“I love you, sweetie.”
We drift back into the dining room and finish dinner quickly and, for the most part, silently. Carla leaves and my mom asks if I want to beat her at a game of Honor Pictionary, but I ask for a rain check. I’m not really in the mood.
Instead, I head upstairs imagining what a Bundt cake tastes like.
Pièce de Rejection
Back in my room, I go immediately to my bedroom window. The dad is home from work and something’s wrong because he’s angry and getting angrier by the second. He grabs the Bundt cake from Kara and throws it hard at Olly, but Olly’s too fast, too graceful. He dodges, and the cake falls to the ground.
Remarkably the Bundt seems unharmed, but the plate shatters against the driveway. This only makes this dad angrier.
“You clean that up. You clean that up right now.” He slams into the house. His mom goes after him. Kara shakes her head at Olly and says something to him that makes his shoulders slump. Olly stands there looking at the cake for a few minutes. He disappears into the house and returns with a broom and dustpan. He takes his time, way longer than necessary, sweeping up the broken plate.
When he’s done he climbs to the roof, taking the Bundt with him, and it’s another hour before he swings back into his room.
I’m hiding in my usual spot behind the curtain when I suddenly no longer want to hide. I turn on the lights and go back to the window. I don’t even bother to take a deep breath. It’s not going to help. I pull the curtain aside to find that he’s already there in his window, staring right at me. He doesn’t smile. He doesn’t wave. Instead, he reaches his arm overhead and pulls the blind closed.
“How long are going to mope around the house?” Carla asks. “You’ve been like this all week.”
“I’m not moping,” I say, though I’ve been moping a little. Olly’s rejection has made me feel like a little girl again. It reminded me why I stopped paying attention to the world before.
But trying to get back to my normal routine is hard when I can hear all the sounds of the outside world. I notice things that I paid very little attention to before. I hear the wind disturbing the trees. I hear birds gossiping in the mornings. I see the rectangles of sunlight that slip through my blinds and work their way across the room throughout the day. You can mark time by them. As much as I’m trying to keep the world out, it seems determined to come in.
“You’ve been reading the same five pages in that book for days now.” She nods at my copy of Lord of the Flies.
“Well, it’s a terrible book.”
“I thought it was a classic.”
“It’s terrible. Most of the boys are awful and all they talk about is hunting and killing pigs. I’ve never been so hungry for bacon in my life.”
She laughs, but it’s halfhearted at best. She sits on the couch next to me and moves my legs into her lap. “Tell me,” she says.
I put the book down and close my eyes. “I just want them to go away,” I confess. “It was easier before.”
“What was easier?”
“I don’t know. Being me. Being sick.”
She squeezes my leg. “You listen to me now. You’re the strongest, bravest person I know. You better believe that.”
“Carla, you don’t have to—”
“Shush, listen to me. I’ve been thinking this over. I could see this new thing was weighing down on you, but I know you’re going to be all right.”
“I’m not so sure.”
“That’s OK. I can be sure for both of us. We’ve been together in this house for fifteen years, so I know what I’m talking about. When I first started with you I thought it was only a matter of time before depression would take you over. And there was that one summer when it came close, but it didn’t happen. Every day you get up and learn something new. Every day you find something to be happy about. Every single day you have a smile for me. You worry more about your mother than you do about yourself.”
I don’t think Carla has ever said this many words all at once.
“My own Rosa,” she continues, but then stops. She leans back and closes her eyes in the grip of some emotion I don’t understand. “My Rosa could learn a thing or two from you. She has everything I could give her, but she thinks she has nothing.”
I smile. Carla complains about her daughter, but I can tell she spoils her as much as she can.
She opens her eyes and whatever was bothering her passes. “You see, there’s that smile again.” She pats my leg. “Life is hard, honey. Everyone finds a way.”
Life is Short™
Spoiler Reviews by Madeline
LORD OF THE FLIES by WILLIAM GOLDING
Spoiler alert: Boys are savages.
Two days pass and I’ve stopped moping. I’m getting better at ignoring the neighbors when I hear a ping coming from outside. I’m on my couch, still mired in Lord of the Flies. Mercifully, I’m close to finishing. Ralph is on the beach awaiting a violent death. I’m so eager for the book to end so that I can read something else, something happier, that I ignore the sound. A few minutes later and there’s another ping, louder this time. I put the book down and listen. Pings three, four, and five come in rapid succession. Something’s hitting my window. Hail? I’m up and at my window before I can think better of it. I push the curtains aside.
Olly’s window is wide open, the blinds are up, and the lights are off in his room. The indestructible Bundt is sitting on his windowsill wearing googly eyes that are staring right at me. The cake trembles and then tilts forward, as if contemplating the distance to the ground. It retreats and trembles some more. I’m trying to see Olly in his darkened room when the Bundt leaps from the sill and plunges to the ground.
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