Today's excerpt is from Ghosts of Lost Summers by T.E. Hodden, part of the One Sultry Day anthology.
We hope you enjoy today's tease!
In the evening I stopped by to pick up Alice. Unfortunately, that meant picking up Dalia too. Dalia emerged first, and walked over, as Alice hung back to take a call. The sneer cemented upon her face by nips, tucks, and botox, was as haughty as ever. She greeted me with a look of disdain as she marvelled at my modest car.
“Did you ever notice how many sports cars, or SUVs there were in the studio lot?” Dalia asked, with the same ersatz kindness she might use when addressing a child who was having trouble keeping a finger out of his nose.
“I don't like sports cars, or SUVs,” I complained.
“Yes.” She looked me up and down. “You seem the sort.”
“What sort?” I spluttered.
“Well...” Dalia waved a hand. “Here I am, doing my level best to create a mythos around my daughter, to give her the aura of all important star quality, to ensure she is seen as the star, as the rising talent, she deserves to be, and here you are-”
“Hey!” Alice sprinted from her building and jumped in the car. “Are we ready?”
“Bunny, darling, you do realise that you can't make my daughter look good by comparison? I know that common sense that standing next to you, she should look like a million dollars and change, but... you do make everything around you so shabby.”
“Mother,” Alice whispered, in a warning.
“This could undo everything the weekend achieved!” Dalia grumbled.
“Oh?” I looked at her. “Is Phil's kitchen renowned as a hotbed for journalists and photographers? Does it often feature in the gossip pages?”
“Don't get angry at me, just because I say it like I see it.” Dalia prodded me with a long fingernail. “I don't know what you have been trying to tell my daughter these last few days, but can we make it quite clear, your little trick is not going to work.”
“My little trick?” I stammered.
“Oh God.” Alice hid in her arms.
“The picking her up, and taking her for meals, and the always being there. You were doing that when Phil let her go, and now you are doing it again. You think you can worm your way into her pants.”
“He isn't.” Alice shook her head. “He really isn't.”
“Yes Dalia, you’re absolutely right. I am a pathetic little man, and whose only chance of ever impressing your daughter is through being a decent human being and treating her with a modicum of kindness.” I shook my head. “You are not an empowered woman who sees it how it is. You are an idiot with no inner monologue.”
“You are a human stain hanging from her coat tail. Not a friend.”
“On the other hand, I knew you were here, and yet I'm still offering to drive.” I folded my arms.
“A real friend would have sent a car from a good service.” Dalia muttered.
“A real friend would offer to have turned up with a pair of shovels and a roll of carpet,” I seethed.
“She doesn't need you.” Dalia snapped suddenly. “She got her foot in the door, she's an asset to the show. She doesn't need little people tethering her to the ground when she could be soaring away into the Dream.”
“Yes,” Alice said, with a forced smile. “I do.”
Dalia sat in silence, ram rod straight, staring at the back of my head the whole way to Phil's place.