Bitter 265

To be fair, there was no real reason not to let Dad come with her next time she went on some quest or visited a dungeon. He might even come in handy when she went back into the Korlath Mines. He was an experienced gamer with a Level 7 character and he knew how to handle himself in a fight.

That wasn’t really the problem, though.

“You’d have to do what I tell you,” said Britta.

“Of course. I know how to follow orders. I’ve been in parties before, you know? Party leader calls the shots. If people don’t play their roles properly, the whole thing falls apart.”

“Don’t worry, love,” said Mum. “He’s a stickler for people doing the job they’ve been assigned.” She patted him on the chest. “Your only problem will be if you need him to act out of character.”

Dad nodded proudly, like he’d been given a huge compliment.

“Alright,” said Britta. “Next time something interesting comes up, I’ll let you know.” She had a queasy feeling she would regret it, but it was a game where true identities were hidden. It wasn’t like anyone would know they were related.

“Great! You ready to go, then?”

“Now?” said Britta. She hadn’t been thinking of going back into the game immediately.

“No time like the present. You only want to rip up a book, don’t you. It’ll take, what? Five minutes?”

He had a point. Apart from one slight problem.

“Aren’t you still locked out of the game?” Everyone except her had been kicked out. He couldn’t log in, only she could.

Dad’s excited face sagged. “Oh, yeah. I forgot about that.” His eyes lit up again. “No problemo. All we need to do is contact Dr Reedy and have her take the restrictions off my account.” He dug his hand between him and Mum and rooted around in the sofa.

Britta caught the look that passed between the two of them and was unable to resist the eye-roll it forced on her.

“Here it is.” Dad pulled out his phone.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” said Britta. “Dr Reedy asked if I could come in to run some tests.”

Both parents turned to look at her.

“Why?” said Mum. “What happened?”

“Nothing. I stopped sweating, that’s all.”

“Your Dad was soaked as usual when he came out of his machine.”

Britta shrugged. “That’s why they want to know why I wasn’t. I don’t really want to go, though. Can you make an excuse?”

“It sounds like we should let them check you out,” said Dad. “The sweating has always been a big issue. If you’ve solved it for them, they’ve already got their money’s worth out of you. By the way, your first paycheck came in. You’re rich.”

“No, she isn’t,” said Mum. “That money’s going straight into your savings account.”

“At least let her buy one thing for herself,” exclaimed Dad. “She deserves a little fun.”

“She plays video games every spare moment she has. What she needs is a little less fun.”

“How does that even make sense?” said Dad, appalled. “Fun is the whole point of being alive. Maybe you should try it some time.”

A moment ago they had been giving each other saucy glances, now they were at each other’s throats. Britta found it hard to understand the attraction of the relentless ups and downs. If she was in that kind of relationship she’d probably spend most of her time feeling seasick.

“Somebody has to be the adult,” said Mum. It wasn’t the first time Britta had heard this argument, although she had usually left the room by this point.

“I’m not saying give her all the money. Just give her a bit.”

“I already gave her life!” said Mum, only half-jokingly. “She can have the money when she needs it.”

“I gave her life, too,” said Dad.

“Nine months versus… what would you say your contribution was, as a percentage?”

Dad's face became taut, partly due to his taking offence at being reduced to a bit part player in the conception of his own child, and partly because he was actually calculating the number.

“Less than one percent?” said Mum. “A tiny fraction?”

“No,” said Dad, pouting. “Quite a large fraction. On the bottom.”

“She can play the game, for now. But that money is going to secure her future. I don’t want one penny of it wasted on frivolous nonsense.”

Dad gave Britta an apologetic shrug, like he’d tried his best on her behalf.

“It’s fine,” said Britta. “I wouldn’t know what to spend it on.”

“Oh, I’d help you,” said Dad, revealing his real reason for wanting her funds released. She was glad Mum had put her foot down.

“Are you going to call Dr Reedy?” asked Britta.

Dad looked down at the phone like he’d forgotten it was there. “Right. Of course.”

Dr Reedy answered immediately, like she’d been waiting for the call. They discussed Britta coming in for a checkup, which Dad agreed to without even trying to put it off, much to Britta’s disappointment.

Then he told her their plan to test the Mayor’s book burning idea. Dr Reedy saw no issues with it and made the arrangements while Dad was still on the line.

Dad stuck up his thumb. “Good to go.” He stood and stretched. “Right, I’ll meet you in the Temple of Roha.”

Mum yawned. “Early night for me, then. Alone. And naked.” She got up and walked past, pressing against him like they were in some tight space and that was the only way to get by. They weren’t, and there was plenty of room.

Britta turned around and left before the rolling waves made her throw up.

Subscribe to this content and receive updates directly in your inbox.