A zip up and down the scale of this melody that was being woven together on the keys filled the empty room, as I thought about the latest conversation I’d had with Henry. This little song was so precious. I’d never been properly taught to play the piano, just a few lessons here and there when I was very young, until my parents gave up on that completely. But who can blame them; they had bigger problems to worry about, like my older brother TJ, who was always giving everyone around him reason to be concerned.
Selfish, selfish TJ, in middle school he’d gotten rid of the last of his friends that I could actually deal with, he started hanging out with older kids, the ones who hung out on the outskirts of a crowd. Those grisly looking guys with a smirk that’s more of a warning than a smile, the ones who you had to take second looks at when you passed them, the ones mothers wouldn’t let their little ones come too close to on the side walk. As TJ went to high school everyone in the family knew that his new addiction to smoking and drugs I couldn’t even name weren’t the only bad things he was doing. First he stole a car, then got detention, and then breaking my parents heart he--- No! I don’t need to think about TJ anymore, selfish TJ he didn’t care about us so we don’t have to care about him!
So, back to Henry, today at lunch out of nowhere he just sneered, “Connie, I don’t think you really match.”
What the heck! I mean it took me a whole five seconds to get that he was talking about my outfit. Since when did he turn into the fashion police? I guess that’s what I should have told him. But instead, I just looked down at the ground and admitted that I’d lost my gray shoes that go with everything. I playfully shoved his arm to break the awkward moment. Then we talked about yesterday’s football game and the rest of the table joined in on the conversation.
I finished the last little dip in the tune I was playing, savoring the last few beats of the song. I loved that moment when the notes ended and the silence built up in a premature applause, the absence of sound swelling up until it bursts when some sort of noise breaks the song and it’s company of quietness. The interruption of this song’s quiet ending was the “puff” of my cat’s paws landing on the bookshelf next to the piano. I sighed and reached over to fluff up Welkin’s stripped gray fur.
I just don’t know why every conversation with Henry goes like that. We idle on in pointless bits of mumbling until he says something to me that’s either insulting or that I completely can’t comprehend. Then my response is to agree with him no matter what he says and then lamely change the subject or walk away. Today’s wonderful dialogue was no different I’m always making a fool of myself in front of Henry. I just don’t understand what the reasoning behind him saying I didn’t “match” was. Honestly he probably could care less about what I wear; he must have been hinting at something that I missed. My stomach growled reminding me that I couldn’t sit down here with Welkins playing the piano all day.
“Mom!” I yelled into the office doorway, “supper’s on the table, and I’m going to eat right now whether or not you’re in there”. Mom slowly turned her head combing a hand through her hair as she stood up.
“Oh sorry Connie, I lost track of time, I was just finishing up my presentation for tomorrow. I could have cooked supper.” She started walking towards the door instead of the kitchen. “Actually, I was just going to head back up to the office to pick up my other folder, so you can go ahead and eat without me.”
I gave a disappointed look, and then changed to what I hoped was a look of indifference. “Um… yeah whatever Mom, see you later.” I said as I started turning towards the stairs.
My expression of disappointment must have changed too slowly because Mom came across blocking my way to the stairs and gave me a quick shoulder squeeze before apologizing yet another time. “Come on Connie, you know I’m trying to do better, I’m just really sorry.”
Her face lit up in one of those fake smiles that almost hurt worse than showing the genuine frown. “Honey, tomorrow we can make a pizza together, ok, it’ll be great!” Then she shuffled out the door before I could point out that I already had plans to go out with Henry tomorrow for supper.
I went over to the table and started eating the spaghetti. It wasn’t even worth my time to go into the living room to wake up Dad for supper, his meal schedule was half a pot of coffee and leftovers for breakfast, fast food or yogurt for lunch, then supper at midnight or not at all.
Half way through my solitary meal, I realized I’d been eating in the dark. I got up and switched the light switch. No power. I switched it back and forth a few more times, just urging the bulbs to light. No luck. Ughhhhh, I didn’t really feel like worrying about this tonight, so I picked up my paper plate and tossed it into the dingy trash can in the kitchen.
While finishing my Algebra homework I heard wheels bumbling up our driveway. I did a quick mental check, “Did Mom lock the door when she left?”
“Rats!” I whispered out loud I remembered I had turned around to the stairs before she had completely left so, I didn’t know if she had locked the door. I jumped up rattling some of the pencils off my desk and ran towards the stairs, I took the stairs two at a time, deciding that if someone was in our house by the time I got to the door I would attempt to out-run them to the back door, because it was unlikely that I, a scrawny 15 year old girl, would be able to overpower whoever it was.
My heart pounded in my chest as I took the last few step before the corner where someone could see through the window if they were standing there. Daring a quick glance around the corner I was overcome with a sense of dread, seeing that the door was indeed unlocked. “Keep calm, keep calm, Connie, you have a plan, they don’t know you’re here.” I said in my head. Dropping to my hands and knees (so I wouldn’t be seen from the window) I inched towards the door and reached up my nervous hand to turn the lock. With a woosh the door opened slapping the side of my face. I changed my hand’s direction from the lock to protecting my stinging face and crumpled towards the wall. “What the crap!” shouted a shaky female’s voice. “Connie, oh my dear, what were you doing?” Breathing out a quick breath of relief that the intruder was just my mother, I racked my brain for what I could possibly be doing crouched down on the ground.
“Oh, well I thought there was a draft coming in the door, so I was just checking that out.” Now, gaining speed, as I realized my answer was completely logical I dusted my hands off and stood up opening the door wider so Mom could step in. I finished my explanation saying, “But no worries, I can’t seem to feel it now, so the door must be fine.”
Mom stepped in for a moment her mouth posed in as if she would question or accuse me, but instead she just reached out to touch my still stinging face and said, “Sweetie you ought to grab some ice for your cheek, I think I’ll head to bed now.”
All I wanted was for her hand to stay resting on my cheek, or maybe sweep me up in a big hug like she used to when I was little. But instead I turned around without a word, and as I walked up the stairs to go to my bedroom I realized this was like a quiet ending to one of the songs I’d played on the piano. A silence that would build and wait to be broken, only I wasn’t sure this silence would ever end.