Sweet Child of Mine

Gracie pushes violently into the bedroom, pulling me out of Narnia and into her imperfect teenaged world.
“That woman…” she growls it. “She’s brainwashed him almost completely.” Her makeup runs down her face in a futile attempt to flee her torment. “But you have no idea, you’re just a stupid kid,” She pauses and sucks in her breath, turning from me. “I guess ignorance is fucking bliss.” I fold down my page and shut the fantasy world in my lap.
“Come on Gracie, maybe you should give her another…”
“Oh God! She’s gotten to you too, hasn’t she?” She doesn’t let me finish, eyes shining innocently menacing. “Everything in this fucking room stinks of her southern fucking pretensions. These frilly-ass pillows. I hate them. I hate this house. I hate that this room smells like her.” Her anger seems decided, resolved tears stream silently.
“Gracie, don’t cry…”
“It’s not just me, Emme. You really don’t get it. Have you even thought about how Mom is dealing with this?” She is interrupted by the rhythm of my father’s weight mounting the stairs, slowly, unsure. “If he asks, tell him I’m asleep.” She rolls into her blanket and extinguishes her light, sniffling hard.
Daddy pokes his head in cautiously, wincing almost, then exhaling when he sees that Gracie is motionless. He looks worn; his eyes are saggy and sad.
“Goodnight girls,” he steps into the dark room, his shadow stretched long across the carpet.
“Goodnight Daddy,” I chirp, hoping to relieve him of Gracie’s burden.
“She’s sleeping.” He sighs hard and recoils.
I hear reluctant footsteps descend downstairs. I hear him pause at the bottom and turn towards the kitchen, where he will join her. There she will be angrily washing dishes. She will chip their wedding china. He will whisper behind her, placing gentle hands around her waist. She will push him away, and throw her rubber gloves into the hot soapy water, splashing suds onto his face and arms. She will stomp into the bedroom and turn on the TV. He will hesitate at the sink, and wonder what his next move will be. Will he finish the dishes? Will he follow her, apologizing for the things he can’t control? Or will I hear him on the steps again, bounding upwards, to us, his own, where he will embrace me and stroke Gracie’s hair, and tell us that we’re all that really matters? He will make up his mind. He will turn from the dishes. He will walk steadily to their bedroom door where she sits glaring angrily at a dull TV screen, he will kiss her and tell her what she wants.
I lay flat, my eyes open wide, Narnia light years away. I think of the dishes in the sink. I think about Gracie’s anger. I think about my mother alone right now, miles away and weeping silently into her hands, the radio playing softly. I think about adaptation and how easily I could ignore Gracie’s frustration and embrace this woman blindly. The silence echoes from downstairs, calling me. The wind weaves through dry tree branches outside.
I sit upright and slide counter-clockwise from my sheets, careful not to disturb my sister, who breathes steadily. I fold my arms into myself and move downstairs, where the floorboards creak in warning, telling me to forget this, to get back in bed. The house is dark, but I feel the hardwood turn to linoleum, the kitchen a mess with shattered starlight. I walk to the sink and fish for the sponge.
Something is brilliant in the windowpane, catching the moon in its prism. I lift it between my fingers, recognizing her abandoned diamond shining madly. I place it on my finger and admire. Her orange cat is watching me from the living room his tail swishing back and forth. I wrap my palm hard around the band, the cut edges of the stone digging into my flesh.
I do not think. The backyard is alive with shadows. I move soundlessly through the sliding back door. The shadows recline in the distance and fog is all around me. The trees are thick with dark. I walk to the shade and sink to my knees my fingernails begin to loosen the hard, cold soil. I am pulling up chunks of earth, holding their marriage in my teeth. I spit it into the shallow grave. Tomorrow she’ll be looking for it. Behind me the upstairs light goes on and off again. The orange cat winks at me from behind closed curtains.

Sweet Child of Mine


Joined November 2007

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