Echoes from The Incredibles filter down the hall, but they do not peak my interest. I am sprawled out across Brandon’s queen-sized bed. My fists are squeezed between my chin and the comforter, supporting my head. My eyes scratch against the inside of my eyelids, so I open them. The pale light from the floor lamp in the corner provides the only illumination in the room. The blinds have not yet been drawn, but the window is only a vast black rectangle.
Brandon is sunk into his oversized, chocolate brown bean bag on the ground, with his legs spread across the floor. He has his arms folded behind his head, with his hands resting on his neck. His eyes are level with mine.
“So, after you wrote the note, you just walked out?”
“Yeah. I couldn’t… I needed air.”
I roll over onto my left side and prop my head up by pressing my left palm to the side of my head just behind my ear. With my fingers on my right hand I trace the tan and brown stripes on the comforter. The ticking of the clock on the wall gets louder, so I let my gaze leave the lines and move up to the clock’s face. Brandon insists on using not only an analogue clock, but one with only four small squares where the twelve, three, six, and nine should be.
I sigh. “What time is it?” My eyes rest on Brandon’s face.
Brandon lifts the corners of his mouth slightly before answering.
“Just after ten. You tired?”
“No.” I don’t tell Brandon that every time I close my eyes all I see is words¾stage III, treatment, immediately¾ swirling menacingly across my brain and drowning all other thoughts.
I sit up quickly and toss my feet off the edge of the bed. “Let’s watch a movie.” I glance toward the door. It sounds like Syndrome is monologuing. I turn back to Brandon. “In here.”
“OK.” Brandon rolls sideways in order to dislodge himself from the bean bag and stands. He takes several steps over to his DVD tower. “What do you have in mind?”
I stand, but I don’t move from the bedside. “I think I need a dose of Josh Lucas. Mind if I run home and get Sweet Home?”
Brandon turns toward me and rolls his eyes.
“You’re going to make me watch that junk?”
I smile. “Yep,” I say. “I’ll be right back.” I lean down and fish my house key out of a small pouch inside my duffle bag. I stuff the key into my pocket.
Brandon tosses his hair. “Alright.”
I leave the room and walk down the hall. I turn into the living room. Mrs. Lane is sitting in the leather chair in the corner under a light, working on her latest crochet project. She glances up and smiles at me when I stop in the doorway. Mr. Lane looks up from where he is sandwiched between
Devon and Luke on the couch.
“What do you need, Reese?” he says, and begins to slide out from between his sons.
“Oh nothing. I’m going to run home really quick. I’ll be back.”
“All right. We’ll see you in a minute then.” He sits back and
and Luke snuggle up to him once more.
I can feel my face turning green at the sight of
Mr. Lane and the boys. I wait until my back
is turned to scrunch my eyebrows and purse my lips.
There is a slight breeze that plays with the wisps of hair around my face as I walk past the four houses between Brandon’s house and my own. The house is completely dark and the trees in the front yard cast shadows over the house. My parents are probably asleep. I walk up the steps to the front door and pull the key out of my pocket. I turn the lock as quietly as I can and slide the door open just enough to admit myself.
I leave the door open and stand in the foyer until my eyes adjust to the darkness. I walk down the hall toward my bedroom, trying to avoid the creaky parts in the wooden floor, but my efforts are in vain. The squeaking sounds are like thunder to me, but I do not hear anyone stir.
I walk into my room and straight to my closet. I squat in front of the low shelf that holds all of my movies. It takes me a moment before I find the one I’m looking for. I pluck Sweet Home Alabama from among the twenty-or-so other DVDs. I really ought to organize them sometime.
I stand and start back down the hall. I stop in the bathroom and grab a plastic bag of hair ties out of the top drawer. I stand outside of my parents’ door for a moment, staring at the doorknob. It’s an antique purple glass knob that my mom found at a thrift store once a few years ago. Dad hates it but he lets her keep it because she loves it so much. I reach out and grasp it, but the coolness of the glass against my fingertips makes me recoil quickly. I tip toe out of the house, lock the door, and walk down the steps to the sidewalk. I begin to run because I feel the weight tugging at my ankles.
I run up the steps to Brandon’s front door and fling it wide. It hits the wall before swinging back toward me. Mrs. Lane,
Mr. Lane, and the boys look up from their
various occupations. Brandon sits up from his place in the middle of the floor.
“Sorry,” I say.
“It’s all right, Reese,”
answers. Her eyes are wide. “I just didn’t expect that.” Her eyes shrink back
to their normal size. I notice that she glances toward the wall, probably to
make sure that I didn’t dent it.
I nod before turning to Brandon. “Ready?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be.” He smiles and stands up.
I walk down the hall and hop onto his bed.
Brandon follows me into the room. He swings the door mostly closed behind him but leaves it open just a crack.
The television is on, and the Samsung DVD logo is bouncing around the screen.
“Give it here and I’ll put it in.” Brandon extends his hand toward me, and I give him the DVD case. He glances at it before opening it.
“I kind of liked this one didn’t I?” He turns his back toward me as he fiddles with the machine.
“Yeah you liked this one.” I smile. I reach down and grab a plastic bag full of hair ties out of my duffel bag.
The movie menu comes up on the screen as Brandon comes and crawls across the bed to sit beside me. He reaches across me and picks the remotes up from the side table. He selects “play movie” from the DVD menu and the theme music begins.
I scoot back against the wall before pulling a hair tie out of the plastic bag. I set the bag down on the side table and pull some hair from the top of my head. My fingers separate the hair into three chunks, and I begin to braid. After only a moment, my fingers are tangled in my hair. I drop the strands. I can hear what my mom always says when she braids my hair. ‘Reeses, this is something you need to learn to do yourself.’ Especially now. I take some hair again, but I am no more successful this time. I drop my hair and slap my hands down on my lap. I only sit for a moment before raising my arms and trying again.
After several more attempts, my arms are burning from being raised behind my head. I lower my arms and tap my fingers on the comforter. I turn and watch Brandon’s face. He turns his head and looks at me.
I glance up at the mop of brown on his head.
“Can I braid your hair?” As soon as the words come I love the idea. I grab the bag of hair ties from the table. Then I lean over the side of the bed and dig my comb out from my duffle bag.
“See? I’ve got hair ties and everything.” I hold them up for him to see.
“Uh, OK.” Brandon sits forward. I scoot behind him. I look up and can’t see Josh Lucas.
“You’ll have to sit on the floor by the bed so I can reach your head and still be able to see the TV.”
“Alright.” Brandon scoots across the bed and lowers himself to the floor so that his back is against the bed. Thankfully he is tall enough that he is about the right height for my project.
I giggle and begin to comb out his hair. I pick out some hair ties and set them beside me. I take a tuft of hair from the crown of Brandon’s head and make the skinniest braid I can.
“I’m going to make braids until I run out of hair or hair ties.”
“Good,” Brandon says. He tilts his head back to look up at me. “I’m going to have a fro when you’re done aren’t I?” He smirks at me.
“Oh yes you are.” I grin.
By the time I am finished, the braids on Brandon’s head are sticking out in all directions.
“Let’s go show your mom,” I say and jump to my feet on the bed.
“OK,” Brandon says as he stands. He turns and smiles at me. “How do I look?” He puts on a cheesy grin and lifts one eyebrow.
I burst into laughter. “Wonderful, Weird Al!” It’s fun to feel taller than him for once.
I jump down to the floor and we walk down the hall toward the living room. Before we reach it, Brandon stops.
“Do I have to show them?” he asks.
“Yep,” I respond, and continue into the living room. I sit down on the ottoman and turn my attention toward the television screen. Elastigirl is pressing buttons on the remote that controls the robot and trying to figure out which one Mr. Incredible wants her to push.
Brandon walks into the room and calmly sits down in the floor near my feet.
I turn to look at
She grins at me. “Nice work Reese. Very nice.”
“Well thanks. I couldn’t braid my own hair, so I decided to braid his. My mom always does my hair.” I look down at the floor and bite my lip before looking back up at her.
I turn to look at him. He has an arm around each of his two younger sons.
“The boys and I are thinking about going to the beach tomorrow to do some sand crab catching. Do you want to come with us?”
“Sure,” I say. “I’ll have to run home and get my suit in the morning.” That means I’ll have to see and talk to them. I guess I need to anyway. I glance at the television. The credits are rolling up the screen.
I turn back toward
and I giggle.
Devon rubbing his eyes. Luke yawns.
She takes each of them by the hand and walks them down the hall toward their room.
“Hey I’m coming tomorrow too. I haven’t caught any sand crabs in a long time.” Brandon says, and he grins at me. Then he turns to his dad. He points toward me with his thumb. “I have to show this one how it’s done.”
I laugh. “Oh I know how it’s done.”
“You’re on,” Brandon says. “The person who loses buys the other one a fried twinkie.”
I smile. “It’s about time I had another fried twinkie.”
Brandon chuckles and shakes his head at me. The braids twist together on the top of his head.
“I think I’m ready to go to sleep too,” I say. I stand up and stretch my arms behind my back. My left shoulder pops.
Brandon stands up. “Let’s go see where my mom wants you.” He puts his hands on my shoulders and pushes me down the hall in front of him. Luke and
Devon are in the bathroom brushing their teeth.
We reach Brandon’s room. Mrs. Lane has just begun putting a new set of sheets on Brandon’s bed.
“You can sleep in here, Reese. It’ll give you more privacy. We’ll put Brandon on the pull-out bed in the living room.”
“No that’s OK,” I say. I look from
Lane to Brandon. “I can sleep on the couch.”
“No it’s cool. You sleep in here,” Brandon says. He grabs his pillow off the bean bag in the floor. “Sleep well, Kid,” he says and leaves the room.
I watch him go. “Night,” I say after him. I turn back toward
Mrs. Lane. “Thanks for everything, Mrs. Lane.”
“It’s no problem, Sweetie. We enjoy having you here any time.” She smiles at me. She pulls the comforter straight. “There you go. Sleep well, Reese.”
“You too,” I say. I plop down on the bed as
Mrs. Lane leaves the room.
“Would you like the door shut?” she asks.
“Yeah, thanks,” I say.
I think about going to brush my teeth and wash my face, but I don’t really care. I pull off my jeans and crawl under the covers.