Glimmerglass – Jenna Black

The absolute last straw was when my mom showed up at my recital drunk. I don’t mean tipsy—I mean staggering, slurring, everyone-knows drunk. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, she was late, too, so that when she pushed through the doors and practically fell into a metal folding chair at the back, everyone turned to glare at her for interrupting the performance. Standing in the wings, I wanted to sink through the ɻoor in embarrassment. Ms. Morris, my voice teacher, was the only one in the room who realized the person causing the disruption was my mother. I’d very carefully avoided any contact between my mom and the students of this school—my newest one, and the one I hoped to graduate from if we could manage two full years in the same location just this once. When it was my turn to perform, Ms. Morris gave me a sympathetic look before she put her hands on the piano. My face felt hot with embarrassment, and my throat was so tight I worried my voice would crack the moment I opened my mouth. My voice is naturally pretty—a result of my ultra-secret, hush-hush Fae heritage. Truthfully, I didn’t need the voice lessons, but summer vacation was going to start in a few weeks, and I’d wanted an excuse that would get me out of the house now and then but wouldn’t require a huge time commitment. Voice lessons had ɹt the bill. And I enjoyed them. My heart beat hard against my chest, and my palms sweated as Ms.


Morris played the introduction. I tried to concentrate on the music. If I could just get through the song and act normal, no one in the audience had to know that the drunken idiot in the back was related to me. Finally, the intro was over, and it was time for me to start. Despite my less-thanoptimal state of mind, the music took over for a while, and I let the beauty of “Voi che sapete,” one of my favorite Mozart arias, wash over me. Traditionally sung by a woman pretending to be a young boy, it was perfect for my clear soprano, with the hint of vibrato that added a human touch to my otherwise Fae voice. I hit every note spot on, and didn’t forget any of my lyrics. Ms. Morris nodded in approval a couple times when I got the phrasing just the way she wanted it. But I knew I could have done better, put more feeling into it, if I hadn’t been so morbidly aware of my mom’s presence. I breathed a sigh of relief when I was done. Until the applause started, that is. Most of the parents and other students gave a polite, if heartfelt, round of applause. My mom, on the other hand, gave me a standing ovation, once more drawing all eyes to her. And, of course, revealing that she was with me.

If lightning had shot from the heavens and struck me dead at that moment, I might have welcomed it. I shouldn’t have told her about the recital, but despite the fact that I knew better, there’d been some part of me that wished she would show up to hear me sing, wished she’d applaud me and be proud like a normal mother. I’m such a moron! I wondered how long it would take the story to make the rounds of this school. At my previous school, when one of the bitchy cheerleader types had run into me and my mom when we were shopping—a task she was barely sober enough to manage—it had taken all of one day for the entire school to know my mom was a drunk. I hadn’t exactly been part of the popular crowd even before, but after that … Well, let’s just say that for once I was glad we were moving yet again. I was sixteen years old, and we’d lived in ten diʃerent cities that I could remember. We moved around so much because my mom didn’t want my dad to ɹnd me. She was afraid he’d try to take me away from her, and considering she isn’t exactly a study in parental perfection, he just might be able to do it. I’d never met my dad, but my mom had told me all about him. The story varied depending on how drunk and/or depressed she was feeling at the time. What I’m pretty sure is true is that my mom was born in Avalon and lived there most of her life, and that my dad is some kind of big-deal Fae there. Only my mom hadn’t realized who he was when she started messing around with him. She found out right about the time she got pregnant with me, and she left home before anyone knew. Sometimes, my mom said she’d run away from Avalon because my dad was such a terrible, evil man that he’d be sure to abuse me in horrible ways if I lived with him. That was the story she told when she was sober, the story she built to make sure I was never interested in meeting him.

“He’s a monster, Dana,” she’d say, explaining why we had to move yet again. “I can’t let him find you.” But when she was drunk out of her gourd and babbling at me about whatever entered her mind at the moment, she’d say she’d left Avalon because if I’d stayed there, I’d have been caught up in some kind of nasty political intrigue, me being the daughter of a high muckety-muck Fae and all. When she was in one of these moods, she’d go on and on about how great a guy my dad was, how she’d loved him more than life itself, but how her duty as a mother had to come first. Gag! I wanted to slink away from the recital before it was even over, but I didn’t dare. It was possible my mom was dumb enough to have actually driven here, and there was no way I could let her drive back home in the state she was in. I had the guilty thought— not for the ɹrst time—that my life might improve if she got herself killed in a car wreck. I was ashamed of myself for letting the thought enter my head. Of course I didn’t want my mother to die. I just wanted her not to be an alcoholic. Ms. Morris took me aside as soon as everyone was done, and the sympathy in her eyes was almost too much to bear. “Do you need any help, Dana?” she asked me quietly. I shook my head and refused to meet her gaze. “No.

Thank you. I’ll … take care of her.” My face was hot again, so I made my escape as quickly as possible, avoiding the other students who wanted to either congratulate me on my brilliant performance (yeah, right!) or try to get the full scoop on my mom so they could tell all their friends. Mom was trying to mingle with the other parents when I walked up to her. She was too out of it to pick up on the subtle you’re-a-drunk-leave-me-alone vibes they were giving her. Still feeling like everyone was staring at me, I took hold of her arm. “Come on, let’s get you home,” I said through gritted teeth. “Dana!” she practically shouted. “You were wonderful!” She threw her arms around me like she hadn’t seen me in three years and gave me a smothering hug. “Glad you enjoyed it,” I forced myself to say as I wriggled out of her hug and began heading for the door with her in tow. She didn’t seem to mind being dragged across the room, so at least that was a plus. This could have been worse, I tried to tell myself. I didn’t have to ask Mom whether she’d driven, because the minute we stepped outside, I could see our car, parked so crookedly it had taken up about three spaces. I said a silent prayer of thanks that she hadn’t managed to kill anyone. I held out my hand to her.

“Keys.” She sniʃed and tried to look digniɹed. Hard to do when she had to clutch the railing to keep from falling headɹrst down the steps that led to the parking lot. “I am perfectly capable of driving,” she informed me. Anger burned in my chest, but I knew exactly how much good it would do me to explode, no matter how much I wanted to. If I could just keep pretending to be calm and reasonable, I could get her into the passenger seat and out of the public eye much faster. The last thing I wanted was to have a big shouting ɹght scene right here in front of everybody. Mom had given them enough to talk about already. “Let me drive anyway,” I said. “I need the practice.” If she’d been even marginally sober, she’d have heard the banked fury in my voice, but as it was, she was oblivious. But she handed over the keys, which was a relief. I drove home, my hands clutching the wheel with a white-knuckled grip as I fought to hold myself together. My mom was in the middle of gushing over my performance when the booze ɹnally got the best of her and she conked out. I was grateful for the silence, though I knew from experience it would be quite a production to get her out of the car and into the house in her condition.

When I pulled into our driveway and contemplated the task ahead, I realized that I couldn’t live like this any longer. Nothing could possibly be worse than living with my mother, constantly lying for her, trying to cover up that she was passed out drunk when she was supposed to be meeting with my teachers or driving me to some oʃ-campus event. Ever since I could remember, I’d lived in mortal fear that my friends at school— what friends I managed to have when we moved around so much, that is—would ɹnd out about her and decide I was some kind of freak by association. A fear that, unfortunately, I’d found out the hard way was not unfounded. I’d been the adult in this family since I was about ɹve, and now it was time for me to take my life into my own hands. I was going to contact my father and, unless I got some kind of vibe that said he really was an abusive pervert, I was going to go live with him. In Avalon. In the Wild City that was the crossroads between our world and Faerie, the city where magic and technology coexisted in something resembling peace. Even in Avalon, I figured, I’d have a better, more normal life than I had now with my mom. I’ve never been so wrong about anything in my life. chapter one My palms were sweaty and my heart was in my throat as my plane made its descent into London. I could hardly believe I was really doing this, hardly believe I had found the courage to run away from home. I wiped my palms on my jeans and wondered if Mom had ɹgured out I was gone yet. She’d been sleeping oʃ one hell of a binge when I’d left the house, and sometimes she could sleep for twenty-four hours straight at times like that. I wished I could be a ɻy on the wall when she found the note I’d left her.

Maybe losing me would ɹnally turn on the lightbulb over her head and she’d stop drinking. But I wasn’t holding my breath. I’d had no trouble ɹnding and contacting my father. Mom would never have dreamed of telling me his name when she was sober, and he wasn’t listed on my birth certiɹcate, but all it had taken were a couple of probing questions when she was in one of her drunk, chatty moods to ɹnd out his name was Seamus Stuart. The Fae, she conɹded, didn’t use last names in Faerie, but those who lived in Avalon had adopted the practice for the convenience of the human population. In the grand scheme of things, Avalon is tiny, its population less than 10,000, so when I’d gone online and brought up the Avalon phone book, I’d had no trouble ɹnding my father—he was the only Seamus Stuart listed. And when I called and asked him if he knew anyone by my mother’s name, he readily admitted he’d had a girlfriend of that name once, so I knew that I’d found the right guy. Before that ɹrst conversation was over, he had already asked me to come to Avalon for a visit. He’d even sprung for a ɹrst-class plane ticket into London. And never once had he asked to talk to my mom, nor had he asked if I had her permission to come visit him. I’d been surprised by that at first, but then I figured she’d been right that if he could have found me, he’d have spirited me away to Avalon without a second thought. Don’t look the gift horse in the mouth, I reminded myself. The plane hit the tarmac with a jarring thud. I took a deep breath to calm myself. It would be hours still before I would actually meet my father.

Being a native of Faerie, he couldn’t set foot in the mortal world. (If he’d decided to kidnap me, he’d have had to use human accomplices to do it.) The unique magic of Avalon is that the city exists both in Faerie and in the mortal world—the only place where the two planes of existence overlap. When my father stood at the border of the city and looked out, all he could see was Faerie, and if he crossed the border, those of us in the mortal world wouldn’t be able to see him anymore. He’d arranged to have a human friend of his meet me at the London airport and take me to Avalon. Only when I got through Avalon immigration would I be able to meet him. I went through the immigration and customs process in London in something of a daze. I’d been too excited and nervous to sleep on the plane, and it was deɹnitely catching up with me now. I followed the herd to the ground transportation area and started searching the sea of placards for my own name. I didn’t see it. I looked again, examining each sign carefully, in case my name was misspelled and that’s why I’d missed it. But the crowd of drivers steadily thinned, and nowhere did I see anyone holding up my name. I bit my lip and examined my watch, which I’d adjusted to London time. It was 8:23 a.m.

, and when I’d last talked to my dad, he’d estimated that if the plane was on time, I’d get through customs somewhere around 8:15. His friend should be here by now. I took another one of those deep breaths, reminding myself to calm down. Dad’s friend was only eight minutes late. Hardly worth panicking about. I found a comfortable chair near the doors, my gaze darting this way and that as I looked for someone hurrying into the terminal like they were late. I saw plenty of those, but none of them carried a sign with my name on it. When 8:45 rolled around and still there was no sign of my ride, I decided it was okay to get a little bit panicky. I turned on my cell phone, meaning to give Dad a call, only to discover I couldn’t get a signal. Belatedly, I wondered if American cell phones worked in London. I swallowed another wave of nerves. Dad had sent me a lovely getting-toknow-you gift, a white rose cameo, and I found myself fingering it anxiously. I’d been in and out of a lot of airports in my life, and if the ɻight was long enough, my mom was invariably sloshed by the time we landed. Even when I was like eight years old, I’d been capable of steering my mom through the airport, ɹnding our baggage, and arranging a taxi to take us to wherever we needed to be. Granted, the most exotic place I’d ever had to do it was Canada, but heck, this was England, not India.

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Updated: 19 June 2021 — 08:21

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