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Title: Family History
Fandom: October Daye series
Rating: G
Genre: Drama
Words: 256
Notes/Warnings: Written for the Rare Women ([livejournal.com profile] rarewomen) fic exchange, for [archiveofourown.org profile] cantarina. Beta'd by [archiveofourown.org profile] swords_and_parasols. Ser pre-series but post-prologue.
Summary: Gillian is assigned a school project on her family history, which is harder than you think when your mother is missing-presumed-dead.
Disclaimer: The October Daye series is copyright Seanan McGuire and this derivative work is written without permission.

Gillian asked her dad for help with her homework as they cleared the supper dishes from the table.

"Family history?" her father repeated.

"Like family trees and stuff," Gilly answered. "We're doing a unit on immigration in social studies."

Her father nodded as he scraped off bits of casserole into the trash can. "Josie is the one who keeps track of most of that," he said, naming Gilly's aunt. "We can go visit her in Sacramento next weekend, if you want. And see if your grandma has any pictures she'll let me borrow and scan for you. She keeps asking me to help her clean out the spare room, so I might have no choice." He rolled his eyes theatrically, and Gilly laughed. She'd seen Grandma's spare room, which had been Grandpa's office when he was still working, and a playroom for her and her cousins after Grandpa retired and they needed a place where visiting children wouldn't break things or interrupt the adults. It was full of old toys and broken wax crayons, and boxes of Grandma's photographs on shelves too high for curious pre-schoolers who were out of paper. Now that even Marianne was old enough to sit still without needing entertainment, the room mostly sat unused, gathering dust.

"Is that soon enough for your assignment?" her father asked.

"Yeah," Gilly replied. "We have through Spring Break, in case people are visiting family." She picked up a sponge to pry a particularly stubborn bit of food from her plate before putting it in the dishwasher. "What about the other side?"

"I'm sure Miranda will let you interview you about her family," her father answered. "If she's not too busy with the wedding planning."

"Da-ad. I mean Mom." GIlly liked Miranda, and it was nice to have someone to do… well, girl things, and mother-daughter things with. But… well, Gilly was her step-daughter, or nearly so.

Gilly's mother had disappeared when she was little, enough that Gilly wasn't sure what was a real memory of her and what was a story Dad told her. She'd seen pictures, and Dad said she took after Mom in looks, which meant she had boring hair and light eyes and a face that was too bony to be pretty, no matter what Dad said.

Mom had been a private investigator, and had even had a cool detective name -- October Daye. She'd never actually married Dad, which was sort of a secret from the other kids and their parents: Gilly had only found that out when she wanted to know why Dad didn't have any wedding pictures. When she was little, Gilly had pretended that Mom had disappeared because of some serious case, and would show up one day being chased by pirates or space aliens and would need Dad and Gilly's help. Or would finally take them with her, wherever she was hiding, to keep them safe from robots or ninja or whatever had chased her away. Now that she was nearly in high school, Gilly figured Mom was probably dead, and whoever had done it had just hid the body too well. She knew Grandma and Aunt Josie thought Mom had run off with another man, but they'd never say so in front of Gilly herself.

She'd noticed Dad wasn't talking, and Gilly wondered if maybe she shouldn't have talked about Mom. Dad had always said that she could tell him anything, but that was a thing adults said, and didn't mean they wanted to hear it.

"I don't know how much I can help you there, Kiddo," Dad said. "Your mom's parents died before I met her, and she was an only child. She might have written their names in your baby book, but…"

"I can check that," Gilly said disappointed. She knew about Mom's parents, and that she didn't have any cousins on that side, but she'd hoped Dad would have at least some stories or pictures about Grandma and Grandpa Daye.

"I might still have some of her friends' phone numbers," Dad said slowly. "It's a long shot, but they knew your mother longer than I did. They might even have some pictures of her as a girl."

"Thanks, Daddy," Gillian said. Truthfully, she could probably just write down Grandma and Grandpa Daye's name, and just fill the rest of the page with stuff about the rest of her family, and maybe mention Miranda's family, since she was almost related.

But she wanted to know more about Mom, since she hardly knew anything. It would be a bit like being a detective, like Mom had been, tracking down clues.

* * *

Dad had the number for someone called Stacy, who was Mom's friend. She didn't have anything, but she suggested someone called 'Sylvester Torquill', who was someone Mom had known. Dad looked a bit alarmed at the name, and wouldn't explain why.

But Stacy had set up a place where she could talk to Mister Torquill. It was a nice cafe that she had never been to before, and she wore the skirt and blouse she had gotten for Mock Interviews earlier in the year. Dad had insisted on coming along, even though Gilly told him that she could take the BART all by herself, since normally she was allowed when she was meeting someone on the other end.

Mister Torquill was waiting for them there. "Cliff. And this must be Gillian. It's a pleasure to meet you again." He offered her a hand, and Gilly shook it. He wasn't bad looking, in a old guy kind of way, with bright red hair that had to be dyed, since it wasn't graying at all. Still, he looked kind of tired, the way Dad got around deadlines at work. He wore a nice-looking suit and generally looked like a businessman, or the kind of actor who played businessmen in commercials.

"Again?" She looked at her dad, who was studying the list of specials.

Her dad didn't answer, but Mister Torquill did. "Before your mother disappeared, she invited my family and I over a couple of times. You would have been too young to remember it clearly. Come on; the staff set a table for us."

Gilly wanted to ask him her questions -- she had her notebook and pen ready, in her purse -- but Mister Torquill insisted they order first. So she studied the menu, and made a big deal out of choosing a quiche instead of a sandwich. Besides, she didn't want to drop anything on her blouse, which she might if she was eating finger foods.

The waitress brought them there drinks, and Gilly sipped hers, before getting out her notebook. Now that she had someone who knew Mom, had known her growing up even, suddenly she didn't know where to begin.

"You have a family?" she blurted out, clearly surprising Mister Torquill.

"I was under the impression that most people do," he replied. "Isn't that what you were asking about? Your family?"

Gilly nodded, feeling suddenly pretty stupid. "Yeah, right. Sorry." She looked down at her notebook, carefully writing Mister Torquill's name and the date. "So, you knew Mom. Before she met Dad and had me."

Mister Torquill nodded. "From her childhood. I was a friend of her family's, so I saw October grow up."

Gilly studied him again. Besides the tired look in his eyes, she wasn't sure if he looked old enough to be Mom's age or older, but it was kind of hard to tell. Something about his voice made her feel like he was older than Mom and Dad and Miranda by a lot. "So you knew Grandma and Grandpa Daye too?"

"That's right," Mister Torquill said. "Though I'd only met your grandfather a few times before he died."

Gilly nodded. "So you were a friend of Grandma Daye's side of the family, then. Did she have any brothers or sisters? What were her parents like?"

"I thought you wanted to know about your mother," Mister Torquill replied.

"I do," Gilly said. "It's a family history project. I'm supposed to trace back my family as far as I can, and make a family tree and stuff. But… I also want to know about Mom and her family. For me. Because I already know all my aunts and uncles and cousins on Dad's side, but I don't even know anything about Mom, let alone my grandma and grandpa." She swallowed. She wasn't going to cry in front of a stranger, but sometimes it just wasn't fair that Mom had died or disappeared or whatever. The stories wouldn't bring her back to life, but maybe they'd let Gilly pretend for a bit that she knew where she came from, all of it.

"Well, I'll see what I can remember," Mister Torquill said.

* * *

Gilly aced the assignment, which was nice. She also had a few of the pictures of Mom that Mister Torquill had given her framed, and put with the other photos on her dresser, next to vacation photos and her friends goofing off. At the same time, she placed the one of her and Dad and Miranda at the wedding, all dressed up and smiling, next to it.

It wasn't perfect, but real families probably never were.
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Becca Stareyes, Invoking Urania

December 2013

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