Peridot was a beauty if ever there was one, the sort of boring beauty you find in Elysland-approved romance novels. Golden hair, emerald eyes, silken skin, and the reason I'm going on about her appearance is that it is the only nice thing I have to say about her. In the ten years since they kicked me out I've yet to meet such a crafty, selfish, spiteful little brat as that one. I hear that she's still unmarried and I'm not surprised. God only knows what anyone would see in her.

She was also the one who gave me my nickname. Would you like to hear it?

"Spare parts!" she yelled, her eyes wide. "She's made of spare parts!"

"Quiet, Peridot."

"But her eyes, Pappy!" she clucked, bouncing about and yanking my eyelids open by the lashes. "Did they recycle her, Pappy! She's all spare parts."

"Go and see your mother."

"She's out."

"Again?" He stared at her and gawped like a goldfish. "Where?"

"I dunno."

"You don't know."

"That's what I said!"

"For Heaven's sake, go and practice your piano. And stop playing with the cleaning girl's face. She's an animal, not a toy."

"But Paa-peeeeeeee."

"Now."

"I want Spare Parts to braid my hair."

Mr. Radmanne, raising his eyes to the heavens he didn't believe in, turned to the woman in the red apron.

"Take her downstairs and get her an apron. And a martini wouldn't come amiss while you're there."

My hand was passed from a cold one to a hot one as the lady led me along with a small weary smile. There were two lines above her nose from squinting. (When she started trusting me I found out she could read.) Her eyes were small but intelligent. I imagined her in a white coat as I squeezed her sticky, red hand.