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“I…he brought me home from school.” I wrinkle my nose and breathe through my mouth. She’s all up in my personal space. I reach behind me and grab the doorknob in case I need to make a quick exit. I was hoping to feel something when I saw her. She was my incubating uterus and birthday party thrower for the last seventeen years. I half expected a rush of warmth or memories, some familiarity. I flinch away from the stranger in front of me.
“You skipped school. You were with that boy! Care to explain?”
She smells like a bar just vomited on her. “I don’t feel like…myself. I asked him to bring me home.” I back up a step. “Why are you drunk in the middle of the day?’
Her eyes splay wide and for a minute I think it’s a real possibility that she might hit me. At the last moment she stumbles back and slides down the wall until she’s sitting on the floor. Tears invade her eyes and I have to look away.
Okay, I wasn’t expecting that.
Yelling I can deal with. Crying makes me nervous. Especially when it’s a complete stranger and I don’t know what to say. I creep past her just as she buries her face in her hands and begins to sob hard. I’m not sure if this is normal for her. I hesitate, hovering right where the foyer ends and the living room starts. In the end, I leave her to her tears and decide to find my bedroom. I can’t help her. I don’t even know her.
I want to hide until I figure something out. Like who the hell I am. The house is smaller than I thought. Just past where my mother is crying on the floor, there is a kitchen and a small living room. They sit squat and orderly, filled to the max with furniture that doesn’t look like it belongs. Expensive things in a non-expensive house. There are three doors. The first is open. I peer in and see a plaid bedspread. My parents’ bedroom? I know from the plaid bedspread that it isn’t mine. I like flowers. I open the second of the doors: a bathroom. The third is another bedroom on the left side of the hallway. I step inside. Two beds. I groan. I have a sibling.
I lock the door behind me, and my eyes dart around the shared space. I have a sister. By the looks of her things she is younger than me by at least a few years. I stare at the band posters that adorn her side of the room with distaste. My side is simpler: a twin bed with a dark purple comforter and a framed black and white print that hangs on the wall over the bed. I immediately know it’s something Silas photographed. A broken gate that hangs on its hinges; vines choking their way through the rusted metal prongs—not as dark as the prints in his bedroom, perhaps more suited toward me. There is a stack of books on my nightstand. I reach for one to read the title when my phone pings.
Silas: You okay?
Me: I think my mom is an alcoholic and I have a sister.
His response comes a few seconds later.
Silas: I don’t know what to say. This is so awkward.
I laugh and set my phone down. I want to dig around, see if I can find anything suspicious. My drawers are neat. I must have OCD. I toss around the socks and underwear to see if I can piss myself off.
There is nothing in my drawers, nothing in my nightstand. I find a box of condoms stuffed in a purse under my bed. I look for a journal, notes written by friends—there is nothing. I am a sterile human, boring if not for that print above my bed. A print which Silas gave to me, not one I picked out myself.
My mother is in the kitchen. I can hear her sniffling and making herself something to eat. She’s drunk, I think. Maybe I should ask her some questions and she won’t remember I asked them.
“Hey, er…mom,” I say, coming to stand near her. She pauses in her toast-making to look at me with bleary eyes.
“So, was I being weird last night?”
“Last night?” she repeats.
“Yeah,” I say. “You know…when I came home.”
She scrapes the knife over the bread until it is smeared with butter.
“You were dirty,” she slurs. “I told you to take a shower.”
I think of the dirt and leaves in Silas’s bed. That means we were probably together.
“What time did I get home? My phone was dead,” I lie.
She narrows her eyes. “Around ten o’clock.”
“Did I say anything…unusual?”
She turns away and wanders over to the sink where she bites into her toast and stares down the drain.
“Mom! Pay attention. I need you to answer me.”
Why does this feel familiar? Me begging, her ignoring.
“No,” she says simply. Then I have a thought: my clothes from last night. Off the kitchen there is a small closet with a stacked washer and dryer inside of it. I open the lid to the washing machine and see a small mound of wet clothes clumped at the bottom. I pull them out. They are definitely my size. I must have thrown them in here last night, tried to wash away the evidence. Evidence of what? I pry the pockets of the jeans open with my fingers and reach inside. There is a wad of paper, clumped in a thick, damp mess. I drop the jeans and carry the wad back to my room. If I try to unfold it, it might fall apart. I decide to set it on the windowsill and wait for it to dry.
I text Silas.
Me: Where are you?
I wait a few minutes and when he doesn’t text back, I try again.
I wonder if I always do this; harass him until he answers.
I send five more and then I toss my phone across the room, burying my face in Charlie Wynwood’s pillow to cry. Charlie Wynwood probably never cried. She has no personality from the looks of her bedroom. Her mother is an alcoholic and her sister listens to crappy music. And how do I know that the poster above my sister’s bed compares love to a boom and a clap, but I don’t remember said sister’s name? I wander over to her side of the small bedroom and rummage around in her things.