I sighed and tapped my pencil against my notebook. I hadn't heard a word of what Professor Williams was saying, and my notes didn't make that much sense. It was a relief when the bell went and I could make my way home.
Donny didn't bother turning up until nearly half past six. I should have expected that, really. He never made me feel that I was worth being punctual for.
"Hey sis," he said, leaning against the doorframe. "Come on. I've left the car running."
We headed downstairs in silence, and it wasn't until he started the car that either of us said anything.
"S-so, you want to get chicken, r-right?" I said. "We could go -"
"I found a place already," he said. "Don't you worry your little head about that." I sunk back into the seat. Donny cranked up the radio and sang along loudly as we raced down the road.
We pulled over at a place called the Chicken Shack, which was all ageing formica and low hanging lamps. Men in rolled up shirt sleeves sat at the bar as a jukebox played tinnily. I felt out of place in my long skirt and flowery sweater.
"I'll have a beer, and my sister'll get an orange juice," he told the waitress. I didn't say anything. If I challenged him, we'd just get into a fight, and he seemed in an unusually good mood today. Probably best just to let him be.
After we'd been served our drinks, I decided to broach the matter of his visit.
"S-so, Donny, what are you doing here?"
"Can't a man come see his kid sister?" he asked, grinning coldly and wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. I repressed a shudder. "Well, Tara, you should know why I'm here! You made your point, now you can come back home."
"You did the whole independent routine, showed daddy you can live on your own, we get that. You've done good," he added in patronising tones. "But honestly, what are you doing here?"
"I-I like studying," I protested.
"You like it, huh? You should stop being so selfish!" he barked suddenly, his mood changing with lightning speed, and I quailed. "What use is it to us if you're here studying some girly course? Daddy's making sacrifices for you."
"Dad - Dad's not paying anything for me to be here," I protested. "I've got a schuh - scholarship."
"Oh yes, boast away, T-T-Tara," said Donny, laughing. "You're so smart. Tell me, if you're so clever, why can't you talk right yet? And why aint you got a boyfriend?"
"I - I don't want one," I flushed.
"No, cos you got your little girlfriend, is that right?" He grinned as I stared down at the table. "Oh, I can read the signs alright. I don't need schooling to know what you're up to, Missy. Tell me, is she hot? Do you like the feel of her pressed up against you?" His eyes were hot and glassy. I squirmed away uncomfortably. "And what do you think Daddy will say about that?" he said after a moment, his tone once again changing, his face hard and cold. "Shall I tell him his little girl's a big old dyke? That'd just about break his heart. Not only have you abandoned us, come all the way here to this college instead of helping out at home like a proper woman should, but you're acting like a man." He laughed, a cold, low bark with no real humour in it. "But I bet she doesn't know the first thing about you, your little sweetie."
"Wh-what do you mean?"
"You know what I mean, Tara," he said meaningfully. "You're getting older. The signs are gonna show soon. It happened to our momma, it'll happen to you. It's not nice, but it's a fact. Blood will out."
"Nothing's going to happen," I said as defiantly as I could.
"Oh yeah?" he sneered. "Then why do you look afraid?"
After dinner I headed back to my room. I felt close to tears. Donny had driven away, but had left me $20 to get the train. "If you need any more, you can pay for it yourself," he said with a sneer, and had pulled out. I looked at the money and crumpled it up. I was tempted to throw it away, but instead I dropped it into a charity box. Donny's money had to be good for something.
In my bedroom I sat around thinking about what Donny had said. Maybe it was true. Maybe it would be obvious that I had demon in me. Maybe I was wicked, like Dad had always said. I never thought Mom was bad, but Dad had convinced her she was dangerous. Maybe she was.
I rubbed my hands against my forehead. I needed an idea. Eventually, a thought came to me. Maybe I could disguise the demon inside me. Willow would never need to know. I couldn't lose Willow, I just couldn't. My life had only begun to have colour when I met her. There was no way I was going home, but if she found out - I bit my lip. No. I wouldn't let that happen. I would do a spell.
It was fairly simple - I had most of the ingredients, and the rest were easy enough to find. The chanting took quite a lot of energy, but it seemed to work out ok. I went to sleep feeling a little more settled.
The next morning I woke up and headed out to class. On the way there a girl barged into me. She didn't even apologise! I picked up my scattered notes and went into the lecture hall. Professor Stone asked lots of questions. Normally I don't like to speak in class, but I've been trying, so I put up my hand a couple of times. He didn't pay any attention, which I guess is typical. People often treat me like I'm invisible.
After that I thought I'd go see Willow and fill her in on last night. I could do with her support.