The door swings open. Your roommate pumps his fist and plops on the bed. “Winter break, here I come. Hey, wanna go skiing.” He’s always after you to relax.
You want to go, but you count every penny since your dad went bust in real estate. “La Jolla’s warmer. Mom would love to meet you.”
He agrees. Mom agrees. Everything is set. You’ve registered for classes next term, it’s dead week and you’re confident about finals. Then you get e-mail from the bursar. The autopay from your bank failed. Calling Mom, you hope your Dad hasn’t hacked the account again.
Her mother texted Aimee : “Your Grandfather left you everything.”
After mixing peanut butter into vanilla cookie dough, Aimee replied, “No way.”
She was stumped. He’d barely spoken to her the last time she visited. Aimee had hidden her resentment, watching how his care exhausted her mother, knowing her mother loved him.
Traveling to the funeral, she’d worked it out. Of his four children, only her mother had fulfilled his wishes, giving him a grandchild and care at life’s end. It fell into place. While Aimee stood in for her mother, her aunts would feel the sting of his venom one last time.
The chair, a lucky garage sale find, tucked itself under the desk after Anne’s husband died. She thought to never change it. Her sister thought otherwise and upholstered it in maroon brocade.
“Much better,” Marla said, deploying a tack to the seat’s bottom.
“Like Burgundy, his favorite wine.”
The new fabric smelled different. She sat in the chair, holding the original brown corduroy. After a year, she gathered her husband’s belongings: the chair, his books, his desk, etcetera and sold them from the driveway. Neighbors shared memories with Anne, bought remembrances. She stowed the proceeds in her brown corduroy purse.
At Grandma’s Thanksgiving, a mash-up of turkey, cranberries, second wave feminism, and Madman era misogyny collide. After a luscious dinner, you and your London chum play at Cockney rhyming slang in the library. Uncle Uncle fumbles, mumbles, tumbles, never suspecting that your friend, whose ass he pinches, is an expert kick boxer.
What did he expect? A docile blush? You show him a shot of his pained face on Snapchat. It’s captioned, “Stand back, the fourth wave is here.” He retreats to a corner, nursing his ‘Enry ‘Alls*, chugging highballs. Rules change. Change rules. You have exceeded his expectations.
* Rhyming slang for balls (rhymes with Halls.) See the entry from Wikipedia for Rhyming Slang.
My parents sent me to this stupid camp. Wooden cabins, steel spring bunks. You can’t bring phones. No internet. Nothing happening here anyway.
That’s why they did it. I live my life online. They say I’m missing out. “Swim in a lake, hike, pick up rocks and learn to skip them along the shore,” they said. “Breathe fresh air.”
It did get fresh, I’ll admit that. There’s a boy’s camp close by. My friend and I snuck out one night. We played board games in the moonlight. Who knew the counselors did bed checks? What did my parents expect?
Tent packed, sleeping bag in the car, Sophie set off for the Florida Keys where, at fifteen, she had ducked through mangrove channels, oars pacing past leaf littered roots and crowding branches. With the divorce final, Sophie needed a vacation.
Drenched in sweat, she would breathe the soggy air, gathering the constituent parts of herself that had withered in a confining relationship with a man she still loved. She would smile at deer flashing their white tails as they sped away.
Water sheeted the windscreen. Sophie pulled over, the car rocking, the wind howling. Wet noise covered her inevitable disappointment.
You back out of the driveway, past the “For Sale” sign, into
the same roads you sped over in high school. Some blacktop. Some
gravel. All deserted. No one caught on and you never got caught.
You know you can drive fast until you get to town. Then slow to a
crawl. Wave at Mrs. Brown. Pull up to the undertaker’s where your
honor student persona worked ages ago as a receptionist. A job where
straight white teeth counted.
When you said good-bye, locked the door on that past life, you never intended to return. But now, alone, you’re back.