Most parents thought their child was special. Brighter than the average, or sweeter, or stronger. James used to say Seb didn’t have any chance of being normal because neither of his parents had ever managed normal.
Thea held no illusions. Losing his father at five hadn’t made Seb less weird. Case in point, you didn’t hear a lot of ‘Seb’ in the United States. James’ parents still called him Sebastian, or sometimes Bas. With everyone but his grandparents he insisted. It was Seb. Never Sebastian.
She’d been telling people not to call her Dottie since she started walking, so she didn’t have a lot of call to say anything to him about it. Well, she’d been telling most people that. There were always exceptions. Or there always had been before.
“Mom,” Seb called, poking at the vat of who-knew-what he’d made in the kitchen. “Did Auntie Kay say she was coming this summer?”
“She said she was going to try.” She put the laundry down next to the stairs. “Are you making plans already? Also, please put whatever that is in something so it doesn’t wind up all over the kitchen.”
“It’s just non-Newtonian fluid.”
She walked over and looked over his shoulder. “You made Gak.”
“That’s what we used to call it in the ninties.” She ruffled his hair. “Still put it in something.”
There was a buzz from the pie chest in the corner. Thea ignored it and headed back the for the laundry. She’d check the messages after Seb went to bed, and--
“Don’t you need to check that?” Seb asked.
“Check what?” She stopped, her heart stopping in her chest. If he’d reached an age to notice the strange phone that hid in the false back of the pie chest what was she going to tell him?
“The bat phone.”
Thea turned slowly. “The bat phone?”
He shrugged, not looking at her. “I know you don’t have a normal job.”
I have a normal job. The lie was on her tongue, and she had to nearly bite it to stop the words. She’d promised. When he was old enough to push at her half answers she’d stop giving them.
She didn’t know what to give him instead, but he deserved better than the same lies everyone else got.
“Auntie Kay said you’d tell me when I was old enough.” Seb glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. “And I’m old enough for pg-13 movies, and I’m old enough to stay up until ten on the weekends. I’m old enough to be left alone for like hours.” He tilted his chin up and stared her down, that bullish, intent expression his father had always pointed at her when he was done. “I’m old enough to know what you do.”
She steered him to the table and sat down with him. He wasn’t a baby any more, that phase was over, and she was going to have to catch up with this one. “I don’t tell you more about Cornucopia because…because it’s better for you not to know.” She swallowed. “You understand that?”
Seb nodded. “Because it’s supposed to stay secret.”
She smiled, and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “I don’t have a normal job, but it’s not as exciting as you probably think it is. When people have…problems, I show up and fix them. Sometimes that means I show up with the company check-book. Sometimes it’s more than that.”
Seb swallowed, and because he was just as much her child as he’d been James’ he was going to put the pieces together. “And you don’t have to check that?”
“I don’t. And now that you’re an old man who’s going to pay attention to things like that, you don’t check it either.” She sighed. “You’re going to be a teenager soon on me.”
He huffed. “Not for like three more years.”
“The horror.” She stood up and found her feet on their new normal. Endings were always beginnings. Life had very definitely taught them both that. “Put your stuff away and take your shower before bed, please.”
“Fine.” He sighed. “When Auntie Kay comes this summer can we go to the beach somewhere?”
She snorted. “I was going to say Auntie Kay doesn’t like the beach, but she always does whatever you want. So sure, we'll go to a beach.”
And maybe they'd talk to Auntie Kay about what they were supposed to tell him when he started asking more questions.