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Brush Stroke - a Selection
The rooms were dark, so dark that no one in the Evelyn household could tell that it was past six thirty in the morning. No one had even thought to turn on the heat, so the cold crisp air leaked through the windows and stretched itself out into each bedroom. Each family member was rolled up into a ball on each of their beds, huddled under the only warmth, which came from the old blankets and sheets.
April opened her eyes and shivered. Thank God it’s Friday, she thought, and put her head under her pillow, closing her eyes again.
But I have to get up, she said to herself. I have to feed the cat. And go to work.
Slowly, ever so closely, April sat up in her bed. Her plaid pajama bottoms shocking her as she did so. Her blue Old Navy sweatshirt still held the heat, so she rubbed her face against the sleeve.
She groaned to herself.
April wasn’t the sort of person anyone would want to talk to in the morning. She had to have at least two cups of coffee before any sane human being approached her. If not… well, a person would most likely regret their whole human existence.
Even the look of April made some people shutter. Her cropped blond hair was layered and stuck out at the ends, but nonetheless, it was incredibly short. She always wore black nail polish, and dark mascara and eyeliner that made her eyes look electric green. Most of the time there was a cigarette pursed in her lips or between her pointer and middle finger. When she wasn’t working, she had on bright red lipstick.
But none of this covered her tattoo, which was placed perfectly on the top right of her back, below her shoulder and dangerously close to her neckline. It was a design that no one could identify – it had lines like a sunray but shapes as well. And it was, of course, green. April took pride in her tattoo, and unlike a lot of people, didn’t regret that she had had it done. She wore spaghetti straps just to show it off when she went to work, if the temperature was hot enough.
She was young, only twenty-four.
And she was alone.
Her boyfriend had left her when she was eighteen, just when she had needed him the most. Her mother and father wouldn’t take her in their house anymore, since they hated her, and made her live on her own.
Of course, there were reasons why she was broke. She had dropped out of school at the age of sixteen, for obvious reasons… and her waitress job hadn’t done much justice.
April shuddered when she remembered what her life was like –– tiring, and poor. She had gotten an apartment only because she had an older friend, Billy, who owned it and let her stay there. Billy was probably in his mid– forties. It was Billy who had given her the job that she had now, since he also saw that her initial job as a waitress wasn’t good for April.
Billy was a carpenter and painter. He earned so much money, it made April’s head spin. He offered her a job as a painter (to help him out) and he thought she would do well because she was much lighter than him and she wouldn’t have any issues on the ladders, or roofs, etc. So, April, being the tough one she was, took the job, and from the money she earned she was able to buy a tiny house but not live in the apartment anymore.
It was funny how whenever someone looked at April he or she saw paint. She was usually covered in it, her clothes especially. Even her boots, which she wore all the time, were splattered in it.
April had always been grateful to Billy and what he did for her and her family. He had known right from the start that Kyle Hilton would be trouble, and he had been right.
Because Kyle Hilton had given April two little twin girls.
It was impossible to think, that when you looked at her, April was a mother. She was always so tough – at least, on the outside. Her voice, even, was sweet and not deep, but it had the famous Boston accent ringing in every word, which added to the toughness appeal. But, she was a mother.
At sixteen, she hadn’t been careful with Kyle Hilton and she had to drop out of school because she was expecting a “kid”. Kyle was kind, at first, helping her through the months of horror and pain and embarrassment, making her feel like she, April Evelyn, could actually do it –
April’s fist clenched into balls whenever she thought of the guy. How stupid, she thought, how stupid I was to think that he loved me and he would stay with me.
After the twins were born, her parents forced April out of her home – they had been filled with shame, which was illegal, since she wasn’t eighteen yet at the time, and moved in Kyle’s house with his family.
But it was only a matter of time…
One morning she had woken up and Kyle was nowhere to be found. He of course, went to school every day, unlike April, but he hadn’t come home that day, or the next day.
And when she looked into his parents’ eyes, April knew. He was gone for good.
She moved out, in less than a week, heartbroken, with one baby on each one of her hips, but with nowhere to go. And that’s when Billy stepped in.
April was up now, getting dressed into her work clothes and shuffling across her plain bedroom to the kitchen, to turn on the coffee. She rubbed her fingers through her hair, coughing a little, thinking that after she’d start the coffee she’d go outside to smoke without waking the kids.
They were both eight now, Jackie and Rae. Both were tall, slender, and identical.
Both didn’t know who their father was, and April refused to tell them. And they both didn’t know who any of their grandparents were.
The coffee button beeped, and April took a paper cup and poured the black liquid into it.
Grasping the warm cup, she slipped into her boots and grabbed a cigarette pack out of her fall jacket, just about to walk out the door when –
“Mom?” Rae’s voice yawned. “I hear you.”
The girl’s footsteps came closer and April turned around to face Rae, whose hair was in a messy bun, and her Hello Kitty PJ’s from Sears hung on her hips.
The girl’s blue eyes grew wide. “Mom, you promised –“
April cursed in her head. “I know, I know. But quitting isn’t very easy, honey.”
Rae was the cautious one and was also very smart. She had known all along that her mother had dropped out of school because had gotten pregnant at the age of sixteen, and she had also known that that was not the road to take, so she would never follow her mother’s example.
The child pursed her lips. “Fine. But you promised.”
April sighed, and looked at the pack of evil things that rested in her hand, finally throwing them aside on the desk that had the car keys on it and piles of mail – mostly bills.
Rae suddenly had a smug look on her face.
April scowled. “Is Jackie up yet?”
April started walking around the room, growing more and more grumpy as the longing for tobacco grew stronger and stronger. She started looking under the furniture, grunting because in every spot she looked, she didn’t find what she wanted.
“Where’s that damn cat?” She muttered.
“Mom. He has a name. Louie, remember?” Rae said, scolding her mother.
Finally, April got up.
“Ugg. I can’t take it. I have to go to work.” She scooped her old but still working cell phone from the counter. “This will be on all day. Call if there’s an emergency but I shouldn’t get any calls because you’ll be in school. Make sure Jackie gets her butt outta bed and that you find that cat and feed it. Get yourself some breakfast too.”
She paused, and then looked at her daughter.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Rae said, smiling.
April frowned at the kid’s good mood. “Go get your sister up,” she grunted, and watched as Rae walked away.
Placing the keys in her mouth and holding her coffee as she opened the door, April looked back at the table one last time, and thought, what the hell, then scooped her cigarettes up and shut the door behind her.