"Did I get lost along the way?
Playing nice like they wanted me to be
No, I will not smile to make your day
And I just wanna cause a little entropy"
"I can hear you, young lady!" called the voice again. I snarled out a boar-sigh accompanied by a laser-glare, wishing I could cut a hole into the ceiling just to diss my mom.
"I'll be back," I grumbled, shoving past Artemis with red vision. "in the meantime, my room's up the right side of the staircase, first room on the left. The main gain knob's on the left stereo, if I left it on."
I probably did leave it on, but I couldn't hear it from here because of the evil voices muttering in my head. So much for a nice, carefree, uninterrupted visit. Even if I managed to confront my mom without burning the house down, there's no telling how Artemis's ears would fare against my bass-boosted, 4.0 surround-sound speakers. I smiled to myself just thinking about it-which is probably why my mom was terrified when she saw me come down the stairs.
"Sweetie," she recognized with enough faux sweetener to kill a small rodent. She was wearing a flowing strapless teal dress, with white-tie style gloves and so much mascara that any rockette would be furious. Her curly blond hair was put back in a bun, save for two strands by her ears deliberately left out for style. Style was the only reason my mom would do anything, ever. Knowing her royal OCD, it was killing her to show even the slightest bit of chaos amidst her perfectness. I immediately went from smile to scowl.
"Who...is...that?" I demanded deliberately. With my mom on one arm was a tall, dark, handsome stranger, with bronze skin and a lofty feel about him. I gave him a new look I'd picked up from Artemis-the dragon glower. Narrowed eyes bubbling with malice, but no other facial expression whatsoever. I could tell by the sour twinge in his smile that I'd put him off. Mission accomplished.
"I apologize," he apologized in a vaguely recognizable accent, coming closer and trying to bolster his smile. Sorry for what? For walking in here uninvited with my mom in tow like you own the place, or for interrupting my fun with Artemis? "We haven't met. I am Prince Antonio Sanchez Guadalupe del Ramone, heir of Spain. And who might you be, senorita?"
He shook my hand, but I didn't shake it back. I kept my glare up-I've experienced enough tex-mex culture to know a fair share of Spanish, and calling me something as polite as 'miss' was like calling Artemis something as immature as 'chico.'
"That's my daughter, Diane," introduced Mom for me, her smile nearing the fakeness of a barbie doll. "She's a doll, isn't she?"
"Yeah, 'Doll,'" I agreed sarcastically, blowing a bang out of my eyes. "And while we're at it, you're a 'Dear,' and Raymondo or whats-his-face is a 'Gem.' Hilarious."
Both of them chuckled, now equal parts nervous, fake, and contemptuous. I could tell already that Ray-Ban and I wouldn't-couldn't-get along. He was off to a bad start already by identifying himself as the type of guy to date my mom. Any guy like that was barely man enough to be called such, whether or not you're some smokin' Spaniard or whatever. If you're going to be royal, you might as well have some taste. I couldn't tell if I loathed my mom or my potential step-dad more.
"Sweetheart," said Mom, barely bothering to be fake at this point. "please don't be rude. Like him or not, he is our guest. You're just going to have to learn to live with him."
"Just like I had to 'learn to live' with you?" I snarled. I took a deep breath-if this guy wanted to throw his life away on my mom and my mom wanted to try to change me, that was their problem. It didn't matter as long as I knew that she wouldn't succeed, right? Because she wouldn't. Not on your life.
"Who did you say her father was?" muttered Ray to my mom in a sidelong fashion. Their smiles were basically frowns at this point. So I smiled, too, but I was sure to make it look like the worst, ugliest, positively most repulsive scowl that could be composed by a human face.
"He's three times the man you are, that's who," I retorted. "and don't you forget it, Roy. I'm heading upstairs to the dragon's lair-if either of you so much as knock, you're roasted."
Ray/Roy gasped, and Mom fumed. I smirked, turning tail and hiking up the stairs. But I froze-something about this was very wrong.
"Do you hear that?" I mused, almost to myself. Mom scoffed, turning her head up and leaning on her new boyfriend.
"I don't know why you're asking us," she said haughtily. "It's obvious you've dismissed us from your presence."
"There's no sound," I realized. Grinning genuinely, I reverted to all fours to get up the stairs faster. Ray and Mom started talking smack about me behind my back, but she always did that and he wasn't about to have an impact on my life if I could help it. I put my ear to the door, making sure that my ears weren't being fooled somehow. I leaned into it with my shoulder as I opened it, but the next scene stopped me in place, complete with a sudden case of severe slackjaw.
Artemis lay on my bed like a dead person, the look in his eyes as blank as a cloudless sky. He looked even frailer and wimpier than he did normally, to the point where I didn't have the heart to tell him the truth. He rolled his head over, those dead eyes suddenly coming back to life with the old glare I loved so much.
"You have absolutely no taste." he stated flatly.
I laughed out loud at his audacity, taking a running leap onto my bead. He bounced with the impact, and I rolled over on my side to prop my head up with my elbow. I smiled at him dreamily, his face recalling some emotion other than contempt or boredom. He looked heavenly for a moment, so full of life, almost as if he were the old Arty again.
I hated to shatter the moment.
"You do realize the music's still on, right?"
His expression was priceless. After permanently ingraining it into my brain for all eternity, I ruffled his hair. He sneezed. I laughed. And then he laughed. For the longest moment in time, I was the happiest kid on the planet.