Wyatt had arrived back home after his fruitless training session with Broof, to have April latch to him like a limpet. She was bubbling with excitement to work on the potion again, to learn about all the different ingredients, to theorise about what might work in the cure potion and to ask him a hundred questions about a hundred topics. It might have been annoying to some people, but it was just the distraction Wyatt needed. If he dwelled any more on the impenetrable vault that was his bearded buddy, he might actually go crazy.
The potion was still in a resting phase and would be for most of the day. There was nothing to do there, much to April’s disappointment. Caleb was manning the store, Melinda was in the studio, Broof had gone to lick his wounds and Sage was busying about preparing the rituals for the following night’s coven meet. She had politely requested that Wyatt take April from under her feet, so they’d been hanging out in his room.
April had been a little upset at first; apparently Caleb had been moping since The Talk the previous night, and Melinda had been ignoring her. Wyatt would try and act as peacekeeper later but woah – these guys were exhausting, although that might just be the blood loss.
April lightly skimmed the file over her nails as Wyatt watched; both silent during a natural lull in their flowing conversation. Everything about her was so delicate, so gentle, he thought, wondering again if Broof was wrong about the whole thing. He must be. This sweet, refined girl could not be Wyatt’s daughter. No way. She was softly blowing the dusty residue from her fingertips and elegantly fanning her hand to scrutinise her efforts; he was trying not to fart.
“How did you meet Mother, Wyatt?” April asked. “Were you together very long?”
Wyatt shifted on the bed, uncomfortable for a few reasons. “You ask a lot of questions, don’t you Apes?”
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled, dropping her chin.
“Nah, it’s OK,” he said quickly. Man, he hated these little dips she kept having. She reminded him of a timid puppy in a shelter, cowering in her corner every time the door opened and it was killing him. “I always ask a lot of questions, too. How did I meet your mum? How did I meet your mum? Well…”
He wanted to say ‘I’m not sure I ever did’, but that sounded awful. “I genuinely don’t remember,” he admitted. “I wasn’t in such a great place, around that time.”
“Oh?” April asked looking at him with those, big curious eyes. “Why not?”
“My dad, your um… your…” Why was this so hard?
“Grandfather Warren?” April asked, coming alive.
“Yeah,” Wyatt conceded. He groaned quietly as his tormented gut rolled around, threatening to blow. “Ugh. We were really close, my dad and I. When he died, even though we knew it was coming and, like, provisions had been made and everything, my mum was devastated and sort of closed off and Hoggy – well, he was wrapped up in his own grief and we got in with the wrong crowd, I suppose.”
“Broof was in the wrong crowd?”
“Not, like, a terrible crowd,” he mumbled. “Just wasters. High all the time,” he clarified at her blank look.
“Was Mother in that crowd?” April asked, astounded. Wyatt pouted a little; she clearly had no problem believing he was in that crowd and that made him feel all manner of rubbish.
“Nah, but the place we hung out in was in the basement of a pizza shop, near a studio lot where they shot low-budget movies. The crew and actors would find their way to our basement a lot. And at the time well, your mum was in that scene, so I guess that’s how our paths crossed.”
“So… you and Mother had a one-night stand, but you don’t really remember it – or her – because you had taken lots of drugs,” April deduced, nodding her cute head.
It sounded so gross when she said it. Wyatt felt his face burn. “Yeah. I know. Not cool. I’m sorry if you were expecting some epic love story—”
“I wasn’t,” she sighed. “I think Mother might have done that kind of thing a lot. Oh!” she gasped. “Forget I said that!”
“Said what?” Wyatt winked.
April stared at him for a second before she understood. She relaxed somewhat, dropping her hands back to her lap and folding them neatly, before tilting her head back up. “Did Mother really make crappy movies?” she asked, surprised.
“Oh yeah. Loads of them! Didn’t you know?”
“No! Oh my gosh! I thought A Kind Heart was her first movie.”
“That blockbuster about the dying kid? Nah, that was just the first ‘good’ one she made. The first movie she ever made was called The Mutant Gorilla from Hull. An absolute classic. The critics raved about it. Not.”
April laughed. “Mutant gorilla? What part did she play?”
“I think she was ‘woman in bikini #2’. She had one line which was ‘Take me, gorilla man!’”
“Oh my god!” April squealed. “Really?!”
“Yep. In fact I think I have that movie on my laptop if you wanna see— ah, wait, I set fire to that, didn’t I?”
“What?” April asked, still laughing. “You set fire to your laptop? Why?”
“Left Caleb alone with it for like, fifteen minutes and he somehow managed to download a dozen viruses.”
“A dozen viruses? How on earth—?”
“Dodgy porn,” Wyatt replied without thinking.
“Oh,” April whispered, sinking again.
Wyatt bit his lip. Oops. “Lots of people watch that stuff, Apes,” he explained, trying to guess what she was thinking. “It’s not ‘cause he doesn’t like you or anything—”
“It’s not that,” April said quietly. She rubbed her eye even though Wyatt could see no tears. “In fact, I’d rather he did that than… you know.” She fidgeted on her seat, twisting her skirt around her finger. “He’s slept with ten thousand women,” she said quietly.
“He has?” Wyatt tried to sound surprised. “I am surprised!”
“Yes,” April whispered. “That’s a lot, isn’t it? It’s not normal, is it?”
“Uh, well he is what, three hundred? So that’s what… one a week? That’s not a lot. I mean, it is a lot, but it’s not a lot.”
“One a week sounds like a lot to me. It feels so disrespectful,” April said softly, playing with a button on her skirt. “How many women have you slept with, then?”
Damn, he was digging a huge hole here. He swallowed hard, torn between not wanting to lie to her and not wanting her to think even more badly of him. “A few.”
“A few? Or quite a few?”
“Quite a few if you add in the men, yeah.”
April lifted her head at this, gazing at him with a mixture of wonder and disgust. “You sometimes sleep with men?”
In that moment, there was something about her. Something he really didn’t like. “Yeah,” he said, slightly more angrily than he’d meant to. “I guess I just don’t really have a preference.”
“How can you not have a preference?”
He tried not to get riled up; tried to convince himself that this was just an innocent question. But it sure felt like an accusation and Mother Earth knew this wasn’t the first time he’d heard it.
“I mean… I dunno. I get attracted to all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons, y’know? I don’t rule someone out based on what might be in their pants – that’d be such a waste.”
April frowned at him and shook her head. “That doesn’t make any sense. Boys and girls aren’t just different because of their, ahem, parts. It’s the whole package. Boys are masculine and girls are feminine. Everyone has a preference.”
This was starting to get to him. They’d been getting on so well that it felt like a sucker punch to the gut— uh oh.
“If you say so,” Wyatt shrugged.
April blinked. “You don’t think that’s true?”
“No. Do you? Or are you just repeating something someone told you?”
April cocked her head, staring at him. “There are certain ways that ladies and gentlemen should behave and dress and anything else is unacceptable,” she said, sounding very much not like her usual self all of a sudden and not actually answering his question. “And one of those fundamental rules is that men should like women, and women should like men.”
“OooooK. What about… um… Mel?”
“What about Mel?”
“She doesn’t like men.”
“Of course she likes men. All women like men. She just hasn’t found one that she really likes yet,” April insisted. “And she’s very feminine.” April wrinkled her nose. “Wyatt! That’s disgusting!”
Busted. “All women like men?” he repeated, his laughter causing the rhythm against the mattress to become staccato.
“You’re gross, Wy.” April grimaced, making him once again feel like a low life. “And yes, we do. Girls can’t love girls.”
His chin snapped up so fast it actually alarmed her. “Woah! What the heck?! Girls can definitely love girls, Apes. Who told you they can’t? Your mother?”
April didn’t say anything. She didn’t need to.
“Yeah. I’ll bet she told you all this crap, didn’t she? Your mother was wrong. Why the heck would she tell you that?”
April stared at him a moment and then turned away.
Damn. Losing her. “She can’t hurt you anymore, Apes.”
Wyatt could sense that he’d pushed too far. He decided to change track before he lost her completely.
“What do you want to do next?” he asked. “Still got an hour or two until we need to do anything else with the elixir.”
“You could show me some magic?” she requested, brightening like the sun.
“I’d love to, but I’m not really supposed to do that.”
“No problemo,” April sang. She looked around the room, her gaze landing on the tiny television. “We could watch a movie?”
“Excellent plan, my fanged friend,” Wyatt grinned. “We can’t watch them on that old thing, though,” he thumbed towards the rusted set. “We shouldn’t be too much under Mum’s feet if we’re in the snug, though,” he said, tapping his chin. “Big TV in there, too.”
“Oh, yes! That sounds amazing!”
“Awesome. What movie do you want to watch?”
“One of Mother’s early ones?”
Not even a hesitation. He tried to smile. Everything that Sandy had done to her and April still missed her and longed to see her, if only on a screen. Meanwhile, he was just proving himself, over and over, to be a deadbeat dad. An overgrown kid. Pond scum.
“Probably won’t be able to find The Mutant Gorilla from Hull, but we’ll definitely find something classically awful; Help! My Grandma is a Werefish! perhaps, or Gilda Bubblebutt and the Zombie Cheerleaders.”
“Those sound shockingly awful!” April beamed. “Did Mother play Gilda?”
Wyatt sighed. “No, Apes. She didn’t have a leading role in any of those movies. In Gilda, she didn’t even get a line and she dies in the first ten minutes.”
“Gilda Bubblebutt it is then,” April said, grinning from ear to ear. “I can’t wait for Mother to just be silent for once! I hope she gets eaten by a cheerleader!”
The sound of Jessica’s booted footfalls echoed around the corridor, painfully loud in comparison to Beth’s soft trainer ones. Jessica had never been in this part of the station before – part of her wondered what on earth Beth had been doing in here in the first place.
“Ta-da!” Beth announced when they approached what Jessica believed was a pair of disused holding cells, although in the pitch darkness, she couldn’t really tell what she was looking at. “What do you think? Wouldn’t this make the cutest space for a nursery?”
Yes, Jessica thought, if your offspring is hell spawn, which yours possibly is.
“Um…” Jessica hesitated, looking between the iron bars and her enthusiastic superior, as her vision slowly adjusted. “It’s a bit dark and gloomy, don’t you think?”
“Well, it is now,” Beth huffed. “Visualise the space, Jessica! Open up that window there, remove a few irons bars here and then all it needs is—”
“A DIVORCE!” came a cry from above them. “HE WANTS A DIVORCE!”
Jessica and Beth exchanged a concerned look before both ran back towards the stairs that took them up the main station, where the very last person Jessica had expected to see in this place was screaming at the top of her lungs.
“A divorce?! After everything I have given that man! The best years of my life! My youth! My second virginity!” Gloria cried, pausing for a soul-shattering scream. “He wants a DIVORCE?!”
“Don’t we all?” Beth snorted.
“On what grounds?” Jessica asked, alarmed.
“Irreconcilable differences! I ask you! But I know him, the shark, I KNOW HIM! His wandering eye is elsewhere! The scallywag! The CAD!” She screamed again and stamped her expensive-looking shoe into the linoleum. “If he thinks Gloria Ersatz will roll over quietly and be replaced by some… some… overinflated floozy, he has another thing coming!”
“Back up, back up,” Beth said. “He genuinely wants a divorce? Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure!” Gloria whined. “He announced it at breakfast – in front of the staff! How humiliating!” she groaned, sliding a loose hair back into her coiffure with her fingernail. “You need to help me, Beth! He’ll have me out on my rear with nothing like… like… a servant!” she gasped. “You can’t let him do that to me! Imagine the prize slag he’ll replace me with! Imagine her looking after Willy! We can’t allow it! I need your help and I need it now!”
Beth chewed the inside of her cheek, looking annoyed. Jessica wasn’t really sure what was going on, but this hysterical woman was giving her the mother of all headaches.
“You believe he might be committing adultery?” she asked.
“Hark at her, acting all professional,” Gloria snorted. “Of course he is! He’s a wildly attractive and very rich man! He’s a magnet for gold-diggers! And he has been simply distraught since William vanished – he’ll be soaking up pity wherever it comes from, the old fool! He said he was going sailing tomorrow night. Sailing! With his thalassophobia! Never been on a boat in his life – wouldn’t know his sail from his… whatever other components boats have! He’ll be meeting her then; I just know it! Tail him for me, Beth. Tomorrow night. Get me the evidence I need to take his sorry tush to the cleaners!”
“I can’t do tomorrow night,” Beth stated. “Jessica will have to go.”
Jessica faltered. “Does this fall under my job description?”
“It does now.”
Jessica pondered for a while. The last thing she wanted was to get caught even deeper in this mess. A divorce was probably the best thing for Gloria and Wilbur. Not that she’d say that, in her present company. She was kooky, not insane.
“I can’t do tomorrow night, either. I have a GliTS meeting. It’s very important.”
“So you are one of them,” Beth said. “I knew it!”
“Yep. In pursuit of crooks by day and truth by night. Tomorrow we are looking for evidence of, um, mushroompeople. They only come out on one night a year, and that night is tomorrow.”
“How fun for you.” Beth narrowed her eyes at Jessica before looking back at Gloria, who was wearing her ‘I can smell poo’ face again.
“Fine,” Beth conceded. “I suppose I can be a little late for my appointment. I’ll stalk Saggy Balls. Gloria, I trust you can watch Willy for the night?”
“My pleasure,” Gloria said, actually sounding quite happy about that, to Jessica’s surprise. “But are you sure they won’t mind you being a little late? With everything that’s going on—“
“I’m sure,” Beth cut in curtly. “And what choice do I have? Can’t very well interrupt Jessica and co. in their pursuit of truth now, can we?”