by, Melissa R. Mendelson
Red paint peeled back and then rolled away. A cool breeze stirred and drifted across a calm lake. No clouds in the sky, but the wind still danced. And the sun still shined. Bare feet lifted upward, pulling another wooden splinter out, and then eyes cast out over the back porch and toward the water. And fingers then continued to bite down into the red table nearby, peeling back red paint and rolling it away.
The screen door slammed closed. Aunt August was a tall blonde, who was now really showing signs of gray. Her nails were always done, and she hated to dress down. But today, she was dressed in jeans and a stylish t-shirt. Her flip flops smacked against the wooden, red boards, and her body collapsed into a plastic lawn chair. She was tired, but more than that, she was annoyed. She didn’t need any more stress, but she was called here. And the discussion ensued inside.
“You really need to buy a pair of flip flops.” The young girl beside her didn’t answer. “No more Horror movies. He’s tired of being woken up every night with screaming and carrying on. It’s not right. You should be asleep at eleven not staying up at all hours of the night.”
“I know, Paige, but he doesn’t need this. Neither do I. This is not why I asked you to come here for the summer.”
“Do you? If I didn’t have to work this summer, you would probably go home.” Her aunt sighed loudly and was quiet for a moment. “I explained to my father, your grandfather that you need to be here. He can’t be left alone.” Paige just nodded in agreement. “It’s only the end of June, Paige. You just got here, and I need you to be here until, at least early August. Okay?”
“So, please, don’t aggravate your grandfather. Last summer was very hard on him with your grandmother passing, and it’s a year later. Okay?”
“Okay.” Paige continued to pick at the table near her legs. “I won’t trouble him.”
“Good, and stop picking.” Her aunt rose up from her seat and walked toward the screen door. “I’m making lunch now, so you want to come inside?”
“Yes.” Paige slowly rose up from her wooden chair and took a step forward. “Ow.” She got another splinter,
“Get some flip flops, Paige. There’s a dollar bus that will pick you up and take you into town.” Her aunt walked into the house.
“Freaking splinters,” Paige muttered under her breath as she limped into the house.
Paige’s grandfather sat at a small, round table. He glanced up at her and then looked away. His white hair was combed back, and his blue eyes were red, tired from trouble sleeping. Part of that was Paige’s fault. She loved to have the television set on loud, and this was a small, one-level house. His room was right near the den, and he was a very light sleeper. Paige knew better, but she forgot. At least, that’s what she told herself.
After removing the most recent splinter, Paige washed her hands in the bathroom and then returned to the kitchen. She chose the chair furthest away from her grandfather. He was still angry at her, and her aunt was still annoyed. Maybe, coming here was a mistake, but Paige didn’t want to be home. She just wanted to be left alone, and coming here would kind of give her that.
“Tomorrow’s Monday.” Her aunt placed a sandwich in front of her grandfather and then another one in front of Paige. “I won’t be back till seven. I’ll bring something in.” Her grandfather’s eyes lit up. “No fast food.” Her grandfather grew disappointed. “You have to watch your sodium, but I can get some low sodium deli or something.” Her grandfather snarled at that, and Paige started to giggle. “Maybe, tuna fish.”
“I hate tuna.”
“I know, Paige,” and she realized that response was because she giggled. “I’ll bring something in. Paige, do the dishes afterward. I have to go.”
“Yeah. I was supposed to meet a friend, but you know.”
Paige knew very well. After waking her grandfather up in the middle of the night because Freddy Krueger was hacking up his latest victim, her grandfather didn’t even wait to call his daughter. She didn’t get that much sleep because of Paige. Another reason she was tired, and Paige felt guilty. No more Horror movies, but that would be the worst of it. Paige had other things in mind that could occupy her, and it wouldn’t disturb her aunt or grandfather. “I know,” Paige responded.
“Good.” Her aunt kissed her father on top of his head, giving his shoulder a light squeeze, and then she waved briefly at Paige. “I will be back in a couple of hours. You two behave,” and her grandfather grunted at that.
The heavy, black front door moaned loudly as it opened. Then, it quickly slammed shut. Her grandfather could fix the door, but with Paige here, he would know when she was coming or going. She could always slip out the back, but that was a pain in the ass. The backyard used to have such a beautiful garden, but after her grandmother died, the weeds took over. She would have to hack her way through them and make her way to the gate and then struggle with the locked gate door. It always jammed, even when she was a kid, but eventually, the door would swing open.
“I’m going to watch some tv.” Her grandfather rose from the table, wiped his mouth with his napkin, and then placed it on top of his plate. “What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, I’ll be in the den,” and with that said, he left the room.
Paige finished the rest of her lunch. Then, she did the dishes. Her aunt did mention the dollar bus that would pick her up and take her into town. She could do that, but she wasn’t supposed to leave her grandfather alone. So, she wouldn’t. Instead, she put the dishes away and walked into the guest room.
Like with the kitchen, the guest room was black and white. Her grandmother, may she rest in peace, loved black and white. Even the covers and sheets were black and white, and the bed creaked under Paige’s weight. She really didn’t weigh a lot, but the bed creaked nonetheless. And she lied there for a good while, thinking about nothing.
Paige’s eyes slowly roamed around the room. Two beds. One large closet. One large, wooden dresser with a mirror attached. A desk and chair, and a bookcase. When Paige first got here, she lined up all her favorite books from Stephen King and Anne Rice on those shelves, but she didn’t feel like reading now. On the third shelf was her Horror movies. Maybe, if she went into town, she would sell them. She could use the money, and she wasn’t allowed now to watch them here. Or she could wait until she went home and take them back with her, but she didn’t want to go home so soon. She wanted time alone, and now, she was alone. So as the wind drifted through the open window, Paige slowly dozed off into a gentle sleep.