I stroll into Halo the next day, and the smell of vodka lingering around my nostrils coupled with lemon-scented scrub makes me feel dizzy. I've decided to do what I always do in a situation that I don't like - namely last night - and that's to pretend it never happened. Nobody has to know about Romulus, and if anybody asks - in other words, Claire, seeing as the damn girl can read me so well - then I just need to play it cool. Simple.
I find Dad sitting at the bar surrounded by sheets of paperwork, reminding me that it's the end of the month; tax day. Cocktail glasses rest upside down either side of him, newly cleaned and gleaming in the sunlight that streams through our high windows. I don't exactly like coming in straight after college, but I think it gives Dad peace of mind when he doesn't see me for days at a time.
"Hey pal," he says, welcoming me as I slump down on a red, plastic swivel chair, something that used to give me delight when I was twelve and Dad had just bought the place. "Smells like another profitable night." He looks up to sniff the air, and I see he's wearing his "grumpy glasses", seeing as he only wears them for bills, and he's never in good spirits for that. You wouldn't think that my dad's the kind of guy who sponges off prep kids and orders tequila for a living. He's shrimpy, shorter than me with a beaked nose and features that I take none of, which just shows how dominant the angel gene is.
"You at Laura's last night?' I ask, idly circling my finger around a glass, making it hum quietly.
"Yeah, and let me tell you, I found a surprise waiting for me when I got in this morning." I flinch, wondering if it was some sort of torture trap left for me by Romulus or a sigil written in blood above the fireplace. Honestly, I have no idea what this guy's planning and what he wants from me, but I'm staying well out of it.
"R - really?"
"Your mother on the answering machine." I relax, though I'm not exactly pleased that she hasn't flitted off yet. "I'm surprised it didn't short out through all the b-s she was giving me,"
"Yep, Mommy's back in the picture to brighten up our day." Dad glances at me with a look I know well. He wants to play along with me, many a time we've bonded over our dislike of mother dearest, but I can tell that he wishes I loved her more, or that he did too. He was head-over-heels once, or so the lovey-dovey pictures from Tunisia make it seem, but it seems that Mom's involvement in the council benefited her and her alone.
"She wants to "pop in" for dinner tonight, so that means no trainers or clothes that you can machine wash. Unless you want to provoke her?"
"Nah, I don't feel up for it,"
"You could invite Claire. Your mother likes her, and at least one of us shouldn't have to spend the night in unendurable agony,"
"I would, but she hasn't been picking up her phone, and she wasn't in class today." I'm pretty sure where she is, it's not rare for her to do this. Dad knows too, and he looks sad for a moment.
"Frank's just the same then?"
"Sure is last time I saw him," I nod, "still nursing the bottle like it's life support,"
"Still nothing we can do?"
I shake my head. I've come to accept that when it comes to Claire's family life, she won't let anybody in, no matter how close she says we are. I'd like to say that I only like her for the casual shag, but I care about her, and I don't want her hurt. But no matter how much I offer, she won't come to live with us or try to talk to anybody. I don't know whether she thinks the noncommittal look is attractive, but for the most part it hacks me off.
"Alright, you can head off home now," says Dad, waving me away. "I'm quite satisfied that you're still alive and kicking. Call Marie and tell her she'll have to put on a big show tonight at dinner. After the al-dente incident last time, I think she'll be more than happy to stick it to my estranged wife too."
I grab my bag off of the table and leave the club, apprehensive of what's to come tonight, and disappointed that, as usual, Dad still doesn't show any sign of wanting me to stay and talk more.