“So . . .” Meliah groped for words. Usually she wasn’t unnerved by silence, but this was a tense silence, the kind you wanted to break, the kind that got heavier and heavier the longer it stretched on. They were both, she realized, extremely nervous. Which made her want to laugh. What the hell was he nervous about?
Possibly that she was going to press charges.
“Your father has a bad temper, then?”
Hest very nearly laughed beer out his nose. He turned a few shade of red, managed to swallow without choking, and set his empty bottle down. “He’s not my father,” he said, “but, yeah. He’s sort of legendary for it. It’s unfair — he’s not unreasonable in his anger. He doesn’t just pop off randomly. Unless his kids are involved.”
“So, they’re all your half siblings?”
Meliah nodded. Fiddled with the label on her bottle. “Did—” She stopped. Inhaled. Tried again. “He threw that man out the window. Eight stories. And he got up like he’d tripped.”
Hest lifted his bottle to drink, found it empty, and frowned at it. “Yup.”
“That’s not possible. The windows. My apartment.” Meliah heard her voice going shrill, and stopped again. “Is it going to be safe for me to stay here? Or is he going to come back.”
“Oh, he won’t be back any time soon, love.”
Meliah had the satisfaction of seeing Hest flinch, so she didn’t feel so bad that the woman’s voice startled her half out of her skin.
She stood in the open doorway dressed in a neat, tidy pantsuit. Dark auburn hair brushed her shoulders in a riot of waves, suggesting that it’d been tied up wet and was newly released. She offered Meliah a slight smile before her eyes fell on Hest. The wattage of her smile hiked up to brilliant, lighting up her whole face. She lifted her hands and crossed into the apartment without an invitation. “Ach, my boy.”
Hest folded Meliah’s neighbor into his arms, squeezing tight, and dropped his head to her shoulder. Meliah hadn’t noticed him looking particularly tense — then again, she was rather focused on her own stress — but she could see the tension draining out of him. “It’s so good to see you, Ma.” His voice was muffled.
Meliah stood, feeling awkward and intrusive in her own kitchen.
After another long minute or two, Hest stepped back. He held his mother at arm’s length. “Are you all right?”
His mother shrugged a shoulder. “Oh, him? Please. It’s a familiar song and dance, nothing more. Some of us simply like our routines. Others of us like to seek out something new, now and again.” She shifted so that she could look at Meliah and Hast at the same time. “I’m sorry to have met you under these circumstances,” she said, holding out a hand. Her grin was almost all teeth this time. “I’m Loki.”
*I suck at titles. This is a working title only.