DEVLIN SCRUNCHED his eyebrows and his mouth and his shoulders. He was miffed. That’s what Cousin Sabrina called it when she got cranky ’cause one of her potions smelled stinky. (Devlin thought all her potions smelled stinky, but he wasn’t s’pposed to say so ’cause it might hurt her feelings.)
Why was he miffed? ’Cause his new little brother, the one that was growing in Mom’s belly…(Mom said it might be a girl but Gran, the oldest of the old ones, said it was a boy and she would know ’cause she was wise. Everybody said so. Devlin figured that was ’cause she was old, but Gran said he would get to be wise soon, but it would cost him. He hoped it wouldn’t cost too much ’cause his piggy bank wasn’t even half full. It wasn’t really a piggy bank, either—it was a blue bunny with a hole in the top to put coins, but Angel had given it to him for Christmas last year and Devlin like Angel, so he didn’t want to hurt his feelings by telling him it wasn’t a pig. Angel was his brother-in-law. That meant he was Devlin’s brother because Angel married Devlin’s sister Demona. Devlin wasn’t sure how a law could turn a stranger into a brother, but that was just one of the weird things about living in Hell.)
Anyway, getting back to the real brother that Grandma Zelda said would pop out of Mom before the snows flew—Devlin wondered if that would hurt—he had two fathers! It wasn’t fair. Devlin only had one. So did Demona, except hers was Daddy Drake and Devlin’s was Daddy Lou. And everybody Devlin knew only had one, including Gabriel and Seraphina. They both only had one father and that was Angel.
So how come the new baby would have two fathers?
When Devlin asked Mom, she got all red and flustered (that was Grandma Fay’s word for it). Daddy Drake and Daddy Lou just smiled in a funny way and got red, too. Granddad Max said Devlin was too young to understand and Uncle Mordie spoke “in tongues,” like he mostly did and nobody but Angel could understand him. Gran recited a poem about horns of plenty that started the parrot singing about sailing the seven seas. Grandma Zelda just shook her head and kept knitting. Demona giggled. And Angel grinned and said it had to do with birds and bees and Devlin would learn about it one day.
Birds and bees? What in tarnation did that mean? (“What in tarnation” was an Uncle Mordie saying, when he was talking English, which wasn’t often. And why was it English when they lived in ’Merica?) Devlin didn’t know what tarnation meant, exactly, but tar was black and that was what Demona would call his mood, just then, so it seemed the right word.
Devlin frowned harder. Then he sucked in a big breath and pushed it out all at once to make a loud noise, kicked at a pebble on the courtyard floor and watched it leap and then roll along the flagstones, stared at the fountain that splashed water into a big cement bowl all year round even when it snowed, and wished people wouldn’t treat him like a little kid. He was almost nine!
A crow flew by and perched on the edge of the roof of the centre wing of the stone house everybody called “The Tower” because it sort of looked like a castle and had a tall round thing called a turret on one end. Devlin glared at the bird. Maybe that one, the one that lived near the barn, made his brother have two fathers. When the crow tilted its head and stared back, Devlin huffed angrily, picked up one of the pebbles at his feet, and heaved it at the bird with all his might.
The pebble only got as high as the edge of the roof and then fell into a flower bed, but the crow squawked and flew away anyway.
Devlin pouted and plopped to the ground to rip up leaves of grass growing up between courtyard flagstones. He hated being little.