“Please have dinner with us.”
I look down at Yeesha and can’t help but smile. She seems to have taken a liking to me, much like her parents have, and not for the first time this month has the offer been extended to me by one member of the family or another.
I want to say no, avoid the pain of watching this happy family together when I know I’ll never have that, but the youngest member of the household is still looking at me with pleading eyes and it seems I have a hard time refusing Atrus’ family. They really are a charming bunch, aside from Sirrus and Achenar. And Gehn. Three out of six isn’t bad.
When Yeesha leads me into the dining room Catherine is there and seems excited in that quiet way of hers to see that I’ll be joining them. I smile and make light conversation. Speaking with Catherine is always engaging; she is very clever and full of vigor and compassion, not unlike her husband and daughter, and it is clear to see why Atrus fell for her.
After a few minutes of conversation during which I helped set the table the bespectacled man himself came in looking his usual self in well pressed clothes, grease and ink stains on his sleeves, and I could feel my chest tighten. Habitually I wait for his familiar greeting, followed by the all too common request for help that makes up most of our interactions. I dread these moments because I know that I will not say no and the expense I pay is always too great.
He places his hand gently on my back as he says “Glad you could join us old friend,” and I resist the urge to shrink away from him, or reach out for him: the feelings are hard to discern from one another when he’s standing so close.
I hate myself. I hate how I smile and nod when everything in my body tells me to protest. Hate how I love this family that asks too much of me and expects me to do the impossible. Hate how Atrus could ask me to retrieve the fires of Hell for him with my bare hands and I would try my damndest to do it. For him.
I feel used, manipulated and it seems like they all know. They’re in on it; co-conspirators that know just how much power they have over me. But I’m overthinking things, right?
Briefly, though not for the first time, I think that it was a mistake picking the green book. Guilt quickly settles within me; Atrus is a good person, and the alternatives were his sons or wandering Myst Island with no answers or way out. I did not get either of those things by picking Atrus but I do not regret my decision.
Atrus smiles at me expectantly, waiting for me to take a seat. I sit down. I smile at everyone, because I love being here. I love being with them in their cozy home, eating meals and talking, laughing about silly little things. And if I feel tears start to form at the corners of my eyes, threatening to spill over, I don’t let them fall. This family is the only thing I have left and I will do anything to be a part of it. They know that.