Cowering beneath his shifting shape, she wonders if her father has been struck down by some fever strong enough to rob him of his senses. It would certainly explain his strange behaviour. Might it be that he suffered an episode in town brought upon by such a fever? If he hit his head, it might be the reason why he was able to remember his way home, but not those whom he shared it with. Then there was the possibility that he’d suffered a stroke, which is why he couldn’t, and so far wouldn’t, utter a word. She was hopeful for some innocent, yet terrible incident to explain why this was happening, but truth be told, she’d known as soon as she realised it was him standing over her and not some boogie man out of a horror movie. It was all to do with the smell. The smell was the drink. She didn’t quite understand the ins and outs—she hadn’t known about its accompanying stink until just now—but there had always been a question mark above her father’s head, and this was undoubtedly the source of it. For as long as she could remember, there was a secret she wasn’t privy to that existed between her parents. It was spoken of in hushed tones when they thought she wasn’t listening. The drink was a liquid her father drank. He claimed there was no wrong in it, while her mother was adamant that its consumption—at the rate her father drank it—wasn’t Christian. It caused a great divide between them because while he protested that it did no harm, her mother claimed it was warping his soul. Gretchen had heard all this while pretending not to, like when she pretended to be asleep or was listening with her ear against their bedroom door when she was supposed to be having a bath. For so long, she hadn’t been able to understand why her father drinking was such a big deal. She drank all the time, especially when she was thirsty. Lemonade was her favourite, followed by iced tea. It was only now though that she could make sense of it. That there was drinking, and then the drink. Her father had indulged himself, and judging by his appearance, and actions, it hadn’t done him the slightest bit of good.