Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Drama · #1750641
A 14 year old boy struggles with the unusual affection of his strange step-sister.
Archie stood in front of the bathroom mirror dejectedly rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He was more emotionally excited than his physical actions portrayed. Looking up to see that he had finished, he reached down to turn on the water. Archie began washing his hands while still reflecting on his dream. The smell of the tree and the grass in the yard waffled through his mind. He could somehow still feel the softness of her hands on his as the water rushed over his soapy hands. This world was much colder than the one he just left. Why was he so emotionally involved in this dream? He wanted to be there with her, he was actually upset when he awoke. This life did not satisfy his senses in near the capacity of his fantasy world.
Archie splashed the water on the stainless steel sink. Taking in a deep breath of himself, Archie roughly opened the mirror door to grasp at the toothpaste. Squeezing the tube quickly onto the worn brush, and shoving it back into the cabinet in the only place it could fit and swung the mirror shut. The metal clink of the shelving coming in contact with the back of the mirror loosened a corner of the fitting and breaking loose a piece of dirty tiling. He glanced up and a bit of red caught his eye at the corner that just loosened. His surroundings faded behind him as he focused on this small streak of red on the broken tile.
The blood flashed into his head the memories of that night three years ago he struggled every day to forget. Coming home from Ryan's house and an exhilarating Monopoly night, he was ripped from his all too average life and immersed into a pool of chaos. Sirens pierced the rest of his life with an unchangeable tone. No matter how he remembered it, the man with a mustache and a badge was a mask of the death that overwhelmed him. The mirror came back into focus as did the dirty room around him.
Both his and his step-sisters’ hygiene products littered the small counter around the sink. He didn’t mind sharing the bathroom with Brianna, but they lacked the organizational ingenuity to keep all of their products separate from each other. Maybe they just didn’t care enough to keep it clean; maybe it was a subconscious excuse to interact. Archie saw her acne medicine and somehow became acutely aware of her approaching footsteps down the hall.
“Hey Archie,” she lightheartedly entered the bathroom half dressed. “Have you seen my blue shirt?”
He considered the contrast of her light skin with the dark color of her undergarments. Why did girls care if their underwear matched their clothes? “Naw, I haven’t been looking for it though.”
“You have a bad dream or something?” she asked.
“Why do you ask?” he replied.
“You broke the wall slamming the mirror cabinet so hard,” she pointed out.
“No, just a little groggy.” Archie turned around to face her and suddenly realized how close she was. The smell of her invaded his mind and revitalized his dream of her. They were kids and playing hide and seek in the yard. There were other kids there but only he and Brianna were scheming their hiding place together. She would grab his hand and practically drag him to the big tree in the center of the side yard. The aroma of the spring breeze teleported him back to life. He looked at his step-sister. Back then she was just a friend. Her dad Mark and his dad were high school buddies that spent every Sunday together watching football. Mom says it drove Brianna’s mom crazy. Perhaps the craziness drove her car that night of the awful ice storm. Her oak brown hair lazily curled away from her shoulders, and her shoulders sagged unusually low for a girl of her age. The scar on her shoulder remained a mystery to him. He asked her about it awhile ago and she shrugged it off as a bike riding injury, but the emotion she showed toward that accident betrayed her lie and just increased his curiosity.
She smiled at him, sort of an affectionate yet empathetic grimace. “Could I get my lip gloss please?” He reached down to the pile of creams and lotions on the left side of the sink, scanning for a small thin tube of gloss. After a few impatient seconds waiting for him to search for it she reached over, “Here it is.” Her chest brushed his bare arm and sent a slight sensation up his arm directing his heart to pump more oxygen. Instantly they were back hiding under that tree where she was holding his hand closely. As they were hiding, he looked up at the tree and its immense size. It was impossibly large stretching far beyond his sight into the sky. There was a blemish near the level of the first branch that caught his attention. Suddenly Brianna turned him towards her and she whispered instructions on the importance of hiding from the others, how their very futures depended on their ability to hide.
After grabbing her lip gloss, she paused briefly as if she wanted to say something but didn’t, then turned and walked back down the hall. “Thanks Arch!” she called out as she faded down the hall. He could hear her descend the stairway into the family room. He could barely register her say, “Mom, have you seen my blue shirt?” He didn’t understand the effort behind finding one specific shirt at all. His method of dressing was to pick up clothes that were comfortable and if they didn’t smell too bad, he would put them on. Of course, fashion was never his strong suit. He probably got that from his real father. Mom used to say he could carve the Mona Lisa out of wood, but he would dress her in a pink tank top and khaki shorts. I’m not sure what that means, but it sounded bad.
What an odd time to miss his father. He finished brushing his teeth, went back to his room and began searching his scattered clothes for a shirt to wear. He had to get going; he was meeting Ryan at the park to play baseball. After scrounging through two week’s worth of discarded clothing he settled on a blue shirt. He came out of his room as Brianna was returning from downstairs unsuccessful in finding her shirt. She paused as he came down the hall towards her as if expecting something unspoken. He smiled somewhat adoringly at her.
As they were hiding under that tree she brought him closer and looked straight into his hazel eyes. “I have a secret.” He could feel her breath on him, she was getting closer; he could swear she was. Her small cracked lips closed and got smaller as she got closer, then the dream world swirled and disappeared as his alarmed blared Aerosmith’s “Crying” out it its small twangy speaker. What secret?
He passed her by letting the perfume she had adorned herself with mingle with his unwashed fragrance. That smell of garden flowers mixed with cake reminded him of his birthday before his father took his life. His mom had baked a german chocolate cake in addition to his favorite praline ice cream. He remembered Mark and Brianna coming over and helping with all the decorations. She told Archie that this birthday would be his best ever. He remembered her smile that day, it was the last time she smiled at him without that slight empathetic curl. She left before he opened his presents and didn’t even get to see the new bike his father had gotten him.
She finally spoke, almost painfully “Can I talk to you?”
“Sure, what’s up?” Archie asked.
She looked down hesitantly, then back up with that smile. “How about we talk outside by the tree?”
“Sure, I’m gonna meet Ryan in about 20 minutes. Meet you there?” Archie’s interest was growing.
“Okay.” She said as she turned towards her room.
Archie bounded down the stairs skipping the last two steps in typical Archie fashion. He grabbed his ball glove and Cubs cap from the bench near the door. “Mom, I’m going to meet Ryan at the park to play baseball. Be back in a couple hours!” He stooped down to slide on his worn tennis shoes, not bothering to tie them. Opening the door as he heard Brianna start to descend the stairs, he oddly wished his dad was able to see how well he was getting along with his step-sister. He knew somehow his father was watching over him, but he didn’t know how much he could sense what was going on in his life.
He held the door as Brianna grabbed her shoes and walked out before putting them on. He closed the door and watched as she bent over to tie her shoes. He really started to notice her in the last few weeks. She was uniquely pretty, not like the models on magazines. She was svelt but not thin, struggled with her acne but her teeth and mouth were perfect, especially when she smiled. Her hair was somewhat straight with a curl right at the base of her neck. When she finished tying her shoe, she stood up and looked back at him sadly. They began to walk towards the tree. She took his hand and led him towards the middle of the shadowy giant in the yard. The sun was blazing down on them and Archie felt the anticipation and excitement that had been building all morning, through his dream and as he dressed for the day.
He could feel the tension in her hand. Her shoulders were stiff and it looked like sheer will was forcing her feet one in front of the other. His excitement was quite a contrast to what appeared to be fear from her. They reached the base of the tree and the shade engulfed them, hiding them from the windows of the house. She stopped, and turned to face him. Tears were falling from her eyes and the look of pure sadness overwhelmed him. “What’s the matter?” he asked with genuine concern. She pointed towards the level of the first branch. There, hidden right below the growth was an engraving. It was easily recognizable as his father’s work. Masterful and delicately the words “Beautiful Brianna” were carved into the tree.
She pulled his hand around to face her. She was trembling, unable to stand anymore; she fell to her knees and looked up at him. “I have to tell you something about your father.”