The Death of Lila Jane(9)

By: Teresa Mummert



“I had to do something with my time while waiting for you to get up. You city boys sleep all day, ya’. Must not get much work done,” he quipped but there was a lightness to his words. Maybe he needed some company as much as my mom thought I needed to be around another man.

“I’m still a kid. I don’t have to work.” But the truth was, I busted my ass after I lost Tay, saving away every cent I could. It provided an excellent distraction from actually having to live my life.

“I’ve been working since I was ten, bon rien[28]. You’re only a kid because you chose not to be a man. Grab a plate,” Daven called over his shoulder without bothering to turn around. I made my way over to him, pulling open three different cupboards before finding the one filled with mismatched, colorful Fiestaware dishes. I picked a plum plate and sat it down beside the stove.

“These look familiar,” I blurted out as I pulled open the refrigerator and grabbed a jug of orange juice.

“Yeah, they belonged to your mamere[29]. She passed last winter.”

I silently scolded myself. “I’m sorry, man. I didn’t mean to bring it up.”

“No, no. Talking about her is good. She talked about you a lot.” He cleared his throat while using the spatula to remove the bacon from the sizzling pan and dropping it on a plate covered with folded paper towels. Hot grease splattered across his bare chest and he jumped back. “Va la merde de fils putian[30]!”

I laughed, recognizing the curse words right away. His eyes cut to mine as he suppressed a knowing smirk at my understanding of the language. As hard as I tried to run from my past, it was still there, deep inside of me, struggling to break free. The anger I harbored came directly from my father. It was a sick twist of fate that the very cause of my pain would force me further into his shadow.

“It’s good to remember people we’ve lost, ya’. Share their memories that we carry with us so they don’t weigh so heavily on the soul. Even ‘da bad ones.”

“Bad memories or the bad people?” A faint image of my father crossed my thoughts but I forced it back into the recesses of my mind as quickly as it appeared. My body stiffened as I thought of Taylor, her hazel eyes still seared into the very fiber of my being. “No use dwelling on the past,” I snapped knowing not a day passed that I didn’t think of her. Grabbing a piece of the bacon and shoving it in my mouth, I walked to the front door and slipped out into the relentless heat. The grease burned my tongue as much as my harsh words, but I was too hungry to care. I forced it down as I pulled open the driver door of my car, stepping back as a wave of sweltering heat assaulted me.

“This place is Hell,” I groaned as I bent down and reached across the expansive front seat, grabbing my old notebook that I would write in when everything became too overwhelming. I glanced over my shoulder and through the back window, I caught a glimpse of a figure in the second story window across the street. Backing up, I stood as I squinted my eyes trying to make out who I was looking at when the curtain swung closed. This game of hide and seek had been going on since I’d arrived.

I took in the faux brick exterior of Uncle Daven’s home. The mildew that slicked the trim showed how little he put into upkeep and worrying what the neighbors might think of him. It made me laugh at the sharp contrast to my mother’s concern about her self-image. That was why I was here, after all. What will the neighbors think? Guilt panged in my gut because I knew exactly why she was the way she was. The man I was the spitting image of, the one who plagued her nightmares, was the reason she’d become so neurotic and paranoid and she alleviated that panic by becoming obsessive compulsive, struggling to hang on to control anywhere she could grasp.

She couldn’t look at me without seeing his face, even to this day, her eyes would tear up and her chin would quiver but not because she missed him. It was fear that one day would return in the form of genetic inheritance.

Glancing over my shoulder, I watched as the curtain on the second story window behind me swayed, shadows shifting behind the gauzy haze. That unsettling feeling of being watched caused my spine to stiffen. People didn’t mind their damn business anymore, only looking the other way when someone was crying out for help. Real life was just one giant reality TV show stage. Strangers were merely an audience and not participants.

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