I did my best to stay out of her way while the photographer smiled at her like she’d already annoyed him. And to be fair, Constance irritated most normal people. It’s likely she did the same to the witches, too, but she was their leader, so if anyone was talking I didn’t hear it.
I suppose it was odd that I called my own mother by her first name in my head, even if I hadn’t had the courage to do so to her face just yet. Agnes didn’t chastise me for it, but I knew it made her uncomfortable that I felt such a distance from my mother. Not that I had anything against Constance for being a witch. Some of my best friends were witches, Vine and Piper among them.
As I watched her primp in front of the mirror, I caught myself thinking about my father and the old bitterness came back. His disappearance didn’t help. The fact I was raised by Agnes and her coven, Constance claiming her busy schedule as Island leader left her no time for a son. Nor did the way she looked at me the times she chose to take notice of me at all.
Like now. She turned from the tall mirror in the living room and stared down at me, a frown on her face, pinching the skin between her eyes together, making her lips turn at the corners and not in a good way. I know I made her just as uncomfortable as I did Agnes at times. It seemed most of the kids my age were occupied with games and sports and just having fun. While my mind filled with ideas I could barely contain and a longing for magic in my heart that held me quiet.
I’d never have any of my own. I was a boy. And yet I couldn’t help wishing things were different.
“Come, then,” Constance snapped her fingers in my face. I jerked to attention while she quickly and awkwardly smoothed my hair though I knew from looking in that same mirror only a moment ago I’d done a good job smoothing the dark red curls. “Let’s get this over with.”
I knew better than to ask her why we were bothering anyway. Like a family portrait had any meaning. But Constance was about appearances, I had known that since I was a tiny child. And now, at twelve, I was even more keenly in tune with the fact she held no affection for me.
Just a sense of disappointment in ownership of a male of the species.
I stood next to her as she settled into the wingback chair and forced a smile on her face, one that never touched the harshness of her gaze. I almost told her the hat she wore made her look ridiculous, had to hide a smirk behind one hand before facing the photographer.
“A little closer, please?” He seemed eager to get things over with. I did as instructed, silent as always and when he smiled at me again he seemed sad. For me? Well, there were times I agreed with him.
It took far longer than it should have to complete the portrait, Constance insisting on this pose and that adjustment while the afternoon waned and I stifled the occasional sigh. When the photographer finally left, I held my place as she spun on me, arms crossing over her chest.
“You could have smiled,” she said before stalking off.
I don’t think she understood. I didn’t have a smile in me. Sighing at last, I purposely messed up my hair with one hand and went to call Agnes to pick me up.