Warnings: Canon incest ; child’s POV ; what is ‘insesd’? ; 7,510 words
Summary: Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for the truth. - Benjamin Disraeli
Disclaimer: I don’t own Heroes. Period.
Notes: This was beta’d by the wonderful nakeno and jen_chan13. Thanks to both of you!
Uncle Pete has a girlfriend. Her name is Claire, and she has lots of long blonde hair. Simon thinks she is beautiful.
She’s from Texas, and has an accent. Monty says she talks funny, but Daddy tells him to be quiet because it’s not polite. It’s rude, Simon adds later.
Claire attends New York University. Simon doesn’t know what she does there, but she has lots of big books and spends a lot of time reading them and writing stuff down. Mommy once asked why she chose to go to NYU, and Claire said she has family in New York. Simon thinks that’s very strange, because she spends a lot of time with Peter and only ever talks about her own daddy in Texas.
Daddy doesn’t talk to Claire much. When Simon tries to ask why, Daddy says he has other things to do, because he’s an important man now and wants to be president. Simon thinks that’s very odd, because Claire is very nice and Uncle Pete likes her, but Daddy has an important job (Mommy says so), so Simon lets him do what he wants.
Sometimes, when she’s not reading her big books and writing whatever she has to write, Claire will read to him and Monty from their own books. Simon’s too old for fairytales, but she uses different voices for the characters, so it makes them more interesting than when Daddy reads to them.
Sometimes Uncle Pete will sit with them. He’ll wrap his arm around Claire’s shoulder, and Monty will climb up on his lap and look at the pages. He says he’s reading along, but Simon knows he’s only looking at the pictures.
Claire doesn’t read to them often, though. When Daddy’s home, he comes into the living room where Claire reads to them, and tells Simon and Monty to stop bothering Claire, because she’s probably busy with her college work, even though Simon knows she’s not. But Uncle Pete will usually call Simon and Monty back, and Claire will read to them again, with Uncle Pete’s arm around her. Simon wonders why Daddy doesn’t find them again, but he doesn’t mind too much because it means he gets to listen to Claire do the funny voices.
Uncle Pete has been staying a lot with them since his accident two years ago. Although he has his own place, Uncle Pete likes to spend time at home with Mommy and Daddy and the rest of them. He usually brings Claire along, especially when they have Sunday brunch. Claire doesn’t say much during brunch; actually, Claire doesn’t say a whole lot when Mommy and Daddy are around. She usually just smiles and holds Uncle Pete’s hand under the table (Simon looked once) and looks at her plate. Monty says it’s because she’s shy. Simon thinks it’s something else.
Mommy likes to ask Claire questions- what she likes about New York, how she’s doing at college, when can she meet Claire’s parents. Claire replies quietly, usually mumbling her answers into her food. Mommy asks her to speak up, but she has a smile on her face. Simon thinks Mommy likes Claire, and he’s overheard her telling Daddy that’s it nice Uncle Pete has met someone, even if Claire is very quiet.
Daddy doesn’t talk to Claire much. Often he just watches her with the same frown he gives the TV when the news comes on and Daddy’s name is mentioned. Simon knows Daddy doesn’t like Claire, even if he can’t figure out why.
One day, he hears Daddy and Uncle Pete talking in the kitchen. Although that’s not anything out of the ordinary, Simon stops when he hears Daddy say Claire’s name. Simon realizes they’re arguing quietly. Even though he pays attention at school and gets good grades, even though teachers say he has an over-active imagination, there’s one word that Daddy keeps saying that Simon doesn’t understand. It sounds something like insesd. Backing away from the kitchen door, Simon races up to his room and scratches his head, wondering what it means.
‘I bet it means she’s an alien,’ Monty says when Simon asks him what he thinks insesd means. They’re playing with their toy trucks, and Monty sends one crashing into their playroom floor. Simon watches it bounce off and skid across the carpet.
‘Claire’s too nice to be an alien,’ Simon replies, picking up a block with his dump truck. ‘And she’s not green and doesn’t have any tentacles.’
‘Maybe she can change shape. Aliens can do that.’
‘Nah,’ Simon says, shaking his head, ‘Uncle Pete would know.’
‘Maybe Uncle Pete’s an alien, too.’
Simon frowns as Monty sends his truck into the pile of blocks that Simon has had his dump truck picking up and placing into another pile.
‘If Uncle Pete is an alien,’ Simon answers, ‘then we must be aliens, too.’
Simon hears that funny word again two weeks later. Daddy and Uncle Pete are arguing again. Mommy is out at the hairdresser’s and Monty is with her. Simon said he wanted to stay home, because Claire is coming over later that day, promising to read with him. He’s hoping she’ll help him with his book report, too, because she reads lots of big books, so she must be good.
Simon likes hearing adults argue. Well, not when Mommy and Daddy argue, but most grown up arguments. They use lots of funny words, and some bad ones too. Simon remembers that he once used one of the bad words at a restaurant, and he wasn’t allowed any dessert for a week. That wasn’t too bad, though, because his and Monty’s nanny, Maggie (who constantly reminds them, ‘I’m not a nanny, I’m an au pair’, slipped him a chocolate bar a few days later, as long as he promised never to say it again.
Uncle Pete and Daddy aren’t using any bad words, though, except for that funny insesd one. Simon stands outside Daddy’s office door, which is open just slightly, and listens in.
‘Peter, it’s not a normal relationship,’ Daddy is saying, ‘it’s insesd.’
‘It’s not like anybody knows what our relationship is,’ Uncle Pete replies.
‘Nathan, you’re making a big deal out of nothing.’
‘Peter,’ Daddy says. His voice has a similar tone to it like when Simon said that bad word, except he sounds a lot angrier. ‘This is a very big deal. If this gets out- ’
‘Oh, yeah, I can really see you letting something like this get out. Especially with Claire being your- ’
Simon wants to hear the rest of the argument, but there’s a knock on the front door. Sprinting away from Daddy’s office, Simon runs into the front hallway. As he skids on the tiles, he hears Daddy’s office door open, and soon, Uncle Pete is patting him on the shoulder and heading to the front door. When he opens it, Claire is there, smiling and carrying a bag. She gives Uncle Pete a kiss, and when she sees Simon scrunching his nose at them, she laughs and says she’ll read to him as soon as she puts her stuff in Uncle Pete’s room.
Simon means to ask her what insesd means, because Claire is smart and knows this kind of stuff, but forgets as soon as they settle on his favourite couch to read.
Uncle Pete and Claire don’t show as much affection towards one another as Mommy and Daddy do. At least not while at home with them.
One day, Uncle Pete and Claire take Simon and Monty out for ice cream. It’s unusually warm for fall, and Simon’s ice cream melts quickly. As he tries to lick up the dripping mess running down his arm, he watches as Uncle Pete leans over and kisses Claire’s temple. She blushes and grabs Uncle Pete’s ice cream and smushes it in his face. Uncle Pete cries out and stares at her before grabbing Claire’s ice cream. He brandishes it, but before he can push it into Claire’s face, Simon rolls his eyes.
‘You guys are so immature.’
‘Where did you hear that word?’ Uncle Pete asks. Simon just shrugs. Uncle Pete laughs and hands Claire’s ice cream back to her. Simon grins and is about to bite into his ice cream when Monty leans over and pushes it out of Simon’s hands.
‘If Claire can do it, I want to do it, too!’ Monty cries.
‘You said Claire was an alien!’ Simon cries back. Before they can get into an argument, though, Uncle Pete starts wiping Simon’s hands with a napkin.
‘I’ll get you both a new one.’
‘Claire, too?’ Simons asks, holding up his sticky hands.
Maggie is from France and has been Simon and Monty’s au pair for just over a year. She’s a lot more fun than their previous nanny, who was old and wouldn’t get down on the floor to play with them, like Maggie does. Maggie is really young, maybe as young as Claire. Maggie isn’t even her real name. Her real name is hard to say, and Simon once had her write it down- Margaux. Simon decided he wasn’t even going to try saying it, so he and Monty just call her Maggie now, and Maggie doesn’t seem to mind, so it’s okay.
When Maggie isn’t looking after them, she goes to college. Monty asked if she goes to college with Claire, but Maggie said no. Simon was disappointed with that, because he likes Claire and would like to know more about her, but Maggie tells him that gossip is bad, so he tries not to intrude. But the funny-sounding insesd word that Daddy and Uncle Pete use is still being said, and it’s not really gossip if he doesn’t know why it’s being used, and Maggie is super-smart because she speaks English and French, so she must know what it means.
Maggie is tucking him into bed one night when he decides to ask her.
‘Maggie,’ he says, ‘what does insesd mean?’
‘Insesd?’ she repeats. She has a frightened look on her face, and Simon wonders if it’s a bad word after all. ‘Do you mean- wait, where did you hear that word?’
‘Daddy and Uncle Pete were saying it a few days ago. Is it a naughty word?’
Maggie frowns at him and sits down on his bed. She has the same look on her face that she gave Monty once when he asked her if she was a slave, because her grandparents were born in Africa. She had said that she wasn’t, she was an au pair and slavery was bad, and just because she had African heritage it didn’t mean she was a slave.
‘It’s not a naughty word but it can mean naughty things. Why were your daddy and uncle talking about it?’
Simon squirms, deciding to lie. What if it got Claire in trouble? ‘I don’t know. Can you write it down for me?’
Maggie seems to hesitate, before she stands and crosses to Simon’s school bag. Pulling out a pencil and tearing out a sheet of paper from one of his workbooks, she writes down the word before handing the paper to Simon.
‘Don’t ever say it again and don’t show it to anyone, okay?’
Simon looks at the paper: incest.
‘Incest,’ he whispers.
Simon looks up and nods. ‘Okay, Maggie,’ he says. Maggie smiles, kisses him on top of the head and wishes him goodnight before turning off the bedroom light and shutting the door as she leaves his room.
‘Incest,’ Simon repeats as he folds up the piece of paper and sets it on his nightstand. At least he now knows how to spell it.
‘I still think it means she’s an alien,’ Monty huffs as he combs his hair the next morning. It’s almost time for their Sunday brunch, and as much as they were boring, Simon knows he has to go, or else he’ll be grounded.
‘Claire’s too nice to be an alien. And she’s too pretty. And I don’t think Uncle Pete would kiss her if she was an alien.’
‘Kissing is gross. I bet she’s using some kind of alien mind control.’
‘I think Uncle Pete is too smart to be under alien mind control.’
Monty shrugs and shoves his hands in his pockets. ‘Aliens are smart.’
Simon shrugs back and heads to the bathroom door. ‘I’m going to ask,’ he announces.
Monty rushes up to him, the comb sticking out of his pocket. ‘You’re going to get in trouble!’
‘I asked Maggie,’ Simon states as he moves to the stairs, ‘and she says it’s not a bad word, it just means bad things. Like killing someone.’
‘Is Uncle Pete killing Claire, then?’ Monty asks. Simon can see the outside table from where he stands on the staircase. Mommy and Daddy are on one side of the table, with Uncle Pete and Claire sitting together, with their heads bowed.
‘It doesn’t look like she’s dying.’
‘Maybe she’s just really good at hiding it. Or maybe they’re poisoning her slowly. They used to do that to kings a long time ago. Poison them really slowly. They didn’t even know they were dying. Maybe they’re doing that to Claire.’
Simon stares at Uncle Pete and Claire, before turning to Monty. ‘Nah, that’s stupid. Uncle Pete loves Claire.’
‘How do you know that?’
‘I heard him say it to her.’
Monty huffs and stomps down the last few stairs. ‘Love is stupid.’
Without answering, Simon follows Monty outside, to the veranda. Mommy smiles at them as they walk outside, and she opens her arms for them to hug her. It was great when her legs got better, although Simon liked being able to sit in her lap as she moved around in her wheelchair. Sometimes he wishes they could have kept it.
Giving Daddy a quick hug, too, Simon climbs onto his usual seat, his legs dangling and swinging back and forth. Monty sits beside him, taking his glass of orange juice and taking a long drink from it. Simon scrunches up his nose- orange juice is gross.
Opposite them, Uncle Pete and Claire are talking quietly. Claire is spreading some jelly over her scone while Uncle Pete is taking a large bite from a muffin. Daddy is glaring at him, and Simon wonders if it’s because he’s dropping crumbs everywhere.
Monty nudges him in the ribs, causing Simon to nearly drop the hash brown he was about to take a bite out of.
‘Hey!’ Simon cries.
‘Boys,’ Mommy warns. Simon glares at Monty and sticks his tongue out.
‘You’re not going to ask, are you?’ Monty hisses.
‘Why shouldn’t I?’ Simon replies. ‘What if they are killing Claire? She should know.’
‘Then maybe you should tell her in private.’
Turning away from Monty, Simon takes a bite from his hash brown. ‘What if it means she isn’t going to die?’
‘Who’s going to die?’ Uncle Pete asks.
Simon and Monty grow quiet as Uncle Pete raises an eyebrow at them. Claire is spreading cream over the scone now, her eyes flitting up to Simon and Monty, then over to Daddy and Mommy.
‘Simon thinks that you and Da- ’
‘What does incest mean?’ Simon asks, interrupting Monty.
Simon watches as Claire stops mid-bite in her scone as Uncle Pete drops the knife he’d been using to cut his muffin into smaller parts. It clatters loudly on the plate, the sound of Mommy coughing only marginally louder. Daddy clears his throat, and Simon wonders if Maggie was wrong, and incest really is a bad word.
Swinging his legs back and forth, he watches as Uncle Pete and Daddy share more of those weird looks they’d been giving each other for a while, and then look at Claire. Turning his head to Mommy, Simon watches as she looks over at Daddy, then to Uncle Pete and Claire, then to him and Monty.
‘Simon, where did you learn that word?’ she asks.
‘He heard Uncle Pete and Daddy using it,’ Monty says. Simon cringes in his seat, deciding that going to Claire directly was probably a better idea.
‘Nathan?’ Mommy says, eyeing Daddy. Daddy looks over at her, and Simon realizes that he looks scared.
‘Peter and I were having a private discussion.’
Turning to Claire, Simon watches as she starts to squirm, her half-eaten scone sitting on her plate, some jelly slipping down it. She looks scared too, and then Simon gapes as she starts to cry.
‘What’s wrong, Claire?’ Monty asks, a little too loudly.
Claire sniffs and she stands, wiping at her face with the back of her hand. ‘Excuse me,’ she murmurs, before dashing off into the house. Uncle Pete stands, glaring at Daddy, and points a finger at him.
‘We’ll talk about this later,’ he says, before running after Claire.
Simon stares, mouth agape, deciding that incest must be a really bad word after all.
‘I thought I told you to never say that word!’
Maggie is standing in front of Simon, her hands on her hips. Her feet are bare and Simon notices that her second toe is bigger than her first.
‘Yeah, but you didn’t make me promise.’
‘I trusted you, though.’
Simon looks up, his lips pressed tight together. ‘Am I in trouble?’
Maggie sighs and crouches down in front of him, her hand resting on his shoulder. ‘No, Simon.’
‘But I made Claire cry.’
Maggie frowns at him, and Simon wonders if she’s going to cry, too.
‘Simon,’ she says quietly, ‘can you tell me how Daddy and Uncle Pete were using the word?’
Simon squirms and wishes Monty were with him, because Monty would say how.
‘They were talking about Claire. I didn’t mean to hear, I was hungry so I went to the kitchen, but Daddy sounded angry and Uncle Pete sounded angry, so I didn’t go in. I wasn’t spying.’
‘What were they saying about Claire?’
Simon shrugs. ‘I heard them say it another time. They weren’t talking about Claire- I don’t think so, anyway. But Daddy was saying that if people found out about it, it would be a very big deal. Maggie, what does incest mean?’
Maggie just sighs and pulls Simon into a hug.
Simon stays in his room for most of the day, and Monty comes in during the afternoon with his trucks. Even though Simon doesn’t feel like playing, he pulls out his blocks and starts to create a building for Monty to knock down.
By dinnertime, Simon feels decidedly depressed (he had heard Nonna say that once to Daddy). When he and Monty get to the dinner table, though, nobody’s there.
‘Where is everyone?’ Monty asks. Simon shrugs and shuffles into the kitchen. Daddy is standing by the kitchen sink, a cigarette in one hand, and looking as though he’d been crying.
‘I didn’t know you smoked, Daddy,’ Simon says, because he can’t think of anything else to say.
‘Smoking’s bad for you,’ Monty chimes in.
Daddy looks at them, before flicking the cigarette into the sink and turning the tap on. ‘Why did you have to say that at brunch today, Simon?’
Even though Simon wants to play dumb, he knows he won’t get away with it. ‘Monty and I thought you and Uncle Pete were going to kill Claire.’
‘With poison,’ Monty adds.
Daddy gawks at them. ‘Why would you think that?’
Monty says, ‘because Maggie told Simon that incest means something very bad even though it’s not a bad word. Like “kill”.’
Daddy sighs, and he leans against the sink, looking at it in a way that made Simon wonder if he was going to try and get the cigarette out.
‘Your mother is very upset.’
‘At me?’ Simon asks. Daddy doesn’t reply. Instead, he pushes away from the sink and walks around Simon and Monty and leaves the kitchen. Looking over his shoulder, Simon watches the door swing, before turning to Monty. ‘I don’t think I should have asked.’
Monty shakes his head.
Later that night, Simon wanders into the family room. Mommy is sitting on the couch, and as Simon moves closer, he hears her crying.
Mommy looks up at him, dabs her eyes with a tissue, before looking away.
‘Mommy, what’s wrong? Is it what I said?’
Mommy sighs, her head dropping into her hands. Simon steps closer, twisting his hands together.
‘No, it’s not… It’s…’ Mommy sighs again, but she lifts her head and opens her arms. Simon runs over, climbs into her lap and hugs her tight.
‘I’m sorry, Mommy. I don’t know what the words means. No one’s telling me.’
Mommy looks at him oddly, her lips pursed tight. A tear runs down her cheek, and Simon wipes it away.
‘You have a sister,’ Mommy finally says.
‘Incest means I have a sister?’
Mommy shakes her head. Simon looks down at Mommy’s stomach. Before Monty was born, Mommy got really fat. But she wasn’t fat now.
‘Who’s my sister?’
Mommy slumps slightly and looks as though she’s going to cry again. ‘Claire.’
‘Claire’s your sister.’
Simon frowns and scratches his head. ‘But Claire’s Uncle Pete’s girlfriend.’
Still frowning, Simon shakes his head. ‘But Claire can’t be my sister. She’s Uncle Pete’s girlfriend.’
‘That’s incest, Simon.’
Staring, Simon tries to wrap his mind around it. ‘Because… Claire is my sister… and she’s Uncle Pete’s girlfriend… that’s incest?’
‘But… Claire can’t be my sister.’
‘Honey, before Daddy and I married…’ Mommy swallows hard, her lower lip trembling. ‘Daddy loved somebody else, and they had a baby. Claire. She’s your sister.’
‘But Claire didn’t grow up with Monty and me,’ Simon replies with a shake of his head. ‘She doesn’t call Daddy “Daddy” or you “Mommy”. She’s from Texas. So she can’t be my sister.’
‘I wish it was as simple as that,’ Mommy whispers.
Crawling off Mommy’s lap, Simon stands in front of her, hands on his hips. ‘It is simple. Claire isn’t my sister, because she has her own Mom and Dad and brother in Texas. And she’s Uncle Pete’s girlfriend, so if he was her uncle, too, that’d be gross.’
With a nod, he hops out of the family room to get ready for bed.
‘Mommy said so.’
‘Mommy also said Santa Claus is real, and she was wrong.’
Simon crosses his arms over his chest and sticks his tongue out. Settling back down in his chair, he digs his spoon into his cereal and takes a bite.
‘She was crying, though,’ he says around a mouthful of Corn Flakes, ‘so I think she was telling the truth.’
‘But it would be icky if Claire’s our sister. And it’s not like she grew up with us.’
‘That’s what I said, but Mommy didn’t believe me.’
Monty spins his spoon in his milk and cereal before looking up at Simon and pointing his spoon at him. Milk goes flying everywhere and Simon groans as he wipes the milk off his shirt.
‘I have school today!’
‘Maybe we should ask Claire,’ Monty says over him. ‘After you get home from school.’
Simon narrows his brow, pouting as he thinks. ‘I dunno whether she’ll be coming back, though. She seemed pretty upset when she left.’
‘Everybody seems upset.’
‘It must be the incest.’
Sliding out of his chair, Simon swings his bag over his shoulder. As he turns around, the kitchen door opens. Daddy is standing there, looking tired. The first three of his shirt buttons are undone and his tie is hanging loose around his shoulders.
‘Boys,’ he starts, ‘Peter and Claire are coming over tonight. I don’t want either of you boys discussing… Discussing what was said yesterday. Understand?’
Glancing over at Monty, Simon nods. ‘Yes.’
Nodding, Daddy runs a hand through his hair. ‘Okay. Good, good.’
‘Daddy, is Claire your daughter?’ Simon asks.
Daddy starts, mouth open slightly. ‘How…?’
‘Mommy told me. Is she?’
Hesitating, Daddy nods before motioning for Simon to leave. ‘You have to go to school, Simon. Maggie’s waiting for you.’
Uncle Pete and Claire arrive shortly after dinnertime. They aren’t holding hands like they usually do, but they walk close enough that their arms are touching. Simon wonders, as he watches them from where he sits on the stairs next to Monty, if they’ve had an argument like Mommy and Daddy. Simon didn’t like that argument- Mommy kept crying and Daddy kept saying he was sorry. Daddy never says he’s sorry.
Uncle Pete glances up at them as he passes. Simon can’t figure out if he’s angry or not. Even so, he lowers his eyes to avoid his gaze. Claire has her eyes down, too. She looks as though she’s been crying.
Daddy’s voice is short and loud. It makes Simon jump and Monty winces beside him.
Uncle Pete just sounds tired.
Simon lifts his eyes again. Mommy is standing next to Daddy, looking awkward. She keeps looking at Claire, but Claire keeps her head down. She looks like she needs a hug, and Simon has to stop himself from running over and hugging her.
Daddy clears his throat, and Simon lifts his lead to look over.
‘Boys, Maggie is going to take you to bed now.’
Simon looks over his shoulder where Maggie is standing, looking exhausted. Simon pushes himself to his feet, Monty doing the same, and, with some reluctance, they follow Maggie back to their bedrooms.
‘What’s going on?’ Monty asks as Maggie tucks him into bed. Simon sits on the foot of Monty’s bed, his feet swinging back and forth.
‘Your parents are going to have a talk with Peter and Claire.’
‘About the incest?’ Simon asks. Maggie seems to grimace at the word but she nods.
‘Maggie,’ Monty starts, ‘why is incest so bad? Uncle Pete and Claire seem happy.’
Maggie pets Monty on the head and pulls the blankets up to his chin. ‘There are a lot of reasons, Mo.’
‘Is incest bad where you come from?’ Simon asks.
Maggie turns to him, and takes hold of his hand, giving it a tight squeeze. ‘It depends.’
Maggie doesn’t answer Simon’s question. Instead, she gets up, and after kissing Monty on the head and wishing him goodnight, she takes Simon by the hand and leads him to his bedroom.
He doesn’t fall asleep after being tucked in, though. He lies awake, staring at the ceiling. If he listens carefully enough, he can hear hushed voices that come through the vent by his floor. He can’t hear full sentences, but the word incest keeps coming up. He wonders if Mommy and Claire are crying again.
Rolling onto his side, Simon stares at the vent, squinting at it through the dark. Curling his fingers into his pillow, he pushes himself up on his elbows and slips out of bed. Tip-toeing to his bedroom door, he opens it slowly and creeps out. Padding down the corridor, he starts down the stairs, but at the sound of heels at the bottom he stops.
Scurrying down the stairs, he lets Nonna scoop him up. After giving him a pat on the back, she sets him back down on the floor.
‘What are you doing here?’ Simon asks, craning his neck so he can look at her. She is wearing high-heels, that kind that scares him. Before Nonna can answer, though, the door to Daddy’s den opens.
‘Ma? What are you doing here?’
Nonna turns from Simon and takes a step to Daddy.
‘Nathan,’ she says in a clipped tone. ‘I received a call from Heidi. She sounded upset, so I came over.’
Simon turns to Daddy and takes another step back. However, he sees him.
‘Simon, what are you doing up?’
‘I couldn’t sleep.’
Daddy sighs and flicks his hand towards the stairs. ‘Just close your eyes, you’ll fall asleep eventually.’
‘Nathan?’ Mommy appears in the doorway. When she sees Simon and Nonna, she jumps, surprise crossing her face. ‘Angela, I didn’t expect you to come over.’
‘Why did you call her?’ Daddy asks, turning to her.
‘You lied to me! You have a daughter- she’s… she’s dating your brother!’
‘So you called my mother?’
Nonna clears her throat and takes a few steps towards Mommy and Daddy. ‘I have my ways of finding out about these things, Nathan. You should know that by now.’
‘Heidi- ’ Daddy turns back to Mommy and shakes his head. ‘It was eighteen years ago. I didn’t even know she was alive until- ’
‘Until two years ago!’ Mommy snaps at him. ‘Didn’t you think to tell me?’
‘I thought you’d be upset! You are upset!’
Mommy draws in a deep breath, her hands shaking. ‘I wouldn’t have been so upset if you’d told me as soon as you had found out. And… and you- ’ Mommy turns and points at Nonna. Simon ducks and rushes over to the staircase where he grabs the banister and sits down. ‘You didn’t even tell me! You knew before Nathan did.’
‘We were only trying to protect you, Heidi. Nathan was running for congress and you were still recovering from the accident.’
‘But you didn’t expect me to find out?’
‘I… wanted you to,’ Claire says. She’s standing in the doorway, her arms wrapped around her waist. Uncle Pete is standing behind her, a hand on Claire’s hip. ‘But they,’ she continues, her eyes flickering over to Nonna, ‘wouldn’t let me.’
Mommy stares at Claire, her back stiff and hands balling into fists.
‘Is that it?’ she asks, but Simon doesn’t think it’s really a question. Mommy turns to Daddy, her arms waving about. ‘That your brother is off doing God knows what with your daughter, and you have a daughter, who has been more or less living under our roof under the guise of Peter’s girlfriend? Which, may I add,’ she continues, turning to Uncle Pete and Claire and waving a finger at them, ‘is disgusting, even if you two only did meet two years ago.’
‘It’s consensual,’ Uncle Pete mutters. Simon doesn’t know what that word means, but he guesses that it means Uncle Pete thinks it’s okay because even if Claire is related to them it wasn’t like they knew it until now.
‘She’s your niece,’ Daddy growls.
‘I love her!’ Uncle Pete shouts.
‘In the wrong way,’ Daddy shouts back.
‘Does Noah know?’ Nonna suddenly asks. Claire looks up, her mouth open slightly. She’s still hugging herself, and she leans back into Uncle Pete.
‘Dad… um… no, no he doesn’t.’
‘I’m not surprised,’ Mommy says.
‘I haven’t been able to get in contact with him,’ Claire scowls. ‘He’s been busy.’
‘With what? He works in a paper factory. It can’t be that hard a job.’
Claire falters. At first, Simon thinks it’s because of what Mommy said. But when he looks over at Daddy, Daddy and Nonna are eyeing each other. Uncle Pete takes hold of Claire’s arm and tugs her away from the doorway.
‘We need to get going,’ he says, pulling Claire out of the doorway and towards the front door.
‘Wait,’ Mommy orders, holding a hand up. ‘Your father does work for a paper company, right? Or is there something I’m missing out on, because you two are acting rather odd,’ she continues, turning to Nonna and Daddy.
‘Well, he did work for a company,’ Claire murmurs. Mommy spins around to face her, narrowing her brow before turning back to Daddy.
‘What is she talking about, Nathan?’
‘You wouldn’t understand,’ Nonna answers for him.
‘What is there to understand? Peter and Claire, even though they’re uncle and niece, are fucking- ’ Simon winces at the word, ‘ –and apparently Claire’s father is unemployed.’
‘My father didn’t work for a paper factory.’
‘Claire,’ Uncle Pete says in a tone that suggests he doesn’t want her to keep talking, ‘we should go.’
‘Oh, no,’ Mommy shouts, shaking her head, ‘nobody is leaving until I know just what the hell is going on here!’
A small voice suddenly pipes up in Simon’s ear.
‘What is going on?’
Simon turns to find Monty crouched beside him. Shrugging, Simon looks back to where his family is standing. ‘I don’t know. Mommy doesn’t seem all that happy, though.’
‘Boys, you should be in bed!’
Simon and Monty turn to find Maggie beside them. She’s dressed in a bathrobe and her feet are bare.
‘The fighting woke me up,’ Monty whispers.
‘I couldn’t sleep,’ Simon whispers as well.
Maggie shakes her head and crouches down, her voice low. ‘Come on, you can sleep in my bed.’
Despite her words, Maggie doesn’t make a move to get up, and neither does Monty or Simon. Mommy is still yelling when Simon turns back to the scene in front of them.
‘Does anyone care to fill me in on what is actually going on in this family?’
‘There’s nothing you need to know,’ Nonna replies coolly.
‘Nothing I need to know? This is my family!’
‘Heidi,’ Daddy cuts in, ‘if you’re going to trust me on anything, trust me that this is something you don’t need to know.’
‘I didn’t know that you had a daughter and that’s something important.’
‘Mrs Petrelli,’ Claire says softly. Mommy turns around with a shocked look on her face. ‘It’s… it’s not… that important. What you don’t know, that is.’ Hesitating, Claire looks over to Uncle Pete for a moment, then back to Mommy. ‘At least it shouldn’t be.’
‘Oh, this is bullshit,’ Mommy huffs. Simon barely has time to react when there’s a hand around his arm and he’s being dragged to his feet.
‘That’s it, we’ve heard enough,’ Maggie hisses as she pulls Monty and Simon up the stairs.
‘But we haven’t heard the end!’ Monty whines as he stumbles up the stairs. Simon lets himself go, though he keeps his eyes on his family. Mommy is yelling at Nathan now, even though Nonna is telling her to calm down.
‘What aren’t you telling me, Nathan?’ Mommy screams.
‘Heidi, you don’t need to know.’
Simon’s almost at the top of the staircase when there’s a loud smash. Maggie stops suddenly and Simon almost bumps into her. Holding onto the banister, Simon looks down to where Claire is standing, blood dripping down her hands. By her feet are the remains of a porcelain vase, water and flowers spread along the floor.
‘Claire!’ Uncle Pete cries and grabs her arms. Without a second thought, Simon runs down the stairs, Monty on his heels. As he skids around the stairs and to where Uncle Pete is huddled over Claire, Simon suddenly watches something spectacular. Although blood drips from her hands, the cuts that run over them from where the porcelain has cut have already started to heal. Simon stops running and stares as Claire wipes her hands on her pale skirt, streaks of red left on the material as she lifts her healed hands.
‘Your hands…’ Mommy whispers in shock, although Uncle Pete, Daddy and Nonna don’t seem very surprised. Behind him, Maggie says something in French.
With a loud sigh, Nonna shakes her head. ‘You’re a silly girl, Claire.’
‘How did she do that?’ Mommy continues to whisper.
‘I told you she was an alien,’ Monty pipes up.
‘Can you do that again?’ Simon asks.
Claire stares at Mommy despite blood still dripping from her hands. ‘I can heal.’
Mommy nods. ‘Yes, you can.’
‘Claire, that’s quite enough,’ Nonna snaps. Claire looks at her briefly before turning back to Mommy.
‘I can, too,’ Uncle Pete joins in, ‘amongst… other things.’
Uncle Pete looks down at Claire, his hand slipping into her grasp. ‘Fly,’ he finally answers with a direct look at Daddy.
‘Fly?’ Mommy repeats with a choked laugh. ‘You’re joking, right?’
‘You saw my hands heal,’ Claire says with a shrug.
Mommy is quiet for a moment before she turns to Daddy. ‘Nathan, did you know about this?’
‘Heidi…’ Daddy starts but doesn’t finish. He runs a hand through his hair before sighing. ‘I can fly.’
‘Daddy can fly?’ Simon yelps.
Mommy gawks at Daddy and then starts laughing. ‘Right, sure,’ she says, ‘and I’m the Virgin Mary.’
‘It’s true,’ Uncle Pete says. Simon watches in amazement, as Uncle Pete starts to float- no, not float, hover- off the ground.
‘Oh my God,’ Mommy murmurs.
‘Wow,’ Simon gasps.
‘You’re an alien, too!’ Monty shrieks.
‘Oh my God,’ Mommy repeats.
Uncle Pete hovers a few seconds longer before landing back on the floor. Mommy continues to gape at him.
‘Can… and you say you can…’ she splutters out.
‘Yes,’ Daddy replies.
‘Oh my God.’
Mommy’s shaking and Simon wonders if she’s going to fall. Daddy wraps an arm around her shoulders, though, and she collapses into him.
‘This family is more screwed up than I ever imagined,’ Simon hears her mumble into Daddy’s sweater.
Nonna claps her hands and steps into the space between Mommy and Daddy and Uncle Pete and Claire. She faces Mommy and Daddy, her arms crossed over chest.
‘None of this can come out, do you understand, Heidi? The preparations of the presidential election are already under way and- ’
‘Your sons can fly!’
‘And it can’t be let out to the press. And neither,’ Nonna continues, looking over her shoulder at Uncle Pete and Claire, ‘can you.’
Simon looks over at Uncle Pete and Claire. Claire looks up at Uncle Pete and squeezes his hand.
‘We’re leaving,’ she says, her voice catching slightly.
‘Leaving?’ Daddy repeats.
Claire nods. ‘Mom’s sick. I have to go back to Texas. Peter’s coming with me.’
‘Why didn’t you tell us about this earlier?’
‘You seemed too preoccupied with Peter and my relationship to actually care what we were going though.’
Simon watches as Claire closes her eyes and Uncle Pete gives her arm a tug. Nothing is said as Uncle Pete walks out with Claire, their hands held tight. Simon gazes at them and wonders after the front door closes behind them with a click if he’d ever see Uncle Pete fly again.
It’s been ten and a half years, and in that time Simon has seen Peter five times and Claire twice. Although his father has told him it’s probably not a good idea and his mother just sighs and waves her hand at him, he’s found their phone number and invited Peter and Claire to his eighteenth birthday. They’re now living in Claire’s hometown in Texas. Peter had said he’d be there- he wouldn’t miss it for the world- but even so, Simon isn’t holding his breath.
Although Monty told him in the weeks leading up to his birthday that Simon should have a big night out and get drunk and score with heaps of chicks (Monty’s words), Simon instead decided to have a few friends over during the afternoon and then have dinner with his family. So what if he was boring, he was always one for family.
But now he’s sitting at the table in the backyard, watching his friends play some kind of game of football, only involving a basketball and hot dogs. Simon wants to join in; only he’s waiting for Peter and Claire. Dad had told him not to expect them to come, but Simon doesn’t care.
Simon jerks out of his thoughts and turns to find Claire sitting opposite him.
‘H-hi,’ he replies, pushing his hair from his face. Claire looks much like he remembers her- a heap of blonde hair, apple cheeks and a youthful appearance that would never match her age.
‘You look so different,’ Claire says, handing him a large, wrapped box.
‘You look the same,’ Simon can’t help replying.
Claire shrugs. ‘My boss thinks it’s just good genes. In a few years, though, I think I’m going to have to give her the number of a good plastic surgeon.’ She points to the box sitting between them. ‘Open it. Peter and I weren’t sure if you already had one, but we took a risk.’
‘Where is Peter?’ Simon asks as he starts to peel back the wrapping.
‘He’s around. We snuck through the back since we weren’t sure if your father… If Nathan would want us here.’
‘He said you weren’t going to come,’ he murmurs as he pulls back the wrapping. Before him sat a Nintendo Wii 3, the box winking in the sunlight. Ripping back the paper, he stares at it, not sure what to say until a ‘holy crap’ escapes him.
‘You don’t have one, do you?’
Simon shakes his head.
‘We were going to get a game to go with it, but with the plane tickets and the present- ’
‘No, no,’ Simon shakes his head, ‘it’s… It must have cost a lot.’
Claire smiles and shrugs a shoulder. ‘It’s okay.’ She takes a breath and leans forward, her elbows propped up on the table. ‘So, do you have a girlfriend?’
‘Claire!’ Simon yelps, turning red.
‘Or a boyfriend,’ she adds, a little too casually.
‘Did Peter tell you to ask?’
Claire shrugs and waves her hand. Simon rolls his eyes.
‘There’s a girl,’ he finally answers. ‘I’d like to ask her out. She’s like us.’
‘So why don’t you?’
‘She can turn gases into other gases. Like… oxygen to carbon dioxide. She changes the molecular construction.’
‘How do you know that?’
Simon shrugs. ‘I looked at her and I knew.’
‘So why don’t you ask her out?’
‘She can’t control it,’ Simon replies. ‘I’m afraid she’ll suddenly turn the oxygen around us into cyanide.’
Claire raises an eyebrow but doesn’t say anything. Running his hand over the box in front of him, Simon clears his throat.
‘So, you and Peter…’
‘We haven’t told my dad,’ she murmurs quietly. ‘He’s smart, though. I keep telling him that Peter and I, we’re saving money for the wedding day. He keeps offering to pay for it, but…’ She shrugs.
‘Do you know what names are on the birth certificate?’ Simon asks. Claire looks at him, surprised. ‘If Dad’s name- Nathan’s name- if it’s not on there… Not all states require a blood sample, you know.’
‘I- I thought…’
‘I see you more as an aunt than a sister, Claire. I know we’re brother and sister, but I’ve never seen you as that. Monty, sure, but he also saw you as an alien until he turned ten. I may be the black sheep of the family in this aspect, but… I don’t care.’
Claire smiles and moves off the bench. Walking around the table, she wraps her arms around his neck, pulling him into a tight hug.
‘Thank you,’ she whispers. Simon awkwardly hugs her back (he could already see his friends paying him out for getting a hug from his ‘aunt’), but when he looks over her shoulder, the air seems to shimmer. In an instant, Peter is standing there.
Claire pulls away, a sad smile on her face.
‘We’re going to be in New York for a few days,’ Peter says, his hand slipping around Claire’s.
‘The hotel address is in the card,’ Claire adds, pointing to the present. ‘It’s taped under the box.’
‘Okay,’ Simon replies, nodding, before quickly adding, ‘you don’t have to go. You can stay… I’m sure Dad would love to see you. If not together, then… individually.’
Peter gives Claire a sideways glance then looks back up at Simon. ‘We’re hoping to see your father during our stay. But not today.’
‘If there’s going to be any issues raised, Simon, it’d be better if it wasn’t on your birthday. And I doubt Nathan would want anyone outside the family knowing about his… deviant brother and daughter.’
Simon isn’t sure whether it’s a joke or not, but Claire laughs so he cracks a smile. Peter steps forward and claps him on the back.
‘We’ll be back, don’t worry.’
‘You can come visit us sometime,’ Claire offers. Simon nods. ‘Thanks,’ she says again, but before Simon can reply, they’re gone. A second later there’s a tremendous crack and when Simon lifts his head there’s a perfectly circular cloud in the sky.
‘It’s called the Prandtl-Glauert singularity.’
Looking over to his left, Simon finds his father standing beside him. His head is craned to the sky and his hands are in his pockets.
‘I don’t hate them, Simon.’
‘So why don’t they come visit more often?’
Dad lowers his head, looking at Simon for the first time. ‘I’m going to speak to them tomorrow. I’ll try to get something sorted out, okay?’ Simon nods. Dad smiles and squeezes his shoulder. Dad takes a deep breath and claps his hand. ‘You go have fun with your friends and I’ll put this somewhere safe,’ he continues, picking up the Wii gamebox.
Nodding, Simon steps away from the bench.
Dad looks over his shoulder. ‘Yes?’
Simon smiles and takes a step back. ‘Thanks.’