Queen of Swords: a novel

Chapter IV- The Tower

I know what Henry Kissinger said about power being an aphrodisiac, but I was caught off guard when Charmian’s and my father’s relationship turned romantic. Surely my elderly parent, who couldn’t button his own shirt, was finished with sex. Who could be attracted to a geezer male with uncertain or explosive plumbing? I guess it’s money, that makes the juices really flow. Lie back and think of Vail, or Cabo.

For a while I had the weird thought that she might be a lesbian. Of all the people in my life she was the most interested in my body. She was always giving me diet advice and begging me to try on clothes. I found her the whole situation distinctly unwholesome. What would she have done if I suddenly lunged at her, grabbing and kissing? We’ll never know. I turned down all gifts, visible and in.

My father and I had always enjoyed eating together. We relished prime rib, mashed potatoes, lasagna, sauerbraten. The one dish I learned to cook was sweet and sour pork. We loved trying new restaurants; it was our “thing”. But Charmian says the way to a man’s heart is not through his stomach, but his eyes.

I recall one diet tip in particular: drink a glass of hot lemon juice and eat an apple before every meal. Guess what? It absolutely works. Totally ruins the meal. Kills your appetite dead. You get to sit there and watch other people eat. But the question she never answered was, why should I want my appetite killed? My father always said the purpose of education is the cultivation of the appetites. If you wear blinders you won’t be distracted. But you also won’t see anything. Like a cart horse. What’s the good of that?

My father used to praise the fact that I was “substantial”, unlike those “modern girls competing to disappear”. Until she got hold of him, convincing him that our diet gave him a stroke and made me “unpopular”.

Everyone was on her side. I was thirteen years old for Chrissake. Plenty of time to be disappointed by men. I’m not convinced becoming a Cultural Icon has all these advantages, anyway. Don’ supermodels end up selling their eggs over the Internet? The prettiest girls in our high school class seem the saddest now, like somehow they got cheated. To me they seem to have less personal freedom, not more. Take my sisters for example, always acknowledged to be pretty, pretty girls. They’re perfectly willing to let Charmian rip them off. They say it was “his” money and there’s nothing we can do. Hells, no. Our mother is spinning in her grave.

Dad made lots of bad decisions, especially when his mind started to go. He expected me to stand up to him. To challenge him. Darby said I was the son he never had. He used to stand at the top of the old Colorado Springs house – it had a turret and he knew I loved that – and say, “Someday all this will be yours.” I know he said it metaphorically. I know he said it humorously. But you simply don’t leave the kingdom to the wicked stepmother. Gag me with a spoon.

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