I spat into the cocktail shaker, poured in exactly four
ounces of ice-cold vodka, and measured out a quarter ounce of dry vermouth.
The scent of the bitter, herby alcohol caused my nose to scrunch up. The
stench reminded me of the compost heap in the backyard. Using tongs, I
tossed in six ice cubes, capped the shaker, and shook it three times from
top to bottom. Heaven forbid my skin touch the ice. Dad may not recognize
the taste of my spit, but he sure as heck could taste lotion or soap residue
from my fingers in his drink. Lesson learned the one time I’d used my
fingers. The red imprint of his hand had lingered on my face for hours. I’d
remember that nosebleed forever. That day marked the second coming of Ivy
Lynwood, child of steel.
“Hurry up, Ivy.” Mom breezed past the fully stocked bar
in the family room, arms flailing wildly in my direction. “He’s having a
freakout because the printer’s on the fritz,” she whispered, a shaky edge of
fear in her voice.
And it’s my butt he’ll boot if I don’t appease the
Master of Worldwide Jerks. I gave the martini another spritz of spit. My
throat tickled. Maybe I had a cold brewing, or the plague. One
could only wish.
I strained the drink into a frosted martini glass,
dropped in the two-olive toothpick, and finagled a twist of lemon peel onto
the rim, dipping it an inch into the liquid. Four inches of peel, no more
and no less. The perfect martini coming up. I’d named it the Ivy Spitini.
Mom handed me the special serving tray. An indentation
on the bottom held the glass base steady. After the second time I’d knocked
a glass onto the hallway floor two years ago and suffered my father’s
drunken wrath, she’d bought the tray to spare me. Not only had he made me
fork over my allowance for the alcohol and glass I’d wasted, he’d forced me
to adopt a Cinderella complex and clean the entire downstairs floor on hands
and knees with a handful of microfiber cloths. The Ivy Spitini had been born
the next day.
I expertly balanced the drink as I glided through the
house to Dad’s office overlooking the Almaden Hills above San Jose. I’d done
the job a million times since I’d learned to make his favorite drink at
twelve years old. My flip-flops slapped the spotless travertine stone floor,
announcing my arrival in his palatial office.
Dad slammed the lid on the printer, the clatter echoing
up to the twelve-foot ceiling. “Fix this piece of garbage before I throw it
through the window.” He pinned a glare on me, steam practically billowing
out his ears, then he pinned the martini with a look of lust, his forked
tongue slithering over his bottom lip. He held more love for the Spitini
than anything in the world.
“Sure, Dad. Will this be a two-martini night?” I braved
the words, white-knuckling the tray.
He snorted, his bright blue eyes darkening and
narrowing. “I’m so glad you inherited my smarts over your mother’s dumb
I’m so glad I inherited Mom’s fine blonde hair over
your ugly salt-and-pepper straw head. I bit my tongue, held the tray
out. Dad lifted the drink and I held my breath. As always, he slurped a
small sip, tasting and weighing the liquid on his tongue, verifying the
perfectly measured recipe. Would my second glob of spit heave it over the
edge? Something sharp twisted in my stomach.
Dad pulled his lucky corporate-deal tie loose. I
pictured the silk worms weaving and spitting to create the flawless tie.
“Perfect. Now fix the printer.”
“Then may I do my homework?”
“As long as you fix me another double in exactly twenty
I swished my tongue inside my mouth, prepping for
another dose of Ivy’s Special Ingredient.
So began our typical evening at the Lynwood funny farm
when Dad graced us with the presence of his magnificent assholeness. After
the second Spitini, Mom would be on the receiving end of his attentions in
one way or another instead of me. Help was beyond her at that point. She’d
made her bed and had wasted plenty of opportunities to set fire to it and
vanish into the night. Something—Dad’s money, our big houses, the latest
luxury cars, I had no clue what—kept my mother on his right arm like a
trophy wife. She was and always would be a doormat to him. I hated him for
whatever bound her to him, for whatever kept us living our dysfunctional
life. Maybe someday I’d understand. Until then, I counted the days to
graduation next year when I could follow my twenty-year-old sister’s
footsteps to college. Kristen had split for UCLA and thrown away the map and
key to the Lynwood house.
Bending over the printer, I mentally counted the days
to my own escape. I didn’t plan on playing bartender or being my dad’s
personal slave for the rest of my life. Nor a doormat. I punched buttons on
the printer to verify the malfunction, probably caused by his screw-up. How
lame was it that MBA Dad hadn’t learned the skills to pull out the empty
blue toner cartridge and stick in a new one? Easy enough a dumb blonde…
cat could do it.
The leafy branches in the hydrangea garden fluttered
outside the floor-to-ceiling window. I spied the long tail of our neighbor’s
tabby peeking above the poufy blue blooms.
“Oh, crap city,” I muttered. Rex, my bud when my father
wasn’t home, was poised to jump onto the birdbath and to uncertain death if
Dad spied him and the empty birdbath I’d forgotten to fill. Rex left turds
in the planters and it pissed my father off. I waved at the cat, trying to
shoo him away as if he understood human gestures. Go, go, I mentally
shouted to the cat heading for the guitar string factory. I tossed the small
empty printer cartridge at the window. It clinked against the glass, scaring
Rex away in a mad dart toward his own yard to the left of our driveway.
“Damn it, dial it down, Ivy.”
“Sorry.” I retrieved the ink cartridge. “It slipped.”
“Hurry up and fix my other drink. Tell your mother I’m
not hungry. I have too much work.”
Indignation for Mom jerked my movements. She’d spent
two hours creating a gourmet meal. Two tasks she did well: cooking and
decorating. No doubt, an antianxiety pill was the dessert du jour
later. Just the way he preferred her best: pliable, quiet, and flat on her
back, a pretty, ill-used and abused rug.
“Anything else you need me to do?” I hung in the double
doorway. Ya know, like spoon-feed you, kiss your feet, spit shine your
car? I clutched my pendants, clinking the dragon against the silver disc
hanging on the chain. I never took my token dragon necklace off. Dragons
were protectors and purveyors of good luck. Yeah, I know, I wasn’t super
lucky or well-protected. Yet I kept wishing, kept holding onto my dream.
Every day I woke up alive, it had served me well.
Without lifting his head, his nose practically attached
to his laptop screen, he said, “Finish your homework, then I need you to
print, collate, and bind fifty copies of my morning’s presentation. I’ll
leave it in your folder on the network marked with today’s date. Melody
packed the supplies in the car. Don’t leave fingerprints on the trunk lid
Anger painfully tightened my fingers on the door
molding. Don’t they pay your admin enough money? Because you certainly
don’t pay me enough to do her job and mine. And isn’t your badass tech
company supposed to go green? Shoot, I won’t be able to finish the last book
in my favorite fantasy series, I internally wailed. What would
The Hollows witch Rachel Morgan do? Load a sleepy-time charm in her splat
gun and bang one down on Dad? Or concoct a charm to turn him into a toad for
Rex to bat around?
“When you wash my car Saturday, use the new microfiber
towels and that spray polish. This time use the new tire black too. You
didn’t use it last week.”
“I did use the new stuff.” I risked his outrage to
quell my own, locking my knees in place. “Do you want me to try a different
brand?” I offered, trying to simmer him down.
“Use your head, Ivy. Now get out.”
Another night of cordial bliss serving the needs of the
CEO of Worldwide Jerks ’R’ Us.