Christina heard a thump as something hard hit the opposite side of her bedroom wall.
“Cut it out Rose! I’m trying to work!” She yelled angrily.
“Rose!!” Christina leapt from her bed causing the old springs to screech out a cacophony of squeals and screeches, warning her sister of the impending attack.
Rose laughed and slammed her door shut as her older sister yanked open hers.
The 16-year-old pounded on her little sisters door.
“Rose, I swear, next time you do that-”
“Girls! Girls!” Their mother’s weary voice called up the stairs. “Can’t you keep it down for two seconds, I’m trying to get Alex to sleep!”
The wails of 3-month-old Alexander suddenly rent the air, again.
“Oh my goodness!” Their mother groaned “He was so close, so close! You two need to to quiet down unless you want to try to put a colicky baby to sleep.”
“‘It’ll be fun’ she says ‘you can bond’ she says, I always said, side by side rooms were an awful idea, but no, no one listens to Christina, do they, of course not.” Christina muttered angrily to herself as she went back into her room and slammed the door.
“Christina!” Her mother yelled.
“Sorry!” She called, half-heartedly. She knew her mother wasn’t really being unreasonable. In fact, she knew that her mother was actually being quite patient given that her husband had just left her, her son wouldn’t let her get more than two hours of sleep a night, and her job was nowhere near sufficient to provide for her family. But still, her sister, 2 and a half years her junior, seemed to be the bane of her existence most days, and tonight was no exception.
She sighed and went into her room. She closed the door, sat down at her desk and stared resolutely down at her history textbook.
That was it, she stormed into her sister’s room. She glared at Rose, murder in her eyes.
“Rose Marie, I am trying to do my homewo-” Suddenly, Christina gasped and fell to her knees.
“You were throwing books?!”
“Of course I was.” Christine said smugly, not at all disturbed by her sister’s dramatic reaction to the seemingly world-ending news.
“What else was I supposed to throw?”
“Nothing.” Christina said, stretching the two syllables as far as they would go. Her voice was dangerously low and controlled and she glared at her sister, daggers in her eyes, until Rose looked away.
She continued on, as if to herself, shaking her head disapprovingly.
“To think that someone, oh no, not just someone, my own flesh and blood, could do this,” Her eyes widened, her voice started to rise to a higher pitch and she flung her arms dramatically towards her fallen comrades. “this to a book!” Her voice seemed to have reached its climax in a high-pitched squeak, alas, no such luck for Rose. In one final gasp, she clutched a book to her heart and squealed, “and Hans Christian Andersen no less!”
“Terrific. I think my ears are bleeding.”
“Good.” Said Christine, calmly starting to return the book to the shelf, thinking better of it, and turning to take it back with her to her room.“And I can go much higher and much louder so keep your grubby mitts of these poor books, they’ve suffered enough.” She added over her shoulder.
Rose sneered at her sister’s retreating back and went back to tinkering with an old lighter she had found in the street.
Her mother had finally thrown up her hands in surrender after arguing with her about it for a good six or seven minutes when she had brought the old thing into the house after school that day.
She turned it over and over in her hands trying to decide whether or not it was worth it to break the red plastic case and see if it had any butane left in it. Unfortunately for her mother, she decided it was.
She snuck out into the alley behind her house and as she used her pocket knife to carefully make a tiny crack in the casing, she thought about her life.
It hadn't really hit her yet how desperate her situation was. Her father had just abandoned her, no more fishing trips, no more weekend camping trips, no more if those funny voice impressions he used to do.
She knew her mother and sister were suffering, too, and as much as she hated to admit it, it hurt her to see them like that. Not to mention, with the loss of income, her mom couldn't support the family, she was pretty sure the bank had already sent a foreclosure note for their tiny house.
And, on top of it all, she was failing most of her classes. She didn't dare tell anyone, of course, they had too much to worry about as it was. No more hope for a scholarship, now her mom would have to pay more of the money they didn’t have
She wrenched the knife around in frustration, sending hundreds of tiny cracks cascading over the case. Why was she so stupid?! If she could just get this block out of her brain and learn well and get good grades, she could make her mother happy.
She wrenched the knife one more time, this time deliberately. The case came apart and a small puff released a miniscule amount of depressurized butane into the air. She noted with a tiny bit of disappointment the lack of an explosion and tossed the lighter out into the middle of the broken asphalt.
Christina stared down hard at the textbook, trying to concentrate. She liked history, why was this so hard all of a sudden? She needed Jackson here, it was so much easier for both of them if they studied together, it made it a little bit less tedious. She thought back to that school day and smiled.
Her best friend, Jackson, had surprised her that day with some of his homemade snickerdoodle cookies, one of her favorite things on the planet. He knew she was having a hard time so he had been bringing her little "cheer up" gifts every couple of days since her dad left.
She remembered that day perfectly. She had gotten up, gotten dressed, had breakfast and headed out the door, just like any other school day. She had gotten to school, aced a History test, failed a Chemistry test and snuck out of Algebra 2 class with Jackson to write on the stalls of the boy's bathroom. Jackson had teased her about the freckles she hated and she had teased him about his shaggy hair and braces and they both made fun of the kids who thought they were the epitome of evolution. All in all, it was a good day.
But then, she got home. Her mom had been sitting at the kitchen table, holding her head in her hands, a folded up note in front of her. Christina had looked at the note in confusion, a feeling of dread coming over her. Her mom had looked up, noticing her for the first time and said, with an unconvincing smile, “It’s okay, baby, everything is going to be okay.”
But Christina had known it wasn’t going to be and after her mom told her what was going on, she called Jackson in tears and told him everything. The minute he had heard he had hung up and soon enough, he was knocking at her door. He lived 8 miles away and didn’t have a license. He ran.
She had cried and told him how her life was over and how she would never be able to do any of the things she loved to do with her dad, never go fishing with him, never learn how to change a tire or test the oil from him, never go camping with him. And he had held her and told her that he would go fishing with her, teach her how to change a tire and test the oil, leave civilization, sleep on the ground, eat burnt food, and get bitten various venomous insects with her and most of all, he would never, ever, leave her alone.
She had smiled for the first time that day when he had said that. They both knew he wouldn’t have a fighting chance trying to do anything with a car, and he hated camping.
She was brought back to reality with a start as her phone buzzed. She looked a the message, it was from Jackson.
Quiz me for the test tomorrow :)
She smiled, she was pretty sure he probably hadn’t even read the chapter.
What was Sir Isaac Newton known for?
She went back to reading until her phone buzzed again.
Sir Issac Walton invented gravity. It is chiefly noticeable in the autumn when the apples are falling off of trees.
She rolled her eyes and smiled.
Lol, looks like we’re both going to fail :P
He agreed and they talked about how annoying the English teacher was instead until they both fell asleep.