Poison Fruit


Page 30


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I stroked the silk, feeling the barely perceptible slub of the natural fibers under my fingertips. "You're sure?"
"Positive."
For the next several hours, Lurine and Mom and I delved into the treasure trove of fabrics that Lurine had purchased, fanning out glossy copies of foreign and domestic editions of Elle and Vogue and Marie Claire, sipping champagne and nibbling on canapés.
And okay, yes, I probably should have gotten straight to business, but there was a part of me that needed this. Daniel Dufreyne's revelation had shaken me, maybe more than I'd admitted to myself.
It made me look at my mother with renewed tenderness. I might have been conceived by accident, a horrible accident, but no matter what, I had never, ever doubted that she loved me. Not once.
I didn't think Daniel Dufreyne's mother had loved him. And yet she'd borne him on purpose.
Complicit, he had said. Complicit in his conception, complicit in his birth. And then she'd done . . . what? Raised him to claim his birthright? Handed him off to whatever creepy cabal had hired her to serve as a surrogate mother to a hell-spawn? Were there others? Was there a freakin' breeding program? Ick! The whole thing made my skin crawl, and there was no better antidote than an afternoon of old-fashioned girl time with my mom and Lurine.
But alas, all good things must come to an end. Before I knew it, it was almost four o'clock in the afternoon, and outside the windows of Mom's double-wide the world was beginning to look gray and murky. The sun wouldn't set for another hour and a half or so, but it was getting late.
I fished out my sketch of the symbol on Dufreyne's palm and showed it to Lurine. "Does this mean anything to you?"
She shook her head. "No. Why?"
I explained, although I left out the part about Dufreyne's birth. I didn't think Mom needed to hear that; not now, anyway. If we had that discussion, it should be just the two of us. "Casimir's book said it was an astrological symbol representing a hypothetical planet called Hades," I finished. "Which probably doesn't exist. So I was wondering if it might refer to the actual deity."
"It's possible." Lurine frowned in thought. "As far as I know, astrological symbolism is a bit of a mishmash developed over the ages. Back in my day, there weren't any graphic symbols that represented Hades, or any of the Olympians, for that matter. At least none that I was aware of."
"So Hades might have appropriated it?" I suggested.
"Maybe." Taking my left hand, Lurine turned it over and traced Hel's mark on my palm. "After all, this is just an ordinary rune, right?"
"Basically," I agreed . "I mean, it marks me as Hel's liaison, but it's part of the common runic alphabet."
Lurine shrugged. "So maybe Hades did the same thing. Your guess is as good as mine, cupcake."
"I was hoping you might have some extra insight," I said. "You, um, did mention something about keeping the old traditions alive the other day."
Her gaze turned flinty. "I wasn't talking about the Olympians, Daisy."
Oops. I had the feeling I'd unwittingly crossed a line. "I'm sorry. Did I miss something?"
For a few beats, the unexpected tension between us persisted, and then Lurine sighed. "No, I'm sorry. You touched on a sensitive subject." She paused. "What, exactly, do you think you know about me?"
I exchanged a panicked glance with Mom, who murmured, "Lurine . . . don't put her on the spot."
"It's all right, Marja," Lurine said to her. "I'm just curious."
Of course I'd looked into Lurine's origin myth. Who wouldn't? The thing is, there were several conflicting versions, the most common being that Lamia was a beautiful Libyan queen and a mistress of Zeus, caught out by a jealous Hera, who killed her children and transformed her into a grief-crazed monster that hunted and devoured the children of others . . . okay, I guess I was a little dense on that antipathy toward the Olympians. And then there was a whole other tradition regarding lamiae in the plural, casting them as seductive, bloodsucking succubi. Nothing I'd read seemed to depict an accurate portrait of the next-door neighbor and ex-babysitter I'd grown up with, so I'd quit wondering about it years ago.
"I don't know," I said honestly. "I mean, I know what the books say, but Mom and I always figured if you wanted us to know the truth, you'd tell us."
"Touché," Lurine said in a wry tone. "Let's just say history is written by the victors, and when the Olympians overthrew the Titans, a lot of their children got screwed in the bargain."
"So you were never a Libyan queen?" I said.
"Oh, I didn't say that," Lurine said. "But never a mortal one. And I certainly never devoured any children," she added.
"I never thought you did," my mom offered.
Lurine gave her an affectionate glance. "And I didn't think you would have trusted me with Daisy if you had."
"Okay, so about Hades," I said. "I take it you're not a fan?"
She shrugged. "As a matter of general principle, no, but I don't bear him a particular grudge, either."
"Can you think of any reason Hades would have his minions nosing around Pemkowet?" I asked.

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