Home > The Serpent King(14)

The Serpent King(14)
Jeff Zentner

Sometimes music worked on the loneliness. Other times, when he felt as if he were sitting at the bottom of a dry well, looking up at the sky, it didn’t work at all. Today marked the beginning of the end for him, but only the beginning of the beginning for Lydia. He sighed.

No song would fix that.

When Lydia got home, her dad and mom were lounging on the couch, watching TV. Her mom had a glass of red wine and sat with her feet tucked under Lydia’s dad’s leg. A pizza box rested on the reclaimed-wood coffee table in front of them. Lydia’s dad had a fetish for industrial antiques. He had filled their meticulously restored Victorian house with them. The Restoration Hardware catalog was his pornography.

“Hey, kid,” her dad said. “Have fun in Nashville?”

Lydia held up her bags.

“I have my answer. How’d Al Gore treat you?”

“The real Al Gore who lives in Nashville? We didn’t run into him.”

“Your car, Al Gore. Ran okay?” Lydia had inherited Al Gore (the first Prius in Forrestville) from her dad.

“Treated us fine.” Lydia kicked off her boots, flopped onto the couch on the other side of her dad, and tucked her feet up under his leg.

“Are you hungry? We’ve got some Pizza Garden left there,” her mom said.

“We need a real pizza place in this town,” Lydia said.

“One more year and you’ll be in some amazing big city with more pizza places than you could ever possibly try,” her mom said.

“Yeah,” Lydia said, “but another year is a long time to eat subpar pizza.”

“You’re such an elitist,” her dad said. “Pizza Garden is fine. How bad can pizza ever really be?”

“ ‘Elitist’ is synonymous with ‘has discerning taste,’ but I’ll concede that Pizza Garden more or less gets the job done, as long as you avoid ham and pineapple.”

“That’s true of any pizza place, though,” her dad said. “Go on. Have some.”

“I shouldn’t.”

“You should.”

“I’m too lazy to get up.”

Her dad leaned over, grabbed the pizza box, and handed it to her.

“Shall I feed it to you as well, milady?”

“Shut up.” She took a slice.

Lydia’s mom sniffed. “Come on, Lydia.”

Lydia took off her glasses and wiped away a smudge. “I wish I could sit here and eat and nerd out with you two, but I need to work on my blog tonight. My audience awaits a back-to-school post.”

“Suit yourself,” her dad said. “But first, why don’t you go look at what’s on the kitchen counter. The senior-year fairy dropped by while you were out. We tried to tell her that you’ve been bad by telling your dad to shut up, but she wouldn’t listen.”

Lydia rolled her eyes playfully, got up, and walked to the kitchen. A brand-new Mac laptop, wrapped up with a red bow, sat on the counter. She clapped her hands to her mouth and squealed. Any lingering unease from her fight with Dill disappeared in a blink. She ran into the living room and hugged her parents, almost causing her mom to spill wine on the couch.

“The last thing you need is your computer crashing on you in the middle of a college application or writing your admission essay,” her dad said.

“I love you guys. Even despite your penchant for inferior pizza.”

Lydia bounded upstairs. Her dad always joked bitterly about how she’d annexed the top floor. Her parents occupied one bedroom. She occupied another. The other two bedrooms were Lydia’s wardrobe room—filled with wheeled clothing racks—and her sewing/project room.

Lydia sat in her bedroom at her stark, modern desk, bought on an Ikea run to Atlanta. While she waited for her new laptop to boot up, she scanned through the photos on her phone, posting the best shots to Instagram and Twitter.

Her phone beeped. A text from Dahlia Winter. Ugh first day of school?

Dahlia was her best Internet friend. Actually, they’d become close real-life friends after Lydia had spent two weeks that summer at Dahlia’s family’s beach house in Nantucket. Returning to Forrestville after that wasn’t easy. The experience had confirmed to Lydia that they’d make good roommates at NYU, which both of them had chosen as their top pick for college. Lydia had her fingers crossed to get in. Of course Dahlia would get in. Dahlia’s mother, Vivian Winter, was the infamously icy editor-in-chief of Chic Magazine. Dahlia could waltz into any school she liked, but she wanted to be near the heart of the fashion industry and she had a thing for slumming it. Hence her friendship with a “poor” girl from Tennessee.

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