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The soothing purr of my family’s Aston Martin DBS ceased as the vehicle came to a smooth stop. We were at our new home. Our realtor had told us that it was the nicest house that was for sale in the small town of Irony, Texas. Irony. What an odd name. Anyways, I wasn’t having any doubt that this was, in fact, the nicest house in this poor town. Though our “estate” as the brochure called it was only a mile out from the edge of this village, the road we were on showed us plenty of what this “Irony” place was like. Small houses, cottages at best, erratically lined the side of Main Street. Tractors (I had believed their presence in tiny hamlets like this one was just an unpleasant myth) appeared more often than the shacks the townspeople cooped up in. I was sure that my family, the wealthy Eadberhts, was the richest in town.
I was unsure why people like us, so high above the unprosperous citizens of Irony, would move here. New York seemed like the perfect place to live. My father, CEO of Freeman Brothers Investments, was one of the wealthiest men I knew of. Irony seemed like a weird place for a man like him. CEO Edgar Eadberht had said, “Clara, sweetie, your mother and I want to lay low until this financial crisis passes.” Despite my discomfort to move to such a poverty stricken place, I cooperated as I knew my father wanted me to.
The worst part about this place, as I knew from our visits to our estate, was how dirty it felt to be amongst the people of Irony. It almost felt like these impoverished people would rub their lack of intellect and money onto me. Becoming like them was a most unpleasant thought. I swiftly cleared my mind and didn’t let it bother me anymore; that would never happen.
I had been attending Irony High School for only one week and my isolation from the other students was already tangible. I chalked it up to the fact that I seemed to be the only one who spoke Standard English without slurring or drawling my words. Pride for my impeccable speech swelled up in me when I saw my classmates; that feeling was almost as strong as my contempt for those people. How could I help but feel superior to students who were unable to even talk?
I made this point to my mother when I got home. She merely shook her head and said, “You need to get used to it, Clara. We might be here for a while.” At the time I refused to acknowledge the hidden meaning in her words; I assumed that she meant the economy was in more trouble than we had originally perceived.
It was that afternoon that I fatefully glanced at one of my father’s papers. The image on the page was of a small house not unlike the ones on Main Street. Hastily reading the description, I felt the anxiety build up inside of me. What could this possibly mean? Why would Edgar Eadberht, CEO, even glance at a house like this? A list of possibilities formed in my head. Maybe work had something to do with it, could he have been trying to find a site for a new guest house, or perusing the obviously pathetic real estate market?
The questions threatened to consume me, so I made it a point to wait in Edgar’s armchair until he came home. I was unsure as to how he continued his job as a CEO from such a remote venue, but I refused to allow my mind to wander that way. Previous experiences in my life taught me the implications of such behavior. When the doorknob to the study turned I exhaled loudly, though I was unaware that I was holding my breath. In walked my father, Edgar, staring quizzically at me and my presence in his chair.
“Why do you have this?” I asked him, holding up the piece of paper. I tried my hardest to sound sweet and understanding, but my urgent need for information pushed past these attempts.
I witnessed Edgar’s face transform; his eyes grew visibly darker, his jaw tightened, and his ears pulled back. Fear was evident in his expression in the same way that it often is with animals. My own face started to change as my father opened his mouth to speak.
“Oh that?” He said, paradoxically sounding lighthearted and guarded at the same time, “I just bought that for storage space.”
My mood lifted entirely. Why I worried in the first place was a mystery to me. Storage space made perfect sense; this house was too small for everything we brought from New York. I told myself I was just developing a case of paranoia and that I didn’t need to worry at all, especially from a financial standpoint.
To prove this point to myself, I opened the door to a large closet in our study where we stored our old technology. We kept computers, TVs, phones, iPods, DVD players, sound systems, and more behind that door. Admittedly, I was quite shocked when I peered inside the closet. Most of our things were gone! I quickly shut the heavy wooden door and turned to face my father, who had been watching me silently from the other side of the room.
“What happened?” I inquired of him, this time not bothering to evaluate his facial expression. He was an empty shell now anyways; his mask was on, and I knew I couldn’t get anything out of him then. Still, with this in mind, I asked.
“To what Clara?” He asked me, trying to play dumb. I could see right through him, as always.
“Our stuff!” I exclaimed, unable to find a better word in such a time of panic.
“Ah, Clara!” He turned to me, smiling in a way that didn’t meet his eyes, “I moved them to the storage house! Don’t worry your little head about these things. I’ve got it all under control.”
My returning smile was as phony as his. He bought it, and I figured it was because he was so desperate to calm me down. The move to Irony was really getting to me. I never used to worry about anything, everything would seamlessly occur as I desired. I could, however, feel the change in the air. It wasn’t just the uprooting from New York to Irony that made the atmosphere tenser. I could feel something coming, something I was sure to dislike. Something ominous was careening from beyond, something that would destroy the fabric of my universe.
Another uncomfortable week passed. The students that I always had looked down on had started treating me in a way that was completely alien to me. Unless I was wrong, my classmates were feeling pity for me. These startling waves of bizarre emotion caught me off guard. Perhaps they felt bad for me because I didn’t have many friends at Irony High School. I couldn’t think of any other reason for them to be throwing sympathy my way. The kids were all poor with unsuccessful parents; I should have pitied them.
On Friday a most peculiar thing happened. A boy to whom I had never spoken (this was primarily because he pronounced the word “again” “uh-gee-yin”) shook his head at me sadly. I stared at him for a minute, perplexed by his actions, until he handed me a copy of the Irony Inquirer, the town’s newspaper. My family did not receive this newspaper; we were still reading the New York Times and The New York Times only. The Eadberhts were not particularly fascinated by the local news. I promptly shoved the newspaper in my tote. The boy was shaking his head again, and I wondered what the source was of his misplaced sympathy.
I looked forward to going home, or to the empty house I lived in. The house seemed to be growing emptier and emptier; paintings were disappearing from the walls, our sculptures no longer occupied out garden, our closet of old technology was growing smaller by the second, and some old couches we had in the sitting room had vanished as well. Once again, I could feel something horrible looming in my near future. Not knowing the reason behind this fear was the most frightening part.
On the ride home I opened my backpack to look at the article the boy had seemed to want me to read. The ride was long (our house was as far from the center of town as we could manage) and I wanted to kill some time. I unfolded the small newspaper and read the bold headline that ran across the page: Freeman Brothers Investments: How the Economic Crisis Killed a Company.
My heart started beating a million miles an hour. What happened to Freeman Brothers?
“Dad!” I said, gasping, “Is our company okay?”
His eyes, which had been looking at me through the rear-view mirror, suddenly focused on the road. I could tell he was distancing himself from me so that he could better hide whatever it was he wanted to keep hidden. I had a strong feeling that this article would answer my questions. I tried to read it but my nervous state caused my vision to cloud and my heart to beat in my ears. Something was not right. This was what I had had premonitions of.
I blinked several times and opened the paper back up, determined to read the words that had all the answers, but Edgar interrupted my futile attempt. I silently growled in frustration, looking out the car window to those decrepit houses on Main Street. When the houses no longer moved past my field of vision the way they do when you are looking out a car window, I looked back into the rear-view mirror at my father. We were parked outside the storage house. It was complete with the tractors and brightly colored shutters that exuded an aura of low class.
“Clara, sweetie,” my father said in an almost apologetic tone, “welcome home.”