The Blog of Eugenia V. Watson, Ninja Warrior
Today I came home from school not in the best of moods. Had an irritating day of classes and I was still rather hacked off at my stepdad because he’s a bloody wanker. But it turned out to be a good night after all. Nothing like coming home to the smell of decomposition to set things to rights.
I’m sure that I’m the only girl in my class who can so quickly and accurately identify the smell of decomposing corpses. Honestly, though, even if you’d never smelled it before, you’d know it. There’s something about it that speaks right to the reptile brain, saying “OMG DEATH RUN BITCH RUN.” Which is why there are very strict rules in our house about the procedures to be followed when there’s been close proximity to rotting corpses. I spent quite a bit of time negotiating these rules. I figure if I’m not allowed to run chemistry experiments in the bathroom, it’s only fair that our flat be kept decomp-free.
Rules that I guess didn’t get followed today. I smelled it the second I walked in the door. “Gah,” was what I said, or something like it. I ran up the stairs trying to breathe through my mouth.
I flung open the door to our flat. “MOTHER! I smell dead people!”
I heard hurried footsteps and scuffling and then she came out of the hallway, hair wet from a shower, holding an armful of clothes. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she muttered. “I meant to have these out before you got home.”
“You promised that decomp-y clothes would get left at the lab, because eww.”
“I know, but I…”
“You just had another smelly one two days ago and you haven’t had a chance to wash the clothes you keep at work to change into, so you couldn’t change at the lab today.”
My mother arched one eyebrow at me. “If you already knew the reason, you could cut me some slack.”
“Hey, I had a reason for being half an hour late for curfew last week and I still got in trouble for it.”
She smirked. “Fair enough. I’ll just take these down to the laundry.”
“I’ll get the incense.” A little Nag Champa and a few open windows, usually that does the trick as long as the offending clothes haven’t been left to…steep.
The door to the adjoining flat next door opened and my stepfather came swanning in. I can’t really describe how he walks except to say that he always looks like there’s an invisible cloak billowing out behind him. He wrinkled his nose. “Oh dear. Is that Eau de Corpse I smell, Grace?” he called after my mother.
“Oh, stuff it, Sherlock,” she yelled up the stairs as she disappeared into the basement.
“Where’s John?” Sherlock asked me.
“I don’t know.”
He frowned. “But you always know.”
“He’s your husband.”
“I don’t have a psychic link with him.”
“Neither do I. Text him and ask him.”
“I did. He didn’t answer.”
“Did you wait longer than five seconds? Of course you didn’t.” As if on cue, Sherlock’s mobile buzzed. He frowned at it.
“Oh. He’s stopped off at Tesco.”
“Gee. There’s something we could never have worked out on our own.”
“I see you’re still angry with me.”
I know what you’re thinking. Wicked stepfather, teenage rebellion, see how she resists this new person intruding into her broken home, destroying all her hopes for her parents’ reconciliation. Bugger all that. Just about every bit of that clichéd narrative is wrong in my case. I absolutely adore Sherlock and always have, because he isn’t wicked (well, not in the traditional sense) and he isn’t new, he’s been around my whole life, and my home is not broken, it works just fine thank you very much. And my parents don’t need to reconcile, they get along great. They’re just not married to each other anymore.
It’s because I love Sherlock that I’m still hacked off at him. Yesterday I competed in the London Chess Classic. Not the juniors division, the regular tournament. I’m the youngest player in the field by three years. I may be pants at maths and I bloody hate history but when it comes to chess, I am not remotely to be fucked with. I just broke 2400 on my Elo rating. I only need to win a few more tournaments in a strong field and I’ll be an international master. The London Classic was a step towards that. I didn’t expect to actually win (and I didn’t) but I finished strong and bumped up my rating.
So yesterday was a pretty big deal. Everyone came. Mum and Dad, and Aunt Adele, and the rest of the Legion of Aunts and Uncles. Nana Hudson, Nana and Grandpa Pepperidge, and Metsy and Zack, and everybody in the world who means anything to me was there. Even two of my favorite teachers came. Everybody in my life who matters. Everybody except Sherlock, the man who first sat me across a chess board when I was four years old, who got me a coach and convinced Mum and Dad to let me play in competition. He was supposed to be there and he promised me he’d be there and guess what, he didn’t show up. His job distracted him, like it always does, and after sixteen years you’d think I’d be used to it. I am, in a way, but what I’m not used to even now is that look of heartbreak on my dad’s face because Sherlock had disappointed me again, and somehow he feels like that’s his fault. I’ll never get used to that, because of everybody in the whole wide world I love my dad the most of all.
And now here he was all, gee, you’re still mad. I just went on lighting the incense.
“If it’s any consolation, your father’s not really speaking to me right now.”
“No, that isn’t any consolation.” I turned around. “I guess we all just get a bit tired of waiting for you to remember you have a family.”
“John has a family. I’m just…here.” My mouth dropped open. I didn’t know what to say, so I just smacked him on the shoulder, hard. “Ow!” he exclaimed, like a little kid, rubbing his arm. “What was that for?”
“For being an idiot! You don’t get to opt out of being my father!”
“I’m not your father.”
“The hell you’re not! Who gave me the sex talk when Dad was too mortified to do more than stammer? Who gave me the real drugs talk after Mum gave me the sanitized version? Who taught me every back alley in London and how to tie a slipknot and make batteries out of potatoes for the science fair?” I was getting teary. I hate that. But this was important. “You played the violin for me when I couldn’t sleep from nightmares. You did all the voices when you read me books. So don’t tell me we’re not family, Sherlock. Okay?”
He looked a little shamefaced. “It wasn’t my intention to deny it, Genie.” The thing is, I knew that it wasn’t. The problem was not that Sherlock doesn’t consider us family. It was that he still, after all this time, isn’t quite used to the idea that we’d want to consider him family.
I was done being mad. I flung my arms about him and hugged him hard. Sherlock’s hugs aren’t like Dad’s. Dad’s are snuggly and fluffy and warm and cozy. Sherlock’s are more like being enveloped by some kind of many-legged creature, all bony bits. But he wrapped his arms around my shoulders and squeezed me and it still felt pretty brilliant. I felt his hand on the back of my head, which fit perfectly right under his chin. “I really did mean to be there,” he said, quietly.
“John said you did very well.”
“Third place. Got another fifteen rank points.”
“Good girl. Did you beat that idiot Reichmann?”
I smiled against his shirt. “In forty-two moves.”
“You’ve got your notes, I presume.”
“Sure. You want to see them?”
I heard something and we both looked up. My dad was standing in the doorway into 221b, watching us.
I held out my hand. “C’mon, Dad. I forgave him, now you have to.”
He walked over and stood next to us for a moment. “Did he apologize to you?” he asked me. He was ignoring Sherlock, who was watching his face with a sort of sad-puppy look on his own. The many people who accuse him of being an emotionless bastard with no heart have never seen how gone he is on my father.
“Sort of. In a way.”
Dad shook his head. “I guess that’ll have to do.” I reached out and pulled him into the hug. Sherlock started to back away but Dad didn’t let him. “Nope. Your punishment for being an arsehole is more hugging.”
Sherlock fetched a big, showy sigh. “You’re diabolical, the both of you.”
“I take after my father,” I said.
Dad kissed my forehead. “Which one?”
So things got a tad chaotic after that. Mum came upstairs and cooed over us a bit, which I suppose we were sort of asking for being all group-huggy, then Sherlock remembered why he’d been looking for Dad in the first place (which involved tobacco spit, don’t ask), then some reporter called wanting to talk to me about my chess rating. I think he’d been hoping for one of those child-prodigy stories, but sixteen is nearly grown up and I guess it isn’t as exciting if the kid isn’t playing chess while drinking out of a sippy cup. Mum and I scavenged for leftovers for dinner. I went over to 221b to see if I could get in on this tobacco spit action – had to be some mysterious clue involved there -- but instead got a big eyeful of Dad and Sherlock snogging on their couch.
Not the kind of spit I was hoping for. Ha! I kill me. Thank you, I’ll be here all week.
This blogging thing is exhausting. How does Dad do it? His entries are ten times this length and he puts in all these crazy details from their cases. All this just happened two hours ago and I’m already fuzzy on the exact words that were said. Some of the dialogue above may be paraphrased, I confess, although I definitely remember every word I yelled at Sherlock about being my father.
I think I’m all in for the night, then. Metsy’s going to call any minute and moan about her poetry class. Trust me, you don’t want me blogging about that.