Suddenly, I am running.
Jamie is in front of me, taking the lead, distancing herself from me.
I keep running.
Cool November air rushes past us.
My tennis-shoe-clad feet pound on the pavement like bass drums.
I'm gaining on her.
She's slowing down.
Maybe, if I can just reach her...
Suddenly, I am awake.
I look over to see my brother, Matrix. He's looking at me in this weird way, with one eyebrow cocked and his head tilted to the side, the way my dad does.
"Time to get up," he says, a slightly frazzled look still plastered on his face.
"Okay," I say.
He frowns at me for a couople seconds, then walks away to go get dressed.
I've been having these dreams a lot lately. And it's always the same one: me chasing after Jamie. Jamie is my older sister who disappeared a few months ago. Ran away. My parents hope she never comes back for some reason. And I have this sick feeling in my gut that she won't. And Matrix--I dunno what Matrix thinks. Tries not to, I guess. He's smart.
I drag myself out of bed and get ready. I'm so not into this morning. I never am after one of those dreams. But I pull myslef to the kitchen for breakfast, mostly because I'd rather be at school all day than at home.
My mom is already in the kitchen when I get there, making breakfast and moving around like the busybody she is. She stops for a second to glance at me and nod in greeting, then continues her work.
Cold, tile floor greets my bare feet with an icy and unforgiving touch. The smell of smoke is engraved into the framework of our house, though no one except me notices anymore. Cheerful, yellow walls echo back to the sun peeking in from the giant glass door that leads out onto the veranda. But by day what is a joyous, vibrant abode can turn violent and nightmarish in darkness, the yellow paint echoing insanity rather than sunlight.
I make my way to the oak table and sit, waiting for Matrix.
Soon my dad comes downstairs, a cigar peeking out of the corner of his mouth. Usually he just smokes cigarettes, but he uses a cigar during big business meetings. I guess he thinks cigars make him look richer...?
"Need some cigarettes when you go shopping," he mutters to my mom while buttoning his coat.
Then he looks at me.
"Ah, good morning, Mandy," he says.
"It's Marley," I state back.
At least it's a start. At least he talks to me.
Then Matrix comes running down the stairs, grabbing a pop-tart from the pantry.
"I made you some waffles," my mom says exasperatedly, crossing her arms.
"Don't care," Matrix replies.
He's wearing baggy, beat-up jeans and a ratty t-shirt, his dark hair a moppy mess on his head. Matrix has these eyes, too, like the ocean almost. You can always tell how he's feeling from his eyes.
"Go change your clothes, Matrix. Hole-y jeans are not acceptable for school," my dad says.
Matrix rolls his eyes, preparing for the old parental one-two.
"Yes! And Matrix--take out that earring!" my mom adds.
Matrix slings his backpack over his shoulder and glares at our parents.
"Oh, like you give a crap about me," he sneers back.
My dad points a thick, hairy finger at him accusingly, saying, "Shut your mouth, Matrix!"
With that, he's out the door and off to work. Yeah, dad. Thanks for helping out.
My mom watches with narrow eyes as my dad leaves, then turns a venemous gaze to Matrix.
"It's time you started appreciating everything your father and I do for you," she ssays, her words oozing poison like a toxic waste dump.
"Appreciate everything you've done? Like what? Push me around, tell me I'm a nobody, and pound on my little sister?"
My mom's hands clench into fists, going ghostly white around the knuckles. Uh-oh. Time to go. I pick up my backpack and head for the door while Matrix and my mom have at it.
Our front door squeaks when it's opened, but I know I'm the only one who hears it over the yelling. Once the door is shut again, I'm temporarily severed from the harsh reality that I live among violence. For just a few moments, I am normal (even if I can still hear muffled screaming). The morning outside is cool and dewy, green with the newness of spring. And it's quiet. So much more quiet than I'm used to.
I guess I'm riding the bus today. I don't have a clue where Matrix's car is, and if I wait for him, I'll be late. So I begin the trek down our long, narrow street. When I'm about halfway down, I hear a door slam, and look back to see Matrix storming out of the house. I stop. He jogs to catch up with me. His blue eyes are darkened, and a red handprint is outlined clearly on his left cheek.
My mom appears at the front door, her face red with anger. Even as far away as we are, we can still hear each one of her words as she yells.
"That's right! Get outta here! And don't come back!"
That said, she clenches her teeth and goes back inside, slamming the door. I wouldn't be surprised if the door went on strike one day. for a rectangular piece of wood, that thing has it pretty rough.
I don't say anything to Matrix as we walk down the street. I can't tell him it's alright, 'cause it's not. And I can't promise him this will never happen again, because it will. Matrix gets told about once a week to get out and never come back. He always does, of course, maybe once mom and dad are drunk or something. They forget everything when they're drunk. It's almost like life starts over for them after every party. Maybe that's why they drink. It's like a pause/rewind button on life.
As we approach the bus stop, I finally speak.
"Where's your car?"
"Left it at Racket's house. He gave me a ride home last night, 'cause I was a little wasted."
I frown. Matrix doesn't notice.
"So are you going to school?"
"Got nothin' better to do," Matrix shrugs.
He doesn't go to school as much as he should, which probably explains why he's failing. It's like school's just a big joke to him. But I take it seriously. The sooner I graduate, the sooner I'm out of my house.