Thicker Than Blood | Teen Ink

Thicker Than Blood

November 17, 2015
By Lalupu PLATINUM, Springfield, Illinois
Lalupu PLATINUM, Springfield, Illinois
21 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Scars just mean you were stronger than whatever tried to kill you."

---Author Unknown

   Blond hair comes down in streaks across her pale forehead. Her nose is short and snub. Face sweetly rounded, with a fleshiness to it that will run to fat in her later years---an unfortunate trait she inherited from our mother---yet a wide smile broadens her face as she stares back at me. Eyes alight with hope, happiness, life.
  A sad smile creases my lips as I trace the outline of her face. In a sudden burst of emotion, I press the photo to my chest, clutching close the last piece of her I have left.
  I look up just in time to see my father's van pull up alongside the curb and ease into the drive. I start as the side door opens, allowing only enough time for him to hop out before being slammed shut again. Without even a glance back, he begins walking up the pathway towards the house.
  My breath ceases in my throat. I am sitting on a bench half shrouded by a climbing rosebush my mother planted long ago, enough cover to shield me from far away, but not enough cover that he won't be able to see me the minute he gets to the door. There's not enough time to run, and nowhere else to hide, in any case. Even if I wanted to.
  I hold my breath and wait, but he walks right past me. Up the steps, through the door, and he's gone. Just like that, as though he hadn't seen me at all. I can hardly be surprised. To him, I've never truly been here.
  I clench my jaw, angry tears threatening at the back of my eyes as a memory of Jay's face comes to mind. Her features harder than before, cold, suspicious. So different from the warm smile and bright eyes I now hold in hand.
  I rise from the bench and walk up the three short steps to the door. I press my forehead to the red, well-worn wood. My fingers hover just above the cold, silver knob of the handle. Inside is my past, my present, my future. Letting out a sigh in one long, shaky breath, I clutch the knob, push in, and let the door swing out before me.
   I pause at the threshold. Breath frozen in my lungs, I send up a silent prayer as I pass through.
   For better or worse, here goes everything.

  Dad's face is pale and drawn, bruise-purple circles beneath blue eyes bright with fatigue. I watch as he moves from the living room to the kitchen to the bathroom. For months now he's done this near robotically; never slowing, never cleaning, yet always moving, moving, moving. It's unnerving to watch.
  I long ago gave up trying to talk to him, giving him only the stiffest of nods as I move into the hallway. He doesn't even blink.
  At once, I note the change in the walls. Pictures one depicting Dad, Mom, Jay, and I---as we once were, as we should still be---have been taken down. Leaving the white plaster walls naked and uninviting. Pale, bland, boring.
  I smile wryly to myself, remembering how she had forever hated the image of us beside one another, eternally capturing our near identical features---same blond hair, blue eyes, and wry smile---and wonder if she, as I now, grieves for them all the more fiercely now that we’re apart.
  My breath catches as my eyes drift to Jayne’s room. Our room, as it once stood. The door is open, the doorjamb slightly ajar so as to allow the briefest of views of what lies inside. At once, I reach towards it, my feet seeming to move of their own accord until I can almost touch the carved, wooden surface. I pull back, hesitate, bit my lip. Electricity pops in the air, though whether positive or negative, I can’t say. I know I’m welcome, regardless, and yet...It’s been so long, so much has changed...I step back, breath. In, out, in…
  It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. I push open the door.
  All in all, not much has changed. The beds still lean haphazardly against the wall, the red lava lamp between them. The guitars still rest immaculately against the stereo, gone dark and silent long ago. The bookshelves still remain, as does the clock. The only thing that’s changed is this clan, and my place within it.
  Crossing the room in three easy strides, I plant myself on my bed and prepare to wait, jolting a little as the mattress sinks beneath my weight. The clock on the nightstand reads 4:02. I fold my hands in my lap. Already I can hear the sounds of Jay’s footsteps as she walks up the drive. She enters the house as unwillingly as I did, the soft clop, clop, clop of her footsteps pausing as she stops, inevitably seeing our father.
  Dad mumbles an awkward greeting, Jay a terse reply before she continues on and on and on down the hall until she reaches our room. Her sanctuary.
  “Hey,” she says upon seeing me, before turning to the dresser to put something away. Jewelry, no doubt.
  “Hey,” I reply, fingering a loose thread on my jeans. “So, what’s with the pictures?” A framed portrait of Sebastian Michaelis that she’d drawn shifts against the wall. Jay looks up, meeting my eyes in the mirror. “Dad took them down. Said he doesn’t want reminders.” She shrugs. “He was going to burn them, but I took them instead.” She points to the closet. “They’re over there. Top shelf.”
  I rise from the bed. The closet door opens smoothly and when I look to the top shelf, sure enough, the photos are there, every one. I shut the box, close the door, and walk over to her, placing a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry,” I whisper, though I know that’s not enough. “I’m the one to blame. I’m the one who abandoned you. I’m the one who left.”
  Jay turns to me, an unreadable expression in her eyes. “No,” she says with heartening finality. “You’re not to blame.” She shrugs again, turns away. “Dad’s just a little bit...different...that’s all. Especially after you and Mom---” she cuts herself off. “It doesn’t matter. It’s not like anyone can do anything---” Jay breaks off again, eyes stretching wide as she spots something behind her.
  I turn, cursing as I spot what what’s startled her. Dad stands behind us, shoulder leaning against one wall as he stares at Jayne with frank horror. It’s odd watching Jay’s face harden into a guarded mask, her eyes growing dark, suspicious. Shooting me a look of almost regret, she storms out of the room and disappears down the hall.
  Dad watches her go, his face confused and oddly blank at the same time. He turns to me, as though looking for some explanation. I shrug and turn away. “Why does she do that?” He asks to my uncommunicative backside. As though he can’t see, as though he doesn’t already know. “She acts as though it’s my fault.”
  It is, I think, but it will do no good to say.
  A moment later he answers his own question. “She blames me.”
  I laugh cynically at the confused sound of his voice. “Of course she does!” I turn to him, anger getting the best of me. “You’ve done nothing but shut her out ever since the accident. Is it not enough she’s lost Mom and I? Must she lose you as well?”
  He sounds almost helpless. “I don’t know what to do, Cal. I just don’t know what to do.”
  “Try being a father,” I advise. “Not a friend.”
  At these words his face hardens, the anger shining through his dubious facade. I stiffen my back, hold my ground. I’m not surprised by this response, just disappointed. I meet the blue flames of his gaze. You always were too proud to heed the truth. The words rest on my lips, but I have more sense than to say them. No matter who it hurt. No matter how much you both need it.
  Helplessly, I watch as he turns and leaves the room, slamming the door shut behind him so it shakes with resounding finality.

  Bright light dances before my eyes as I crane my neck off the pillow. God, my head hurts! How many days have I been here? Two? Three? Ten? It doesn’t matter, my mind reminds me. The sun is setting, Jayne will be home soon.
  Rising from the couch, I turn and walk into the kitchen. Already I can hear the chime of porcelain as Dad sets out the plates, the silverware and glasses quickly following. I smile as I watch him, glad he took my advice. A family dinner isn’t everything, but it’s a start, and that’s what matters.
  As before, Jayne steps into the house uncertainly, placing her bag by the door as she does so. Free to grab and bolt in an instant, I note carefully.
  At once, tension cracks in the air. I watch as Jay enters the kitchen carefully, hesitation in her eyes. She nods once shyly to Dad, to his uncertain reply. I follow her to the table, pulling out a chair as I go. Dad’s eyes widen for a moment, but he makes no comment, finding a place for himself a moment later.
  I don’t talk much, only listen intently as Jay makes some maudlin comment about school, or smile as Dad fumbles awkwardly for some way to relate to a certain topic. I balance my spoon on my fork in one hand, twirl my knife from first finger to fourth in the other. I glance absently at the fireplace, wondering if it would stick in the brick if I threw it across the room right now. Dad watches my movements with a horrified awe. Jay only smiles and sips her root beer.
  As the night wears on my experiment draws to a close. Ending, if not entirely peacefully, at least in a contented silence.
  “That was...nice,” Dad begins hesitantly. “Not great, but nice. Certainly the best dinner I’ve had since the accident…” He trails off, realizing too late his mistake.
  They’ve never talked about me. Or Mom. Referring only to our trial as “the accident,” as though by not acknowledging the truth it will somehow be as though it never was. I snort. Right. I fold my hands in my lap, grit my teeth, wait.
  I watch as Jayne’s poster stiffens, eyes darkening at once. Icily, she bids goodnight, the words snapping from between clenched teeth, already turning to leave.
  Dad rises from the table. “Jayne, wait I---”
  “No!” The words ripe from her lips with all the fury of a bomb threat. “How dare you! How dare you want to talk now when I have been waiting for months---months---for you to show more emotion than a corpse! So, no, Father, I will not wait. You had your chance, and you blew it!”
  “Jay,” I pipe up gently.“Wait, listen.”
  She pauses, hesitating, near shaking with rage. She turns back to me. “What good will that do?”
  “Who are you---?” Dad breaks in, but I silence him with a glare.
  “Sister,” I plead quietly. “Please.”
  All at once, the fight drains out of her, reducing her to pale, exhausted shell. Shoulders slumped she turns back to him, the fire cooled in her blue eyes. She lifts her head. “You have five minutes.”
  Instantly, Dad speaks. "Look, I’ve been a crappy father. And I know that’s the understatement of the century, but you’ve got to believe that I am trying. Losing your mother ripped me apart inside, broke something I don’t think will ever be fixed. But to lose Calla---to see what that did to you---I don’t know. I guess I just thought pulling away would be the best way to save what was left of my sanity.” He smiles wryly. “If I had any to begin with.”
  “If you loved them so much, why didn’t you show it?” Jay asks, furious. “Why didn’t you grieve? I’ve ripped myself apart and you’ve closed yourself up inside and now Cal and Mom are gone because---because---BECAUSE LIFE IS HORRIBLE, AND UNFAIR AND I HATE IT!!!
  She collapses to the floor then, body racked with helpless sobs; but Dad is there to catch her as she falls, clutching her tightly as she folds into his shoulder, ripping herself apart.
  “Hey, hey,” he whispers soothingly, and I beg desperately for his words to mean something to her. “It’s not your fault. Mom and I were arguing, and then she grabbed Calla by the arm and...Hell, I don’t even remember.” Dad chuckles wetly, pressing Jayne closer. “I’m sorry, kiddo,” he murmurs against her hair. “I’m so, so sorry.”
  She laughs wetly, wiping her eyes. “I’m sorry about what I said that night. I was angry and scared and...I just have to remember that one day Cal and I will meet again. In the earth, in the stars. No matter what we’re together. Always.”
  Dad laughs. “I guess Carl Sagan really did say it best after all, ‘we’re all made of starstuff.’”
  I smile, tears streaming down my face. “Yes, yes! It’s happiness, you know. Happiness and joy, love and freedom.” I kneel beside them, focusing all my energy, all my strength, in remaining in this one moment for as long as possible. “Eternal convergence, always and forever.”
  Four eyes turn to me. They both see me now, not only Jay. They have accepted; they have let go. The tether pulls on me deep in my gut. Tugging me, pulling me, calling me away. I rise from the floor. “I have to go now,” I say, by way of explanation. “My second life awaits.”
  I tread down the halls, past the living room and the guestrooms and the bathroom, towards the door I have stepped through so many times before and one day will again. But not before they’re ready.
  I survey the house one last time---take in the cracked fireplace, the faded couch. This house always has felt too small, a wilting flower a long time in dying. Undoubtedly too small for four wayward souls, our books and dreams and electric guitars. I wonder if this is truly the end, or if Jayne will continue to slip away from this place, from Dad, as I have.
  I shake my head, turn back. Whatever comes to pass, Jay and Dad will be fine. I know they will.
  Smiling, I open the door, step over the threshold, and into the light.

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This article has 1 comment.

on Nov. 19 2015 at 10:32 am
WinterFrost BRONZE, Mountain Ranch, California
2 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
"They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night."
~ Edgar Allen Poe

Wow, I really liked this. Excellent job! :D