Questions, pt 2

He was a retired school teacher who was almost completely bald and they met over drinks at a bar, she was pretty drunk but she sobered up as they got to her house and she realized the man was old enough to be her grandfather so she only made dinner, the way her brother taught her and sent him on his way.

And now sitting in front of her best friend in the whole wide world, someone who knew her for most of her life, who understood her, with whom she shared her dreams and hopes  and she wondered: Why should she have to pick up old men, as lonely as she was in bars? Why should she go out with flirty customers who probably only wanted to see her naked and always hope that perhaps this one, this very guy was the one. The one she would spend her life with.

Why all that when she already had someone in her life who made her laugh, someone who listened to her rants, who comforted her when she was sad, someone who never stopped being there for her, someone she often felt could almost read her mind. Her best friend. And wasn’t that something both of them shared, a dream to find that very person? Were they so blind not to see that what they were looking for and never seemed to find was right there in front of them.

Suddenly it all made sense. She would propose to Shirley. So what if they were not attracted to each other? It shouldn’t be a big deal, they loved each other. Not the way the songs said they should but who cares? Were marriages really based on love or was it just convenience? Two people who tolerated each other found themselves on the same page at the same time and said why not, let’s take this one step together. And then came the mundanes of everyday life, then came kids and they just stayed together, unwilling to look any longer for that magic that movies promised, to look for true love.

The two of them could have that, and more. They could even have kids if they chose, they could adopt, like Phoibe’s mother did with her first wife, Jill or they could even sleep with men, or try in vitro. They could have it all. She just needed to say the words… Just five, or maybe six words. “Shirley Gradle, will you marry me?”

She didn’t have a ring, but they could buy one together, hell they could buy two rings, she would give Shirley one and than Shirley would give her one. They would both be a man and a woman. Her stomach was filling with butterflies, she had to do it now, before this giddiness passed. She was about to do it. She had to say those words… She could do it…

“What’s wrong Phoibe?” Shirley asked her face wearing that concerned expression. “Are you ok?” And Phoibe realized she wasn’t listening to a word Shirley said for how long? She had no idea.  They could have been sitting there minutes, hours…  “Say it. Say it!” Phoibe told herself. “You have to say it.”

But she couldn’t. She just sat there watching the life she imagined melt in front of her eyes. She loved Shirley, she would always love Shirley but she couldn’t do this because if she did she would forever give up something. That other life she always dreamed about. The life Rita had. The life she hoped Pegasus and Melody will have.She excused herself to Shirley, she said she is not feeling well, she would call her later, she promised and got the hell out of there.

She ended up at a sports bar, of all places spilling her sorrows to a bartender named Ayesha. She was so horribly drunk so she ignored the aging bartender’s annoyed glances, and later not so subtle clues that she should get the hell out of there so she could close. She barely remembered how she got home at all.

And now it was another day. Another crappy day in her crappy life. She noticed she had finished her coffee and went to the sink to wash the filthy mug. When she got back to the table she noticed her phone was flashing. It was a text from her neighbor. Rhaenys lived right across the street, she could see her big ugly house from her spot on the roof. The text simply said: “Party at my place tonight? Bunch of people already confirmed.” “Really Rhaenys? A party on a Tuesday? And I thought people grow up…” She said to herself and smiled. A party tonight was the last thing she should do right now. But after a crappy day like yesterday, and a crappy day today maybe it was just the thing she need to pick herself up. “Sure. See ya.” She texted back and put the phone in her pocket.

She came casually dressed as always. Rhaenys was in a formal dress, Rhaenys was always in formal dresses though so it didn’t really matter, anyway she only saw her for a second when she got in and they waved at each other. The place was packed. Thankfully Shirley wasn’t there. Phoibe never even called since the “almost-proposal-incident” and was glad she didn’t run into her. She ended up talking to a freelance writer for the town’s paper. She didn’t know anyone else who worked for the paper and wondered was this woman the only when there. She didn’t get a chance to ask when the woman asked: “Is that your natural hair color?” And Phoibe nodded, she got that a lot and knew what was coming… “You are Phaena Santoro’s daughter? Wow.”

She now wanted to go home. She didn’t want the attention. Not today. That was when she finally caught a break. “Hi Phoibe! A word?” Rhaenys asked her as she stood by them. Phoibe nodded enthusiastically and followed Rhaenys in the kitchen which was blissfully empty. “Look Phoibes I need a word.” “You said so already.” Phoibe teased although Rhaenys, usually playful, wore a serious face. “I know you work at the spa and that is a cool job… But I also know that’s not all you want to do, so I talked with my boss. There is a place in the lab, well it’s not really a place… ” She took a deep breath. We need test subjects for some of the experiments we are doing and I managed to land you a low paid position, with paid classes in biology and ecology in the lab. What do you say?”

“What do I say?” Phoibe only wondered for a second before she said yes. Her heart was hammering in her chest but she was excited. She really did want her life to change.

Questions, pt 1

Phoibe woke up and her head was splitting, her throat was parched. “I’m hungover…” She realized as she opened her eyes. She moaned loudly and turned to the side. For the first time she regretted having her whole top floor done in glass, the sun was blaring into her face and she had to get up swearing loudly all the time.  She had a shower, drank a gallon of water and made herself coffee.She sat at the table on her roof where she always had coffee overlooking the whole town, it should have been a great morning, only if her head wasn’t about to explode… Luckily she had today off, she could not picture herself going to the spa, smiling at customers and worse she could not face Shirley today…

Thinking of Shirley made her feel so embarrassed, she behaved crazily yesterday and it was no wonder she got so freaking drunk last night. “You’ll have to face her…” She said to herself as she took another sip of coffee, of course for Shirley it wouldn’t be that odd, or so Phoibe hoped, she had been acting weird, but she couldn’t do what she intended and Shirley could not, thankfully, read her mind. And what Phoibe absolutely didn’t want to do was ruin her friendship with Shirley, it was at least currently, the most important thing in her life.

Phoibe and Shirley met at school, well actually back in elementary school Phoiebe’s best friend in the entire world was Shirley’s older sister, Melody Gradle. Melody and Phoibe both wanted to save the world, protect the environment and giggle about the boys. And then Melody developed a crush on Phoibe’s brother. Pegasus was a few years older than Phoibe, and he was always her greatest support, Ever since they moved to town it was just the two of them against the world. Their mother was completely and utterly uninterested in raising children, she was all about following her dream and being a famous guitarist so the two of them had been left on their own for the most of the time. It was Pegasus who helped Phoibe get to school, who made her breakfast and lunch, when Phoibe decided to stop eating meat Pegasus would always make something vegetarian for her and she loved him more than anything and wanted nothing more than for him to be happy but when he and Melody started dating she was so jealous. She knew she shouldn’t be, but hated the fact that now it was the two of them and she was the third wheel. She felt like she had lost them both.

That was when she started looking for a new best friend and found Rita Brown and with Rita came her best friend, Shirley Gradle. And soon the three of them would become inseparable, they would talk on the phone for hours and spend time together as much as they could, they even all got the job at the spa so they could work together after school. None of them had really wanted to stay there as long as they did though, Rita wanted to go to space, she always had a fascination with stars, Shirley wanted to be a musician, like her dad only even more versatile and Phoibe wanted to be a scientist that would find a way to save the environment. However, somehow, years later they were still smiling and offering overpriced spa packages

Shirley and Phoibe became very close when Rita started dating Mortimer Goth. This was different then Pegasus and Melody, but still she was glad for her good friend but there was also that nagging feeling, why not me, why her. She did not like Mortimer in particular, he had a wicked sense of humor and would always have something to say about her vegetarianism in a mocking way but she wanted to meet someone to sweep her off her feet.

After Rita and Mortimer started dating she would often find herself in front of the mirror examining her own face. She was not as pretty like Shirley, Shirley was absolutely gorgeous, with her long brown hair and light blue eyes the color of the sky, not as pretty like Rita with her mysteriously deep green eyes and beautiful light skin but she wasn’t bad looking either. She was passionate about things for sure, she wasn’t as smart as her soon-to-be-doctor big brother but she was not stupid either. That said she had to wonder why no boy had taken a liking to her but it was something she kept to herself and instead smiled at Rita and asked her for juicy details of her dates with Mortimer.

But the one good thing that came out of all that was her and Shirley getting close, in part it was because no matter how much Rita tried to keep things between them as they were she had to sacrifice her time with them to be with her boyfriend and it made her and Shirley spend more time alone, in part it was because shortly after all that began Shirley confided in her telling her she too liked Mortimer and in that part of your life confinding secrets like that was what makes a friendship strong.

She always found Shirley pretty, I mean who wouldn’t, she really had all the best features of both her parents but she was never attracted to her in a way she would get attracted to a boy but none of them had a boyfriend in high school so they experimented with each other. It started as a way for them to learn how to kiss so they would be ready once they finally met The One but after a while they would always end up making out when they would get drunk alone.

It was just their fun, pastime activity that ended sometimes after high school and never interfered with their friendship but recently things started to change. Rita got married, not to Mortimer Goth, thankfully, but she had a nice husband, a nice house and twin daughters. Phoibe went to her house, held her little girls in her arms and was, she really was, happy for her friend but inside she was eating herself up. She too had a nice house but she lived alone, and was still very much single, still stuck at her crappy spa job and then her brother who had been so depressed after the hospital cut him loose after his residency knocked on her door and with the biggest smile she had ever seen on his round face told her he finally proposed to Melody.

“Why isn’t this happening to me?” Phoibe would ask herself at night, alone in the bathroom. But she went on with her life as she always did, never losing hope that one day it would happen to her as well. Yesterday was Monday, she always had Monday’s and Tuesday’s off so she would go to the park and play her bass. She started taking music lessons with Shirley and she was pretty good at it. On nice days like yesterday she would go to the park and play her bass to  raise money for various environment and animal protection organizations.

Yesterday she was playing pretty absorbed in her music when she heard the clang of change being dropped in her jar and a voice she knew so well, soft and melodic: “Keep up the good work Miss.” She lifted her gaze and saw Shirley’s big blue eyes looking up at her. She had to smile and stop playing. “Don’t stop.” Shirley said making a sad face, it was a sweet song. “It’s too hot.” She complained. “I could have a cup of coffee though.” “Always a step ahead.” Shirley smiled pulling a plastic tray with two plastic coffee containers.  Phoibe flashed her a big smile and they sat on a bench talking about everything and nothing, like it always is with longtime friends and as she looked at Shirley Phoibe thought about a man he brought home the other night.

Missed Chances

Ebony looked at the sweet innocent child in her arms, her eyes closed, her skin so soft under the tiny pink blanket that enveloped her whole little body. “You forget they are ever this small.” She said to Hannah who was sitting on the sofa next to her, blissfully looking at her baby with a smile on her face. “She is gorgeous,” Hannah replied, “but boy can she yell.” “Yes, I kinda forgot that too.” They laughed a little and Ebony could not help admiring how radiant Hannah was. She was always on the big side and childbirth only made her bigger, she must have been sleep deprived, Ebony herself was a mother of four, she knew how things were with little babies but she seemed so happy and Ebony could not help feeling happy for her too. She and Hannah were not blood relations but she knew Hannah ever since she was a little girl, she always encouraged her oldest daughter to hang out with Hannah more but Cocoa always prefered Hannah’s brothers. Years later she would become Hannah’s step mother for a short period of time, but even after she divorced her father she and Hannah would remain close. In fact, these days she felt closer to Hannah than to her own two daughters. Also Hannah’s mother was dead and she wanted to be there for her, help her with motherhood. She tried the same thing for her daughter Rita who had recently had twins and was falling apart when she brought them home but soon Rita, who always tried to be strong and independent, pushed her away and so here she was, at Hannah’s side.

“I think she looks like Junior.” Hannah exclaimed, still not taking eyes of her daughter. “Do you think so Eb?” “It’s too early to tell.” Ebony told her. “She would certainly be a heartbreaker, no matter which side she takes on.” Hannah was pleased with this answer. They sat in silence for a few minutes just watching the baby sleep. And then Hannah asked: “How are your granddaughters? I’m so glad they and Freddie were born with so little apart, they are going to grow up together.” Ebony nodded. “They are doing well, they are a bit of handful, but Rita assures me she and Tomas have it under control.”  Hannah laughed at that as well. “You know if someone told me years back my little brother would be changing diapers… There is no way in hell I would believe that. But it’s happening… Your girls got him good. Junior tries to help as much as he can. ” She added. “But of course he has his work, and the caseload had been bad… But he calls, several times a day, and he bugs me to send him as many pictures of his little princess I could take…” Ebony smiled. She could not help feeling glad for Hannah, she was really glad she had a husband as caring as Junior, that Rita had Tomas and Cocoa, her oldest, had Skip but in a way she mourned not ever having that for herself.

She was young, way too young when she had Cocoa, and well by the time she had her, her father had been in jail. She got as far as she could from that, and from him as she could and he never came looking. When she had Rita… Well Jesse, Rita’s dad came by to the hospital, he brought flowers, and for the first few years of Rita’s life he would come by, play with her a bit and then go away, until one day he stopped coming and calling altogether. Once Harry was born she was a married woman, and Harald was there for her, he picked her up at the hospital, drove her to the home they shared and when Harry got a little bigger would even hold him in his arms. And when the two of them got divorced he asked for shared custody so you could say he cared for his kid… And Hazel’s dad, Jack, he was sweet too… He would come by sometime, but he was old and had seen too much hurt…

The door opened and both her and Hannah looked up. Frederica stayed a sleep in Ebony’s lap. “Oh Ebony, I had no idea you were here…” Blair said still standing on the doorway. Ebony knew Blair, Hannah’s husband’s step mother, for years but it had been months since she last saw her, or spoke to her. This was not odd considering Blair had a top secret job at the intelligence agency and was away from home a lot but what was odd was Blair herself. As long as Ebony knew her Blair was this cheerful, quirky person who you had to love. She was always happy and positive, and even though she seemed childish she was actually one of the rare people in town Ebony could have meaningful and deep conversations with. And then her husband died.

Ebony could only guess that was what made Blair into this stranger, she barely recognized. She was not a person who spent a fortune on clothes, or anything like that, but Ebony had only seen her wear something that wasn’t in a dozen different colors once, on the day she got married. Now she was wearing a lightly gray sweatsuit, and a dark blue T-shirt, her blond hair that was usually tied in pigtails was not tied in a careless ponytail and even her face seemed different, she seemed to have aged decades. She spoke again in that alien, distant voice: “I was just about to go for a run but I’ll call you… We could have coffee sometimes…” Ebony said she would love that, smile on her face, trying to act as everything was ok. Once Blair was out the door Hannah took the baby from her and she got up to the window looking at Blair as she ran off.

Hannah sighed loudly lifting the gaze from the baby. “She had been so strange Ebony.. You could barely recognize Blair in there… When she is not working all she does is exercise. When I ask she will take the baby and look out for her but she is so distant… Always… The only thing she seems to care about is Dougie and that is getting a bit out of hand… He is a grown man he doesn’t need his mother so involved in his life you know.”

They talked about Blair for a while and then the baby woke up and Hannah had to go feed her and Ebony went home. She thought about Hannah, she thought about her own daughters, about Blair… And she felt bad for feeling this way but she was so jealous, even on Blair herself. She thought what kind of love must she have shared with her husband to make her change her entire personality after his death… She never had that she realized… She was never that much in love, in fact now she felt she had not loved any of her children’s fathers and that depressed her more than she could say and now she was a grandmother and life had somehow just flown by. It was too late… For the first time in decades Ebony Brown started crying.

A New Life, pt 4

Looking at all those photos now spread all around him made Tomas’ heart ache. These would be their last family pictures so held them in his hands like some ancient artifacts of an era long lost.

He laid them aside ever so carefully, the box was almost empty now. In the back he found a picture of Alyssa and Clyde in their dinning room, probably taken when he was here for dinner.

After Alyssa finished school her father urged her to find a suitable husband and even went so far as to introduce her to a friend of his, a young successful architect, Clyde. Alyssa ever the obedient daughter started dating him as was expected of her. He was a bit older then her and his hair was already streaked with grey, and he wore big, round glasses but there was a certain charm to him that had probably won Alyssa over.

Tomas wondered how long after this picture was taken his family fell apart, a day, a week, no longer than a few months.

He came home one day, from work, or a date with Mya, he was not sure and was greeted by a strange sight. Hannah was sitting on the stairs, her face pale and worried as unlike Hannah as possible.

He heard pacing from the kitchen. His mother. And his father’s voice coming from above. Yelling. He could not make out the words but he had never, in all of their years of mischief hear him yell as loud. He sat on the stairs next to Hanna, somehow he was afraid even to ask what was going on, he knew it was bad, and hoped it would just go away. So they just sat there and waited for what seamed an eternity… 

To this day Tomas did not know why hadn’t he gone up and confronted his father. Andrew would if he had been home, in fact as soon as learned about what happened he would go and fight with him but by then it would be to late, and maybe it was already too late the moment Alyssa went to that study that her boyfriend had designed years ago to talk with father, Tomas would never learn…

When the yelling stopped they heard the sound of someone running and of doors closing. Neither of them moved, mother looked out of the kitchen but immediately went back in. Hannah wanted to rise and go to Alyssa but suddenly,thought better and stayed with Tomas who didn’t know,what to do himself. He wished Alyssa or father would come down, to find out how bad was it. He knew the fight was over but he was still too afraid to go up there.  

Hannah was the braver one that time, it was her that got up. She climbed the stairs and walked up to the room she shared with her sister. Their mother went out of the kitchen and stood on the doorway, her arms crossed in front of her. She was pale and it appeared as she was crying. Tomas got up to go to her but then there were voices again, his sisters, he couldn’t tell what was being said but then Alyssa showed up on the top of the stairs in a white blouse and a pink skirt dragging a suitcase behind her. Her eyes were red as well but she looked so determined as she dashed down the stairs. Hannah stayed behind her with a look Tomas never saw on his big sister. Mother just ran back in the kitchen closing the doors after her.

Tomas was paralyzed for a second but then he ran out after Alyssa and called her name. She turned around and looked at him,and then she gave,him a weak smile: “I have to go Tommy…” Her voice was shaky and quiet. “You will hear it all from father or mother, I don’t… I don’t have the strength to explain anymore…” She looked ready to cry and he just came up to her and just hugged her and she leaned her head on his shoulder. “Take care Tommy.” She whispered in his ear. “Where are you going?” He asked as they parted. “Clyde’s.” She said and took the suitcase back in her hand. “I’m here for you, if you need anything..” Tomas started.”I can walk you there… I…” “Go home Tommy.” She said and started walking away slowly dragging her suitcase after her.

And Tommy said nothing. Tommy did nothing. He just stood there on the cold night confused and scared.

After that day it became his father’s mission to delete Alyssa from their lives, none of them was allowed to mention her anymore, she never came over, she never called and they all had to pretend she never existed.  And still that very day a part of his father died, or went away with Alyssa…

A few months later it was his mother with a suitcase. She no longer wished to hide her affair with Mya’s uncle Jesse and left them to live with him and the twins she was carrying.

And a year later it was Andrew who married a man he loved and became an abomination in their father’s eyes.

His father tried remarrying once but that didn’t work, the house just got emptier and emptier and so did his father… And now he was gone… There would never be a chance to reconcile, to fix what was broken…

And looking at the pictures all around his bed, his father’s bed, Tomas realized that his father yearned for the past, that although he pushed his family away, they stayed in his head, in his heart, and he died haunted by this memories…

Tomas got up abruptly, there was something about that realization that made him scared. It was his house now, his memories, his ghosts… And now his father’s ghost as well… He didn’t want to stay here anymore, he had to get out escape this memories…

He left the room wanting to get some air… To be alone, to talk to his wife… He had no idea what he wanted… And then he saw her. She was standing in the hallway just staring at the door of the old nursery. Nobody had used that room for years, they always wanted to remodel it but never found the time. He came up to her, she seamed so engrossed in thought but he touched her lightly on the arm and turned around. His wife had a thin frame and could appear frail but that was only if you did not notice her eyes. They radiated strength that came deep from within, strength Tomas admired and strength he needed badly now, at this moment, and maybe for the rest of his life…

Despite the crappy way he felt he smiled at her and she smiled back. It was a lovely smile, but she was not a smiling person and it shocked Tomas a little, he thought he must looked worse than he thought to get a smile from Rita but then she spoke: “There is something I have to tell you Tommy.. I’m…I’m pregnant.”

Something filled Tomas right then and there, some strange warmth that filled his very being and he kissed his beautiful young wife and felt as the whole house was coming back to life all around him, waiting to be filled with all new memories…

A New Life, pt 3

It’s a trap. A test of some kind. Those were the first things that went through his head as he looked at Mya. She was taller than Cocoa but still not as tall as Tomas so he looked down at her freckled face. As a kid Mya was bit of a tomboy with short hair and boyish clothes but she grew out of it, and even though she wasn’t wearing dresses and playing sports she was still pretty, she was thin, but not as thin as Cocoa, but had a nice very defined body, one that comes from exercise. Her eyes had not left his and even though Tomas’ throat had constricted and his lips had gone dry he said: “Yes.” He was done playing Cocoa’s games… He was just done. 

The news he and Mya were dating spread through the school like wildfire. Andrew got slightly colder to Tomas but said nothing and Cocoa said nothing either, not until the day of the party at least.

The party was at Mya’s, well actually it was hosted but Mya’s big brother, Hannah’s boyfriend, Junior and the first ever picture of Tomas and Mya is from that party, he isn’t sure why it is here among the family pictures but it is there alright, it’s not just the two of them, it is a bunch of people all around them but he has a hand around her and they are both smiling, he has a bit of a stubble, that looks just ridiculous, and she has her hair braided and is even wearing makeup. Looking at it now Tomas sees that it was probably Cocoa that helped with that and it makes him a little sad.

Half of the school was there that day and Tomas was having fun, he had a few beers and had made out with Mya in her room. Now he was standing by the pool watching fully clothed kids jumping in and yelling, wondering vaguely whether his father would call the police on them, since their house was just next door when Cocoa came up to him. She was wearing a really short skirt and a sleeveless top, she also had a beer can in her hand. She smiled as she stood next to him and looking at her he noticed that this was the first time they had been this close since the kiss. “Hi.” He said stupidly, she was smiling but he couldn’t bring himself to do the same. He felt like he was burning, from guilt or something else he could not tell. “So Mya?” That was Cocoa, no beating around the bush. “Yup.” He said wishing he was drunker... Cocoa took a sip from her can and nodded. “Good call.” “Look Cocoa…” He tried to speak, not even knowing what he would say, but wanting to explain, wanting to fix it… “Forget it Tommy.” She dismissed him with a wave. “I’m happy for you.” And she flashed him a big smile and turned around. Somebody, Parker Langerak maybe, maybe someone else was yelling for her to jump in the pool but she just walked away…

He didn’t want any more of these memories, he skipped through other pictures of that era… Cocoa was still there, they never stopped being friends, but somehow, both of them, made sure they were never alone together anymore…

His mother won the election. There were surprisingly little pictures of that day, but you could see how happy she was, smiling a big smile, flashing her white teeth at the camera, her long black hair in a ponytail she almost always wore…

Alyssa graduated. There was a picture there, it was the most damaged of all the pictures he had seen so far, it looked like somebody had held her for a long time, you could see a big imprint of a thumb on the front. It was Alyssa and dad.  She was smiling, holding her diploma towards the camera, her long blond hair was straightened and fell to her shoulders. She was very pretty, even with no makeup on. His father had his arm around her shoulders, he too was smiling, and to Tomas he seemed ready to burst from pride. His hair had started receding a bit, but it was still the same shade of light blond as Alyssa’s. It was such a pretty picture and Tomas was sure, had thing turned out differently it would probably be standing, framed, on his father’s nightstand or some other prominent place…

But it was no going back, no stopping time. After that day his father only grew unhappier. The wheels were already in motion but where the path was leading no one could tell…

One year into his mother’s mandate she and his father had a fight. It was a fight that lasted days, and in between they didn’t even speak to each other… The two of them never fought, not in front of the children at least so what was happening filled Tomas with a bad taste in his mouth… His siblings felt the similar way but they assured Tomas that there was nothing to be worried about, they were always like that to him, he was the baby of the family but he could see right through them.

Alyssa took a motherly role, she was helping even more around the house than before, but they way she scrubbed the dishes, dangerously close to breaking them as she told Tomas that couples fight all the time was a dead giveaway.

Hannah just laughed it out, she turned everything into a joke, silly Tommy, she would tell him, don’t you fight with Mya? But she was eating more sweets than ever and Andrew was serious and somber as he said that Tomas is ridiculous.

For a while though it seemed they were right. Mother quit her job and a new election was held but she didn’t bother voting, she rarely bothered going out of the house anymore. And as Tomas watched the pictures from after that fight, the look in his mother’s face it looked like a part of her had died that day, and she was never again the same woman she was before.

New Life, pt 2

As Alyssa and Hannah, Tomas’ big sisters grew they couldn’t be more different, while Alyssa was serious and responsible, both in schools and in her chores Hannah was treating school as a big joke and did all she could to escape cooking or cleaning, while Alyssa was thin and careful about the food she ate, Hannah was growing fatter every day, and simply never cared about it. And while Alyssa dressed as conservatively as possible, with as little makeup as possible Hannah dressed whatever she wanted and put on as much makeup ash she could. And before long the two of them started fighting almost all the time, they were literally unable to have a civilized conversation without snapping at each other after five minutes. This made family time extremely awkward, the only times they could enjoy it was when the girls were not speaking to each other at all.  This was evident on all the family photos onward, the girls were always on opposite sides of each other, looking as different as possible

Andrew started working at the graveyard and working nights, so he was rarely at home on weekdays, but Tomas knew that he wasn’t working as often as he pretended to be, most nights he just used work as an excuse to get out of the house.

You couldn’t see it in any of the pictures but all of his siblings held their secrets, Alyssa kept to herself why she was so bitter towards Hannah, Andrew didn’t tell anyone whom he was meeting on all of those nights and the biggest and most shattering secret was kept by their mother.

Elena Prentiss, Tomas’ mother was a housewife who quietly did all the work around the house and spent her free time talking to her neighbors Edmund and Ebony. She was always there for her kids, and had devoted her life to keeping her family happy. So it came as a big surprise when she told them she was to run for city council. Tomas’ father highly disapproved but his mother was so persistent that in the end he just gave in and pretty soon Tomas was out with Cocoa putting up flyers with his mother’s picture on them: VOTE ELENA PRENTISS.  

There was a picture of one of this expeditions, and as he looked at it Tomas remembered that late summer day with such clarity he wouldn’t believe possible. It was a Saturday and they had spent the entire day going around town, just the two of them. Since Andrew started behaving funny this was becoming a common thing, Cocoa and Tomas hanging out alone, covering for Andrew mostly, but having fun still the same. When they were down to just one flier Cocoa asked a passerby to take this very picture Tomas had in his hand, it was strange that they could be so young, so happy, even though he remembered they were tired and sore all over.

After the picture was taken, and they were done with the flyers Cocoa invited Tomas to the pool to wash the warm day off them. Tomas wholeheartedly agreed, he no longer spent time with Cocoa solely because she was his brother’s older, cool, best friend he really like how smart and funny she was, unlike,any girl he knew and it helped that she had such great legs and a killer smile. 

They spent the rest of day together just the two of them swimming and splashing each other, laughing like crazy. As the sun was setting they walked home together, it was like the other hundred times they walked beside one another, until Cocoa grabbed his hand. Her touch was light but it made him stop. Her fingernails were done in two colors, light orange and pink, he noticed before he lifted his gaze to meet her eyes.  His heart was beating like crazy and he could not tell why. She wore no makeup but her smile lit her face and made her green eyes sparkle. He remembered how her long black, still wet, hair and fell over her shoulders, he remembered how she smelt, like soap and chlorine.  He just stopped there hypnotized, unable to move as she came closer and closer, and his heart beat got louder and louder … When they pulled apart she was still smiling and he grinned at her. She held his hand as they walked home and he was the happiest guy alive. 

He put the photo down not sure weather he wanted to smile or weep, it was all so long ago, he was so young, so stupid, well they both were…. But that moment, that day was imprinted in his memory and he was sure he would remember it until the day he died, not just because it was his first kiss, but the sheer perfection of it, before he ruined it all… 

What happened next he could never explain to anyone… He liked Cocoa he really did, and that kiss meant the world to him but afterwards she acted as she always did. She sat next to Andrew on the bus to school and smiled to Tomas as he walked by them. She never said a word about Saturday and neither did Tomas, they hung out like they did before, like nothing changed, it confused him, it enraged him, he was a teenager and it was pretty much how teenagers feel he guessed…

For weeks he was debating about weather or not he should ask her out, or try to kiss her, or make her talk about it, or just forget about the whole thing when another strange thing happened.

There were no pictures of these hazy events of the in between, how Tomas later referred to this period in his head, but now that he opened the window of memories they were coming in like crazy.

He was just leaving school when Mya Hoves, Cocoa’s best female friend caught him and asked for a word. He knew if he stayed to talk he’ll miss the bus ride back, and will have to walk, but the thought of watching Cocoa and Andrew laughing together, on their usual seat right in front of him, even though even back then he knew there was nothing going on there, gave him a nasty ping of jealousy, and filled him with some unexplained anger. So he decided to stay and talk with Mya even though he had no idea what all this was about They walked around the building to the playground which had been empty this time of day when everyone was hurrying to get home. The idea that Cocoa’s  friend wanted a word with him in private made him weary, it didn’t seem like her to send a friend to talk in her behalf like some girls did, Cocoa was always straight forward with what she wanted but he was eager to hear what Mya had to say, already playing out scenarios in his head, but what happened was  something he was in no way  prepared for…

Once they had finally reached a place Mya was comfortable to speak in she turned to him abruptly and spoke in a nervous, but determined kind of way :“You want to go out this weekend?”

A New Life, pt 1

Tomas sat on the bed and looked around the room, his room. It was strange looking at the bleak walls, the bleak carpet on the floor, and thinking of all of it as his room. His room was on the right, the same room he had slept his entire life, it was all green and blue and he shared it with his big brother up until he moved away, than it was just Tomas’ until he got married. He and his wife planned on redecorating the old nursery across the hall and using it as a bedroom but then his father died and everything changed.

Now some months later the two of them had finally moved to the big bedroom, now devoid of anything Harald’s. It was no longer his father’s bedroom it was Tomas’. He had to repeat it to himself over and over again, trying to make it real, trying to accept it. The same thing went to the house. His house.

Only his house was nothing like the house he grew up, he didn’t remember life before they moved here, he was a toddler, still in diapers when they carried him over the threshold and all his life since that moment he had lived here. And he knew the house he lived in, it was a house filled with life, laughter, cries, yelling, smell of food, smell of flowers. This house was nothing like that it was an empty shell,a ghost of that previous house, empty, reeking of memories of days long gone, memories of his siblings, memories of his parents…

There was only one more box in the room. It was a shoe box, a big shoe box, one that probably once contained his father’s boots. This box was not packed by Tomas nor his new wife, he found it in his father’s closet, in the back of the shoe drawer. He supposed his father kept it there to hide it. Most of his clothes was washed and ironed, and than placed in the appropriate drawers by Hannah so his shoe drawer was the only drawer none of them ever opened. 

He lifted the box from the floor and gently placed it on the bed. He took a deep breath and then took the lid off. The box was stacked to the top with old family photos.  Once they were like any happy family, snapping away, preserving memories as photographs that they kept in old family albums they would look at once and while, laughing at each other, telling stories about those photos, reliving those happy days.  And then when things had started falling apart his father started removing those photos one by one, like trying to erase the past, to escape the once happy memories until eventually whole albums disappeared and Tomas assumed his father had them destroyed so he wouldn’t have to ever face what they once had and what was forever lost. 

Tomas slowly took the photos out, one by one, and tried to spread them on the bed in some sort of chronological order, he went to the photos of his parents getting married, Alyssa as a baby, Hannah as a baby, Andrew as a baby, himself… Looking at his mother’s soft smile, his father’s stern face, always serious Alyssa, goofy Andrew and Hannah he saw his whole childhood flashing in front of him in waves of memories… 

It was a happy childhood, Tomas being the youngest of four children with loving siblings that were always protective of him. He watched the picture of the six of them in front of this very same house, probably the day they moved in. His father in a green short sleeved shirt, his mother next to him, smiling, with him, little Tomas in her arms, Alyssa, her face tied in a ponytail, Andrew and Hannah, all clean in clean clothes, obviously just out of the car, no time to get into trouble…

He flashed forward, him, first day of school, his father had took this picture, he remembered, he was wearing a light blue shirt, same haircut as Andrew wore, he insisted on it, his little backpack on his back, and his mother’s arm protectively around him. Hannah and Andrew tried to jump in the photo but he just saw two smudges, roughly their shapes. He could picture Alyssa standing next to their dad scowling. He could not help smiling. 

His parents wanIted all of them to be very serious about school so from that day on, almost every school day was the same, just after school the four of them would sit together and work on their homework, helping each other, well mostly it was Alyssa, the most serious and responsible of them who would finish first and monitor the rest of them, helping when needed. Even though she tried to be strict and serious it would often turn into one, or all of them laughing at one thing or the other, and all of them trading stories of their days, teasing each other. Afterwards their dad would come home, he worked various jobs before being a firefighter, and they would all sit down together and eat a delicious meal his mother made. She didn’t work, and loved cooking so they always ate well, and also it was an opportunity to spend more time together. 

On weekends their father would teach Tomas and Andrew about working with tools and gardening. He had a nice garden, with apples, tomatoes, lettuces, grapes and onions and Tomas liked spending his time there, when his father was there weeding and digging, and when he wasn’t there playing with the sprinklers.

There was a picture of him and dad in the garden, this one was taken from the back porch, probably by mum, or maybe Andrew. Tomas didn’t even know such a photo existed, you couldn’t recognize them, they were both squatting in the garden, their backs turned but it made him surprisingly teary eyed so he moved on.

The next photo was of Andrew and his best friend Cocoa Brown. She was always a wild child, much like Andrew himself but you could never tell from this picture. She was always a pretty little girl, with her long dark hair and slightly slanted but exotic green eyes. She was wearing a flower pattern dress and smiling at the camera. Andrew was smiling too and Tomas couldn’t help but wonder what kind of mischief were they planning that day. 

Cocoa was spending as much time at their house as them, she would sometimes come with Andrew right after school, other times she would come after they had finished their homework and when she didn’t come Andrew would go over to her house which was just across the street. The two of them were best friends, and were inseparable back then. Tomas who wanted nothing more than to be just like his big brother would tag along with them as much as he could, or more precisely, as much as they allowed him.

Time went on, all of them grew and things started to change, well the correct term would be, things started to fall apart but Tomas didn’t know it then, none of them did… 

Harald’s Death

Harry sat in class staring absentmindedly out of the window, he never really payed much attention in class but today was extremely difficult because he did not go to sleep on time, and was hangover as hell. In fact it was the cops that gave him a ride last night, he had gone out drinking with Sara Caliente, a pretty girl from his arts class. They had gone out drinking and dancing and were having a blast up until the police came. Sunset Valley has a strict curfew for minors but since they knew who Harry and Sara were, or more precisislly, who their mothers were they only took them home, the two of them laughing in the back seat the whole time. His mother was still up, she had a friend over, a colleague from the City Hall days. She talked briefly with the officers and just sent him to bed. He expected a lecture in the morning but nothing happened. It was strange he concluded but everything was strange ever since his father passed. Just last week he had skipped school altogether, he went to arts class and then spent the rest of the day wandering around, gathering inspiration for an afternoon of painting. His mother said nothing then either. It was possible she didn’t know yet.

Hazel, his brother had not ratted him out, even though he knew. The two of them had an ok relationship but Harry always felt Hazel was a bit of a nerd, he was a freakishly smart kid, smarter than anyone Harry knew and he was very serious about school and it that regard they couldn’t be much different and it was hard to find stuff to talk about. Sometimes they would go out and play ball but Hazel was a chubby boy and not a least bit athletic so it was not as fun as it could be. Also Hazel was gay and although Harry couldn’t care less about who was dating who, except maybe in the case of Sara Caliente, Harry could never hear a nice thing about gays from his father. In fact Harald senior had disinherited his oldest son for marrying a man. And however much Harry tried his father’s opinions stuck to him a bit and he would often hear Harald’s voice in his head.

He wondered would it go away completely in time, now that his father was gone. The thought of never hearing his father speak suddenly hit him very hard, he could feel tears creeping up at him and he lowered his gaze down hoping no one will notice. It was weird because he didn’t shed a tear before this, he figured reality hadn’t caught up with him until this very moment. His father was gone. Forever.

They were never that close, his parents divorced when he was still very young and although he spent every other week at his father’s big house he always misses his mum when he was there and when he was at mums he never waited anxiously to see his father and spend time with him.

To be honest Harald Prentiss was a strict man and Harry was a little afraid of him. When ever he was there he spent more times with his much older siblings, especially Hannah who was more like his mother outside of home and he was very sad when she married and moved. It was only a house away and she was very happy but Harry felt a little abandoned and hurt. Now he wondered if his father felt this way too, it was not long after that his father’s hurt literally burst… Harald was an old man, but a firefighter refusing to retire and Harry always thought it will be his work that kills him. It turned out he was wrong.

The day they told him was nice and sunny. He was at his mother’s house that week and was struck with sudden inspiration so he ran to the desk in his room almost immediately.  He should have guesses from the way his mother came into his room and told him to go across the street, her face was serious and her voice strained but Harry was drawing and was pretty irritated for the interruption so he paid it no mind. It was when he saw Tommy’s face that he knew something was wrong.

His half-brother  was sitting on the stairs on the front porch looking at Harry but not seeing him… It wasn’t until Harry sat down that he realized he was there. He gave him a weak smile, asked how he was doing but just the sound of his voice made Harry’s insides curl. Something was very wrong.

Tommy was a newlywed, just back from his honeymoon, his voice shouldn’t sound this way, his smiles shouldn’t  be so empty… He told everything to Harry in a monotone shaky voice, explaining how their father’s heart just stopped at the station, the paramedics were there in minutes but there was nothing they could do… He was gone.

Harry nodded his head looking at his brother’s eyes thinking how Tommy lost both his mother and his father in a year… They just sat there for a while in silence and Harry wondered about Hannah, and how she was taking this, wishing she was here with them…

No, reality didn’t hit at first… His mother had come to get him and took him home. He had stayed there knowing they were all across the street at his father’s, well at Tommy’s, house talking about the funeral arrangements but he still felt empty and numb. He didn’t really want to be here, although he knew all of his father’s children were there. Tommy even invited Alyssa and Andrew, the older siblings Harald had disowned.

At the funeral half of the town was present, no probably everyone was there, whole of Prentiss family, with their many friends at relatives and all of the fire department. Harry was standing next to his mother who had big black sunglasses on but Harry knew she wasn’t crying. Tommy wasn’t crying either and he was there holding his wife’s hand his face stern and serious. Hannah had cried and so had Alyssa, the sister Harry had not known. She was a pretty woman with long blonde hair, the same shade as Harry’s and his father’s. She was surrounded by two young men, her sons. The older had recently joined the army, Harry had heard in bits of pieces of conversation on the way to the graveyard, and it was no surprise, he was tall and muscular but also kind of good-looking, much like his mum. And Harry could not help wondering how much his father would have been proud of this grandson if only he was not born of wedlock… The younger boy he knew, they were in school together and he was suspiciously hanging around Sara and they were never friends, although they were family… How odd Harry thought watching the stony faces of strangers at his father’s funeral.

Somehow Harry had avoided reality then, he had avoided it for weeks but as sudden as a gust of wind it hit him one day when he was sitting in class and when it did it hit him hard. It opened a big hole in Harry’s heart and it’s emptiness threatened to swallow him whole…