The sun had slowed to an amber glow, tucked behind the arthritic crab apple tree, where underneath, my father’s girlfriend tinied herself on the sticky plastic lounging chair. In her hands, she held the paperback of Fredrick Forsyth’s The Devil’s Alternative. Lauren and I immersed ourselves in pretend, our dashing shadows peering into the groundhog’s hole or digging moats in the dirt and filling them with water to create small pools to send the oak leaves adrift. A silver radio reproducing the tinny voice of Michael Jackson was propped next to a strong smelling purple drink and a spray bottle of water, which Barbara used to mist herself at ten minute intervals, her skin growing darker in the August heat.
I remember hearing her one day, on a day with air as thick and sordid as this one, couple with my father, his arm stiffly around her shoulder. They smiled plastic smiles, and he looked at me and Lauren, whose hair was as light and wispy as her mother’s standing there.
“What would you think if one day you had baby sister?” His voice lilted with enthusiasm, but I detected an almost indecipherable crack on the last word. I was seven, but I remember the way my eyes got small like slivers as I thought about this and stood grounded in silence.
“No!” shouted Lauren, her stomps echoing off the unpainted walls where an air conditioner framed by oozing yellow insulation surged to life.
There was embarrassed, polite laughter from the two of them as I pushed through the screen door, its open flap letting a fly buzz through.
We never heard anymore about baby sisters. I wonder what ever happened to that idea, to that construction of future family, to that bunch of cells glowing in her belly.
Story by Erin Beirne
July 29th 1995
Still on holiday. Day was okay. I got a present from mum, The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. ‘I read it when I was your age’ kind of thing. My brother said why do I not get anything and my dad says have you said thank you to your mum. Mum says she’s really glad she’s got this for me. I say thank you.
I lied in bed this morning. I wasn’t doing anything. I was lying in bed, that’s all I was doing. I was looking at the curtains, graciously blowing in the wind. The light linen curtains flirting with my bedroom walls. I was looking at the ceiling, I was looking at the fan. I was contemplating the reminiscences of past summers in this room, sleeping restful sleeps sometimes, smelling those smells of growing laurel-leaves and vines, hearing the wind against the glass windows, listening to the morning birds, thinking about those people who can identify birds, thinking they’re the same people who know what trees are called, or where the wind comes from.
When mum asked what were you doing in that room I said I was reading and I lied.
Later on today I will get my hair cut. I just need little trim, really. I’ve got a magazine with a photo of a girl in it and I’m going to ask for the same hair as her. And later in the week I’ll ask mum if I can get my nails done. Maybe bubblegum pink? That’s like a light pink.
Story by Anna Lounguine