“She could’ve had an abortion, of course,” Deborah says, brushing white-blonde hair behind her ear. “Even though it wasn’t legal then. But she didn’t.”
“She told you that?” I whisper over the rim of my cosmo, a little shocked.
“Later. Much later. By then she was old, and I was, well. Like I am now.” She shrugs. “Sarah was back from the Continent, and I think Mother could see that Angus was drawn. Even then. Even with what that woman put him through, even though he said he loved Mother.” Her glass is empty; I tap the bar lightly and Tambi nods from the far end where she’s studiously not listening. Must be hard; the Mink is almost empty at the end of our long lunch.
“But, Angus and Sarah. I mean. What they had. Have. Had.” I try to define that relationship in the past tense, but the alcohol and my own nerves make it hard. How can I pretend that Sarah will be any more constant now than she ever was, when she and Angus have orbited each other for a thousand years.
“Not even rhetorically a thousand years,” Deb says moodily as she takes another martini glass full of pink from Tambi. I must have said it out loud, then. “Holly. I don’t know. I don’t have the answer to that. I can say She’s been different lately, but I’ve only been working for Her for the past oh god, forty years?” She shoves her slice of lime angrily into the glass.
“Since, um,” I math quickly, “the Sixties?”
“Sounds right. I remember I was wearing this pink minidress. I think it had a dandelion print. And boots. And I had my hair up like one of the Andrews sisters. And there She was, the goddamn” swig “Empress of Everything. In a leather suit like you could get away with back then.”
“Or, like, this morning.” I signal Tambi to refill my drink too. Maybe she should just start making these things in pint glasses.
“Or that. And She looked me over like I was nothing, and then She looked again, and She just said ‘You’re Moira’s daughter.’ And I didn’t know what to say, so I just nodded.”
“Yeah. What do you even say.” To the woman your father left for your mother and returned to when your mother wasn’t enough? Maybe what I say to Amanda Lee every time I pass her at the base. Hi, awkwardly.
“So I’ve been working for Her ever since. Because, you know. Fuck that guy.”
I clink glasses with her. Somehow, they’re both empty already.
“Fuck that guy.”
“Mother knew, I think. On some level. I mean, how do you not, right? I mean. He told her. Eventually. About… us. This. Something. When Mother was greying and I still looked eighteen. When circle skirts turned into minidresses and then bellbottoms and I still looked fucking eighteen. When she. When.”
I put an arm around her tentatively. Deborah’s not supposed to break down like this. She’s supposed to be Friday, always, like I’m Tuesday because Friday was already taken as a codename because Deb’s the best at it. I’m not the strong one. She is. I’m the one whose father left because she wasn’t good enough.
“She told me. She told me when she was fucking dying. That it was. It was the only thing she regretted. That she couldn’t be here for me like he always would. Like fucking hell. Like he ever was. Ever is. He’s got Colin now. You know. Sarah’s son.” It’s uncharacteristically venomous. I mean, Deb never has a mean thing to say about anyone. She called Colin “derpy” once, but that’s more descriptive than cruel.
She sees herself in you, Sarah said once, when I asked why Deb was always so kind, when everyone else was making judgments about me, and her, and why my boss would give me control of a whole new spinoff company when I’d been an intern a month before. I didn’t know what she meant, then. I was just trying to adjust, get my feet under me, figure out how to cope with my new powers, let alone a half-sister and half-brother and their mother when my own mom was so torn up about Daddy dying that I didn’t exist for her.