Their favorite topic of all, though, was me. When it came to my silence, they were all professionals on what it meant to be mute.
I sat at the top of the stairs, listening to them discuss me that evening. I wished Brooks were over, but he and the boys were off watching some super indie underground band play at some hole-in-the-wall venue. He kept sending me videos of the space, where they were packed like sardines and it was loud as ever. Whenever the camera faced him and I saw his giddy smile, my heart fell for him just a little bit more.
I wanted to be there with him, feel him holding me in his arms, completely losing myself to the sounds. In the video, I saw Stacey swaying back and forth to the music with Calvin, and I felt selfish—selfish for not being there for Brooks, selfish for not being able to do the things normal couples did.
“She really has a boyfriend?” Loren questioned, finishing off her glass of wine before pouring some more. “How is that even…possible?”
“Who is it?” Wendy hammered.
“Brooks,” Mama said nonchalantly while eating chips and salsa.
“Brooks who?” Wendy hammered some more.
“What?” all four girls screeched at once.
“No way,” Janice said. “But Brooks is… He’s pretty popular with the ladies, isn’t he? I get that he visited her every day out of the kindness of his heart, but dating? That can’t be true.”
“Is that even healthy?” Loren questioned. “You know, with Maggie’s…condition?”
“Her condition?” Mama asked.
“You know, her…trauma. I’m just saying. I read an article once—” Loren started.
“You’re always reading articles once,” Hannah cut in, her tone a bit feisty.
“Yeah, but this one had actual scientific statistics. It said individuals who suffer traumatic incidents as children struggle with relapses in their healing when placed in relationships.”
“Loren,” Hannah scolded.
I liked Hannah. Mama should’ve stayed friends with her and ditched the others.
“What! It’s true. Her being with Brooks could trigger some kind of relapse, and really, what are they going to do? Date in Katie’s house forever? All I’m saying is this doesn’t seem like a good idea. It could really backtrack any progress, no matter how small, that Maggie has made. Plus, it doesn’t seem like a fair trade for Brooks. What does he get out of the equation?”
Shut up, Loren. He gets me.
I didn’t want to hear anymore, but I couldn’t walk away.
“You know what? I say que sera, sera,” Hannah chimed in. “They’re kids, let them live a little.”
Right on, Hannah! Hannah was the least dramatic of the group. If anything, she only showed up for the pizza and wine. I couldn’t fault her—Mama always ordered pizza from Marco’s, which was the best in town.
“That’s stupid thinking, Hannah. ‘Live a little.’ That’s the kind of thought that got you married three times and divorced three times.”
“I’m going for my fourth in both arenas, too.” Hannah poured herself some more wine, smiled, and started singing, “Que sera, sera.”
“You know how your mother feels about you eavesdropping,” Daddy whispered, walking up the staircase to sit beside me. He had a bag of peanut M&Ms in his hand and handed me a few. “Plus, these women are vipers. You don’t need to be brainwashed by their crazy.”
I smiled at him and rested my head on his shoulder.
“Are they talking about you again?”
He frowned. “I told your mother to change the subject, or to stop inviting the four horsemen to our house. It’s really not a big enough property to be the headquarters of the apocalypse. Don’t let them get to you, Maggie, all right?”
I wasn’t worried about them getting to me. It had been made clear to me a long time ago that those women were insane. What I worried about most was how their words affected Mama. Even when she tried to fight against their opinions, they still slipped through the cracks into her unconscious mind. Sometimes when Mama reacted to situations, she wouldn’t react like herself, instead saying things the four horsemen would say. Daddy always said to watch out for groups, that they sometimes turned you into a person you’d never otherwise become.
“I’m just saying, she’s never going to get better if you allow this to go on.” Loren started again. “There’s no way that she should be allowed—”
“Oh, Loren, shut it!” Mama shouted, stunning both Daddy and me. She even stumbled back a bit, shocked by her own sounds. “That’s enough. Yes, my daughter has her issues, but there’s no reason for you to sit here belittling her for an hour straight. I’d never do that to you about your child, and I’d expect the same kind of respect about mine. As far as if my daughter dates, and who my daughter dates, that’s up to her father and me to decide. Now, I respect your opinion—but that’s all it is. An opinion. You’re welcome to have it, but if you could keep it from me, that would be grand.”
“Wow,” Daddy whispered, a small smirk on his lips. “There she is,” he said. “There’s the woman I married.”
The subject changed, and Loren even muttered an apology.
“Joke?” Daddy asked.
“Why did the run-on sentence think it was pregnant? Because its period was late.” He laughed, slapping his knee, and I rolled my eyes so hard.
I loved my father.
It was past one in the morning when the horsemen rode off to their hotels. Brooks hadn’t texted me in a while, and I figured he was just having the time of his life at the show. A couple hours later, I woke up to my door slowly opening.
“Magnet?” Brooks whispered. “Sleeping?”
I sat up in my bed.
He smiled and entered my room, shutting the door behind him. He walked over to my desk and turned on my lamp, lighting up the room enough for a three a.m. wake-up call.
“Sorry I stopped texting. My phone died mid-show. Then when the show was supposed to be over, it went into this crazy encore! God! The energy of the room, Maggie. I swear, you could feel the walls vibrating from the energy alone. And the artists!” He kept going, waving his arms around with excitement, telling me everything about the band, the guitars they used, the keys, the drums, how Rudolph got hit in the face with a drum stick, how Oliver was the one who hit him in the face.