Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mrs. Brown

This is a very very rough draft of a short story I wrote for class. Let me know what you think.

Mrs. Brown

To Abby’s ears the doorbell chime sounded more like a bridal march than a typical ding dong. She heard her mother open the door to let him in and Abby had to fight the urge to jump up and down squealing, “Zack’s in my house!!” She promised that would come later, when Zack had left and she was on the phone with her best friend.

Abby knew she had found everything she could ever want the day Zack walked into her homeroom half way through freshman year. Abby thought he was the reincarnation of Cinderella’s Prince Charming with his eyes the color of Hershey’s milk chocolate kisses and his dark hair. For almost two and half years, her life goal had been to move their relationship past the point of polite conversation. All her attempts had failed so far. He wasn’t interested when she tried to be silly and playful or studious and somber. He didn’t seem to notice whether she played the badass or the angel. Her cheerleading uniform didn’t even work. Abby couldn’t figure out who Zack wanted her to be and his eclectic list of ex-girlfriends didn’t help.

She settled all remaining hope and positive thinking on tonight. She never imagined her fairy godmother would come in the form of Mr. Holcombe but she was certain he had assigned Zack as her partner for the history presentation so she could make her move. Her house was the only place where she felt free to just be Abby. There was nothing to steal his attention away and they had a week to work on the project, which meant seven days of concentrated Abby and Zack time.

Her mom called out the she had company and Abby checked herself out in her vanity mirror on last time. She had pulled her honey colored hair into a high pony tail, allowing loose curls to sweetly frame her heart shaped face. She hadn’t bothered with blush because her excitement infused her skin with a healthy glow. She did add mascara to her invisible lashes so they would bring attention to her lagoon blue eyes. Abby knew better than to use eye shadow, something she only got away with on game nights, so she settled on dabbing a little pale pink lip gloss.

She glided down the hall and into the living room. She stood far enough away from Zack that he could get the full effect of her athletic legs in her too short for school jean shorts paired with her formfitting white t-shirt. Abby caught her mom’s eyebrow raise at the shorts but no comment was made about them. She knew the lecture would come later but that she could handle as long as she wasn’t embarrassed in front of Zack.

Zack, who at this moment stood in her house and stared at her in confusion. “You changed?”

Abby panicked that her wardrobe change had given too much away. She tried to cover it up by explaining, “The house is so hot in April . . . I always change into lighter clothes when I get home . . . and classrooms are kept so cold . . . have to dress warmly for school . . . Have you met my mom?”

“Yes, Mrs. Brown introduced herself when she let me in.” He looked to wards her mom as he spoke but Abby noticed the smile playing at the corners of his mouth and knew somewhere inside he was laughing at her.

Abby was too caught in the agony of her humiliation to speak so her mom took over the conversation. “Will, Zack it was nice meeting you.” She settled herself on the couch. “I’ll just be reading here, while you kids work on your project over there.” Her mom pointed to the dining table only feet away in a small corner of the large open room that held the kitchen, dining area and living space. Then she picked up her romance novel and pretended to ignore them.

In all of Abby’s daydreams about this evening she never envisioned them sharing a room with her mom as she read Beyond a Wicked Kiss and Zack laughed at her. Completely disillusioned, Abby forced on her brightest game night smile as Zack pulled a chair out for her. He caught her eye as he sat down next to her and gave her a wink. Just like that her world went all unicorns and rainbows again.

Zack’s textbook clapped against the table top as he let it fall open and began to aimlessly flip pages. “Sooo the Berlin Wall . . . didn’t Hasselhoff perform there or something?”

“Um yeah, he sung at the fall of it.” Abby melted at the confused look on his face. Her confidence lifted at this chance to prove her usefulness. “I started taking notes as soon as Mr. Holcombe assigned out topic.” She reached over to Zack’s back and turned it to the right section.

“Uh, thanks.” His eyes skimmed over the page and then turned back to Abby. “So what have you learned so far?”

Abby pulled out her notes and moved closer to Zack so they could both view the pages between them. Then she recited all the information she had gathered. Occasionally her left arm would brush against his right one and Abby would get a thrill from the feel of his warmth and nearness. When she had exhausted the textbook’s knowledge, Abby brought her laptop to the table so they could research. Well, Abby researched, while Zack spectated. Sometimes she caught him not paying attention. She didn’t mind because it gave her an excuse to touch him. She’d bump his elbow with hers or tap her fingers on his arm and one time she shoved the upper half of the left side of her body into his.

“Sorry. I guess the Berlin Wall isn’t my thing.” Zack softened her with his please-don’t-beat-me puppy eyes.

“No, I get it. But we have to do it,” Abby empathized. Sighing, Zack nodded and glanced at his watch. He started to speak and her whole body tensed knowing he was going to leave but he was cut off by the bang of the garage door hitting the hallway wall. Between the anxiety Zack caused her and the abrupt noise coming right behind her, Abby couldn’t keep in her shriek as she simultaneously turned and jumped to her feet, which toppled her chair over with another loud bang.

She watched her little sister rush towards her as her mom yelled, “Lorelei and Abigail! Have y’all lost your minds?!” The commotion had pulled her away from all the wicked kissing in her book.

Lore stopped in front of Abby. She had the bottom of her shirt pulled up in a makeshift pouch. “I need you to take them.” She held out the shirt so Abby could see the squirming mass of shiny pink inside. Abby jumped back and hid her hands behind her back.

“No way am I touching that!”

“They’re baby opossums and you have to.” Lore tried to approach Abby once more but she skittered to the other side of the table.

“Here. I’ll take ‘em” Zack offered, holding out his shirt the same way Lore did.

Caught up in her own disgust, Abby had forgotten that Zack was there witnessing her family’s oddness. Now all she could do was pray that someplace existed where she could apply for a new family as Lore dumped the tiny monsters into Zack’s shirt. Abby felt nauseous from watching Lore put her hands over Zack’s and pushed them into his abdomen, closing the pouch. She then ordered him to keep them warm and ran down the hall to her room.

Abby knew she needed to do damage control before Lore returned so she forced herself to move back around the table and picked up her neglected chair. “I’m sorry about my sister. She’s uh passionate about animals.” Zack gingerly sat down as she spoke and she returned to her seat.

“No problem. I think it’s sweet.” He smiled at her and cradled the wriggling bulk in his hands. She thought she would be relieved by his acceptance of the situation but instead she felt more nervous.

Rattles, clangs, and thuds kept coming from Lore’s room. “She’s probably searching for her orphaned animal kit.”

“She had an orphaned animal kit? Can you buy those at a store?” Zack questioned with mirth in his voice. She could only hope his humor wasn’t at her expense.

“No, Lore put it together herself. She’s been rescuing baby animals for years so she eventually created a kit to make things easier.”

Her explanation brought a soft smile to Zack’s lips. Abby’s stomach twisted painfully. Before she could analyze what was wrong with her. Lover came back with a plastic container. Standing at Zack’s other side; she made a home for the opossums out of a small tin can and a bit of cloth, which she places on a heating pad for warmth.

“You’re not worried about roasting the little guys?” Zack asked as Lore put her hand into his shirt and fished out one of the opossums.

“Of course, that’s why I constantly check the temperature.” Lore spoke as if she was talking to a four year old. Abby buried her face in her hands but Zack responded, “Ah, smart.”

The three remained silent-Lore in concentration, Zack in fascination, and Abby in horror- as Lore collected each opossum from Zack’s shirt, administered fluids, and then tucked it into the tine can. When the ordeal ended, Lore carried her new patients into her room and shut the door without a backward glance or thanks or good bye to either of them. Abby couldn’t even be certain that Lore knew Zack’s name.

She looked towards him to gauge his reaction to Lore’s rudeness and found him chuckling to himself and shaking his head. When he noticed her watching him, he stood and began to collect his things. “I guess I better get going.”

Oh right, you can leave now that the freak show is over. “Yeah, it’s getting late,” Abby mumbled and organized her own papers and books, no longer about to look at him.

“See ya at school. Nice meeting you, Mrs. Brown.” And then Zack was gone.

Abby figured Zack would never speak to her again. He would most likely avoid her as if her family’s level of crazy was contagious. She wondered if it was possible to give a group presentation with the other member of the group standing on the opposite side of the room. Mostly, she worried that Zack would tell everyone else at school about her weirdo little sister. So when Zack stopped her in class the next day with the offer to drive her home so they could work on the presentation, she almost fainted from relief. She feared that if she spoke she would jinx everything so she accepted with a smile and a nod.

Overwhelmed by the mixture of relief, joy, gratefulness, and excitement, Abby remained silent for most of the trip home. Zack filled the silence by flipping through radio stations. Somehow he landed on an oldies station right as Herman’s Hermits began to sing, “Mrs. Brown, you’ve got a lovely daughter.” Abby recognized it immediately and blushed.

“You know this song,” Zack half-asked, half-accused.

“My grandma and aunt have sung it to me for as long as I can remember. Please, feel free to turn it.”

“Why? I think it might be my new favorite.” Zack turned it up a little bit. “These guys get me.”

Abby’s inner cheerleader did hands free back flips. Surely, this was the moment that Prince Charming would declare his undying devotion to her. Zack bobbed his head to the music. Well, maybe after the song ended, he would tell her that he likes her. Nope, now he’s flipping stations again. Abby began to consider that this time Cinderella might have to make the first move, when Zack finally opened his mouth to speak.

“Why doesn’t Lore go to our school?”

The abrupt change of topic angered Abby. She had been on the verge of unloading two and a half years of secret longing and he wanted to talk about her sister.

“She’s still in the 8th grade.”

“How old is she?!”

“14. She failed Kindergarten the first time.”

Her explanation wasn’t completely true. Their mom had kept Lore back a year because of difficulties with her speech. Abby had dealt with similar speech problems but at a lesser degree. For reasons she didn’t care to explore, Abby kept these details to herself.

“When does she turn 15?”

“In June.”

Abby hadn’t realized how tense Zack was until she watched him relax at her answer. “Who cares about Kindergarten anyway?” Zack smirked at her.

Abby was furious and she couldn’t figure out why. In the past, she had broken up with boys for being mean to her little sister. Shouldn’t she be happy that Zack was so accepting of Lore? But she wasn’t happy instead she felt violent. Zack pulled up the gravel driveway to her house and she jumped out the truck before it was in park. She needed space and time to sort out her feelings. It angered her that Zack followed her into the house to do homework. Stupid presentation. Stupid Mr. Holcombe. Stupid boys. Stupid little sister. Abby slammed her book bag on the kitchen table and began rifling through it.

“Did I do something wrong?” Zack looked so bewildered that Abby forced herself to calm down. Good job proving to him that the crazy in your family is contagious.

“No. Sorry. Just something else on my mind.” Abby made herself sit at the table and gather her history notes.

“Okay.” Zack perched on his chair and studied her movements.

She laughed. “Seriously, I’m fine.” Then she buried her anger beneath their school work. Everything went smoothly for the first hour but then Lore came home. Zack had to ask her about the opossums, which Lore was eager to talk about. She even brought them into the dining room so Zack could help her feed them. Fortunately for Abby’s blood pressure, the opossums only needed so much attention. Then Lore was putting them away and heading out the door probably to find more orphaned animals.

As soon as she left, Zack commented that he needed to head home and packed up his things. Abby’s anger made her restless so she followed him out the door. They both stopped to watch Lore’s short frame stretching and jumping to try to reach a branch that was a good four feet about her. Lore still when she noticed them.

“Hey, you. Lift me up so I can see into this bird’s nest.”

“His name is Zack.”

“Yeah, Zack. Help me.” Like every other animal, Zack obeyed Lore. The urge to kill returned to Abby as she watched Lore climb on to his shoulders. It took less than a minute for Lore to check on the chicks and then find her way back down, which was good since Abby couldn’t breathe while her sister’s thighs were so close to Zack’s head.

It was when Lore’s feet touched the ground that Abby’s life stopped. All her dreams came crashing down. And she realized she wasn’t a princess. Because that’s when her Prince Charming kissed Lore. Right in front of Abby as if she wasn’t there or worse as if she didn’t matter. The violence in Abby was reaching for something to throw at them, when Lore broke away and put all her weight behind a blow aimed for his mouth. “I didn’t ask you to kiss me!” She yelled over her shoulder as she stormed into the house.

Zack touched his bloodied lip and looked at Abby in disbelief. “Your little sister is psycho.” And that’s what made Abby snap. She grabbed up handfuls of gravel and launched them at his head. “Don’t talk about my sister!”

“You’re both psycho!” Zack yelled back as he ran for truck, ducking under the rain of the rocks and dirt that Abby kept tossing at him. Abby could barely make out Lore’s giggle over the roar of Zack’s truck racing out of the drive way. She turned toward her little sister.

“Come on, Sissy. It’s time for dinner,” Lore said, holding out her hand. Abby took it and Mrs. Brown’s daughters sauntered back into their home.

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