“What’s wrong, Vickie? You’ve been quiet all evening.”
I looked at my father from my bed. He was sitting at the little table in our motel room, typing a story for the newspaper on a laptop computer. I was reading … well, I was pretending to be reading. My mind was elsewhere, and the words on the page were nothing to me but strange black marks, a weird code I could not translate.
“Is it something you want to talk about? Are you upset about the storm?”
“No. The storm doesn’t bother me. We didn’t lose anything that really mattered.” I looked at him hard. “Did we, Father?”
“No,” he said. “Nothing that really mattered, I guess. But I will miss our books so much, won’t you?”
“Yes. But we can buy other books, can’t we? With the insurance money?
“Oh, sure, we can buy other books. But I’ll miss those particular books. Each one was special—like a friend.” He looked at me. “Or a daughter.”
I felt my eyes starting to flood.
“But you’re right,” he went on. “When you consider what we could have lost …”
“Right, Father. I mean, my workshop was untouched. Nothing there was damaged.”
“We can be grateful for that.”
“And we found some of the family things out in the yard. The pictures of Mother—they weren’t even hurt.”
“Yes, that was fortunate.”
“And so,” I said, “nothing was lost. Nothing that really mattered.”
“That’s right,” he said, looking at me strangely. “Vickie, what’s on your mind? You’re not yourself.”
“That’s a funny way to put it,” I said. “Not myself.”
“Why? What are you getting at?”
“If I’m not myself,” I said, “then who am I?”
Now it was Father’s turn just to look. His face was serious, worried. I think he suspected I’d found out what he’d hoped I would never learn.
“Vickie … ?”
I reached under the bed and pulled up the paper bag.
“What’s that, Vickie?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing, Father,” I said, removing the family history, holding it up so Father could see it. “Interesting reading,” I said, paging through it.
“Is that all you can say, Father?” I asked heatedly. “‘Oh’?”
He bowed his head. I waited a long, long time before he said anything.
He looked up, took a deep breath, and released it with a sigh. He stood and came slowly over to my bed. He sat down beside me. “What do you want to know?” he asked, almost in a whisper.
“What is this?” I asked. “Is this a story? Or is it …?” I let my voice trail away.
Father took another deep breath. “I could lie to you,” he said. “But I don’t like to do that.”
“What you have found,” he said, “is not just a story. It is history. The history of our family. It is true, every word of it.”
“Then … you … I …?”
“That’s right, Victoria,” he said. “You—like me—belong to the House of Frankenstein.”
I felt my heart quiver in my chest.
“You are the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Victor Frankenstein.” He looked at me closely. “I will tell you what I have learned,” he said quietly. “And all I can do is just hope that you are ready to hear it.”