Back Around: Chapter 2 (NaNo Story
“Genie!” my mom’s voice calls up to me from downstairs. I intently stare at my computer screen trying to drink as much of today’s history lesson as I can before I have to go downstairs to eat.
--Little did Einstein know that his best invention would be turned against humanity in the worst possible way. The damage done by the atomic bomb was insurmountable, causing many to--
I sigh and close my laptop. It’s not often that I have difficulties catching up on school work, but Monday’s are always the worst. I cross over to my bureau against the wall and let down my hair. In the light coming through the window my brown highlights show up prevalently against my blond hair. I turn a fraction to see if the blue strip in the back has started to fade yet, but it hasn't. Picking up a few bangles and slipping them on my arm, I check myself once, twice and then leave my room.
I’m halfway down the hallway when I hear my mom call out a third time.
“IMOGENE GET DOWN HERE!”
I skip down the stairs, almost tripping on my little brother’s model car. Stumbling off the steps I rush through the dining room and into the bright kitchen, with its beautifully stained wood cabinets and it’s black marble top counters and island. Even after eleven years, I still adore the kitchen.
My mom stands, with her oven mitts, and her favorite flowery apron which makes her feel like a stay at home mom. She turns and gives me one of her annoyed expressions. “Genie, I called you ten times.”
“Sorry, Mom.” I don’t argue the point that it was only three times, having an overdramatic mom calls for over patience. “Only heard you once.”
“Will you set the table?” she opens the oven and pulls out a pan full of cornbread. The smell fills the kitchen, making my stomach rumble.
“Yep.” I reach into a cabinet and procure six green bowls and saucers. I set them on the table in the dining room and go back into the kitchen for silverware.
“Can you grab the sour cream from the fridge, hon?” My mom says cutting the cornbread into squares with a butter knife. “And we need to shred some cheese. Oh! And I think your Dad will want the jalapeno peppers from the garden.”
I rush around the kitchen, bringing the items to the table, shredding cheddar cheese and washing peppers. “How was your day Mom?” I ask as I rush around, feeling like it’s way too silent in the kitchen.
“Let’s talk about it at the dinner table, alright?” By her tone, I can tell that she’s still having trouble with her co-workers, and that her back is still hurting. I glance over at her to see her wince slightly as she reaches for the butter dish in the middle of the island. “Can you set this on the table, sweetie?”
“Got it.” I place the butter dish in the middle of the table and admire the pretty set out. I wish we had candle sticks from the basement, but it would take too long to retrieve them. “Looks lovely.”
Mom’s distracted and thoughtful round face brightens into a smile. “It does, doesn’t it?” She places her hands on her wide hips and stares through the kitchen door to the dining room. She looks at me and reads my face. “You want candles don’t you?”
“I’m fine,” I wave it off and take the platter of stacked cornbread my mother was working on to the table. “Should I call the others down?”
I go out of the kitchen and stand by the stair landing. “Thiago! Darly! Ebele! Dinner time!”
In the next few minutes, all I hear is the opening and slamming of doors, and then little feet stomping around. I hear excited voices and “dinner” repeated a million times.
Thiago, with his dark Brazilian curly hair, olive tan skin, and square jaw, scampers down stairs. Even though he’s lived with us for seven years he’s still scrawny. Whatever he eats doesn’t stick to his bones at all, but that might be because he’s a soccer player and exercises all the time. He grins at me, his braces flashing in the hallway light. “Genie, guess what?”
Darly stomps down the stairs and pushes past me with a dark expression on his face, which makes Thiago pause slightly but then continues on still excited.
“I got an A on my science test,” he bounces up and down excited nearly bouncing into Ebele passing him. “and Mrs. Buckley let me start on the next project before all the other kids.”
“Wow, Thiago,” I say taking is hands in mine. He bounces, making us twirl in circles, “That’s awesome. Hey, did you wash your hands?”
He pauses his jumping and let’s go of my hands to run down the hall to the bathroom. I smile and head back into the dining room where Ebele, Darly and my mom sit around the table.
My mom sits on her phone, probably contacting my dad. She looks up as I enter and purses her lips, “Your dad’s almost here, he just had to pick up some things at the store.”
I nod and sit down in the chair opposite of Ebele. Ebele’s thick dark brown hair is up in braids, she smiles at me, her tawny eyes sparkling with her bright inner joy which never seems to dim. She wears her favorite One Direction shirt and Disney princess jeans, the light purple of the shirt contrasts nicely with her dark chocolate skin. “How are you?”
I smile, “I’m fine.”
“What’s wrong?” her expressive eyes widen in concern.
I shake my head and shrug my shoulders, “Nothing, my thoughts are just a little preoccupied.”
Ebele nods thoughtfully.
I look over at Darly whose stormy expression seems to loom over the end of the table next to Ebele. His dark eyebrows are furrowed and his eyes, a dark chocolaty brown, glare through the bowl in front of him. He has the darkest skin of the family, even darker than Ebele. Everything about him reminds me about a big eighty percent cacao chocolate bar, sweet and sour and sometimes salty. His sour side has shown up for dinner tonight and it makes us all uncomfortable.
“Darly,” I whisper softly.
He looks up with a scowl, “What?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
I purse my lips in a sisterly way as I watch him cross his arms like a toddler. “Something at school?”
“I said,” he raises his voice, his eyes burning with ferocity, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay, okay.” I raise my hands in mock surrender, and then mutter under my breath.
We all hear the front door open and the rustling of grocery bags and him taking off his jacket. I listen as he opens the coat closet, I hear the clicking of a hanger being put on the metal rack, and then the door shut. It’s all so familiar and simple but so unlike anything else, maybe because it’s the first time I notice how loud it is.
“Hey!” he calls out in his wonderfully rich voice. “I’m home!” He walks into the dining room and grins at us, “You guys didn’t start without me did you?”
“No, hun, we just sat down,” my mom says smiling and she gestures to the seat across from her on the far side of the table. “Sit.”
“Yes ma’am.” My dad is loud; he has always been and probably always will be. Everything is an exclamation to him. You know something’s wrong when he’s quiet. His pepper grey and silver hair shine in the light making his face even warmer than ever. He sits down and looks around at all of our faces. “How is every one?”
“Hungry,” Thiago says grinning.
“Well let’s eat.”
My mom raises her eyebrow and holds out her hands on either side of the table. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”
My dad smiles and grabs Thiago’s hand and Darly’s. I hold my mom’s and she holds Ebele’s. We bow our heads and wait for my dad to start the prayer.
“Dear Lord, we give thanks with all our hearts and mind and soul. Thank you for this food before us, bless it and the hands that prepared it. Thank you, Father. In your name we pray, Amen.”
“AMEN,” we all mutter collectively.
“So…” my dad says as my mom starts to serve out chili with her ladle. He looks at me, “Want to start the sharing?”
I shrug, “Sure. Today I got up, went to work, was a bit grumpy… got off work, picked up Jordan and then argued with Jordan,” he tilt my head as if excusing this fact, “and agreed to meet him at the café after dinner.” I nod to signify the end of my turn.
My mom clears her throat, “I think today was a grumpy day for me too, I did not resolve anything with Cheryl at the office like I had planned, and I spilled coffee on my shirt. I picked up Thiago at school and came home to make dinner.” She nods.
Ebele smiles, “Well… today I decided to wear my lucky shirt for the musical audition. We’ll have to wait and see, but I think I got a part,” she grins brightly and we all smile encouragingly. “Okay… so then I had PE and I got kicked in the head, but I was okay. I made friends with the boy who kicked me, he’s in gymnastics so he can kick his leg up really high!” She pauses to take a sip of water, “He’s really flexible. And… yep, that’s it.” She nods and looks over at Darly.
Darly scowls, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Dad smacks his lips together, “Oh c’mon sport, be a team player.”
“Fine,” Darly groans and looks down at his plate. “I woke up, I went to school, I got sent to the principal’s office, I tried out for football, I ate lunch alone, I got in a fight with Megan, and rode the bus home.”
“Wait, wait, wait!” Dad cries out, “You went to the principal’s office?”
“You had a fight with Megan?” My mom cries out at the same time.
Darly sinks lower into his chair.
My Dad shakes his head, shaking off the conversation. “Okay, never mind. We’ll talk about it later. Okay… my turn. Well I can a great day, I woke up with the face of a gorgeous woman-” we all groan, and my mom smiles. “-had breakfast, headed to work. I gave three kids new braces and did some tightening of other patients. It was all good. I headed home, got a call by this really mysterious and sexy woman-“ my mom giggles and bats her eyelashes dramatically, “-who needed some things from the store, so I got some groceries and headed home to see my kids and wife. Your turn Thiago.”
“Okay,” Thiago says, holding up his hands, “That was probably the grossest share ever.” My mom, dad and I laugh. “Well…” he grins, “I got an A on my science test!”
The café is practically empty, with a few people lingering to drink coffee. There are two girls sitting drinking with each other and smiling in the corner, the both look like they could be working moms sharing their stories. A college aged student sits in a booth by himself and his lap-top, with a half-eaten slice of cheery pie in front of him and a glass of milk.
Booths line the wall of the café, while in a line in the middle of the café stand high topped coffee tables with tall swivel chairs. Each chair has a different patterned cushion. On the other side was the kitchen and counter, with the huge black chalk board on the wall behind. Music is playing non-stop through the stereo, it’s always the top hits channel.
At one of the high topped coffee tables a boy sits with his back to the door, making his chair slide back and forth. A smile spreads across my face when I see him sitting there, patiently waiting for me.
I walk up and go up on my tip toes to wrap my arms around his neck and lace my fingers to lie against his chest. “You look familiar, do I know you?”
Jordan smiles, and turns his head slightly so that he can see the side of my face. Butterflies flutter in my stomach as I breathe in his scent, smelling like musty old books and coffee. “I’ve never met you in my life.”
I chuckle and then release him, sitting down in the swivel chair opposite his. “So…” I look at the mug half full in front of him and the book lying open in his lap. I see that he hasn’t ordered for me yet. I get back up with annoyed huff. “Be back.”
“Genie,” he groans apologetically, I slides out of his chair and walks up to the counter with me. “I didn’t know how long it would take you to get here, so I didn’t want to order for you ahead of time, just in case.”
My cold heart melts and I give him a forgiving look and nod.
“Hey, what can I get you?” says the girl, no younger than me, from behind the counter. She has bright orange hair and freckles, and braces. She looks at me and then glances at Jordan, I see her expression flash quickly to a look of longing which she tries to then cover with a smile back at me.
I smile at her kindly, “Hello, yes, I would like a medium hot chai with two squirts of raspberry syrup and go heavy on the whipped cream.”
She nods, glancing at Jordan distractedly, and scurries off to make my tea. I smile at how cute she is, and how she moves awkwardly around the kitchen.
“You’re new here, aren’t you?” I ask.
“Yes,” she gives a nervous giggly and looks at Jordan again quickly. I can’t help but smile slyly in understanding, and I can tell that she sees my look. “I was hired just yesterday.”
“Wow” I turn to Jordan to see him looking straight at me, nodding and lips pressing his lips together, the sign that he’s deep in a daydream, “That’s nice, isn’t it Jordan?”
He blinks rapidly as if waking himself out of a daze. “What? Oh yeah, very nice.” He turns to smile at the girl, “That’s great. Are you enjoying it so far?”
She looks like she’s about to have a heart attack, “Uh… yeah,” she breathes nervously, “It’s… it’s fun.”
I press my elbow into Jordan’s side. “I’m Jordan,” he says reaching out his hand.
The girl, squirting syrup into my drink gives it two squirts more than I had asked for. I clench my teeth together and wince. She puts the cup down and shakes hands with Jordan, her eyes wide with wonder and longing. “Meryl.”
“I’m Genie,” I shake her hand and smile, trying not to grimace at the thought of drinking my tea now. She hardly looks at me, but shakes my hand. I watch her put a mountain of whipped cream on the surface of my steaming chai. She passes it to me, and Jordan pays. “Good luck.”
Jordan and I walk back to our seats trying not to laugh our heads off. I manage to contain myself, but Jordan not so much. He bursts out into a fit of laughter and my cheeks redden at the thought of how embarrassed Meryl must be.
“Jordan,” I hiss, “Stop it, that poor girl.”
He presses his hand over his mouth and makes breathy noises a few minutes. “Okay,” he says, his eyes bright with laughter, “I’ll stop.” He shakes his head and takes a sip of his bold coffee with hazel nut cream.
“Okay,” I take a large sip of my chai and then spit it back out, smacking my mouth and waggling my tongue, “Ugh… that’s really strong.”
“Let me try.” Jordan gently lifts it to his lips and takes a dainty sip. He wrinkles his nose and sets it back down, “Yeah, that’s bad.”
He smiles and takes me in. We sit there in silence for a split second as he stares at me and I feel uncomfortable. “Feeling better?”
“Yes,” I nod, smiling slightly. “Always do when I’m with you.” I look up to see him smile, but he doesn’t’. “What was it you wanted to talk about?”
He bites his lip and studies my face for a second. Fiddling with the rim of his cup, he remains silent. Finally, he shakes his head and looks down at his mug. “Well, I’ve been thinking a lot today.”
“You always think a lot, what’s so important about that?” I shift nervously.
“Well, I was thinking about our fight, and I was thinking about,” he cuts himself off and looks up into my eyes, “Listen, I love it when we’re friends, just friends. But we seem to be having… difficulties staying just friends. So, I was thinking,” he looks back down at his mug, “and I think I’m going to start dating again.”
I frown and shake my head. I try to find words, because honestly this really shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but I feel something tug hard on my heart. “I don’t-”
“I’ve got it all planned out, I even know who I want to ask out first,” Jordan starts talking quickly and looks back up at me to see my reaction. “I’ll start by just going out on dates, and if I really like one girl I’ll ask her to be my girlfriend.”
I give a surprised and indignant laugh which sounds more like a huff, “Okay, Jordan, back up.” I hold up a finger to keep him from talking, “When has dating other people ever worked for us. No matter how many times we decide to be friends we lapse back into being a couple. It’s just what we do.”
“But I don’t want to do it anymore,” Jordan says, his voice changing from nervous and rushed to angry and annoyed. “I want to stop this endless cycle. Not that I don’t love you, I love you dearly, but I love you as a friend and I want to be just friends for longer than a few weeks.”
I blink rapidly, “I want to be just friends too, but I don’t think it will work.”
“Well then,” Jordan slaps his knee in agitation, “Since it’s impossible, let’s just give up all together and just surrender to our never ending fate.”
“No,” I say, pointing my finger at him, “That’s not what I mean, and you know it.”
“Well what do you mean then?”
“I…” I sigh in defeat, “You know what? Do you what you want, I don’t care.”
A hurt expression crosses his face and he starts glaring at me. “Thanks.”
“Jordan, I…” I groan and throw my head back, “Of course I care, I didn’t mean that. I care so much about you, and I don’t want you to get hurt by another girl.”
“That’s very kind,” Jordan says in his best diplomatic voice, meaning he’s shut off all feelings. He stares intently at his mug.
I hit my forehead with the palm of my hand, “Goodness! Jordan,” I open my hands palms up to the ceiling, “Jordan I’m sorry. I wish you all the luck in the world, you know that.”
He nods thoughtfully, then looks up at my face and must see something in my eyes because he reaches forward to grip my hand, “Listen, I understand how you feel. I remember when you started dating other guys, I hated it.”
“At least you’re telling me about your dating,” I fake a laugh.
“Yeah,” he chuckles too.
Surprised, and feeling an ache beginning to gnaw at my heart, I force a smile and try to put on my best act for him. I convince myself over and over that all I want for Jordan is for him to be happy but something about this doesn’t ring true. “I wish you the best of luck, Jordan.”
He smiles and gives my hand a little squeeze, “Thanks.”
My head feels hot and heavy at the same time and feelings swarm around like pesky flies, I wave them away by forcing a smile at Jordan. “Dating’s fun, I hope you find someone special.”
“Remember, I said I have everything planned out.” Jordan sips at his coffee.
“Well good, I guess… what’s her name?”
He smiles mischievously making my heart melt all over again, “I have no idea.”