Janie knocks on his door the way she always does - three soft knocks, the first two close together, and a slight pause before the third.
He writes Janie songs sometimes, and they all have her knock as the percussion beat. He's not sure if she even knows she does it, but she's always knocked the same way ever since she was six, and he thinks it's funny.
The door creaks when she pushes it open. He's been meaning to fix it but somehow he always forgets to check if they have anything to put on it. He thinks maybe one time he used Crisco, but he seems to recall his room smelling kind of weird after that so he hasn't tried it again.
Janie leans against the doorframe with her arms crossed and surveys him with a little smirk. "You know," she says dryly, "if we get another noise complaint you have to pay it."
Right. Right. He forgot about those. They'll probably get another one after tonight - they usually do after he and Monique have a fight.
Tonight she screamed at him in the driveway for a half an hour and slammed the passenger door of his rickety Plymouth Satellite over and over until it hung slightly crooked on the hinges. He dumped her bass in the gutter and told her to go home before he took her off of Mystik Spiral's guest list.
He laughs a little, holding in a cough. "Sorry, Janie," he tells her. "Monique and I broke up again."
"I heard." Janie doesn't bother to hide the scorn in her voice. She's pretty cool for a kid sister, but sometimes she gets into these moods where she thinks she has to be the mom and he hates it because she's good at it, and she always makes him feel like he's some unruly kid that needs to be scolded.
Not, you know, that their actual mom ever scolded them. In fact, Trent has no memory of any kind of discipline at all throughout his childhood. Mostly he thinks that's pretty rad but sometimes he wonders if that's why he can't deal with structure.
"How's your car?" Janie tosses in after a minute.
Trent winces. Like the thing didn't have enough problems already. He doesn't have the money to fix a busted door, either, so he's probably going to have to jury-rig it shut somehow. He's not looking forward to it. Most likely he'll just forget and it'll come open as he's driving down the street. "It's fine," he tells Janie.
She just looks at him.
"Okay," he concedes, "the door's a little messed up, but it's not fatal."
Janie gives him a little half-smile, and he gives her one back, and a minute goes by while he plays a few random chords on his guitar and Janie listens.
"I, uh - I heard some of the things she said," Janie says, voice soft.
She says it gently but it takes him by surprise, and he thinks back on some of the things Monique said earlier (and some of them were really awful, terrible things) and hates the idea that Janie had to hear them. "You and the rest of the neighborhood." He goes for sarcasm but is afraid he just ends up sounding bitter. Whatever. He doesn't look at Janie. He concentrates on fingerpicking a complex scaled pattern.
Janie's quiet for what seems like a long time after that, and he gets really into the music and kind of forgets she's there, or assumes she's left, and it throws him off balance for a second when she speaks again.
He looks up, smiles at her and says, "'Night, Janie. Sleep tight," before going back to his guitar.
Janie pushes herself up off the doorframe and stands, hesitating there for a moment. "Trent?"
There's a short silence, and he can tell she's weighing whether or not she wants to say what's on the tip of her tongue. She opens her mouth, shuts it again, and exhales through her nose before steeling her resolve. "Monique's a bitch," she says simply, and then she turns and walks down the hallway to her room.
He hears her door open and shut, and then the dull hum of her stereo resonates through the walls. It takes him a minute to recover.
"Yeah," he murmurs, feeling strangely as though this is an epiphany of sorts. "She kind of is."
He sits there for a minute, lost in thought, before going back to the scale he was picking out before. He plays through it a few times, changes it slightly, and starts humming a little tune. "She says you're a bitch / and I can't say she's wrong / we always get together / but we never get along, oh yeah."