murder, porcelain

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The Fairy and the Lumberjack

2

When my father’s dark green jeep pulled up to the sidewalk next to the Conerly’s property, the “party” seemed to be already in progress.
Across the hedge next to the house we could see a pavilion decorated with fairy lights, smoke from the grill rose into the air and we could clearly hear laughter and clatter of dishes. I sighed and hoped that it would not be noticed how little desire I had for this nonsense.
My parents, on the other hand, had bawled along loudly to the radio for the whole five-minute drive.

The Conerly’s house was a beautiful two-story white old building, with dark struts and a black roof, surrounded by a six feet tall hedge and an adjoined medium-sized garden. I loved their house. It radiated such a coziness, both from the outside and the inside.

Slowly, my brother and I walked to the entrance of the house, while my mother rummaged in the car and my father stood apathetically beside her.
We climbed up the steps to the heavy wooden door, next to which were several tubs of plants and various small decorative elements. I hesitated before I pressed the bell as I tried to avoid being left alone with Doloris; she chewed my ear off too often and usually, I was lucky enough to leave her alone with my mother.

Suddenly, the door opened, and a gush of perfume came towards us. In front of us stood Rhea, Doloris’ daughter, who greeted us with a broad smile.
She had styled her short, black hair in a modern way to the back, her eyes made up with light smokey eyeshadow. Rhea looked great in that leather jacket and short dark blue top, her long legs seemed skinnier than usual in her dark jeans. She was always well dressed all in one, it was just not my taste at all.

“Hi, you two. Are you all right? ” she asked in a far too high, disguised voice, after she hugged us both. We smiled and nodded in unity, Rhea leaned forward and looked around the corner of the house. “Where did you leave the other two?”

At that moment, I heard my mother announce herself with aloud “Yoo-hoo!“. Greg and I exchanged looks and quickly went inside the house before we would have to listen to our mother’s pointless small talk.
Immediately, Doloris came to us, wearing an artsy green dress and pink shoes. Before my face mirrored my thoughts about her outfit choice, she greeted us as warmly as her daughter and then went to the door to tell my parents how much she’d missed them.

Greg and I took off our jackets and hung them on the clothing rail in the hall, voices came from the living room straight ahead of us. Without saying a word, Greg asked me if he looked alright and I nodded while correcting the collar of his white shirt. It was strange to see him like that; 90 percent of the time he was walking around in loose T-shirts and hoodies, of which he apparently only had two per category.

Our parents followed us as we entered the living room through the dark door frame to a group of people standing in the room, laughing, drinking, talking.

Through the glass front to the garden I could see another ten to fifteen people standing on the veranda or at the barbecue. My stomach growled unpleasantly when the smell of meat and all the other snacks streamed into my nose and virtually laid on my tongue.

When my parents made themselves known, too many people came straight to us, hugged us, shook our hands and made unpleasantly awkward remarks about how much we’ve grown and how handsome or pretty we’ve become, in which my mother was completely absorbed.
Greg discovered one of his classmates and left me alone in a group of people I had known for ages, but never in detail.

I crossed my arms and peeked over to the buffet. On the two tables were various salads, snacks and desserts. Was it inappropriate to start with anything right now?
As I looked around, I noticed sadly that no one else was holding a plate in their hands, until someone tapped me on the shoulder. Behind me stood Rhea, who pressed a drink into my hand with a grin.
“What’s this? ” I asked, confused.
“Try it! I made it myself,” her voice tried to drown out all the others as she smiled at me with her bleached teeth.
Without expectations, I took a sip of the orange-reddish drink and was stunned when I noticed the amount of alcohol.
“Wow,” it escaped me. It wasn’t that I was averse to alcohol– I even saw this drink as the savior of the evening– I just didn’t expect the first sip to almost punch me in the throat.
“Tasty, isn’t it? “She passed me by quickly and I was alone again.

With a soft sigh, I walked towards the glass door that led to the veranda. The weather was a dream. The birds were chirping, the sky slowly turned pink, the fairy lights hung up in the trees in the middle of the garden began to glow and threw a romantic aura on the scene. I greeted a group of people sitting at the two tables that the Conerly’s had set up for the occasion before I turned around. Standing by the large, professional-looking grill was Craig Jenkins; the lumberjack dream of every suburban mother, an incredibly handsome, charismatic guy who owned the local sawmill. I had caught myself in intimate moments at one time or another, incorporating him into my fantasies; accordingly, it was quite strange to stand before him now.

Curious, I spun around and secretly looked for his son, whom my mother had told me about this afternoon, but couldn’t spot anyone fitting the description. I took heart and headed for Craig, who, holding the barbecue tongs, was talking to a guy I didn’t know.

“That looks good,” I said and looked at him, then at the rust in front of us.
Craig turned to me and smiled through his dark brown beard.
“Oh, Amber! We haven’t seen each other for ages. How are you doing?”
He wore a checkered shirt and jeans; I was convinced he wanted to meet the lumberjack stereotype more than once. Individualism, here in Windstead Hills, was too much for many people anyway.

I nodded and shrugged my shoulders. “So far so good, and yourself?”
He turned over a piece of meat, steak, perhaps. “Can’t complain.”
I found myself staring at his muscular, hairy arms.
His eyes scurried through the garden and veranda. “My son should be around here somewhere. But I don’t know where... Well, he’ll come out as soon as the food’s ready.” He was rattling the barbecue tongs and grinned. A shudder went down my spine. Damn it.
“Get yourself a plate.” Craig winked. “You’ll get the first one.”

When I went back into the living room, Rhea’s cocktail was noticeable in my bladder and I immediately headed for the bathroom on the first floor. Naturally, there was also a guest toilet on the ground floor, but I hoped for a little more intimacy in the family bathroom. Besides, I always had the feeling that a bathroom revealed more about the household than they would ever admit.

I scampered unnoticed up the stairs to the first floor, the old wooden steps creaked under my feet, the railing wobbled slightly. The staircase led me directly to a hallway, lights off, the wood on the walls and floor dark. I pushed down the handle to the room I remembered was the bathroom and was greeted by a bright light. It smelled of cleanser and perfume, the white tiles shone in competition with the porcelain. In the small, unoccupied corners were pots with tiny plants, various tubes and bottles were distributed in shower trays and on the edge of the bathtub. Music and voices came from below, I smelled the grill even over the smell of citrus toilet cleaner and Hugo Boss Bottled.

I spend my time in there daydreaming and fantasizing about Craig, again, until I heard a soft, muffled voice coming from one of the other rooms. I halted and listened, my eyes narrowed. It was spoken in a language I did not understand; also, I could not make out which language it was because of the volume. I washed my hands, had a last look in the mirror, which was equipped with a light way too dark, and quietly left the room.
Carefully, I crept in the direction I thought the voice was coming from and stopped in front of a door at the end of the hall. This was Rhea’s room, right?
I recognized a male voice mumbling something in a calming tone, a smile audibly on their lips. Just as I leaned closer to the door, every spoken word was silent. I put my ear closer to the wood. Nothing. Suddenly, the wooden floor was creaking right in front of me and I made a hasty leap back, but it was already too late. I followed the handle being pushed down and the door opening.

In front of me stood a boy my age, with Asian features. He did not notice me at first, looked at me perplexed, then friendly.
He was... quite pretty. Almost too pretty for a guy; his dark brown doe eyes were bordered by a thick black lash line, his pink, full lips formed a smile. His skin had a healthy glow in the rest of the sunlight that came through the window behind him. I swallowed visibly.

“H- Hi,” I stammered, my hands getting sweaty. He shut the door behind him with a calm manner, almost like he expected me to keep on talking, but I definitely could not. I caught myself naively assuming he was a girl, until he opened his pretty mouth.
“Did you eavesdrop?” His voice was pleasantly soft and soothing, while his smile didn’t disappear from his face.
Surprised, I looked for an explanation somewhere in the dark wood of the door behind him, but he beat me to it.
“It’s okay.” He laughed. “I would have, too.”

“Oh... ” just came out of me, a little overwhelmed by the somewhat unpleasant situation.
“I’m starving,” he said and walked past me towards the stairs.
He stopped at the railing and turned to me when he noticed that I was still standing there like rooted to the ground.
“You comin’?”

I followed him hesitantly down the stairs, back to the living room, onto the porch.
It was getting dark outside, candles lit up the area around the tables, the lights in the trees shone brighter now. The dark purple sky made me feel kind of nostalgic, let me think of all the times I sat outside with my parents in the summer, looking at the stars after we spend too much time rambling about whatever.
Most of the guests now sat at the tables or on the chairs and ate, quiet pop music played in the background of an artist that wouldn’t come to my mind, but I hated pop music anyways.

I looked around for my parents, who were sitting at a table with Craig, Doloris and people I didn’t know, chatting excitedly about things I couldn’t care less about.
To my surprise, the boy steered directly towards them and put his hands on Craig’s shoulders, stopping him from eating and smiling friendly instead.
“Eric, you remember Marnie and Aaron Vaughn?”
Puzzled, I stopped in front of the table.
“Dad, I was five years old or something,” Eric laughed.

Dad? That was Craig’s son? How could this bear in flannel shirt have created such a fairy-like creature and expect someone to find similarities between the two?

“Oh,” I said again, without me really noticing.
“Oh?” my father repeated and looked up at me, chewing.
Eric laughed. “That’s all I’ve heard from her so far.”
I noticed I was getting red as all eyes were on me now. Impulsively, I reached out to Eric.
“Hi, I’m Amber.” Surprised, but smiling, he shook my hand. His hand was slender and his grip light.
“Eric, hi.”

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