Authors: Ginger Scott
Text copyright © 2016 Ginger Scott (Ginger Eiden)
Little Miss Write, LLC
All Rights Reserved
of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or events is entirely coincidental.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook my not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only or loaned through proper mechanisms and methods, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
over Photo by DLRfoto
Cover Design by Ginger Scott
For my fellow dreamers.
why I thought wedging the full vase between two speakers in the back of my Nissan was a good idea. I was rushing.
I wish I could get places on time. It’s one of my flaws. I’m habitually late. I cover it up with my devil-may-care attitude, but inside my gut is tying itself in knot after knot. The squeezing feeling gets tighter with every set of seconds that tick by
the time I was supposed to arrive somewhere. Like right now, at this stoplight, which is exactly forty-seven seconds long. I know this, because I’ve been late getting to my parents’ house at least a thousand times, probably two thousand if I count the number of times I blew my curfew when I was in high school. I’ve counted the length of this stoplight since I was sixteen, and it always lands on forty-seven. I think the note I wrote to myself scribed with
is still stuffed in my center console somewhere.
That note must be three years old. I bet it’s yellowed and the ink has disappeared. It’s probably buried under piles of receipts and notes to remind myself of things I ultimately forgot. God, I’m a pig—I need to clean shit out of my car.
Another one of my flaws—I’m a pig.
I start to make mental notes about my messiness and lateness and other personal shortcomings I need to fix, knowing I won’t really do jack about them, but it keeps me from bouncing my leg for the rest of the ride until I pull to the curb, to the familiar front lawn with the perfectly edged trim. The gutter between the concrete and the place where my parents’ lawn begins is precisely one inch wide. It’s perfect. It’s always pristine. My dad does it himself. Spends his entire Sunday—his
day off—on that front lawn, making sure the green is just right, the weeds are nonexistent and the edge is an inch wide.
It’s Saturday. So, he isn’t home. Even though it’s my mom’s birthday, my father is at work. On a Saturday. Because he’s the boss. She would have been at work too if she wasn’t retired, because my father never really liked the idea of taking frivolous days off. Whenever she tried to take one, he made her feel bad about it.
I guess I’m glad he’s an asshole today, though. It means I get to wish her a happy birthday and step into this house I haven’t been in for more than a year—since the day I told him I didn’t want to be a mechanical engineer and work for the big fuel companies in the city just like he and Mom did. Apparently, he had plans—an internship lined up, a guaranteed job ready and waiting, a good salary that would set me up for a comfortable life. Something about bonuses and points and shares or taking limbs from my body. That last part may have only been in my head. He probably had a wife and house picked out for me too—all to his liking. I screwed it all up with my own goddamned dreams.
Look at me, being the
I cut the engine and step from my car, brushing the front legs of my black pants, trying to work out some of the wrinkles. I wanted to look good, but now that I see my clothing choice out in the light of day, I look like I just rolled out of the collection bin for the homeless on Broad Street. At least I have a vest on over my dress shirt. My roommate, Eli, is a serious preppy hipster. I make fun of him, but hell, his clothes are really nice.
I walk to the other side of the car, opening the door to the backseat so I can pull out the vase of flowers. About half of the water spilled out on the ride here, just as I figured. I push my hand into the fabric of my seat and it squishes. Awesome—it’s going to mildew. I roll down the window crank slowly, but not slow enough. It broke last year, and sometimes the grip inside the door gives way and the pane of glass falls all the way in…like it did just now. I have to pull the inside door panel off just to push the glass back up. Looks like I have fun plans for the evening.
I sigh and shake my head, trying to forget about my shit car that’s going to smell like old mop water in a few hours and turn my attention to the red front door at the end of the curved brick walkway. I recognize my sister Christina’s BMW pulled in behind my mom’s in the carport. I’m glad she’s here. This way, I’ll get credit for coming.
My sisters have been on my ass to visit my parents for months. For some reason, when I explain that I was kicked out and disowned, it doesn’t register with them. Why would it—they’re all engineers. Except for Christina, but she’s married to one, so I guess that gets her a pass. Or maybe it’s the fact that she’s a lawyer and drives a car that’s easily a billion times nicer than anything I own.
Before I make it to the door, Christina has it open.
“I’m shocked,” she says, full smirk.
“Yeah, well, it’s probably the Botox making you feel that way. Or…maybe it just makes you
I get my dig in, but I do love my oldest sister. She’s beautiful without the Botox that she thinks she needs. She isn’t that old—thirty-two. But she also used to beat the crap out of me until the day she moved out for college, so I take my shots where I can. She bunches her face in disapproval, but pulls me in to hug me as I step through the door. I’m suffocated by her perfume, which oddly feels like home.
“Still trying out the asshole thing, I see,” she laughs, motioning me inside and shutting the door behind us.
“Yeah, well, everybody’s got one. Just putting mine to good use,” I say.
My mom rushes in behind her at the sound of my voice.
“Casey? Case? Oh…uh…wow…” She’s fidgety and nervous, and she’s waving a spoon covered in batter in her hand. I bet she’s making her own cake. I quirk a brow at my sister over my mom’s shoulder as we embrace, the dripping spoon held far over my back. Christina invited me to join her and my other sisters for lunch today, so I’m not sure why me being here is a surprise.
“It’s your birthday, and I figured…you know…since Dad won’t be home for a while, I’d…come for this lunch that Christina arranged?” I hand her the flowers, and she pulls them against her chest, her eyes flitting to and away from me in one-second intervals.
“Oh, right. Yes, thank you,” she says, glancing to my sister and then back down to the daisies.
What the hell?
Mom has always been okay with me sneaking in to see her without Dad. At least, that’s how we’ve managed the last year. I see her when she stops in at my sisters’ houses, or when she’s out on lunch errands. Always alone or without him. She doesn’t hold the grudge for me walking my own path; she just doesn’t stick up for me when my dad gets involved in my life. And I get it—he doesn’t make it easy to argue.
He doesn’t listen.
I follow her and my sister down the hallway to the kitchen and pull out a stool to sit at the counter. I glance at my sister, who just shrugs and busies herself with texting or emailing on her phone. Christina’s always working—clients, cases, opinions, making partner. That world—it’s so full of status climbing and proving oneself to other people. I could see that in my parents’ lives, too, even when I was little.
Sure, I have some fond memories from the late nights when it was one of my sisters putting a series of frozen dinners in the microwave, and we’d all climb in front of the television to eat. When I was seven or eight, those nights seemed like fun. But a thousand nights later—when I was eleven—the good vibes were replaced with a sort of abandoned kind of feeling. My sisters had their own lives, the oldest two—Christina and Myra—gone, and Marie and Annalissa wanted little to do with a pre-teen boy. I heated up my own dinners. And if I didn’t understand my homework, I went to my best friend Houston’s house, where his dad would sit at the table with the both of us and make sure we knew our fractions and understood decimals. Hell, any engineering skills I
have in my blood are really thanks to that man.
By the time I started high school, I hardly even remembered dinner with my sisters. Dinners with my parents were fictional—something I tried not to envy others for. I came home to an empty house, and I’d been trained not to even bother mentioning events in my life to my parents when we passed one another in the kitchen in the mornings—like shift changes. My senior year, I was crowned homecoming king. To this day, I don’t think my mother knows. At some point, I just didn’t want to tell her, because I could tell it would make her feel bad. Of the two of them, she was always the one who felt guilty for missing out on family time.
I didn’t bother to walk for graduation, either. Nobody from my family could come; so I figured there wasn’t much point to spending a hundred dollars on a polyester cap and gown not a single relative would see me in. I convinced my dad that it was a better investment to give me the cash he would have spent on my graduation package and put it toward my college books and fees. I used his practical logic against him, and he gave me the money that Saturday afternoon when I told him I was heading to the college book store to get a “jump on scouting out my textbooks for the next year.” Instead, I bought a hundred dollars’ worth of cheap beer and got wasted with my best friends in an alley behind the mini-mart to celebrate the end of our young-adult lives.
My dad would say that I never fully grew up. I just didn’t grow up like him.
It’s awkwardly quiet now, and I’m a little peeved I hurried over here since my other sisters haven’t even arrived yet. Seems I’m not really late for anything.
“So,” I start, gripping the front of the stool between my legs while I hunch my shoulders and lift myself slightly in the seat. I’m so uncomfortable here. I always am.
My mom rinses off the spoon, dropping it in a soaking bowl in the sink. I can smell chocolate cake baking.
“The flowers are lovely. Thank you so much. You’re a good boy,” my mom says, a little more like her normal self. She dries her hands on a towel and steps over to me, kissing my cheek as her hand cups the other side of my face.
“It’s your birthday. You know I’d never miss it,” I smile. Her gaze lingers on me for a minute along with her palm, and in that small space, she almost looks like she might cry.
“Mom, you know I would come more often. But he’s made it clear—” I start to walk through my usual diatribe about how stubborn my father is and how much I refuse to give in, when all is interrupted by the man himself.
The sound of his throat clearing comes first, followed by the shutting of the front door. I’d sprint for the back door, but he’s likely already taken in my piece-of-shit car out front. I rub my forehead and stand from my stool, pushing it back in place—exactly how I found it. I fish my keys from my pocket and have the car key poised between my thumb and finger by the time he enters the kitchen.
“He’s home early. That’s…that’s what the weirdness was for,” I say just loud enough that my mom and sister can hear, my head hung low as I try to figure out what face I need to make to keep my mom happy and my father calm. I glance at her with empty eyes, and her face falls and her head tilts to the side. That’s her nonverbal:
She hates it when we fight; so for her, I’ll try to avoid confrontation.
“What are you here for? Do you need money? Did you decide to get a real job? Or are you still living in fantasyland?” It’s like he picked up right where he left off the last time we spoke. That conversation was more than twelve months ago, and it happened almost exactly the same way. I dropped by to see Mom, and he came home early.
“I was just wishing Mom a happy birthday. But I have to go now, so how about you spend your energy doing something nice for her, huh?” My words come out cruel and sharp—I don’t mean to engage, but there’s this trigger he hits, and I can’t seem to stop it. I step into my mom and kiss her cheek, then turn away from him. I won’t look at him.
“You mean like provide for her with a good job that guarantees her future and uses my brain and real talent?” he pipes in before I can get too far.
I slow down, but I keep moving forward until my hand lands on the doorknob.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Math is a dream talent, pops. Way to follow your dreams. Now, I’m going to go back to following mine,” I say, shaking my head as I pull the door open. I walk through and nudge it closed behind me with my fingertips.
I almost make it to the solace of my car, but I’m a step or two too late.
“You’re wasting your life on that…what…music mixing? Jesus, you don’t even play an instrument. It’s not like you’re a prodigy. You have a talent, Casey. Your gift is numbers, and you could do so many things…”
That’s the thing with his lectures. They teeter on nice. But they’re not
nice. It’s like his words are disguised as kind and caring—with just enough bite to remind me he thinks I’m a loser. I fell for it most of my life. I’m done falling for it now.
“I play six instruments, Dad. Six,” I say calmly as I open the car door and put one foot inside. My hand flattens on the roof and I swallow hard, giving in to look up at him. He’s wearing his typical suit. The tie is off, but other than that, he’s exactly the same. He doesn’t change. “And that
thing, it makes me happy. Tell Mom I hope she likes her flowers.”
I pat the roof once and climb inside the car; I turn over the engine the typical three times before it catches and I can drive away.
My car is silent for the first few blocks, and I don’t pause at the stop signs long. I stay in this trance until I turn the corner and know I’m completely out of sight of him—not that he’s still looking. When I reach the red light, I let myself have one solid tantrum as I pound my fists against the steering wheel over and over again.
“Fucking fuck!” I yell, pulling my hat from my head and throwing it hard on my dash. My hair falls down into my eyes; I hate that when I’m driving, so I pick the hat up again and twist it backward.
My AC is spotty, so the air pumping through the vents is doing little to cool me off. Or maybe I’m just on fire from being so pissed. It’s summer, and I’m wrapped up in a vest and pants like I’m getting ready for the family Christmas card. I unclip the seatbelt—while the crosswalk sign flashes a countdown—tugging the knit vest over my head, my hat getting caught in it and my hair flopping in my eyes again. Fuck it—I’m leaving it off this time.