February 12, 2015
“Sunscreen? Gum? Retainer? Hand lotion? Eye drops in case we binge-watch anime and forget our glasses again?”
I pat at my sides, the outline of my gum dispenser brushing at my fingers with familiarity, and caramel eyes glitter at the two thumbs I have up. Within a few seconds, I locate my sunscreen, hand lotion, retainer and eye drops and his eyes glitter even brighter. With a soft sob, I’m pulled into a warm embrace where I swore I felt liquid pooling at the crown of my head.
Damn you for being so tall.
“I’m just going to Louisiana, Wallie.” My chuckle is soft, contrasting his rather dramatic sobs. “Oi! Relax! I’m just going to see Mona, nothing too hectic.”
Finally, I’m released and the crystals on his eyelids make me flush with embarrassment. I even dare to inch up and cradle his soft jaw, bringing some sort of comfort to him. Slowly, a silver smile appears into my view and I’m pulled into another hug.
“Walter, Jesus.” I grumble, feeling the pressure of his lean arms settling rather tightly around me and my glasses begin to slide awkwardly down my nose. “Damn! I’m going to miss my flight.”
“Tell Mona to follow me back on Twitter, yeah?”
My heart swells in my chest at the rumble of his parting words and I nuzzle my face further into him, completely disregarding the fact that my glasses could have smudges due to this action.
My conscious soaks his presence too and she even dares to purr like a feline. I almost threw up at her audacity.
Walter would be going with me back home if it wasn’t for his Delphi practical exam but I didn’t want to disappoint Mona by not arriving today as I promised. Knowing her, she probably has something planned out for us already.
After a while, I release Walter and on cue, the boarding of my flight is announced. Something told me that Walter might have acted out in such a manner but I didn’t think it would be this exaggerated. Nonetheless, I soaked in the last bit of affection I would probably get for the whole week before parting away from my best friend.
“Kill the hell out of your coding exam, alright?” I toss over my shoulder, grabbing hold of my backpack. Shit, this is heavy. “Staying at Penn State longer than the intended three years is not the goal here. Unless – unless like shit happens and we can’t control it, y’know? But we control what we can for now so study.”
Walter waves me off with a slight narrowing of the eyes. “Stop being a Capricorn, you’re going to be late.”
Hordes of people start flocking north of where I am – presumably to the boarding gate – and with one last smile, I wave Walter goodbye.
With a quick check of my documents, I am soon settled into my window seat and gazing at the plush white as the plane ebbs further and further away from Pennsylvania and my best friend. In a little over two and half hours, I will be in New Orleans – a place I left the moment an opportunity presented itself to me.
I wonder if Mama will be home.
My bones burn underneath my skin as I give into one last yawn and stretch before leaving my seat. The air is warm and thick, and the humidity forces me to take deep gusts of air in order to be able to power through waiting for my luggage. Pennsylvania had its random heatwaves, don’t get me wrong, but this was hot. I already stuck out like a sore thumb in the black sweatpants I thrifted and Walter’s True Religion hoodie.
A rather aged woman with pale skin trudges next to me and I shift uncomfortably as she started humming randomly. This goes on for a few seconds until I spot my polka dot carry-on suitcase. Her beady gaze and humming fail to waver as I stretch to grab my case. What I really wanted to do was claw at her face to somehow ease the stare (and possibly end her) but all I could offer was a nervous chuckle with a weird goodbye wave – quite pathetic if you ask me.
Arrived safely, don’t 4get to study :)
My eyes shift away from my battered Nokia Lumia and a familiar figure races towards me. No. No. No! In a haste, I attempt to back away but my luggage contributes to my fall, sending me onto my back with a painful loud plop while Mona’s pounces on top of me. Slight pain explodes from my back, bringing a hollow cough from my tight chest, but the smug smile I found after opening my eyes soothed the ache just by a mere fraction.
Wide jade eyes gaze down at me almost dreamily and for a second, I am able to study the freckles peppered onto her cheeks. Even behind the anime-styled blush placement, they are dark and stunning on her toffee skin. Her lips are even and small, and now that I look at them, they happen to contrast my large bottom lip accompanied by my much smaller top lip vastly.
My sister is fucking beautiful.
“So, are you going to stare at me all day or are we getting up?”
I chuckle sheepishly at my sister’s words and shove her off me, rising to my full height before security could find the chance to escort us out. She takes a quick opportunity to grab my free hand while the other dusted me off and she too gets up (a little too vigorously, if I must say), thus disturbing my stance a little but not enough for me to topple over.
“You could’ve given me a heads up, Mona.” I grumble, fisting my teeny ween afro for any dips or possible bleeding. A sigh of relief leaves my lips as soon as I find no injuries but I wipe away my small smile before she can see it. “Impulsive ass.” I add in a tiny grumble.
“I did give you a warning though.” She protests, hands planted above her hips.
“Yelling ‘Timmy Turner’ is not a warning.”
She blinks briefly before a frown etches into her forehead. “Is to!”
“Is not!” I counter with just as much vigor that she possesses.
With a quiet sight, I rub my temples before offering her my hand. Almost in plausible glee that you could touch, she pulls me behind her weight and starts making a beeline out the exit doors.
I give into a soft chuckle once I see the new paintwork over the Toyota Camry Mom bought Mona shortly before I left. It was initially white but now it was red with stripes of fiery amber in order to illustrate speed.
Mona peeps my little laughing but chooses not to say anything, heading straight for the driver’s seat with a big grin instead.
“I guess I’ll have to pack my own luggage then.” I say out loud, scanning for empathetic jade eyes but instead, a middle finger and the blaring of Clean Bandit’s Rather Be silences me further.
With a huff, I toss my suitcase and backpack into the boot and join her into the front seat. In classical Mona spirit, I retrieve the sunglasses I’m surprised still have a place in her car from her cabby holder and join her in singing the lyrics. As per usual, a harmonious melody leaves her lips with little to no effort. Even with the dimness provided by the accessory I was wearing, her beauty wasn’t hard to miss.
My sister is fucking beautiful.
“So then I have this friend Walter, he’s my best friend but he doesn’t need to know that,” I tell Mona while she quickly spot-cleans the bugs we must’ve hit on our way here. “so yeah, he is really good at coding and I guess his flat-ass gives some nice hugs.”
“Sounds like you love it there, Timmy Turner.”
That little offering is laced with something foreign, I could sense it. However, I chose not to address it. “It’s nice and all, I just want to finish this degree and start specializing.”
“Ooouuu, whachu wanna to do?”
“I was thinking forensics, y’know? Get into the system so I can maybe find my dad?”
Mona halts her cleaning and stands upright. She’s quiet for a few moments and that gives me ample time to scan the garage that had a changed a little since I had gone. Her car’s cleaning supplies and the bright packaging of her scratch wax brightened up the dull room immensely.
“Forensics.” She hauls my attention with ease, her eyebrow still arched as she tests out the word. “Like, the crime channel shits?”
I nod gingerly and truth be told, I didn’t think she would’ve gathered it so quickly. “Now, I’m not saying that my dad is a criminal but I’ll be able to access as many databases as I would like – provided that I network with the right people.”
Her dark lips stretch into a thin line and she nods. Is she – is she impressed? “I like that, Timmy Turner.” She is impressed! “And your white friend? What does he want to do?”
I shrug casually, watching her circle the car for the last time to ensure that it was clean. “he’s in between creating video games and some FBI shit.”
Mona coos abruptly, unsettling me only a tad bit, before leaning against the car. “a crime-fighting match made in heaven! You’re the CatWoman to his Batman!”
“Mona!” I scold her lightly, unable to stifle my laughter at the fact that she got her DC totally wrong. “He’s Penn State’s bicycle so everyone gets a ride. I don’t want all that gunk energy inside me.” Not for my first time, that is. “also, he goes for valley boys and girls, I’m not his type.”
She scrunches her nose and I study the little wrinkle we both have when our noses are creased. “top or bottom?”
“That’s wild –” a noise erupts from the living room and Mona’s face is soon the picture of darkness. I note her body language and realize that her body is rigid – what has made her tense up?
She says no words and locks the car, heading to the garage door that leads to the living room. Whatever made that noise definitely riled her up and I didn’t want to be at the sore end of her random outbursts.
I’m stunned to find a half-naked man, with a bulging stomach, gobbling down what looked like a plate of Mama’s cooking. With further analyzing, he could very well be Mona’s twin with his bright green eyes and toffee skin. He seems aged, in his mid-forties, and in desperate need of the gym because his belly looked mighty stiff. Hell, I had a pudgy stomach but even with bloating it could never get to the level his belly is on.
“Hey girls.” He greets, mouth full – is that collard greens and corned meat? I had to swallow down some spit at the audacity of this man. He was – transfixing? But like, in a bad way. I couldn’t even look at my childhood home properly without coming back to him and questioning a lot of things.
For starters, does he wash his ass?
Mona immediately grabs my hand and drags me to the room we’ve shared ever since I was born before closing the door with a loud bang. Without wasting time, she leaps onto her purple bedspread that looked a lot like some High School Monster’s merch and screams into her pillow. With wide eyes, I set my luggage at the corner of our cupboard and sit on the single bed that was identical to my sister’s.
A few minutes lapse by and Mona emerges from her now stained pillow, lips peeling with white. If it wasn’t for our current situation, I would’ve offered her some chapstick or something.
“So,” I drawl out with wide eyes while blinking slowly. “who was that?”
“Uncle Sam,” she sighs, rolling over so she can stare at the celling. “I hate him so much. Urgh! My therapist said I must write songs about him to deal with this but my hate grows deeper the more I sing.”
I still wasn’t understanding who Uncle Sam was and now that a therapist was involved – something that Mona got that I wasn’t granted the liberty of – I had to know who this man was. And so I probed further, However, I wish I hadn’t.
Since Mona’s dad was married to Mama when he died, she had to marry his next of kin. It has been quite a few years since her dad died, why was his brother suddenly playing house with my mother right now? Mona thinks it’s due to some secret money that is set to be released soon but I found it hard to believe. Her dad was a struggling musician (Mama’s words, not mine) so what money could that be?
Also, why was tradition so brutal? Did this apply to male family members as well? This fogged my brain. The only thing that flocked my mind was the word patriarchy. It had to be the only explanation, no matter how weak it was.
“Is Mama home?” my voice quivers at that question and when Mona shakes her head, I am embarrassed to say that I audibly expressed my relief. “That’s cool.” I offer to try and sheath my sheepishness.
“Hey, want us to go out? There’s this new club, Destiny Arch. I sometimes sing there for free food and drinks.”
My fingers wrap around my arms as I try to cocoon myself to create heat but I failed immensely. I wasn’t ready to be out and about with Mona just yet, maybe with shoulder length hair – yes – but not like this. Not when her hair is so silky and running down to her back.
“I was thinking maybe we could stay in tonight, y’know? Chill and watch some anime? I know a little Japanese now. Hai! Ohayo gozaimasu. Watasi no nihongo ha jouzu desu! Soka…”
Mona erupts into blusterous laughter and even though it was at my expense (my Japanese accent was just that horrible), it was refreshing to hear her laugh.
“Nonsense! Get dressed, I’ll call some people in the meantime.”
I wasn’t really in the mood to go out but I made an effort with my black harem pants and my hoodie. Since it was a nightclub, I doubt that people would pay attention to what I was wearing.
After Mona finished doing her signature black liner that seemed to lift her face up even higher and emphasized her high cheekbones, she walked to where I was sat and started doing my edges.
“Your hair is thick, fuck.”
“Yours is long, fuck.” Before I could call my thoughts into order, I realized that I had said it out loud.
Way to go, Jae.
She stops her actions and brings my chin up so I can meet her eyes. “I would kill to have your hair. When you called to tell me you cut your hair, I didn’t think you had gone brush cut short but your hair grows quickly. This suits you so much, Timmy Turner.”
I didn’t want to tell her that I had gotten heat damage from wanting my hair as straight as hers so I just played it cool. “I was trying to be like you.”
“My hair is thin, relaxing it is the only way to keep it happy,” I nearly gasp at the revelation that she had a relaxer in her hair this whole time rather than using a straightening tool. “might just turn it into a mullet. But this,” I wince at how she grabs my coils only to be consoled by her audible musing in my hair’s spring-like appearance. “this is beautiful. Let it grow out okay? Don’t cut it or damage it every again, okay? It’s beautiful as fuck. What’s her name?”
Warmth erupts in my chest and I don’t know if it was heartburn or genuine emotion but I chose the latter but it was far more practical than the former. “St. Claire.”
“Ah. A pretty name.” she muses softly while wrapping a silk scarf around my edges. “I love it. Anyway, don’t laugh if your edges are weird. I literally saw one tutorial with a girl that has hair close to yours and it didn’t even have that many views.”
My hair texture had yet to have a platform on social media so I didn’t even bother looking it up. It was a lot tighter, shorter since I cut it a few months ago and thick whereas looser curls were represented everywhere. But my sister loves my hair and if she says I shouldn’t cut it, then I won’t.
Approximately ten minutes later, Mona removed the scarf and I gazed at the flat spirals on my forehead. The ebony tendrils complimented my dark skin tone immensely. That confirmed to me that this hair and its dark color was made for me – it was mine.
Following Mona’s instructions, I didn’t engage with her uncle on our way to the car and just focused on positive vibes (like getting free food). With Mona’s privilege, we could probably get a booth where I could sit and eat while she was performing. Also, this will be the very first time I watch her perform instead of watching her recording covers in the room while I’m supposed to be napping.
Throng of bodies swing on the dancefloor, permeating the air with the scent of sweat and alcohol. The bouncer at the door gave me a questionable look that still dared to linger long after Mona stated her name and declared that I was her company. Perhaps I could’ve gone with a loose-fitted top but it was too late now and I wasn’t about to allow my insecurities to flood the mass excitement I felt regarding my sister.
The music was loud, blaring through the speakers and purple, pink and blue laser lights danced across the room, highlighting Mona’s defined jaw and forehead adorned with expressive baby hair art. All I could see was the white of her teeth as she whipped her head from side to side, the music coursing through every fiber of her being.
She was in her element. Her face relaxed in satiation and her wide smile could easily attest to that.
My sister is fucking beautiful.
Mona hauls out a packet of cigarette and shoves one stick in between her lips. I lose myself in gazing at what contributed to her blackened lips and slight emerald green eyes met my brown ones. In a sheepish manner, she removes her cancer stick but my hand is far quicker than the thoughts racketing through my brain, immediately attaining a cautioning grip on her wrist.
“Therapist said I should stop.” She says after leaning over to me. “Come on, Timmy Turner, don’t give your sister some pity, aight?”
I nod, choosing not to ask where exactly this stemmed from.
A few people started coming to our booth, greeting Mona and then expressing our difference in weight (which they felt contributed to the argument of whether or not we were indeed siblings). Mona was quick to shut them down, telling them that bodies came in different sizes and if they didn’t understand that, they could just “fuck off” (like she’d boldly say).
A young man – probably Mona’s age – later settles next to me and reminds Mona that her performance is drawing closer. Underneath the pink lasers, his eyes are intense with flecks of a golden hue in them. I must’ve been gawking at him openly because he swung his hand in front of me and I caught on quickly, instantaneously dabbing at the moisture gathered at my chin.
I was drooling too?
“I like her!” He tells my sister, his pearly whites showcased grin. “c’mon, don’t be like that. I don’t bite, Ramona.”
My sister glares at him without shame but her eyes widen slightly after the man fidgets next to me. I’m baffled to find him sorting out rows of tiny white crystals on the back of his iPhone with what seemed to be his bank card (the purple laser dancing on the silver indentations of his card number gave it away).
He couldn’t possibly be doing what I think he was doing.
Briskly, he plunges a short pipe into one of his nostrils and takes a quick deep sniff. Time seems to slow down as his head lolls lazily to the side, a smirk spanning widely across his thick brown lips before he wipes at his nose quickly.
I remain stiff as he offers me his device but my sister is quick to clutch me, almost like a mother would to her newborn babe.
I almost chuckle as I turn to her, “can you believe this guy –”
My lips seal as she now grabs hold of the phone and does what the young man did earlier before exhibiting his aftermath.
Well, if Ramona did drugs, that means I could too, right?
“Wooo!” she hollers, pinching her nostrils tightly to the point where I expected crimson. She whips her head to the right and then to the left a few times before slowly inching towards me. Her breath is warm against my sweaty top lip but my body is static as the purple dances on her dilated pupils. I mouth something to her and she immediately tenses up, a grim look on her face.
“What the fuck did you just say to me?”
A large lump of emotion lodges itself in my throat and I battle to swallow it down. Seconds later, I’m repeating my question.
“C-can I also have some?”
“I’ll fuck you up personally if you ever do that shit, Jaenelle.” Oh no, the lump is back again. I repeat, the lump is back again. “I’ll fuck you up right back into mama.”
“But that’s not fair!” I whine, jutting my bottom lip out. “how come you get to do it?!”
“You fucking lack control, pissface, that’s why!”
I still at her words and her facial muscles soften slightly. It takes her a moment to lick her lips but the DJ calls for her just as she was about to say something. I watch as she lurches away from me, suddenly joyous at the people who were screaming her name and she didn’t look as angry as she was just a few minutes ago. In fact, she wasn’t angry at all.
I made Mona angry.
Wetness lines my eyelids and its prickles. In sought of support, I look beside me and find that Mona’s friend is gone.
I lack control.
I don’t know how long it must’ve been until I finally decided to get up and go look for Mona. The sad revelation that I couldn’t even pay attention when she performed hit me hard and I wanted nothing but to be in my bed right now.
I ask around, describing my sister only to be ignored. My voice was getting louder as I queried her location, my desperation clear.
A bartender directed me to a room that still had to be renovated and I found my sister on a scrawny lap. Fuck, this dude was smaller than Walter and Walter wasn’t even that built. His fingers are nestled deep in her hair as they swapped saliva. I couldn’t see much of his face but he had shaggy short brown hair that glistened underneath the dim lamp.
With a grumble, I charge to her.
“Mona!” I call to her, tugging on her arm but she ignores me. I call her a few times until she finally parts from the boy.
“What?!” I flinch as her hiss – did I make her that mad?
“I – I wanna go home.”
A mild scoff leaves her lips. “so you can chill with that creepy old man and Mama? Be my guest.”
Creepy old man? Well, being shirtless with no shame in front a teenager and her twenty-year-old sister was creepy but could a one-time offense garner that title?
“Mona!” I ignore my thoughts, instead picturing my angry mother with a belt in her hands. “let’s go, please!”
“Trevaughn!” My sister calls and a sudden presence settles behind me. I whip around to find the guy from earlier. I really thought being 5’7” was an average female height but this was ridiculous. With tremendous effort, I manage to stifle my giggle at his height and turn back to Mona. “take her back home, will ya?”
I’m quick to whine. “Mona! I want to go home with you.”
“It’s either staying here or me driving you home, your decision.” His voice is smooth and calming, a clear contrast from the energy he was emanating.
Watching Mona getting beat is far better than getting beat with her, especially after she called me pissface.
“Okay.” I turn to look at Mona for the last time and maybe I did try to peep her little boyfriend (unfortunately, Mona’s big head hid him from me) “be safe, I’ll try wait up for you.”
She waves me off and dismissed, I follow behind the guy who I believe goes by Trevaughn. He is a quiet man, leading the way to a black Audi A3 hatchback, and says nothing as the car clears its throat into ignition.
Did my sister really think I lacked control?
Is that all she thought about me?
Okay, maybe I do be late to places sometimes even though I am fully aware of the times but I could fully control that if I wanted to. I could do anything I wanted to if I set my mind to it. What was a little coke? LSD?
Trevaughn receives a call and he chooses to answer it from his phone instead, blatantly ignoring the Bluetooth connection feature his car might just have.
My ears perk up at him mentioning that going to a bar right now would be a detour from his initial route –
A light bulb appears above my head.
“We can go to the bar.” I say abruptly, my blood gushing at those words alone. “Yeah, we can go to the bar.” I say it directly to him now, feeling my heart race slightly at his gaze.
“Mona will kill me if I don’t get you home and I’m not planning to stay at Ruffalo’s.”
That must be the name of the place!
“I’ve got cab money.” I lie, sheathing the lie by patting at my pockets. “Please? I’ll be home after one drink, I swear.”
He eyes me warily and I ignore the deep urge to gulp before he indicates to take a U-turn. He informs the person he was talking to on the phone earlier about his new plans and gives me one last look before speeding into the night.
So this must be Ruffalo’s…
It’s deadbeat pub, for the most part. Has a dark interior, a bright sign with a 1950s waitress lifting and dropping her foot at every blink, and a rugged man serving up beer.
I find an open seat by the bar and the bartender (who looked a lot dirtier than the one from Destiny Arch) slides up in front of me. A shiver licks my spine at how close he is but my stance doesn’t waver. I’m eighteen, I have each and every right to get a drink here.
Without any money? That’s cute. My conscience heckles but the baring of my teeth is enough for her to shrivel into a corner and shut up.
“What can I --” he holds one hand up as he releases a moist sneeze before returning to me with a wet sniffle. Ew. “what can I do you for?”
Alright, be smart about this Jae.
“I want your strongest stuff.” I tell him, my voice careful.
He gives me a weird look, arching a brow before leaning forward. “what is exactly is strong to you?”
See, this wasn’t really going the way I wanted to and I had lost Trevaughn the minute he disappeared to the back of the bar so nothing was going to save me.
“I -” You fucking lack control, pissface, that’s why! “look, I just fought with someone and I just want something to ease the weight off my shoulders a little, alright? Can you give me something for that?”
After what felt like years, I got handed a cider that smelled like strawberries off the bat. With Mona in mind, I take a deep gulp before wincing at the miniature clawing at my throat. The drink is sugary – almost like carbonated cranberry juice or something – but I still don’t feel the effects of the drink. Is this what really made people dependent on this stuff? A little carbonated cranberry juice thing? Pathetic.
Oh, so I thought.
“What do you mean I need to pay and go?” I slur, tucking my fists underneath my chin. “the party just got started!”
“Girlie, you’ve had four of those and you need to leave now!”
“I’m a Penn State University student.”
“What – what’s that got to do with anything?”
I laugh sheepishly after my cough. “oh, I thought we were saying irrelevant things.”
My legs tingle below me and I rise to launch myself at the five frustrated bartenders (who really looked like the same person), only to feel a vice grip around my waist. I shift my attention away from the bartender and turn my head around, just to see a clean-shaven chiseled jaw that made my head spin even faster.
“Get –” burp. “off me, weirdo!” I murmur loudly, pinching his muscular arms but they don’t release me. “dude!”
I manage to shift a little enough to change direction and I’m now pressed tightly against the defined abdominal muscles that are evident even under his shirt. His talking to the bartender is muffled as I inspect him and in my hearts of hearts, I quickly accept that this man is fine. His lips are a plump cherry, his nose hooked and slightly crooked but his eyes – fuck – his eyes are the clearest cerulean I’ve ever seen.
I see the man throw wads of cash onto the counter before shifting his gaze onto me, his eyes oddly trained on my lips. Instinctively, I swipe at them with my tongue and I swear his grip just got tighter.
“Oi! I would like to have coitus with you.” I tell him and an inferno picks up intensity in those cerulean eyes.
“Coitus?” he asks, voice husky and dipped in a foreign thick tongue yet it is sweet music to my ears.
“Coitus.” I repeat. I know damn well that I didn’t stutter. “I am – fuck this burping – a Penn State university student in her second year, okay? Meeting someone like you will probably never happen again. Neverrrrrr. Also, this feels like a book and it might probably never happen again. With – with the power I invest in me, I ask you to sleep with me –”
I burst out in a giggle as he whisks me out of the bar, a devilish smirk spanning across his beautiful cherry lips.