The best thing about life is choice.
Okay guys, I got a long one for you here. This actually wraps up my first act, so yay! me.
Again, let me know what you think by leaving a comment. Good or bad.
Whispering, the name still brings a shiver back to my spine.
I’m still running, Jaq’s cold heat in the back of my mind. It doesn’t take me long before I’m back at the house.
I’m panting from the run, slowing my pace. If I were dramatic I’d hang my tongue in exhaustion.
My backpack is now a frontpack and I’m hugging it like a newborn child. It’s dangerous walking around with money. That’s a lesson I learned from hanging with the Fifth Street Villains. They’re a gang mostly located on; you guessed it, Fifth Street.
Another earthquake passed beneath my feet and I nearly missed the first step up to the front door. I clumsily unlock the door and stumble inside.
“Graceful.” I say, kicking off my loafers in their usual spot.
“Goddammit Oscar! You’re twenty-two! When are you going to start acting like an adult?” Dad’s voice stunned me. He wasn’t supposed to be here. Well, neither was I.
His tone was vicious and shaky. Not like anything I’d ever heard from him.
Oscar’s voice was even worse. Cold and calloused. “An adult? You mean like you? Spend every waking hour avoiding, neglecting, and ostracizing your son? Is that what you mean?”
“Oh please! You’re so dramatic.” Dad shrieked.
Their voices seem to be coming from Dad’s bedroom. I slowly walk up the stairs towards the argument, trying my best at being quiet. The steps thankfully cooperate. I hold my breath so I don’t miss a beat, loosely gripping the banister.
“Yeah Dad, I’m the one being dramatic. As usual.” Oscar laughs weakly. “You know, there was a time I thought you actually cared about me.”
“I care about you.” Dad started. “I’m just busy. Someone has to provide for this family. We can’t eat love and good conversation, Oscar.”
“You only care about yourself. I can see that now.” Oscar’s voice is impossibly loud. “You hide behind your job and Orial and you ignore the rest of the world! I can see you though, Dad! I see it and Mom saw it. That’s why she lef-.“
I barely recognized the ring of force meeting flesh. A sharp, howling slap echoed all through the house. The sound is foreign and frightening…and a few other f-words.
I ran to my Dad’s room and threw the door open. Dad’s large, faded form turning towards me and Oscar’s slender body remaining still, one hand cradling his cheek.
“Orial…Princess, what are you doing home?” Dad’s voice turned high-pitched and syrupy sweet. It was almost enough to make me gag.
“I am so outta here!” Oscar storms pass me, hitting into my shoulder. I tip and bump the door but regain my balance quickly.
“Oscar! I’m sorry!” Dad tried.
“Don’t bother!” Oscar yelled back.
Dad went after him but the front door slams shut before his second step, “Dammit. “
“You hit him.” I finally say. Dad rarely lost his temper. Even in the worst argument, he always seemed cool a cucumber. Except if they brought up Mom.
Mom was gone before I could remember. There are no photos, no old clothes, and definitely no talk of her anywhere in this house. If you asked, Dad ignored you. If you persisted, Dad got angry. Boy, did he get angry.
But he never hit us. Until now that is.
“Why don’t we get outta here? Go grab some ice cream?” His tone was enough to give me diabetes. I nodded in his direction. He turned me by the shoulders and led me back downstairs and out the house.
We walked in silence. Me still hugging my backpack and Dad, I suspect, brooding. He insisted on holding my hand. When I tried to pull away he just held tighter. We made it to Norma’s and ordered our ice cream cones and walked down a small hill to the duck pond.
It was peaceful. We sat on the rickety dock, bare feet kicking at cool water. My vision swam, I couldn’t catch sight of any of the ducks but the smells were enough to keep me entertained. There is fresh moss, salt water, and faintest hint of lilac from the flowers down stream.
“We’ve got a good day for it, don’t we?” Dad finally spoke. I could tell the words hurt his throat to even say despite the ice cream.
Mine always seemed to melt faster in my hands than it did in his so to avoid the mess; I ate my cone as quick as I could.
“Yeah.” I answer.
“You mad at me?” Dad waited for my answer with bated breath.
“A little bit.” I’m honest. No use lying about it.
“I’m not the one you should be apologizing to.” I say. “You hit him.”
“That’s not okay.” It’s not. I need to know he understands that. I want to know that he’s knows it’s not okay.
“I know.” He repeats. “I don’t know what came over me. I love my son, I do. But sometimes…”
“Sometimes he’s a full-blown jerk, yeah, but all the time he’s your son.” I turn towards him but keep my eyes down.
“I just, I don’t know what he wants from me. One minute, everything’s fine and the next, it’s like World War III.” Dad explains. “I hug him and tell him I love him all the time.”
“Hugs are fine. The words are fine but there’s more than one way to tell someone you love them. Better ways, in fact.” I try for a soft smile.
Dad snorts a laugh and turns to face me, “When did you get so insightful?”
“Insightful?” I raise my eyebrows.
“Figuratively of course.” He corrects.
“Yeah.” I turn back to the water with my smile permanently etched. Under my breath, “Apology accepted.”
We spent the rest of the afternoon quietly enjoying the pond. The sun started to set earlier than I wanted it to. What little I could see dimmed dramatically leaving me in the dark. I took my shades off and secured them in my backpack.
Everything around me hummed in a soft gray sheen of light. The glow pulsed almost in time with my heartbeat, soothing whatever worries I had during the daylight. I never understood how somehow I had so much clarity at night, nor did I try to. Whether it was the light of the moon or just phenomenon, I’m just glad it happens at all.
Night has always been my favorite time of day. All the stress left with the sun and I was able to walk with Dad arm in arm, smiling.
I’ve never told him about the glowing. Dad already knows pretty much everything else about me, I need something just for me. Something that’s just mine.
We made it home just as the last bit of sun disappeared.
“Oscar?” Dad called out into the house.
I made my way to the couch, sitting in silence. The cushion beside me depressed with Dad’s body weight. He rigid…tense…worried.
“You have no new messages.” The machine echoed in the empty house.
“Where are you boy?” Dad whispered under his breath. I listened as he picked up the receiver and dialed out. I could hear the rings and then Oscar’s voicemail saying to leave him a message. Dad hung up and sighed.
“Oscar’s fine.” I try.
“Yeah,” Dad hesitated, “yeah.”
“He’ll call.” I try again. “When he’s ready.”
He stood abruptly. The couch shook violently, rocking on its wooden legs. I clutched the armrest to regain stability. “I’m gonna go check Tomasine’s. Just to see if he’s camped out over there.”
“Okay.” I answer a question he wasn’t asking.
“Stay by the phone and call me if you hear from him.” Dad instructs. I nod. There’s no point in trying to talk him out of it because he’s already made his mind up on the search but mostly because he’s gone before I can take in enough air to respond.
I hear him grab his keys and the door shut.
“Well, alright then.” I say to myself. I shake my head, standing.
I’m not gonna worry. Oscar’s a big boy. Twenty-two for God sake. He deserves his time to cool down and think things through. Truth is, if Dad yelled at me and hit me like he did to Oscar, I’d seriously consider hitting the road too. Dad’s never been a violent man but if he does it once, he’ll do it again. As much as I love my Dad, and pains me to say, things could never be the same again.
But that’s just me.
I grab a Lunchable, heading upstairs to my room.
A few hours pass and I’m still home alone. The night is nice and settled in now, the wind beating against my window.
I change into an oversized t-shirt and a pair of old basketball shorts, sitting on bed Indian style. Eyes closed, I listen to the wind, letting it talk to me. I can hear the stories of where it’s been, things it’s picked up along the way, and the hopeful whistles of its next adventure.
No one can tell a story like the wind can.
The phone pulled me back to reality. I jumped up with an anticipation I didn’t know I had, dashing out to the hallway. When I reached it, I fumbled to pick up the receiver.
“H-hello?” I stuttered.
“Daddy?” Oscar’s voice was paralyzing. This was not the ass-hat brother I know and love. This was hurried and desperate.
“Oscar, no it’s me.” I say quickly. “Where are you?”
“Where’s Dad?” He skipped over question.
“He’s out looking for you. Where are you?” I ask again.
“Ori, I messed up real bad. I thought I could handle it but…I-oh man! I’m in trouble Orial.” Oscar’s breathing is out of rhythm. He sounds as if he’s been running to somewhere. Or from something.
“WHERE ARE YOU, OSCAR?!” I didn’t mean to yell.
“Bollablu Square.” He finally answered. “Tell Dad that I’m at Bollablu Square. Hurry.”
“Alright, I’m calling him now.” I hang up and then pick up again, fingers probing for the braille on the keypad.
The phone rang through. No answer. Hang up, calling again. No answer.
“Come on, Dad.” Call again. “Pick up!” I yell.
Now, I’m worried. I slam the phone down, pausing to think and take a deep breath. I rack my brain trying to remember how far away the Square is.
“Ten blocks. Fifteen? Twenty?” I think aloud, picking up the phone again, dialing for Dad.
I’m down the stairs in a flash, stumbling on the last few steps before just leaping to the floor below.
Fumbling with my shoes at the door, I pull on my winter boots instead of my loafers. My bag is on in no time.
I’m out the door. Jumping recklessly down the four concrete steps, sliding on the smooth pavement.
The phone clattered on the sidewalk. I don’t stop to find where it went and I definitely don’t stop to think.
I’m coming, Oscar.
I reach the Square in record time. I hear gasps and scattered footsteps as I blow past the foot traffic on the way. Luckily, they move in time. I take the safest alleys to avoid any unwanted confusion.
Bollablu Square is what remains of the small town this once was. It’s one large, crumbling town square building deemed too historical to tear down, so all the hoodlums and thugs gather in it and do whatever sordid thing they want.
It’s a cesspool. And here I am, readying myself to go inside.
I listen for a few seconds, mostly so I can regain my breath from the ten-mile sprint I just went on. I can’t hear anything but leaves in the wind, speeding pass in a whirlwind. What little vision I had pulsed so quickly it made my stomach sick. The glowing thumped hard and loud behind my eyes.
“Oscar?” My voice hissed from my oxygen-deprived lungs. “Oscar?”
“In here.” I hear the faintest whisper. I give all my attention to the looming building in front of me. Creeping up to it, I step onto the rickety porch. The smell of wood lacquer and rust assault my senses.
“Oscar?” I say. “Where are you?”
“Inside.” Another whisper.
I touch the wooden face of the Square, feeling for the knob. The door opens under pressure and a puff of stale air exhales in my face. I cough out as much dust as I can, turning my head to choke.
“Oscar? Come on, man.”
“In here.” Another whisper.
“Come out. There’s no one out here.” I try to sound assuring. I wonder what kind of mess he’s gotten himself into. I’m strangling the strap of bag to release some tension.
I hesitate but step inside. The wood beneath my boots feels as if its water-logged and warped. I creep in as far as my nerves would allow.
“Jesus Christ!” I mutter, jumping back when a small wooden table falls and clatters loudly on the floor. I scramble to try to pick it up tensely. “Come on, Oscar. This isn’t funny.”
“Back here.” I hear the whisper again. I follow it forward, holding out my hands to circumvent another collision.
“What’s happening, Oz? Who are you hiding from?” No answer. “Oscar?”
The walls tighten around me into a hallway; claustrophobia is real. I stop walking and gag, feeling pressure building up in the back of my throat.
That’s when it hit me.
Burning, rotting meat. Sulfur and ashes.
“Oscar! Oscar, we gotta go!” I yell, turning on my heels.
The ground starts to shake and grumble, sounds of splintering wood and cracking glass yell out in the musty den.
A blinding, white heat shot upward in front of me. I shield my face from scorching with my hand, screaming into it when my skin sizzled.
The floor gave away in what I could only describe as a dizzying crumble.
Just like my cups jumping from the nightstand, the only thing on my mind is, “Dear God, Please forgive me.”
Tomato = fruit. Fruit = You. You are a tomato.
Let’s have a moment of silence for burned bacon everywhere. You fought hard and now you can rest.
I have decided to self publish my Dragon Story! Now titled: The Parts I Couldn’t See! I started a kickstarter campaign to help me with publishing costs because I am poor. If you would like to help out, the link is below! Also, boldly fonted, is a synopsis for the story so you can see what you’re in for. Thanks for your time!
Orial has always seen the world differently. The difference being, she’s never clearly seen the world at all. Her vision is obscured heavily by a veil of soupy whiteness. At nineteen years old, Orial finds it hard to make connections, forge friendships, or even have a decent conversation with her older brother, Oscar.
In recent days, Orial’s home town of Aster has been plagued with frequent earthquakes and strange, foul smelling visitors. The news of missing people is spreading like wild fire and causing panic in the urban city.
When Oscar goes missing, Orial follows his distress calls and falls into a war that’s been raging for a century and right into the den of the Devil himself.
Sorry for the long wait guys, I got kinda busy.
Here’s another rough draft for you. As you can see, I’m getting a much better feel for my characters but this is still very rough for me. Sorry in advance for any errors.
Be sure to let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? Comment.
For once, I’d actually like to be where I say I am. Like to actually tell the truth about my whereabouts at some point before I’m twenty, would be an achievement.
It’s not like I’m lying about anything huge or groundbreaking. Lord, knows I’m not doing anything cool enough to need an alibi for. I’m just omitting the unnecessary bits.
Oscar dropped me off at the school like a sack of garbage.
He grumbled something that sounded like, “see ya,” nudging me none too gently up the stairs. He was gone before I said my own goodbye. I squinted to see his long back heading up the street and around a corner.
Oscar’s walk was distinguishable, to say the least. The taps of his steps always come in three’s although he only has two feet.
I’ve checked that fact, just to make sure. There’s something else clicking around behind him that I can’t quite put my finger on.
I don’t enter the school.
Eleanor Beeze School of Dance is a lovely place, I’m sure. But something tells me it’s not right for me. After my dad signed me up for classes, without asking, I attempted to attend a few of them. After all, it wasn’t cheap. Beeze is the best school of dance in town. It’s an interpretive and creative outlet for wayward youth. That’s what the brochure says.
Needless to say, I am not the next big thing in dance. I stumbled, tumbled, and damn near lost an arm trying to do the warm up activities. It was so bad, Beeze sectioned me off in a corner to myself and I still somehow found my way out into the middle of the class. Fifteen other girls trying not to laugh at the poor little blind Orial who doesn’t know right from left, up from down, or her ass from a hole in the ground.
I should say now that I’m not bitter about this. Some people can’t dance. I just happen to be one of them.
There are four steps that lead up to the double doors of the school and I manage to skip the last two with a leap back to the sidewalk. Lucky for me this isn’t one of my white days or that could’ve been tragic.
No, today, I have a nice visible streak going down the very center of my view. It’s actually one of the better days I’ve had. If I tilt my head just right, I can catch just about everything.
Of course none of that matters to everyone else, I’m the same kind of blind everyday.
But to me though, even as small as that break in the light is, it’s like the whole world is open. Everything is so much more rich and lush. Smiles are a little brighter, colors sharpen, and best of all: I don’t need an escort.
I cut from my path taking a left down the breezeway next to the school. I could travel the whole city by alleys and breezeways alone. There are tributaries to every main road and highway in this place.
Plus, for me, the bi-ways cut down on the distraction. They’re not brimming with maddened cars, storefront tables to bump into, and there’s barely any foot traffic. It’s comfortable. I can just walk freely, letting the tips of my fingers drag against the brick the buildings and skipping over the valleys between the stone pavers of the walkway.
After a few left turns, I hear Tony shrill my nickname, “Yo! Whisper!”
He’s a hazy blob waving from up ahead. Tony’s a burly type wearing a tank top and leather pants that were so tight you could see his blood flowing through his veins.
If you could see, that is.
He’s standing in front of an iron door that’s painted Christmas red. “You’re late!”
I don’t answer until I get closer. “Hey Tony, how’s it hanging?”
Even out in the open, Tony’s massive size made the air feel thin. He’s an absolute beast.
“You’re late. Platt’s been chewing everyone out.” He hikes a large thumb back towards the door. “He’s got a visitor coming from the east and he’s super stressed.”
“Platt? Stressed? I thought that was an urban legend like Nessie or Bigfoot.” I laugh. Tony grunts, opening the door for me.
“Yeah, well. Me too.”
Tony’s nervousness worried me but I didn’t show it. I strolled inside with my back straight. The door jammed closed behind me and the air immediately became stale. All the light left and my vision shifted from swimming white streaks to shadowy shapeless-ness.
“Well, it’s about damn time!” Platt’s voice is rasp. Probably from all the ‘chewing out’ Tony was talking about.
Clarence McDoogle-Platt is the very definition of a cliché mob boss. His voice is an old-world Italian, he reeks of cigar smoke and whiskey, and he has his hands in everything in this city from gambling to black market kidneys. Add in granting favors on the day of his daughter’s wedding and you’ve got yourself a TV series.
Platt’s arrogant, easily angered, and strongly dependent on what other’s think of him. All of that makes for a lethal combination.
And there he is in front of me. A wavy, dark blob of a man leaning against a loud, wobbly pool table, standing on torn carpet and old cigarette butts, and breathing as if he just ran a 5k.
“Yeah, sorry. I got a late start today.” I lie.
“Well, while you were getting a late start, Jaq’s getting closer to being here and I still don’t have anything ready.” Platt’s words feel wet and dramatic. Every word he says at me seems to slither over my body and under my skin. I feel more and more poisoned with every syllable. To keep from screaming in revulsion, I grip the strap on my bag.
It’s the only way I can make it through.
I’m a lackey. I file his paperwork and run errands. But mostly, I’m just company for him. We met about two months ago, down by the school. He found me sitting on the steps after I totally crashed and burned and sat down next to me. We talked. He didn’t mind that I couldn’t see, in fact he preferred it. My guess is cause all his paperwork is safer in braille and I could never finger him in court cause I’ve never actually seen him. Whatever the reason, it’s just nice to have a friend.
I give my signature smirk and lean back on my heels, confident. “Man, are you tripping on that? Relax. We’ve seen four leaders already this week. You’ve got this.”
“Yeah but not Jaq. One slip up and I’m right back to pushing papers for Danesky.”
I hear him breathing deep and pacing. His footsteps are heavy but soft. Deliberate with small stumbles.
“Jaq’s…” He starts.
“Just another guy. Nothing more.” I finish for him. “Definitely not compared to save-the-tears-for-ya-mama Platt.” I laugh a bit at his nickname. It’s one me and another of his goons gave him after the Warbasher incident. But that’s another story entirely.
“Okay, Whisp, okay. You seem pretty sure so I’m gonna trust you.” He’s snickering.
My secret is that I’m not sure. About anything.
“Good choice.” I say and feel my way to the back of the small building and into an even smaller office space. Platt follows me and flips the light switch on the wall. Of course it didn’t help any. “Now, you got something for me?”
The floors creak louder in the back. I can feel the lack of support if I bounce a bit on my toes. One false step and it’s right to the basement, or whatever’s underneath here.
“Oh, yeah. Thanks for reminding me.” Platt moves pass me and deeper into his office. I hear stone sliding against wood and the pressure release of his vault door. “This came for you in parcel. There’s no return address but…” He shoves the tiny, square package into my outstretched hands. It’s light but heavy in my fingers. I give it a good shake, whatever’s inside rattles around loosely.
I rub over the top to feel for the label. There are heavy pen markings on a slippery sticker that spell out my name.
“Well at least there’s no ticking. That’s always a good sign.” I say holding it to my ear.
“Yeah, yeah. And take this too.” He throws a heavy stack of money on top of the little box in my hands.
“What’s this?” I thumb through the bills. He pays me in one-dollar bills because it’s easier. If I know one piece of paper is one dollar than I never have to second guess myself.
“It’s payday.” He says.
“Right.” I’m not going to complain.
I don’t work here because of the money, although it is good. It’s just nice to get out of the house for a while. Now, I know what you’re saying, “you could just go to that dance class your dad signed you up for.” But realistically, I’m suffocating under the weight of my dad making decisions for me. He’s making memories that are mine to make. My dad is a big promoter of being self-sufficient but there is more than one way to cripple a person.
I don’t want to live under the umbrella of my dad. I want to dance, slip, and fall flat on my face in the rain.
“You’d better scoot before Jaq comes.” Platt’s leather chair howls when he sits in it. He’s not so bad, to me anyway.
Whatever the reasons are, I’m just glad I’m not on his bad side. I nod in his direction and wordlessly make my way out of the dungeon-like building.
Outside, my vision lit up. I smile more so on the inside as the oppressive, stale air is once again trapped behind the door.
“Hey Whisp, did you cut him down to size?” Tony asked.
Laughing, I turn around. “Diced him into little pieces for ya, Ton.” Tony laughed.
I gagged; the scent of sulfur and ash hit me like a ton of bricks. I cover my mouth, trying not to vomit.
Turning my back to Tony, the voice of a serpent slithered into my ear and I frowned deeply. “Hey there sweetie. Is this where I can find Platt?”
“Who wants to know?” I ask defensively. I narrow my eyes to try to get a look at the man in front of me.
I felt hot and cold at the same time. My arms are shivering but my legs are on fire. The dry skin on my shoulder is burning and itching. Reaching back, I lay my hand on top of it to soothe it.
I’ve never felt this way before. My whole body is suddenly on edge. Running would be a good option but I don’t think I could move my legs if I wanted to. I’m frozen.
He gives an almost maniacal laugh, “The name’s Jaq.”
I stiffen, nodding before my lips could form the words. “Yeah, yeah. He’s through the door.” I hike my thumb and I feel him move around me and towards Tony. I gasp as his icy atmosphere washes over me and dash away as soon my legs would cooperate.
I’ve never encountered evil before but if I had to guess, that was it in its purest form.
Okay, It’s definitely more refined now and a lot has changed. Still rough but I like it.
I’m attempting to show you a little bit of what my process looks like just in case you were curious. So again, let me know what you think. I’m leaving this chapter now and heading into chapter two (with a much better feel for my characters and the environment I might add) and I’ll do the same uploading process if y’all would like.
I’m always open to feedback. I love it. I need it. Oh baby, oh baby. …I’m so awkward.
My bedside table is a suicide ledge for cups.
They dance to its edge and leap to the wooden floor below, twisting and clattering, forever lost to the darkness under my bed. I hope on the way down, they make peace with their actions.
That’s the second cup this week.
Earthquakes are common around here. Well, at least these days. There hasn’t been a day in the last week I hadn’t been shook awake by nature’s alarm clock and shattering glass.
I stretch and yawn, hitting the button on top of my clock and wait for the time.
“Five-fourteen a m.” The soothing female voice recites.
“Nice. So that’s three hours of sleep total.” I say aloud into my room, sitting up on my mattress. “That’ll get me through the day.” Sarcasm.
I feel my hair spill out of the top bun I put it into the night before and flood down my back like an angry, muddy river. The curls represent the rolling waves and the wooden beads throughout act as the helpless water creatures along for the wild ride.
I’m not a rough sleeper but I just have poor bun skills. It’s a sensitive subject.
I take another sigh and stand.
My mornings all start the same. It goes sarcasm, shower, and then more sarcasm. As a nineteen-year-old girl, it’s my civic duty to provide as much false emotion as possible. At least, that’s what my dad tells me.
I make my way to my tub. I feel for the tiny, raised bumps on the steel of the handles. My fingers read ‘hot’ and I turn it on. The water gushes out over my other hand and I feel the warmth almost immediately.
I’ve been mostly blind since birth. I say mostly blind cause sometimes I catch small glimpses. Sometimes I catch the blurry smiles on people faces and see streaks of lightly colored flowers.
Most days are like this but some days are just completely blotted out in a white light.
I call these my white days, fittingly of course, it’s better than calling them my worse days. Which would be truer.
I get into my shower giving extra attention to my back, avoiding my sensitive right shoulder. The dry skin there isn’t a problem until I touch it with water then it’s as if I’d been seared with a branding iron.
I’m clean and out. I hate to linger. What am I waiting on? Anything worth experiencing is not in the shower. My armoire is just outside. I open the doors, running my fingertips over the shirts hanging individually. I touch the cotton of a button down and stop to tug it off its hanger. I search for the tag and read the braille sewn in. Purple.
My dad says purple is the color of royalty. It’s posh, confident, and goes great with the creamy caramel that is my skin tone. Well, I don’t know about any of that but I like the way the word rolls off my tongue.
“Purple.” I say through a smile, slipping the shirt over my damp shoulders, working the buttons into their designated holes.
I find some jeans and slide them on. I reach for my suspenders, snapping them into their place, tie my large mane back into a messy pony, and I am good to go.
“Six thirty-two a m.” I slid my watch on my wrist right after pressing the button on its side.
The floorboards squeal and gurgle from heavy footsteps. Even the slightest sounds seem to catch my attention and it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. There’s nothing worse than getting lost in your favorite book only to be snatched back into reality by the change clanging in someone’s pockets. I can’t complain too much though. Silence is always infinitely worse.
“Princess? Are you decent?” My dad’s whisper is louder than thunder.
“Yeah dad.” I say back. I feel his form looming, taller than my own. I can hear the smile in his voice. I can imagine the corners of his full lips turning up and creating soft dimples in the chocolate of his cheeks.
“What do you think?” I give a quick spin, showing off my outfit of the day. Not like he can say anything to make me change but I always feels he’s at a loss of words. It’s best if I break the ice right away.
He pauses. “Purple always looks so good on you.”
“Thanks dad. What’s up?” I ask.
He clears his throat. “You’re hanging with your brother again today. Morrison wants me at the office.”
“Is it cause of the quake?” My dad works as a geologist at GeoThermics downtown. He works closely with the CEO Alfrand Morrison and has been called in everyday this week. He won’t say but I know it’s because of all the quakes we’ve been having.
“They say it’s the biggest yet.” He tries to justify.
“It didn’t feel any bigger.” I pout dramatically. “What about chicken Friday?”
We eat chicken on Fridays. Don’t judge, it’s tradition.
“I know Princess.” Dad runs his fingers across my forehead and catches my bangs.
He wasn’t always a Geo-nerd. He says before I was born, he worked in construction, building the houses in this very city. He worked by the sweat of his brow and the grease in his elbows. I’d love to see what these walls turned out to look like at the hands of my father. I bet they’re as beautiful as the bedtime stories he spun me when I was smaller.
“How about, if I get done early, we get ice cream from McNelly’s and sit at the pond? Deal?” Dad says. He knows how to sway me. Just the mention of the pond brings up the vividly beautiful smell of salt water. Fresh and cool with just enough mystery to keep me coming back. All the ice cream in the world can’t compare.
I nod at him. “Deal.”
“Alright. Be good for Oz and I’ll see you a little later.” I immediately missed him and he wasn’t even gone yet. “Bye Orial.”
“Bye dad.” I waved.
Oz is waiting for me downstairs. I know because I can smell his coconut hair oil all through the house. He’s been using it so long I can pick him out of a crowd.
It doesn’t take long before I navigate my way down to him. I can feel his eyes staring holes through me. Oscar’s not a talker, to me anyway. He thinks just because I can’t see him very well that he can just fade away but there’s more than one way to be present.
The entire room tenses whenever he’s around. The air is still and I can swear even the temperature drops. That says more than his words ever can.
“Got a problem?” I say.
“Not at all.” He answers low. “It’s just, I got better things to do than to lead around one of the blind mice.” I imagine his wrinkled brow and permanently clinched jaw. The sharp lines of his face match the daggers in his voice. At only twenty-two years old, Oscar had aged his face by ten years from frowning alone.
I smile. “Right. I’d hate to keep you from…what is it? Brownies and video games?” My reply is a little meaner than intended but argument trumps the silence.
“Whatever. Just get your crap so we can leave.” He snorts and walks away. The room can finally relax.
I love my brother, I do. But I can’t help but feel it’s one sided. Or maybe it’s side-less all together.
I meet him at the front door; my bag is on a hook just next to it. I slip it on over my head and rest its strap across my chest. I slide on my loafer shoes.
I pause at the door, taking a deep breath.
This is it. This is the point where the world opens its huge jowls and swallows me whole. All the sounds and smells assault my senses and I try my best not to go insane.
“Come on.” Oscar grabs my hand and pulls me down the front steps. I yank my hand back. I may be impaired but I’m not five.
I put my shades on. They help with what little I can see by blocking the glare from the sun. Although they do dim some of the colors I may catch, it’s better than not seeing them at all.
Our city isn’t exactly what you’d call crowded but it’s definitely not a small town. There are tons shops, people, and cars. Did I mention the cars? They’re the bane of my existence. They’re loud, nauseously fume-y, and worst of all, they are fast.
Weaving in and out of the foot traffic is easy. Most people have an atmosphere about them. Tall, short, fat, or thin. I can feel you coming before you get close enough to bump my shoulder and we have to have that awkward interaction.
But cars? They’re large, steel contraptions that just race past or through you with no regard. They’re unpredictable. And when they hit each other, there is no uncomfortable excuse me’s or fumbling phones, there’s only the horrible sound of crumbling metal and the devastation of fracturing glass. Screaming and police sirens. Ambulances and handcuffs.
I am not a fan.
Oscar and I wait at the edge of the sidewalk, letting the cars whip past in their ever-hurried states. There’s a machine that tells us when it’s safe to cross. Oscar is pressing the button over and over again.
“Fifth and Grand. Cross now.” The speaker blares.
I immediately look for Oscar’s hand and without fail; it’s there for me to cling to.
We may not be best friends but some things are just more important.
We start across slowly.
Before we’re even halfway, the machine starts counting down from fifteen seconds. It’s like the countdown to a bomb exploding in a movie. My palms start to sweat on cue.
“Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen…”
Oscar keeps ahold to my hand; I know he can feel how nervous I am. It’s like electricity coursing through me. You’d have to be dead not to feel it.
“Ten, nine, eight…”
He squeezes tighter for reassurance.
“Five, four, three…”
“Oscar?” My voice squeaks accidentally.
“One more big leap.” Oscar pulls my hand up and I jump as if I’m jumping across the Grand Canyon and land firmly on the sidewalk. I hear Oscar step on the curb beside me, chuckling. He lets go of my hand and the traffic floods behind us. I have to take a deep breath to slow my heart rate.
“You’re ridiculous.” He jabs but keeps walking.
“Oh shut up.” I collect myself and keep pace.
And just like that, he’s back to being an asshole.