For those of you who are following the blogs postings of my fourth novel, The Rocky Orchard, each one is meant to be a stand-alone snippet that piques your interest. Like the majority of my writing, the past and present intermingle freely; memory and reality can be indistinguishable; both first- and third-person narration are used to underscore these themes. It’s not meant to be a jigsaw puzzle to figure out, but rather, an appetizer to whet your appetite for more.
My brother looks at the floor when he has to walk past me so he won’t have to make eye contact. I don’t need to see his eyes to feel the fire that is there, the disappointment, the stony disapproval. He is furious. At me. Doug is, too; but at least Doug will look me in the eye once in a while. I see weary pity for me.
My brother chose sides, and he didn’t choose mine.
I was born with my eyes locked onto my big brother. I followed him around and watched everything he did and wanted to do all those things myself. And now, it’s like I am forced to watch as he gets into a car, locks the doors, and keeps driving farther and farther away while I just stand here.
Of course our after-school foursome broke up. I am home by myself today, just like I am every day while my mother picks up my brother from his after-school stuff. The doorbell rings. The doorbell rings at 2:30 on a weekday afternoon, and I am sure to the marrow of my bones that it’s Tim. I’m sure because Tim always hits the doorbell button twice in a row, with no pause in between, so the bell dingdongdingdongs in a manic blur.
My heart pounds. I have a hard time swallowing the lump that’s blocking my throat. I’m terrified to turn my head toward our front door, to see if Tim has already seen me, if I’m directly in his line of vision as he stands at our front door, and I sit on the couch in our living room, having thought that I was safe, safe in my own house on a random afternoon.
I stare at the living room curtains, floor-length, heavy old drapes that I picture wrapping myself within, smelling their pleasant smell that enfolds all the smells of our family’s cooking, pets, fireplace, fresh laundry, dirty socks. If only I can get to the drapes without Tim seeing me. I can envelop myself, clutch them in my hands, breathe them so deeply into my nostrils that—
The doorbell rings again, two more times.
Tim’s face is pressed against the small glass pane of our front door. He’s staring directly at me. He has that wry half-smile that used to stop me in my tracks and melt me into a heap. My legs shake when I stand. I run my hands along my jeans as if I were smoothing a skirt, which is completely inane. I clear my throat but have no confidence that I’ll be able to utter sound, form words, talk when I need to.
My hand grabs the ancient glass doorknob on the inside of the front door. I don’t turn it right away, as if I still believe I can prevent this whole scene from going any further. But the door is open, and Tim says, “Hey, I thought I’d hang out with your brother.”
I nod. I feel like a complete idiot for being so scared. But just for a split second, because I realize that Tim knows my brother isn’t home. He knows he stays late after school. He knows that my mother goes to pick him up because there aren’t any buses.
He knew that I would be alone.
He meant for this to happen.
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