When change finally came a-knockin’, it came as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Ginny Connors was standing in front of her fridge. Her arms were crossed in front of her as she assessed the world of delicious, chilled noms available to her. The choice should have been easy, but Ginny took movie snacks very seriously. Once her horror flicks started, she couldn’t mess around with things like food. She knew from experience that she wouldn’t trust the floor not to eat her feet till long after the credits concluded. Ginny had to get it right the first time or be prepared to hold her peace—and her rumbling stomach—till the willies left the room.
Ginny jumped at the sound of her dad’s voice. Her heart raced as she turned to greet him. She was startled again: he wasn’t alone.
“Ginny, this is Denise.”
Ginny stared blankly at Denise, who smiled warmly back. After a few seconds of silence, Denise cleared her throat.
“Well, hi there, Ginny,” Denise drawled in a sweet Southern tone. “It’s nice to meet you.” She held out her hand, then thought better of it. Instead she encompassed Ginny in a hug Ginny would have sooner expected from a pro football player than a petite Southern woman. Steel magnolias weren’t meant to be made of steel physically, after all. “I’ve heard so much about you!”
“That’s . . . neat,” Ginny croaked. “I, um, I haven’t heard anything about you.” She was frozen with shock. To disengage Denise, she finally mustered a one-handed back pat. Denise, appeased, stepped away with a smile.
“Well, that’s OK, honey! You won’t need any time at all to love me.”
Behind Denise, Ginny’s dad chuckled. “That’s my Denise.”
“Whoa, say what?” exclaimed Ginny. “I didn’t even know there was a Denise till ten seconds ago!” She paused, then looked at Denise. “No offense. I’m sure you’re lovely and all.” Again she glared at her dad, who appeared only mildly perturbed. “What the hell, Dad?”
Denise looked around frantically, as if in search of an escape hatch.
“Ginny,” her dad explained. “I was waiting for the right time. I didn’t want to just introduce you to just any—”
“Whatever!” Ginny raged. She stomped out of the kitchen, pausing only to say, “Nice to meet you, Denise.”
Only much later would she wonder what would have happened to her dad if she hadn’t been quite so nice to Denise.
Over the weeks that followed, Ginny’s dad attempted to mend fences with her. He had been too impulsive, he explained.
In response, she scoffed, “Seventeen-year-olds like me are impulsive. Retired lawyers are boring and predictable. You usually are.” Her heart wasn’t really in being offended, but she went through the motions because it felt like the normal thing to do. “Normal” was such a distant and desperately craved concept in Ginny’s world, she had to at least strive for it.
When it came down to it, Ginny was glad to see her father finally coming out of the shell he’d built around himself after her mother’s death. Ginny wasn’t ten years old anymore. She knew her mother wasn’t coming back. She couldn’t fault her father for finally looking elsewhere. She only wished he had been honest and up-front about dating again.
She didn’t blame Denise either. In fact, with Denise around, Ginny seldom had to rummage up her own food. When Ginny’s dad was out running errands during the day, Denise cheerfully made snacks and meals alike for the Connors girls. Denise’s only demand was that at least one of them had to keep her company in the kitchen. Wendy was too often out drinking to play kitchen companion to Denise, but Ginny didn’t mind the extra shifts. They were the closest she’d come to normalcy since her mother fell ill many years earlier.
So what if Denise never actually seemed to eat any of her own cooking? She had to be keeping her weight down somehow. How was Ginny supposed to guess that it was because she was a vampire?
The last time Ginny saw Denise, Denise seemed anxious. Her normally graceful hands trembled. She dropped ingredient after ingredient and broke not one but two bowls.
“Do you need help?” Ginny started to slide off the center island when Denise held up a hand to stop her.
“No, no, honey. I appreciate it, but cooking calms me down.” Even as she spoke, the knife in her hands missed the carrot on the cutting board. Ginny cringed at the combination of knives and nerves.
“I dunno. It doesn’t seem to be helping much . . .” Still, Ginny remained on the counter in deference to Denise’s request.
“Sometimes it takes a little while.” Denise swept carrots into an as-yet-unbroken bowl. “Maybe you’ll get dessert from it!” Her words were cheerful, but her voice was not.
“Well, whatcha making?” Ginny stole an unchopped carrot and took a bite.
Ginny raised an eyebrow. “How’s that different from normal lasagna? You’re not putting lipstick or something in it, right?”
Denise stopped cutting. She bit her lip before saying, “Well, I made a big mistake with your dad, honey. I hope you won’t hate me.”
Ginny laughed. “I could never hate you, Denise!” Her stomach sank even while she laughed. She hoped the mistake wasn’t too big for her dad to forgive. She liked having Denise around. “What kind of mistake?”
“That’s between your dad and me.” Denise saw Ginny’s frown and stretched out to pat her on the knee. “I trust you, honey. I just don’t want your dad any more upset with me than he already is.”
Ginny sighed. “Well,” she said. “It’s probably easier for him to talk to you than me. At least you’re his age!” she proclaimed brightly.
“There’s that,” Denise murmured. “There’s that.”
Dinner was delicious, if conversation was sparse. When Ginny was done eating, she helped Denise with the dishes. After the last utensil was dried, she hugged Denise. “I better do my homework. Don’t worry, Dad will be fine.”
Denise hugged her back, but didn’t reply. Unbeknownst to Ginny, she had heard Denise’s voice for the last time.
It was a few days before she saw the glass ball on the living room mantel. It was longer still before her skin would crawl at the sight of it, thinking it an unlikely coincidence that the ball appeared in her house only after Denise seemed to have been absolutely banished from it. That ball, she would come to fear, was all that remained of Denise.
In Denise’s wake was left a once-again cold, quiet house. In this house, three family members traveled separately, no longer in any way behaving as a family.
The kitchen light was never on anymore. Ginny wished there was someone she could tell just how much that hurt.
Her father’s door was ajar. Before Denise, this had always been a sign that company was welcome. Mistaking present for past, Ginny let herself in to her father’s room. It was time for the yearly field trip to see the town’s historical museum. Ginny just needed her dad’s signature on the permission slip. Ginny entered with neither stealth nor ulterior motive.
She opened the door just enough to let herself in. She didn’t see her dad but heard a disturbing, quiet whimpering. Finally! she thought. She was nervous but also excited by this sign that her father had, in fact, simply fallen quite ill. Illness was a much more rational, much less scary explanation for his now-persistent paleness and bizarre behavior than some of the theories she had been entertaining—like, say, ones involving crack, or a serious allergy to garlic. Stupid movies, filling her brain with nonsense!
Stepping fully into her father’s room, Ginny tried to pinpoint the direction of the whimpering. It was not coming from the bathroom, as she had expected; rather, the sound seemed to be emanating from the walk-in closet.
Uh-oh. Maybe he’d fallen and hurt himself.
She moved quietly, quickly towards the closet. “Dad?”
At first, she couldn’t see anything that might explain the quiet cries she heard. Her dad wasn’t on the floor. At first glance, all she could see was impeccably ironed clothing hanging in rows that seemed to stretch on for entire city blocks.
Lo and behold, there was a nook in the back right corner. Ginny couldn’t imagine how her dad could have fallen neatly enough to compress himself into such a space, but steeled herself to assist in uncrumpling him. Maybe she should call an ambulance?
When she saw what was actually tucked away in the nook, all thought fled. Instead of her dad, she saw manacles. A hanging man.
His head hung forward. His shirtless chest was pale but unmarred. Her stomach revolted and she closed her eyes, gathering courage to look up at his neck.
As she suspected, his neck was not unmarred. Rivulets of blood traced downward from twin punctures on his throat. Her worst, most ridiculous fears were confirmed: her dad was a vampire.
Ginny moved as if she was a zombie. Her mental functioning slowed; she could barely think clearly enough to realize she should try to free the middle-aged man suspended from the wall in front of her. Even with full brain power, this would have been difficult. In her current state, it was virtually impossible.
Ginny searched fervently for the keys to the manacles that bound the man, though restraints were hardly needed to stop him from moving. She could find no key hidden within the closet. She climbed up and reached for the cuffs. She pulled at them first, then pried at the keyhole with her fingernails in desperate hope she might find a keyless release.
Her hands fell to her sides as she helplessly watched the man slip deeper into unconsciousness. She stepped back, then back again, stumbling into the row of tidy clothing behind her.
Dazed, she turned and looked at the closet door. It seemed so far away. How could such a small closet fit so many miles of walkway? Step by step she traversed that long distance, leaving the captive literally hanging. If only she could muster the Herculean strength to break the bonds and drag him out . . .
But she was petite, and not very strong. So she left, and with each step reminded herself that what she had seen could not have been real. There was no way it could have been real, despite her cracked nails and raw fingers. It was all in her imagination. Just her imagination. Nothing more to it than that.
Her heart believed the lie, but her head did not.
When she returned later, determined to call the police and help them solve at least one case from their growing missing-persons case roster, she found only an immaculately clean storage area. Her heart triumphantly cried her dad’s innocence, but her head still could not believe it was all a dream. If a silly, daydream-prone girl had no evidence to offer—if even she could doubt what she’d seen—who else would dare believe her mad claims?
Still haunted by her nightmare, Ginny cracked open her door and peeked out. She surveyed the hallway. No father in sight! This determination made, Ginny was shocked to stumble right over her dad’s feet as she stepped out and closed her bedroom door. Her dad had been hidden in the corner connecting her doorframe to the hallway.
This once-familiar man used to be so loving and kind-hearted, despite his judicious nature. Now, his near-black eyes surveyed Ginny as if they had never seen her. In her father’s gaze, there was no hint that he was looking at his beloved youngest daughter. In his gaze, there was nothing. The humor that once sparkled there was gone. She stepped backward. Her head bumped into the cross she’d hung on her door after her incident in her dad’s closet. She flinched and rubbed her head.
“Good morning, Genevieve.”
“Um. Uh . . .” Ginny panicked. How long, she wondered, would it take her to cross the hallway? She had nothing to say to this stranger. Nor did she have any urge to become breakfast, which she feared might be her fate if she spent too much time with her bloodsucking dad. Was she just a meal on legs to him?
Of course, she had only seen one human snack, if she hadn’t imagined it. Which she probably had. She was always imagining crazy things. If she hadn’t imagined it, on the other hand, then she was in dangerous territory. Torturing just one person wasn’t like stealing just one piece of bubblegum. And the orb on the mantel? That was probably related to a special memory he shared with Denise, not some sick memento. Right?
The merest hint of a smile tugged at the corners of her father’s mouth. “Is that the best greeting you have to offer your father?” He uncrossed his arms and stood straight up, becoming, at his full height, even more intimidating. His wavy black hair almost touched the ceiling.
Ginny was sure her heart was going to just give out. She was so not made for this kind of stress. No one was.
“You should never skip breakfast, Genevieve. It’s the most important meal of the day. Your brain will suffer if you don’t properly nourish it.”
“What’m I supposed to eat, rat flakes?” Ginny grumbled. “It’s not like we have any groceries.” Her panic subsided with every second her father did not make her his breakfast. Lecture mode was lame, but at least it was safe. Ginny could handle lectures. This bit of familiarity invigorated her. She mustered her fiercest glare, then gazed skyward, about to let her dad have it. He spoke first.
“You will find food in the refrigerator.” He was, unsurprisingly, unfazed.
“There sure wasn’t food to find yesterday morning.” It was rare for Ginny to find anything remotely normal—food or otherwise—at home these days.
“There is now.”
“Way domestic of you! You went to the grocery store, huh?” She inched back toward her door. If he wasn’t going to let her through, she could at least hide in her bedroom till he got bored.
“I didn’t say I bought groceries. I said there’s food.”
“Well, good that’s been clarified.” She fell quiet. “Look, is there something you wanted to tell me? Did you suddenly remember you’re my dad or something? ’Cause if not, I have a bus to catch.” She fingered the emerald pendant around her neck and added, “You know, even if you have decided you want to play Dad again, I . . .” She faltered. Who knew what buttons, if pushed, would send this stranger over the edge?
“I think we should talk sometime soon,” her dad replied.
“We’re talking now,” Ginny blurted. “Look, there are literally words coming out of my mouth as I speak. That’s what speaking is.” She flushed. She sounded childish, even to herself. How could she get rid of a monster if she couldn’t even talk to one?
On the other hand, maybe it was better if she appeared incompetent. It might be to her advantage to seem like good ol’ just-keep-chuggin’ Ginny while she devised a plan. If her dad was a part of the growing missing-persons list in Munsen, she would have to do some good old-fashioned ass-kicking to avoid more closet-club memberships; just as long as it didn’t involve any literal ass-kicking, because she didn’t actually know how to do any of that. Fortunately, neither did her father, whose fights had been reserved for the courtroom.
If only she could find more tangible evidence, she could pass this off to someone else. A ninja or a policeman—or a combination of the two—would be great.
“You’re not ready,” he said with an analytical tilt of his head. His last word hung in the air as Ginny’s sister stumbled out into the hallway. Wendy was still in last night’s dress. Her make-up blurred across her face caused her to resemble, to Ginny’s untrained eye, the half-finished work of an impressionist painter.
“Dude, you guys woke me up. What gives?” Ginny said a silent thanks for her tendency to speak shrilly when cornered, and for Wendy’s response to that shrillness.
Ginny turned her head away from the smell of stale cigarettes and alcohol. She would always love her sister. She nevertheless wished that Wendy would find a different way to pass her evenings. If Wendy kept up her heavy drinking, Ginny would eventually be truly as alone as she felt. “Sorry, Sis.”
Ginny moved past her father and gave her sister a peck on the cheek. The smell of alcohol was so strong Ginny had to stifle a gag. “I’m off to school anyway. Sleep well, ’kay?”
Wendy smiled. Her hangover had reduced her to the functional equivalent of an infant.
“’Member, ’fanyone messes withu, you send ’em here.”
Back in high school, Wendy had had a knack for cracking knuckles and breaking faces. Her sweetness was reserved exclusively for her sister. She showed it in odd ways, but Ginny had learned how to read it.
If only Wendy could simply crack her fists against Ginny’s problem this time!
“I sure will, Sis.” Ginny fled down the hallway before her father could resume conversation. She envied her older sister’s oblivion. Had Wendy wondered about Denise? Had Wendy noticed the engraving on the ball now adorning the mantel? “Denise: Gone But Not Forgotten.”
The bus was winding the way up to her driveway as Ginny stepped outside. She had to run to catch it. Once on board, she sat next to her best friend. Summer, dressed in only her cheerleader finery despite the snow, launched immediately into a tirade about how her insensitive jerk of a boyfriend hadn’t called her last night.
“Well, did you call him?”
“No, he’s supposed to call me, duh. That’s what a good boyfriend does.” Summer indignantly crossed her arms and harrumphed.
Ginny looked at the tracks the bus left in the snow behind them. Things couldn’t be too bad, if she could count on this every morning. She was just a regular schoolgirl, after all. If her life outside of school was bizarre beyond the telling, no one else seemed to notice.
Sure, there was always gossip, but that usually wasn’t based on reality. People were mostly too wrapped up in their own lives to see much else. That wasn’t always a bad thing.
That afternoon, Ginny postponed her return home with a detour by Summer’s house. Mrs. Granger was a superb cook, so Ginny was excited by the prospect of having a bona fide home-cooked meal. Indeed, the evening’s eggplant parmesan would have been fit for gods, wherever they were in all this earthly mess.
After dinner, Ginny cleaned the floor and table while Summer and Annabelle, a mutual friend of theirs, washed dishes. Unlike Denise, who only wanted company in exchange for her cooking, Mrs. Granger refused to clean post-cooking. In exchange for hours spent in the kitchen preparing (she good-naturedly called this “slaving over”) food, she would be one hundred percent cleaning-exempt.
The first time Mrs. Granger introduced her cleaning rule, she had to clarify she meant a thorough cleaning. Based on the girls’ first attempt, they clearly needed this rule spelled out. Now they were properly trained, used to cleaning and talking simultaneously.
Currently the girls were discussing vacation. Annabelle suggested they should take a trip to Billings over break. Even a day trip for shopping would be grand. The girls could eat some real food and maybe see some of the “real guys” Annabelle had heard hung out on campus there. Much to her friends’ amusement, Annabelle never dated high school boys. She found them rude, lewd, and totally unsuitable for so refined a girl as herself.
“I mean, yuck, are we supposed to waste our whole vacation away here?” Annabelle gestured toward the window as if to implicate the entire town of Munsen. “Susan and Todd get to go to New York. Why can’t I go to New York?” She grumbled that last part to herself, clearly reliving the unpleasant memory of a parental conversation or ten on the matter. Annabelle explained she had wheedled and cajoled her parents every which way, but they had given no ground. They insisted that they would spend this winter break as a family, enjoying the time doing family things.
Annabelle didn’t know what “family things” were because, unlike Ginny, her family had never done them. Given Annabelle’s utter lack of experience, she wasn’t very excited by the prospect of discovering personally the joy of extensive “family time.” The thought was maybe even less appealing than spending one-on-one time with the beast known best by its scientific name of “high school boy.”
“I don’t know,” Summer said with a shrug. “I don’t think it’s that bad.” Summer, like Ginny, liked being within a mile or two of her boyfriend. “But I’m game for a quickie trip.” Summer put a cup in the cupboard, angling it so its handle was tilted the same direction as all the other cups. Mrs. Granger had trained her daughter well.
Annabelle sat down at the table, squealing moments later when Ginny smacked her feet with the broom. “Scram, Belle! Unless you wanna end up in the trash can, find another seat!”
“Fine, fine, Herr Ginny!” Annabelle feigned disdain, but changed seats so Ginny could finish sweeping.
“That doesn’t even make sense,” Ginny said with a laugh. “I think ‘Herr’ means ‘dude.’ Um, ‘sir.’ Not a girl, I mean.” Ginny blushed. Points for eloquence!
Annabelle waved her hand dismissively at Ginny’s mutterings. “Anyway, Billings. Whaddya think, Gin?”
“I think my name’s not ‘Gin,’ and if you want some of that, you oughtta be talking to my sister,” Ginny snapped. “Sorry,” she blurted almost instantly afterward. “I don’t know where that came from.” She wanted neither sympathy nor to underscore any differences between her and her friends’ families. “I’d like to go. I mean, I’ll see if I can get some money . . .”
“Oh, like that’s a problem?”
“Uh, my dad can be pretty Scroogey . . . I mean, I guess I just have to ask him in advance.” As she said this, Ginny prayed one of her father’s mystery envelopes of cash would appear on the kitchen table soon. Otherwise she might eventually have to actually ask her dad for money. Or a signature. Or, if he really was a vampire and she hadn’t just imagined everything, couldn’t she just stake him and then try to pass herself off as him at the bank?
Ginny blanched at the thought. There was nothing funny about staking her dad, which she might, conceivably, have to try. At some point. Not today or this week, of course. She needed a plan. Her moral conviction was strong, but she could waive it temporarily when it might, if acted upon, interfere with her being alive. Not having a life, but being alive. As long as she was alive, at least she could hope she could rebuild a life a little more ordinary.
“Earth to Ginny! Earth to Ginny!” Annabelle snapped her fingers in front of Ginny’s face, startling her. “Live more, dream less, okay?” Returning to her favored topic of the evening, Annabelle exclaimed, “I’m in, you ladies are in . . . There we have it! Billings for winter break!” She leaned back in her chair and crossed her hands behind her head. “I’m glad that won’t interfere with my family time!” She said the last two words like she was referring to an upcoming and probably long stint in high security prison. “What’s so great about family, anyway? My brothers are jerks.”
Ginny nodded in actual agreement. She nodded a lot when she was with Annabelle, but usually it was just to facilitate smoother change of topic. Annabelle’s twin brothers were in eighth grade, and though there were only two of them, they wreaked enough havoc for twenty-eight hyperactive boys.
Summer stood up, definitively concluding their vacation discussion. She said brightly, “So, girls, who wants to paint their nails!” It wasn’t a question but a command. With cleanup out of the way, it was now girl time. Ginny was a great fan of girl time. No night-stalking father could take the teenage girl out of her.
Worries temporarily abandoned, Ginny happily trooped up to Summer’s bedroom. She was excited by a chance to do what she did best. Her steady hand never failed in the application of nail polish, a skill which had earned her the designation of “Manicure Queen.”
If manicure queens got to do more exciting things than paint nails, that might have been a potential career choice for Ginny. But she didn’t want to be a manicure queen and dwindle her life away in a tiny shop of the same name. She didn’t want to eventually forget what it was like to dream about a life beyond Munsen. Nosirree. There were big things in store for Ginny’s future. She wasn’t sure what those things were, but she would make them happen. Eventually.
“So then I was totally like, stop it! I wasn’t looking at him! But Jeff is so po-ssess-ive!” Summer admired the paint job on her left hand as Ginny worked on her right. “Jeff is the hottest guy in school anyway. Why would I want to look at anyone else?”
Annabelle stopped skimming through the magazines strewn across Summer’s floor, pausing to once again disapprove of Jeff. “I dunno, maybe he’s worried you’ll eventually want a boyfriend with a brain.”
“Anna-belle!” Summer cried. “A-gain? Really?”
Ginny thought Jeff would probably always be a point of contention between the girls. In fact, she didn’t know why Summer and Annabelle were friends at all, there were so many points of contention between them. Sometimes when Annabelle got to talking, Ginny didn’t even know why she and Annabelle were friends.
“What? I only speak the truth.” Annabelle’s face reflected both her disdain and the certainty of her rectitude.
“Yeah, well, if you speak the truth one more time, I’m gonna have to break my foot off in yo’ ass.” Summer had heard this on a comedy show once and instantly, permanently borrowed it. Summer seldom expressed frustration directly. Ginny figured avoidance of direct confrontation was part of Summer’s cheerleader training.
“Ooh, scary!” Ginny giggled.
“Hey, why don’t you back me up on this, Ginny?” Summer whined.
“Back you up on what?” Ginny was confused. “Jeff isn’t dumb, or Belle should stop bringing it up? Or something else?”
“Duh!” Summer cried in frustration, oblivious to how little she had just illuminated for her friends.
“Well, good that’s resolved,” Annabelle said as she rose to examine her reflection in Summer’s desktop mirror. Ginny finished up Summer’s right hand. Summer blew on the polish to speed its drying.
The doorbell downstairs disrupted the flow of their conversation, causing the girls to pause briefly. After a few seconds, Mrs. Granger yelled from down the hall.
In her best put-upon voice, she called, “Fine! Fine! I’m getting that.” Her footsteps were light but echoed down the hallway off the wooden stairwell.
The girls remained still. No one just dropped by without calling anymore. That was something people did in, like, the fifties.
“Hello,” Mrs. Granger greeted the unidentified person standing on her doorstep. “Please come in! Can I get you a drink?” Her voice suddenly oozed over-the-top sweetness.
“No, no, I’m fine. Thank you, Alexis.” A masculine voice resounded up the stairwell. “I’m looking for my daughter.”
Ginny suddenly wanted curl up in a protective ball, minimizing the amount of body surface exposed and vulnerable to the outside world. Since when had her dad started making house calls? The eggplant parmesan that had so pleasantly filled her stomach moments before suddenly felt like an entire planet. She feared she might be ill on the manicure she had just completed.
She rose to her feet. She was a little light-headed after sitting so long. Trying to hide her nervousness, she said, “Uh, well, I guess I’d better go!”
Summer whispered excitedly, “Ooh, I wonder what’s up?!”
Annabelle practically flew through the doorway to get a glimpse of Ginny’s dad. She’d had a crush on him forever.
“Now there’s a man! So regal,” she said approvingly, looking over the banister and giving a little wave to the real man on the first floor. “Hi, Mr. Connors!” For all her pretense, Annabelle was at that moment every bit an eighteen-year-old high school senior. Ginny wondered if Annabelle realized no one cared if she was sophisticated. No one else in Munsen was.
Well, almost no one. Ginny looked down at her dad. He was looking up with the traces of a smile. He may have been a successful attorney in his past life, a turn of phrase Ginny had probably never used quite so aptly, but he had never been cold, or smooth. Only in TV shows and lawyer jokes were attorneys always the bad guy. Her dad wasn’t even a bad guy till after he was done being a lawyer.
Now, no kindness was reflected in his demeanor. He spoke again. “It’s time to come home, Genevieve.” He turned to Mrs. Granger with his approximation of a warm-hearted, sympathetic smile. “Children. What can you do?”
Her father’s presence was always like a drug to women. Mrs. Granger might as well have been eighteen herself. Ginny hated to see the normally steadfast woman so transformed. Couldn’t the world just stick to understandable rules for one day?
Mrs. Granger laughed a little nervously, then nodded in agreement. Kids, her nod echoed.
Ginny gathered her things and passed by her friends on her way down the steps. “Bye,” she said gloomily over her shoulder.
Oblivious to her agony, the girls cheerfully waved at her retreating back and chimed in chorus, “Bye!”
“See you at school tomorrow!” Annabelle said more enthusiastically than Ginny had ever heard her.
Enthusiasm and sophistication are enemies, she wanted to remind Annabelle. Ginny heard it often from Annabelle.
“Yeah . . . yeah, I guess so. G’night,” she said and gave Mrs. Granger a hug for old times’ sake. Mrs. Granger—Alexis—had always given the best hugs when Ginny was a little girl, and she took comfort from that still-strong embrace.
“Good night, Ginny. See you soon.” Alexis closed the door behind father and daughter as they stepped, nominally together, into the cold.
“Things are going to have to change, Genevieve.”
Her heart sank lower and lower as she and her father wound their way back home in silence so total she may as well have been by herself.
She certainly would have preferred to be.