“Now, get out!” he snarls. His hand has clenched into a fist. His knuckles are white.
I know I should go. Quickly. But I can’t move. I can’t speak. I can’t even look away.
A great disappointment. A great disappointment. The words ring in my ears.
The least member of this family.
Is that really what he thinks of me?
My eyes start to sting.
I struggle to stand. My legs don’t feel right, but they hold. I hear my breathing: it seems much louder than usual. Ragged, too.
The sunlight scatters through the beveled glass of the window, its light sharp and bright. And again, for just an instant, it isn’t Faolan behind the desk, it’s Father.
And I’m the least member of his family.
I turn and run to the door.
“Keaira doesn’t know anything, does she?” I hear Faolan ask as I pull it open.
Always one to twist the knife.
“No,” I mutter. But my anger swirls back to life.
I don’t want to get into it, but I need to defend myself. I turn to face him again.
“She thinks it was her idea. That’s why it took a month.”
I pretend to stare him down, but with him in sitting in a shaft of sunlight, I can’t actually see his face.
It gives me the courage I need.
“You’re wrong about me, Faolan. You’ve always been wrong about me.
“How did you think it was going to work? We’re together for a year an a half and one day, out of the blue, I tell her I’m done with her? And the next day you show up asking her parents for their daughter and an alliance? Is that what you thought?
“She loves me, Faolan!”
The lie stabs me like a knife.
“Or . . . she did.”
My eyes start to sting again. And I decide.
“Do you have any idea what I’ve done for you? How much it hurt to lie to her, day after day? Faolan, I made her believe I didn’t care any more!
“I hate myself for what I’ve done to her, but I did it. Because you told me I had to, for the sake of this family. Had you asked this of anyone else—especially Cormac—you’d have been in for a fight, and you know it.
“I have been nothing but loyal to you.
“And you’re right: I don’t have any respect for Cormac. He’s little better than a rabid dog. He alienates our allies and makes enemies of our neighbours.
“He hunts humans for sport, Faolan! For how long do you think that can go on?
“And I’m the great disappointment to you . . . .”
I reach back and grab the door handle, then step over the threshold.
It terrifies me as the words travel to my mouth, but I let them out, loud and clear: “Well fuck you, too.”
I slam the door behind me.
Cormac is at the end of the hall, grinning like a maniac. I turn and run. Thank all that is holy, he just laughs at me, and doesn’t follow.