful replies that I'm heading upstairs to the office.
I can't get that weird guy out of my mind.
What was his business in showing up out of nowhere, knowing who I was, and then handing me a beat-up old phone? And Romulus. I knew that name, I'd heard my mother talking about it when she was on speaker-phone to the council...back when she was living with us. He was bad, that's what I'd known from a young age. He was meant to be mixed up in a lot of political shit, so I tune out automatically at that. Another thing my mother isn't impressed with, she thinks my leadership skills make me a good candidate for the council. As if I'd even consider it, I've seen the current leaders come to our house, they reek of pretension and tedium like you wouldn't believe.
I reach the office with only a few of my classmates slurring and yipping that we "hang out", to which I put on my usual indignant brow crook and walk away. I reach the door, and though I can't see through the blinds, I see that it's unlocked and know there's somebody inside. A nervousness rises in my chest as I push the door open with my index finger, casting the glare of green strobe lights into the room. I see her sitting on the desk, proper with her ankles crossed, revealing the red sole of her plain black Jimmy Choo's. I notice her voluminous, curly blonde hair - pretty much my only trait from her.
Oh yeah, and the angel gene.
"Hello, Alexander," she says, her voice as stiflingly decorous as usual. "You rang?"
"Heya, Mommy," I say, putting on the best fake-drunk voice. I strut in, flicking on the lights and closing the door with a quiet click. Mother's eyebrows knit together, unamused, and a smile twitches on my lips.
"I see you're as much of a...prodigal as usual. A shame. You remember what potential I said you had?"
"When was that? Before or after you flew off in the middle of the night without a second glance?" My fists clench, I try not to show her I'm angry, but it's difficult. I love her, annoyingly and I can't help it. Her leaving last year...it hurt.
She sighed. "Alexander, you -,"
"It's Alex," I spit, narrowing my eyes at her.
"Your father calls you that, doesn't he? I told him not to. Your name is all that I want you to be, what I hope you will -,"
"I don't think you have the authority to tell me what you expect of me."
As usual, she looked disappointed in me. I didn't hazard trying to figure out why this time. "You still hold that resentment against me? I've told you before, Alexander, it was important that I go. Your father...he didn't realise the duty that I have. I gave you the choice to come with me -,"
"Yeah, home-schooled in the middle of nowhere, indoctrinated to your wacky council. No thanks," I scoff, crossing my arms. "So, go on then. Tell me what you want. Don't try and tell me you're here for me and not because you want something."
Mother purses her lips thoughtfully and slips off of the desk. She's almost as tall as me in her Choo's, wearing a white shift dress that I would consider sexy on anybody else. For a moment, I envision Claire in one of those, better than her usual clothes that leave everything to the imagination. Not that I mind the images...
Mother puts on her shrewd, serious face. "The council is concerned that some worrying activity is going on amongst the young full-blood and halfling angels, particularly in this town. I know that youths... enjoy -," she gazes around the office, then outside past the balcony to the painted, writhing bodies that made her hair frizz indignantly, "- this kind of thing, and you are rather social, I thought you could help."
"Activity has a lot of definitions, Mom," I say. "Dealing, littering and orgies all fall in," I make her cheeks turn pink and I don't hide my teasing smile. "Be more specific."
"Alright then," she says bitterly. "I'll be very specific." She stands only a metre away from me, looking me up and down, hoping that she'll see something to be proud of. She watches my expression, ready for whatever sign of hesitancy she might catch.
"Alexander," Mother says, "what do you know about a man called Romulus?"