Letters To Emily:
Mom turns away from the dripping windshield to look at me, "What's wrong, love?"
"Fucking Bristol? This place looks like shit…boring mindless. Could you have picked a more shit place for me to spend my summer?"
Mom reaches over to touch my hand but I pull away, fumbling for another cigarette. My hand is shaking as I flick the lighter.
"You know that I didn't pick this, Naomi. Your grandfather really needs our help right now. He just got out of the hospital and that heart attack took a lot out of him. All we have to do is spend a few months with him to make sure he's ok."
I blow the smoke out of my cracked lips, relishing the burn in my lungs. I look out at the town, after living in London for all of my life, it looks fucking pathetic. The rain had washed over everything, leaving only gray in its path. Each bleary drop that splashes against my reflection, reminds me of how pathetic my life has become. My mom taps a beat on the steering wheel and begins humming a song. I roll my eyes at her and turn back to my window. She is still trying to pretend that everything is ok. Everyone else might be fooled but not me. Only I knew that after Dad left, she'd spent about six months curled up in her room, sobbing. I'd learned how to take care of myself. I'd learned how to be independent. My dad had left me and then my mom had chosen to shrink into herself. I'd realized then that I couldn't depend on anyone but myself.
Now it was a year after Dad left and Mom had started to come out of her shell. She was trying to bring me closer and to become my mother again but I wasn't going to have it. She wasn't there when I really needed her to be my mom. Now she expected me to be there for her…in this fucking town.
I close my eyes and let the miles pass me by. This summer is going to be horrible. I didn't have any friends in London, didn't need them. But I am probably going to miss the parties, drugs, and boys that were there. They were great painkillers for my life.
My mom clears her throat and I become aware that we are stopping. I open my eyes to see a gray, ramshackle house. Grandpa Walt's house. I hadn't been here since I was about six years old. It had looked much bigger then. Grandma Susan had always made sure there were flowers planted outside. Now the yard was just a flat muddy slab with sprigs of grass still trying in vain to flourish. Mom pulls open the car door and steps out, quickly. I know that it's hard for her to return here. My grandparents had never approved of her hippy, bra burning, activist lifestyle. In fact Mom and Grandma Susan had a huge row and Mom ran away with Dad. Grandma Susan died a few years ago and Mom had finally gotten up the courage to make up with Grandpa Walt at the funeral.
Things were still strained but Mom assured me that family was family and we had to take care of Grandpa in his time of need. Me…I always remember Grandpa Walt as something of an ogre. When I was six he was huge and crotchety and he would yell at me for playing in the house.
Mom motions through the window for me to come on. "Bloody hell," I mutter. I open my door and step out. I toss my cigarette down and watch as it fizzles in a puddle that covers the asphalt. I see the red tip fade away and feel a certain kinship with it. That little spark is being drowned until the fire inside is going to go out.
"Naomi…get a move on."
I join my mom on the front walk to the house and we both look up at the house that will be a home for the next three months. Mom quickly knocks on the door and I hear a gruff voice shout out, "Jesus, Gina, it's where you used to fucking live, just come in!"
Mom tenses and I can tell this is hard on her. I want to reach out and touch her shoulder but I make my hand stay by my side. Suck it up, Mum. We've all got Daddy issues to deal with.
She opens the door and pushes her way back into her old life. I hear her suck in a sharp breath and I immediately know why. The house is a fucking mess. Grandma Susan would roll over in her grave if she knew her house looked like this. There are books stacked on almost every available surface. I can see cobwebs spreading their silky fingers around corners in the ceiling. The air inside is hot and stifling.
Suddenly I become aware of an old man standing in a doorway watching us. I can understand why I missed him in my first scan of the room. His skin is papery like the books that pile up on the chairs. He looks dirty himself and I can't tell if it's just his age or actual dirt. He's faded somehow…like an old carpet. His back is hunched and he's leaning heavily on a wooden cane. Is this Grandpa Walt? He looks so frail, not the huge, scary man I remember.
Mom turns and sees him too and she seems to freeze. Grandpa Walt scans her with eyes that are hidden behind dirty glasses. Mom takes a tentative step towards him but he lets out a harsh cough.
"Bloody late in the afternoon it is. I expected you well before tea."
I see Mom searching for something to say, "Well…traffic…."
He interrupts, "Well I ate the muffins but there should be some tea left in the kitchen. Time for my nap, though so don't bother me. Your rooms are upstairs, pick which one you like, I don't give a damn."
With that he shuffles off towards the stairs and I see that my mom is struggling to hold it together. She idly picks up a book and dusts off the front cover. I can see her eyes glisten with unshed tears and I need a fucking cigarette.
Grandpa Walt suddenly stops walking and my mom and I both freeze. I don't know what to expect from this crazy old man. He turns his head just a bit so I can see his angular profile.
"I'm glad…Well…It's good to have you back, Gina. Naomi. Good to have you both." He shuffles out of the room. A small smile crosses Mom's lips and she turns to me.
"I'm going to tidy up a bit, love. Why don't you get our stuff from the car?"
I consider telling her no but then again I need to go get my cigarettes out of my purse anyway.
I walk back out to the car and pull my bag from the front seat. I sit down on the curb, not really caring when water soaks through my skirt as I light up another cigarette. I survey the neighborhood and notice that almost all the houses are nicer than this one. They all have neat little lawns and cute shuttered windows. It makes me want to puke. I understand for the first time why Mom ran away with Dad. This place seems full of weeds that want to reach up and choke the life out of you. This seems like a place full of dead ends that suck people into normal little lives that lead nowhere except to two kids, a mortgage, a day job, and perhaps early retirement if you're lucky.
Suddenly, the front door of the house directly across from Grandpa Walt's swings open and a girl steps out the front door. I blow out smooth stream of smoke and watch her through the tendrils of gray. She's quite beautiful. Her hair is a dark red that's not normally found in nature. She's got a little bow fixed in it which makes her look about ten years old. On the other hand her lips and the way her hips sway tell me that she's not as innocent as she may seem…and if she is it's a fucking shame.
She's carting a huge bag out to the car that is waiting on the curb. I watch as she strains to lift it into the boot. I want to go help her for some reason but I stay seated. Her cheeks turn red and with a final grunt she heaves the bag into the car. That's when it happens.
Her head turns my way and I can't even pretend I wasn't watching her. Her eyes lock onto mine and stare into me. She's pinned me with her gaze and all I can do is stare back. Her eyes are a nice chocolaty brown, comforting. A slight smile touches her lips and it reaches across to me as well. So here I am sitting on a bloody curb, my cigarette burning to ashes in my hand, water soaking through to my bum, and I smile at her.
The moment is broken by a loud voice from inside the girl's house, "Emily! Fucking get a move on. I still got another bag in here!"
The girl jerks towards the house and without a backwards glance walks back towards it, like a little wind up toy. I drop my cigarette into the same puddle as before and get up to go get my shit out of the car.
The girl comes out again but this time she's carrying a smaller bag and she's followed by a sluttier version of herself. I blink in surprise. Twins? They must be because they look exactly the same. But entirely different at the same time.
The second one is dressed in a leopard print skirt that is way too short. She's got her hair done in curls whereas the other girl's hair is straight. A greasy looking guy follows them outside and slaps the slutty twin on the ass and she giggles loudly. I see the girl roll her eyes as she slings the last bag into the boot.
The guy lets go of the twin and grips the other girl's arm. She looks at him with disgust but he chuckles, "You sure, you can't come, Ems? The lads are always down with the twin thing. Eh hehehe."
I repress a shiver at exactly the same time as the girl does. His laugh is bloody creepy. She pulls her arm from his grip and just rolls her eyes at him.
He laughs again and gets into the car. He starts it and the slutty twin hops into the passenger seat. I see the girl step back from the curb and she watches the car as it slowly pulls away.
I see her brush a tear from her eye but just then the car slams on its brakes a few feet from the house. The other twin hops out of the passenger side and runs towards the girl. They embrace and I see that the one who I assumed was just a slutty bitch has tears in her eyes.
"It's only a few weeks, Ems. I'll be back before you know it." With that she turns and runs back to the car. The other girl hugs herself and watches the car as it rounds the corner and disappears.
She looks back over at me and I can see she's definitely crying. She gives a small wave and I wave back. I want her to come over. I want to know her name. I want to know why she's crying. Honestly…I want to know everything about her.