This is a very short piece that I wrote for a contest once. I didn’t win, much to my disappointment, but I’m still pleased with it. Enjoy!
The front door slams open, then shut, and I hear heavy, rapid footfalls going up stairs. Damn, I think, looking at the stove, turning the flame down low so that I don’t turn chicken cutlets into charcoal cutlets. I turn on the hot water so it blasts over the carving knife as I dart upstairs, moving past the empty couch that still bears the impression of our father, and find Sandra in her room.
“Hey, Sand,” I poke my head through the door. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” she chokes out as shimmering pearls roll down her cherubic fourteen-year-old cheeks and splash down on the rosary necklace our father gave her.
“There’s no lyin’ to me, Sand. Somethin’s up. Tell me?”
Giant amber eyes fix on me, trapping me like a mosquito. She jolts forward and wraps her arms around me.
“M-m-mommy’s gone to re-re-re…” I know this already, of course. I’m the one who talked our mother into it. But Sandra doesn’t need to know what I’ve done.
“Re what, kiddo?”
“Rehab,” she sobs, clutching me tighter. “Why would she do that? Why would she leave us all alone with Daddy?”
“Aw, Sand,” I pull away, looking into her eyes so she focuses on something immediate, something other than our mom. “Sometimes, people do crazy things for those they love. It might mean they have to go away for a while, but it doesn’t change how they feel about you. Things will be better this way, ok?”
She sniffs, nodding vigorously.
“Come on, I’ve got dinner goin’. Maybe you can recite your monologue for me while I get it settled? I always love hearing your perform.”
I don’t really want to hear it again, but hey, that’s what big brothers are for. I graduated last year, so I have plenty of time to do what I want. Well, I used to. I’m not going to have much more.
We make our way into the kitchen and she’s already half-way through a piece from A Streetcar Named Desire. She’s damn good. The girl’s Broadway-bound, even if she doesn’t know it yet. I hope I can go to her plays one day.
She’s just about done when I take the pie out of the oven. Her eyes shoot open as her nostrils flare, breaths coming in quick little bursts.
“Oh! Like Auntie Ruth’s!”
I grin and nod. She doesn’t need to know her aunt’s “secret recipe” is a store-bought mix. We spent a lot of long weekends at Aunt Ruth’s, and I’m not about to spoil those happy memories. An excited look spreads over her face, but it falls as she glances towards the door.
“Do you think Daddy will be home soon?”
No, no I don’t. “Maybe, but let’s eat. He… might be late.” A seat scrapes up to the table as I deliver a steaming plate to her.
“Do… do you think he’ll be angry again?” I’d gotten used to his volcanic temperance, but Sandra… she still had hope in her eyes, a touch of innocence in her mocha-colored face. If there’s one thing worth saving in this world, it’s whatever’s left of her childhood.
“I don’t know, Sand.” I try not to think about last night, when, for the umpteenth time, I cradled her head against my chest and covered her ears, or this morning, when I had to jump through hoops to keep her from seeing our mom’s bruises. I shake my head, jerking myself into the present, and point to her plate saying, “Eat your Brussels sprouts.”
She obliges, and I look at the cross above the doorway, wondering how God can say he loves all his children when, apparently, he has seven billion. My thinking is, once in a while, he misses somebody.
I hear a knock at the door, but I already know who it is. Motioning for Sandra to stay put, I walk to the door and open it.
“Evening, officers,” I say, keeping my solemn voice low.
I nod. “Can I say goodbye to my sister?”
They nod, but follow me. Sandra’s watching from the kitchen doorway.
“What’s going on?”
“Sand, just… just listen. You’re gonna’ live with Aunt Ruth, I already packed your bags. This… this is for the best, ok?”
We hug, and she whimpers a bit as I pull away. I want to explain, but I can’t. Because sometimes, we do crazy things for the people we love, and she doesn’t need to know what I’ve done.
Walk with me from October 24-31 as I post some of my work in honor of Coffin Hop 2013. Some of this is quite old, some of it not–guess which is which, Traveler. Perhaps a right answer will earn a stroke of fortune for you…
For this tour, I’ll be giving away one signed anthology in which a story of mine has been featured. Which anthology is up to the winner. Keep in mind, I reserve the right to award additional gifts as per Coffin Hop rules. Who knows–if I get a lot of hits, you might see a lot of rewards in the future. Be sure to click the badge at the side of my page and visit the other Hoppers!