Avni had brought her son here to heal. But he is not healing, is he? Avni asked herself. He’s not getting better. He’s getting worse.
A footstep caused the floorboards to creak beneath the carpeting. The jousts were rotten, in places. Avni turned. Amman stood in the doorway as if he had been summoned by her thoughts.
“Mother,” he said.
“I was just about to start dinner,” Avni said.
“Mother, I’ve seen the news.”
“Yes?” Avni nodded. She knew what was coming.
“They have captured the lion-man.”
“Yes,” Avni said. “I know.”
Amman stood still. Avni stood in the cold air, sandwiched between the refrigerator and its door. She tried to think of the right thing to say. She couldn’t risk getting Amman upset. Not after the last time. She couldn’t handle that again.
“Someone has done the hard work for us,” Amman said.
Avni nodded. “So it would seem.”
“Daisy is excited.”
Another nod. “I am glad.”
A pause. “You haven’t forgiven him, have you, Mother?”
“Forgiven?” Avni asked.
“For what he did to me.”
“Of course not,” Avni said. “How could I ever forgive that?”
“You loved him once.”
Avni nodded. “Perhaps I did, once. But you are my son.”
“You called him your son, too, didn’t you, Mother?”
“I have only one son. You, my beloved.”
“You do want me to have my revenge, don’t you, Mother?” Amman asked. He had not moved a muscle the entire time. “Isn’t that why you made Daisy for me?”
“I gave you Daisy because you wanted her,” Avni said. “I always give you what you want, do I not?”
“Yes, Mother.” A longer pause. “Mother, are you still angry with me because I fed Father to Daisy?”
Avni bit down on her lip. “No,” she said. “You are my son. Nothing you could ever do would make me stop loving you.”
“Father stopped loving me.”
“No, darling,” Avni said. “He didn’t. It only seemed that way to you.”
“He told on us. He got us all in trouble.”
“He thought he was doing the right thing.”
The house shook. Dust fell from a sagging split in the ceiling tiles. The floor creaked underneath them. Amman chuckled, a horrible sound. “I told you Daisy was excited,” he said.
It ran into one of the support posts, Avni said to herself. I should have had the entire house reinforced.
“They did us quite a favor, did they not?” Amman said. Avni could see his one eye staring out at her through the hole in his hood. “I mean, Africa is such a large place. So many places for the lion-man to hide. But now they’ve caught him, and now we know where he is, don’t we?”
“Yes, we do,” Avni said.
“It will be so much easier now to bring him to us.”
“Amman, we must not be rash. You and I are in hiding.”
“Mother,” Amman said, “you will bring him to me.”
Is that an order? Avni started to ask, but stopped herself. She wasn’t sure she wanted to hear the answer.