When Mommy told her Lucifer was coming to watch her—“Sorry, babe, Maze is away, Ella’s working, Dad’s on a stakeout, all your other sitters are booked, and if I don’t show up for this parent-teacher night, I think your school might start giving me detention.”—Trixie smiled, nodded, and promised she wouldn’t cause any trouble or give him a hard time. Mommy opened her arms, and Trixie gave her a huge hug ‘cause she looked like she needed it.
“Get it all out now, monkey,” Mommy warned. “You know Lucifer’s…weird about the hugging thing.”
Trixie didn’t think it was weird, really. She just thought maybe Lucifer needed practice. Or like he was a bit scared, or something. He reminded her of Killer, the Dabrowskis’ dog, who lived on the other side of the building, by the pool. Killer acted all tough and mean and snarly, but Mrs. Dabrowski said it was ‘cause she was hurt a lot when she was a puppy. She said they even tried to change her name, but she just wouldn’t answer to anything else. The first time Trixie met Killer, she had to stand on the other side of the fence and just say hi through the slats. The second time, Trixie was allowed inside the fence but not too close.
“Patience, Beatrice,” said Mrs. Dabrowski (always Beatrice, not Trixie, like Lucifer. Except Mrs. Dabrowski never called Trixie spawn or offspring or even child, which was too bad, since Trixie thought it was hilarious when Lucifer did it).
Two weeks after Trixie started visiting Killer, the dog sniffed her hand and licked it. Two weeks after that, Killer raced over to Trixie as soon as she opened the gate and rolled over for contented belly scratches and slobbery kisses. Trixie wasn’t expecting slobbery kisses or anything with Lucifer, but she’d decided to maybe follow Mrs. Dabrowski’s advice about patience.
When Mommy opened the door, and Lucifer hesitated on the other side, looking nervous and pretending not to, like she sometimes felt when she had to give a presentation at school, Trixie stayed at the coffee table, coloring. “Hi, Lucifer,” she called, the same as she used to do with Killer.
Lucifer took a step forward and tugged on his cuffs. She thought maybe he smiled a bit, though, which was good. “Spawn.”
Trixie ducked her head to hide her smile.
Lucifer and Mommy went over all the usual boring stuff like what numbers to call if there was trouble or what to do in an emergency. Looking up through her eyelashes, Trixie saw Lucifer place a hand on Mommy’s shoulder and say, “Detective, go. I managed Hell for an eternity. I daresay I can handle a single child for an evening.”
Mommy made a face. “See, you say things like that, and I think I should probably just stay home.”
Trixie liked Lucifer’s laugh, even though she didn’t really get to hear it much. It made Mommy roll her eyes and grab her purse, though, and call out a goodbye. Trixie waved and returned to her artwork. Maze’s knives were turning out awesome. After a couple of minutes, the click-click of Lucifer’s fancy shoes on the floor told her he was coming closer.
“You’ve done the scrollwork wrong,” he said. “And the angle of the point is far sharper.”
Trixie only shrugged. Sometimes Killer growled a bit, too, even though she never really meant it. Without looking up at him, she pushed a blank piece of paper toward him.
“What do you expect me to do with this?”
Trixie glanced up. Lucifer was so tall she almost had to put her head back on the couch to see his face. He lifted an eyebrow and flicked his fingers vaguely at the paper.
“Mommy says you’re only allowed to complain about something if you’ve tried it yourself, first.”
“Does she now?” Lucifer narrowed his eyes. “I painted the stars onto the canvas of an empty universe.”
“Cool,” she replied earnestly. “But have you ever drawn Maze’s knives? I especially like this loopy bit.”
After a few more minutes, Lucifer dropped down beside her, sighing like someone just told him he had to take a bath and wash his hair. He straightened his cuffs again and flicked through her crayons. “Such a paltry palette.”
Trixie borrowed from her mom and rolled her eyes. “It’s the 152-pack, Lucifer. It’s, like, the best one.”
He sighed again but reached for a color.
After she finished with Maze’s knives and started drawing Mommy making breakfast, Trixie asked, “So, what’re you drawing?”
“Nothing to concern you.”
Lucifer laughed again. “There’s an idea.”
When she sidled a bit closer, he didn’t pull away. He was really warm; she liked that. He didn’t even complain when her whole leg touched his leg, which was basically a hug anyway.
“Can I see now?” she asked.
“No.” He covered the drawing with one big hand.
“Isn’t it past your bedtime?”
Trixie scrunched up her face. “Does it matter?”
Lucifer tilted his head, and she caught the corner of his smile. “Not particularly, no. Never was one for those kinds of rules. Create this star system, Lucifer. Stop fighting with your brother, Lucifer. Don’t ask perfectly reasonable questions of your Father, Lucifer. Tedious.”
She nodded because even though Lucifer was trying to sound like it was a joke, it sounded pretty bad. At least Mommy always tried to answer her questions, and she never got mad at her for asking them in the first place. Trixie thought for a bit, chewing on the inside of her cheek. “Lucifer? Did you really make some of the stars?”
“All of them,” he replied, sounding as proud as she felt when she brought home her good report card. “Some are really quite lovely, you know.”
“In my old house, I used to have glow-in-the-dark stars all over the walls. Mommy and Daddy made them into real constellations like the ones we saw when we were camping.” Trixie shrugged because sometimes thinking about her old house and her old room and her Mommy and Daddy together made her sad, and she didn’t want to be sad. “It was pretty cool.”
“Couldn’t you have stars here?”
“It wouldn’t be the same,” she said.
One of the reasons she liked Lucifer was because he always looked at her just the same as he looked at grownups. Maze did, too. Right now, his look was very serious but also maybe a bit sad, too. “It rarely is.”
She pressed her cheek against his arm, which was also kinda like a hug, even if it wasn’t the nice squishy kind Ella was so good at. Because he didn’t make any comments about it, she felt bold enough to ask, “Do you miss your old home, Lucifer?”
He was silent so long she thought maybe he wasn’t going to answer. Then, very quietly, he said, “Not particularly, no. This one suits far better.”
He really was a lot like Killer. And just like when she thought about what kind of horrible person would be so mean to such a nice dog, she was suddenly really, really, really mad at whoever hurt Lucifer so bad he was scared of hugs and scared of saying the things he really liked and scared of caring about people and scared of being cared about.
She said, “Well, I’m glad this is your home now. Mommy is, too,” and waited for the snap.
It didn’t come.
Beneath her cheek, Lucifer’s arm twitched, probably because he wanted to reach for the fancy juice box he always kept in his coat. He didn’t, though.
“Lucifer, can I ask you something?”
“Have you been doing anything else since I walked in the door?”
She nudged him in the ribs, just a tiny bit. He huffed but didn’t actually move away. It was totally a record for Lucifer letting her stay close to him without freaking out. “Why do you always wear such fancy clothes?”
Lucifer blinked down at her. “Pardon me?”
“Your clothes. They’re always like, super fancy. And you never take your shoes and coat off. Don’t you get hot all the time? Mommy always changes out of her work clothes right away when she gets home and puts on something comfy. You know, like slippers.”
The sound Lucifer made was almost a laugh, she was pretty sure. “I am perfectly comfortable, I assure you. Los Angeles is quite temperate, all things considered.”
“Even when it’s a hundred degrees?”
“Even when it’s one hundred degrees, yes.”
Trixie scratched absentmindedly at a scab on her knee from when she’d tripped chasing a ball with Daddy last weekend. “Maybe that’s why there’s always snakes in the stories about you. We learned about snakes at school. I got to put a boa constrictor all the way around my neck. It was super cool. They have to go in the really hot sun to get warm.”
“So they do,” he agreed. “You’re not afraid of snakes, then?”
“Nope. Or spiders. Or lizards or beetles or anything. Mommy thinks I’m weird.”
“Yes, well. Perhaps we ought to start a club.”
His eyes opened really big. “Now, child, I was—”
“Can we have a clubhouse? And a secret handshake? And a code? Can we have meetings? And snacks?”
“I can make a sign and put a snake on it.”
After a pause, he sighed and said, “If that is what you truly desire.”
She grinned. “Okay! I’ll make the clubhouse sign, and you can keep working on your picture.”
Trixie was deciding whether she wanted to draw an apple next to her snake—or maybe on a tree—when Lucifer carefully put the last of his crayons back into the caddy and brushed his hands down the front of his pants. He’d undone the jacket at least, she noticed. No matter what he said, it made him look a lot more comfortable. Maybe next time, he’d even take off his clicky shoes.
He smiled down at his drawing with a strange look and Trixie knew, she just knew, he was going to crumple it and throw it away before she could even see what it was.
“You hafta show me your drawing,” she demanded, a little breathlessly. “You saw mine. It’s only fair.”
His hand tensed over the picture. “Fair,” he echoed, like he was thinking of something else, something way far away. “Very well.”
Trixie leaned forward before he could change his mind, and at first, she couldn’t say anything at all. Even though he’d been using the exact same crayons as her, his picture was amazing. It looked almost like a photograph, except no one in the whole world had ever worn crowns of real stars as awesome as the ones Lucifer had drawn on Trixie and her mom. And it definitely looked like he’d used more than 152 colors. She traced one of the stars with her fingertip, almost expecting it to really twinkle. She’d never been able to make the silver crayon look so awesome, ever.
“Please don’t throw it away,” she begged, throat all tight and itchy with tears. She turned to face Lucifer, putting herself between him and the drawing. “Please, Lucifer. It’s sooo beautiful.”
He lifted a shoulder and dropped his chin. She thought maybe he even blushed a little bit. Trixie’s heart felt all squishy and weird and almost painful, just like it had the first time Killer pushed her cold, wet nose into her waiting hand.
“If you let me keep it, I won’t show Mommy if you don’t want, even though I think she’d love it a lot. And I’ll go to bed right now, so you don’t get in trouble when Mommy gets back and wants to know why I’m still awake.”
“You drive a hard bargain,” he replied, his eyes crinkling up a bit at the corners.
Because it wasn’t a no, Trixie threw her arms around him in the quickest hug before bounding to her feet and disappearing, drawing in hand, into her bedroom. She hid it in the TOP SECRET box with all her other treasures, like a picture of Mommy holding her when she was a baby, and the pretty knife Maze gave her but told her not to use until she knew the pointy end from the handle.
After a little while, she heard the door slide open. “Sleep well, Beatrice,” Lucifer said, so softly she almost thought she imagined it. A few minutes later, Mommy came home and crept into the dark to press a goodnight kiss to Trixie’s pretend-sleeping forehead.
Trixie fell asleep listening to Mommy and Lucifer laughing in the living room.
Trixie woke up when it was still mostly dark, blinking and stretching. She thought maybe something was different about the nightlight because everything was—
“Wow,” she said. “Woooow.”
All across her walls and up over her ceiling, tiny little stars flickered in the dark, way better than the green-tinged, glow-in-the-dark stickers of her old room. She recognized the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper and the North Star. Mars even sparkled red. Trixie folded her hands over her heart the way she’d seen some other kids when they prayed before eating their lunches at school. “Thank you, Lucifer,” she breathed into the dark, as the stars she could never see in Los Angeles’ real sky twinkled above her, almost dancing. “I think these are the loveliest ones of all.”
Better than belly scratches and slobbery kisses.
Maybe Mrs. Dabrowski was right about the patience thing after all.