CH. 6: I'm Not Mad, I'm Just Disappointed

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Mac's room was just as she left it but she couldn't quite reconcile the woman she was with the one she'd become. A lot of pink. Her old teddy bear, Marcus still standing watch, leaning against the frilly pillow shams on her bed. The art prints on her walls that seemed so sophisticated at the time. Her makeup desk with its triple mirror and rows of lipstick and eye shadow. The perfumes. In her closet, the skimpy outfits her mother hated. The jewelry box that held the bangles and bracelets and necklaces with the accusatory empty space that used to hold her invisibility ring. All of it. As if it belonged to a different person.

It's been an hour since she'd intruded into Freehold and, as commanded, she went into her room's private bathroom, stripped naked and got in the shower. The immediacy of the water pressure shocked her to the core. She hadn't felt such warmth and satisfaction since that hotel in Singapore last year. She lathered up with the fancy bath soaps and let the bubbles cascade down her body. The skull and pinup sleeve. The tools. The sparrows. The coy. The huge white tiger on her side. The list went on, some tattoos with meaning, some without. The revolvers angling below her abs that would tuck into her jeans. The number 674 in large gothic print on her taut stomach. Inked during a drunken blackout, she still had no idea what it meant.

She ran her hands down her right leg over the phrases written there. She didn't have the heart to read them now. The boardwalk of Sunshine Beach wrapped itself picturesque around her calf, a reminder of home. Her left thigh bore the Wild Hunt, a rider pushing wolves across the sky in search of prey. Four years' worth of ink and time and money and servitude and magic. All meant to remind her and protect her. From others, but mostly from herself. And her illness.

Mac rinsed off and turned the knobs, tap-tap-tapping them to be sure they were off. Had to check. The bathroom could flood. A spark could cause a fire. She got out of the shower and toweled off. She put on an old pair of low rise jeans and a pink halter top from her closet and found them a little tight on the muscle she'd put on since she'd last worn them. Still, the outfit looked pretty cute. Feminine in a way she thought she'd given up forever. She thought about putting on her shell tops then decided against it and padded barefoot from her room into the house.

At the bottom of the stairs, in the open foyer, she found Gwenie and her stepfather, Derek waiting for her. Thank God. She didn't think she could face them all, Aunts Astrid and Patience, her abundance of cousins, Maude, Fisher, Gracie, Lucinda, Clementine and Derek's kids, Terrell and Stephanie. There'd be time to see them but for now it was too much. But, Gwenie and Derek, with them, Mac thought she could do just fine.

"Hey, Kiddo," Derek said and held out his thick arms for a hug.

Tentative at first, Mac plunged in and let Derek wrap her up in an embrace.

"Hey, Derek."

"It's good to have you back," he said. "Four years. You look good. More grown up."

Mac broke the hug and looked him in the eye, searching for admonishment, finding none.

"I wonder if she'll think so," Mac said.

"You know you're mother."

Gwenie jumped in. "She will. I know she will. I mean, you're her daughter. And you're back."

"Uh huh," Mac said.

"She's in her study," Derek said. "Waiting for you."

"Ugh."

"It'll be OK," Derek said and Gwenie followed it up with a hopeful, "Yeah!"

Mac shrugged and ran her hands through her blonde hair. Then, she forced a smile and headed toward Tracy Wyatt's study. Before turning the door knob and going in she tapped the knob three times. Just to be safe.

"Mom?" Mac said, closing the door behind her.

Rows of arcane magical tombs lined the dark, oak walls in bookcases cut by portraits of Wyatts past. It should smell of must and old paper but the room was fragrant with the aroma or lilac and lavender. It was a simple glamour really, but effective and enjoyable. The lighting, spell cast fire emanating from glass globes set the study in a light both soothing and unnerving, as if you were in a room with the cutest, cuddliest, sleeping lion.

Tracy was seated in one of the two plush chairs by the fireplace. The weather was warm and a fire was unnecessary, but it roared nonetheless. Tracy stared at the flames, sipping Wyatt Brand rum and never looked up as Mac drew near. Not waiting to be told to sit, Mac placed herself in the adjoining chair with her hands in her lap.

Tracy took a sip and placed the glass on the small table between the chairs. She stared at the fire, while Mac looked at her. It was amazing. Gone four years and her mother hadn't aged a day. Though twenty years her senior, in the right light, they could almost pass for sisters. But, her eyes. Those dark, gray eyes. Ageless and infinite.

"So..." Mac said, but had nowhere to go.

A pine nut exploded in the fire and Mac flinched. Tracy raised an eyebrow and side eyed her.

"Tattoos," Tracy said turning back to the fire.

Mac smiled nervously. "Yeah, there's a story there."

"There's always a story with you, Charlotte. Is that a busted lip?"

"Mom..."

"Do you plan to stay?"

"I hadn't thought about it. I thought I'd..."

"Yes?" Tracy said and took a sip of rum.

"I shouldn't have come. I know. The truce. But, I didn't have anywhere else to go."

Tracy took another sip. "So, you came home."

"Well, yeah."

"And you brought your problems with you."

"I'm not doing well, Mom," Mac said. "My mental stuff."

Tracy downed the last of the rum and set the glass back down on the table. Then, she turned and faced her daughter head on for the first time. Mac wanted to look away, as anyone would under the gaze of so powerful a sorceress, but she held fast.

"This is what you're going to do, Charlotte. You're going to-"

There was a knock on the study door. Mac turned toward the sound while her mother kept her eyes fixed on her daughter. Another knock. Mac turned back toward her mother and flinched again at the hard stare. A third knock and the door opened hesitantly.

Derek popped his head and said, "Trace..."

"Yes, Derek?" Tracy said, eyes never leaving her daughter.

"There's a situation at the front gate," Derek said.

"And it's something you can't handle."

"Tracy," Derek said, "It's something I can handle. But, it's not something I should. Brandon Selfridge is here."

"That's ballsy," Tracy smirked.

"I thought so too. He wants to see you."

Tracy kept her eyes on Mac, her smirk turning into a full on smile. "I'll be out in a moment." Then, she put a hand on Mac's and squeezed. "We both will."

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