Robert slouched through the door around four, looking unhappy. He only shrugged sullenly when Glory asked him what was wrong. His expression became even more surly when she told him about their unexpected visitors. It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him about the adoption papers, but if Bitman didn‘t come through… she didn‘t want Robert to be even more depressed.
“Man, I miss everything!” he moaned, throwing himself onto the sofa.
Glory snorted, and turned away. “Dinner will be done in a half hour,” she said. “Why don’t you set the kitchen table?”
He grunted and stared at his sneakers a moment before dragging himself to his feet. Robert followed her into the next room, wordlessly setting the table before returning to his sullen moping. Whatever was wrong, Glory decided he’d tell her when he was ready. At least he didn’t seem scared; so she was reasonably certain her father hadn’t been after him.
Edgar at least was sensitive to Robert’s mood and by the time Glory called them for dinner, the ghoul had managed to entice Robert into playing blocks with him. Ann came into the kitchen while the two played. She too looked unhappy.
“What’s up?” Glory asked as she cleaned some greens for a salad. Edgar wouldn’t like that any more than the fries, and fish wasn’t his favorite food either, but she was determined to at least expose him to other foods. When he was grown and on his own, he could decide what his diet would be.
The woman shrugged. “Well, I can get Edgar to spell anything I ask, even his name, but he won’t communicate. He does what I ask and no more.”
“You haven’t been working with him all that long, you know…” Glory said as she began transferring dinner to the table.
“I know, but he’s so smart! I just don’t understand how he can spell anything I ask but won’t use his words to communicate,” Ann groused.
“Maybe it’s not a matter of knowing the words. The ghouls told me they’re born with all the languages of their forefathers, so maybe his inability to communicate is developmental. I have no idea how old he is and, neither of us knows what age a ghoul is supposed to start talking. So don’t beat yourself up over it. He’ll talk when he’s ready. It’s not like he has a problem getting his point across when he wants to, right?”
“You’re probably right,” Ann agreed, though she was no happier for it. “I just can’t help but feel guilty about everything that happened to him in Arkham and wonder if that’s not part of it.”
Glory gave her a sympathetic smile and squeezed her shoulder. “None of that was your doing, and he obviously doesn’t blame you for it.”
“Yeah,” she said without enthusiasm and went to call the boys to dinner.
Robert was lost in thought through dinner, pushing his food around on his plate with little appetite. Edgar followed suit, though the redness of the ketchup on his fries and the Catalina dressing on his salad did make him slightly more interested in his vegetables. He enjoyed the crunch of the carrots and celery, but the greens were a lost cause. Once the flavor of the dressing was gone, he spat them back on his place with a look of mild outrage, as if the color had betrayed his delicate palate. He regarded the saliva coated foliage myopically, his nose barely an inch from the plate, before poking through the salad for more crunchy fare, knocking most of the greens out onto the table.
“Edgar…” Ann started, but Glory interceded.
“Let him go. At least he’ll eat some of his vegetables. We’ll try smaller pieces next time, or sneak some spinach into a stuffing maybe. Maybe if the greens are cooked in with the meat, he’ll eat them without noticing.” The look Edgar and Ann both gave her was skeptical, and she couldn’t help but laugh, which made Edgar giggle and Ann snort. Even Robert shook his head to hide his grin. He couldn’t stay grumpy forever.
Ann took Edgar back into the living room as Glory cleared the table. Robert lingered indecisively. “Are there such things as love spells?” he finally asked as she rinsed the plates in the sink.
“Yes and no,” she said after a moment. “You can make a friendship spell to draw people to you…It’s basically just a matter of changing how others perceive you, making yourself open to exchanges of affection which could, eventually, lead to love. But trying to make a specific person love you would be extremely unethical.” She continued rinsing the dishes, waiting for Robert to explain himself.
“It’s nothing like that!” He colored to the tips of his ears. “I just like a girl, and I wondered if she liked me, but she has a boyfriend, so…”
“Well, you don’t need a love spell then,” she assured him, “and it would be unsatisfying if you made someone love you in the long run. Why don’t you try divination? That’s why I had you come up with your own system, so you could try it out. I’ll update your notebook with the Law of Synchronicity, and you can give it a try.”
“OK, sure,” he said, looking nonplussed. “I- can try that.” He waited for her to close the dishwasher door. “I get why it’s unethical, but why… unsatisfying?”
“Well, you’d never know if they loved you for yourself or because of the spell. It would eat at you.”
“Did you ever…?” he started as he followed her back into the dining room, but she shook her head.
“No. My sister wanted to, but I wouldn’t show her how. Just one more reason she hates me, not that she didn’t get the guy in the end. So the spell would have been superfluous.” She gathered up the pile of curtains to take down to the washer. “It’s usually better to just let things happen as they will. If you force things, you take all the adventure out of it, but you also ruin any chance of ever knowing what the other person would have felt without your meddling. It’s not respectful either. If you really love someone, you risk losing anything you might have had together if you take away their right to choose. A spell that controls their feelings makes your relationship entirely one-sided no matter how real they think their feelings are. You‘d always know better. It‘s a lonely way to live.”
to Book 7, part 1, page 18