White Wicker Chairs

March 1, 2012

My life has always been about being better. Fitting in. Filling in the spaces of a cracked picture, made to glow in seamless beauty.

Clothes from the Gap, glasses never smudged, I gleam like a trophy sitting on a shelf from a championship game past by.

Family. That means something to most people, right? Or at least it should. My family screams eloquence. Every word matters, painting the illustration of our illustrious life. Not one word is spoken without the consideration of which stepford housewife down the street will turn scandal on us next. It’s all about the image, but nothing can last forever now can it?

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We are the Parkers, calling home 29 Belmont Avenue, Savannah, Georgia. A bit outside of the hustle and bustle of the port city, but definitely still within the boundaries barring off ra-ra-rich land from the rest of the world. Drive up the quarter mile drive towards a stone wall. An iron-clad gate opens, unfolding expanses of green space.

Go Straight. Do not turn. Do not pass go.

A large house comes into view. White, with a picturesque set of stone pillars out front, framing the blue double doors. A terrace protrudes out from above, covering the wrap-around porch stocked with wicker rocking chairs. How quaint. Shutters open leave curtains waving in the wind, flapping through the pane to relieve themselves from the stiff air within.

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As a master of the sixth grade, I can competently tell you that I am indeed the smartest person in my family. The most aware. The one who cares the most. And more importantly, the one with the story. Outside of the fourteen bedroom house, one might assume luxury and extravagance reside within. I may have been one of those people, up until the past couple of weeks. But now, friend, I can tell you with deep conviction that this residence is not the case.

Open on a father, Patrick James, who has recently lost his work at Bank and Tellers Inc., devastation to most in 2007. Pan across the room and zoom in on a wife beaten down with blame and discontent, the shame of her falsehoods and drunkard husband. End Scene.
Two teenagers jump into their matching Mazda Hatchbacks, racing away into the oblivion of school. JT, James Tyler, rifles through his soccer bag searching for his IPod for the drive into school. Sofia bops her head in beat to the new Christina hit, dodging traffic cones as she passes by the pothole outside of the Starbucks. Seventeen without a care in the world. Adulthood on the horizon, with adolescent angst fading into the darkened abyss of a childhood soon forgotten.

A little boy, waiting for the bus to pick him up, stranded at the end of a never-ending driveway. Corner of Desolation and Lost in Time. Salvation waits at the mailbox. It’s 7:47. Where is Mr. Grove?

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The world is holding its breath, waiting to exhale. A family paused in time, waiting for me to press play.

Go on. BREATHE. And NOW!

Start scene!

The First Step on a Long Road to Nowhere

“KIDS!” Francesca bellowed up the spiral staircase once more, beckoning to her children one last time. It seems that she is always in this position. Slaving over food for someone else, ironing shirts for someone else, raiding the pantry for the last sleeve of DoubleStuf Oreos for someone else.

Who is this someone else? And why is it not her? Who made it a rule that once you have a kid, it’s all over? What kind of sick person would even think of something so disgusting? First a shotgun wedding, then twins of all things. Years later, another boy. All these years, or least the past seventeen, have defined her as something in regards to another person. Patrick’s Wife. Sofia and JT’s mother. Michael’s mom. Never Francesca— never a comment to the effect of “Oh! I wonder who that beautiful woman sitting over by the lilies is… have you met her before?” She would sheepishly glance over from her seat at the tea table as he rose from his perch by the tennis bar. Gracefully sliding his hand into hers, he would exhale “My name is Jeffery, Jeffery Belington. How do you do, miss?” –all in one southern breath. He would ask her off to some exotic place, and they would be happy forever.

“Moooooooom! Did you wash my yellow shirt?!! You know…. The one with the lace in the corner?” Of course. The laundress. How could she forget that title.

A door slammed, startling Francesca. Sounds of feet pattered down the marble staircase. Loud thumps thundered throughout the front foyer as JT jumped down the stairs past Michael.

“Hey mom—what’s for breakfast? Anything good? I’m hungry.”

Oh yes. One of those sort of days.

“Of course JT, pick something out and I’ll whip it up. You know the drill.”

“Mom… can I pick something too?”

“Just have whatever your brother has Michael. We do not have all morning. And where is your sister? SOFIA! Come down this instant!”

“I’m coming! Just wait a minute…”

Francesca left the staircase side, glancing down the hall at a closed door. Shaking her head with a sigh, she walked through the dining hall towards the kitchen. Coming up to the granite countertop, JT held up a box of waffle mix. “Mooom… how about this?”

“Sure, honey. Go get your bag together. Make sure you have your clothes for soccer. I do not want to get another call asking for shorts or socks or whatever you happen to forget.” JT passed through the wide entryway towards the living room, leaving Michael and Francesca alone.

Francesca beat the eggs, cradling the bowl in her arms. Waffle-irons warming up on the counter, she added the white powder to the bowl. Gently folding the mix into the batter, she glanced up at Michael, who seemed to be staring at her work.
“—Mom… do you think we could add chocolate chips…?”
“Um, well… sure I don’t see a reason why not.”

Michael shimmered in the light poking through the windows over the sink. A broad smile crept across his face. Francesca scooped the batter onto the iron and closed it. Steam rose from the sides, searing the waffles from the inside out. Michael’s eye caught on a dent in the granite. Leaning over from his barstool at the island, Michael’s finger rubbed over the nick. Slowly, he studied the indention. His finger began to move more quickly, picking at the granite, scratching at its surface.
“Michael! Stop! What are you doing?”
“…Uh…. Nothing…”
“Well then, do nothing somewhere else. Waffles are up!” Francesca pulled the waffles off the wide waffle-iron with a fork and placed them onto plates. Walking over to the table where Michael now sat, she lowered the plate—
“Gee mom, thanks!” JT snatched the plate from her hand. Michael’s face dropped a bit as he watched his special chocolate chip waffle drown in syrup across from him. Francesca set a new waffle in front of him as Sofia walked through the entryway.

“Oh! Waffles! Yummy!”

“Oh no, young lady! —no waffles for you! The Junior League Ball is in two weeks. You will not fit into your darling dress at this rate. Grab some fruit salad. I cut some up last night and put it in the fridge.”

Sofia scowled into the fridge, searching for the bowl of berries and melon. Bowl now in hand, she turned back towards the island, her long brown hair shining as it tumbled over her face. Gently sweeping bits of hair out of her eyes, Sofia sat down on a metal barstool. Scrunching her nose, she leaned over her bowl and speared two blueberries with her fork. Bringing the fork towards her mouth, she gave one last audible sigh. Francesca did not turn.

“Speaking of the Junior Ball, Sofia, I scheduled a hair appointment for you down at Jay’s for a test run Thursday—”
“—When Thursday?”
“Mother, I told you I had plans already. You never listen EVER—”

A door creaked open and then slammed shut. Loud thuds vibrated throughout the foyer as heavy footsteps ascended the staircase. Shuffling of feet, then another SLAM.

Michael cowered in his seat, sliding down until his eyes met the wood. JT held his fork, poised with a sopped waffle bite. No one moved. Francesca found herself frozen at the sink, waffle bowl and sudsy sponge in hand.

Wind blew, pushing rosebush blooms up against the glass door. Trees waved outside, branches shaking in the breath. Francesca listened, ear tilted towards the ceiling. No more footsteps. Sofia scraped her stool back from the island, pushing away from her bowl. Picking up her fork, she placed the dishes in the sink, avoiding her mother’s perched grip, white spreading over her knuckles and hand.

“Mother, I’m leaving. I’ll be home after practice. Whitney is helping me with my side-flip after school.” Sofia passed by the table, grazing Michael’s chair on her way towards the garage. The door shut and a loud metal sound echoed as the garage door opened. An engine revved, and then silence.

“…Boys— time to go. JT, can you give Michael a ride to the bus stop? I need to finish these dishes.”

JT and Michael grabbed their bags from against the wall and left. Going through the door, Michael looked back at his mom. She was bent over, facing towards the cabinets. He couldn’t see her face, but he heard one small gasp. Turning towards the garage, Michael blinked back a tear. Climbing into the backseat, JT started his engine and backed out of the garage. Daylight poured into the car. Michael shut his eyes, blocking the rays of the too-bright sun from his unprotected corneas. Driving past the yard, JT let Michael out at the top of the drive. The SpongeBob watch on Michael’s wrist read 7:36. Only nine more minutes until the bus.

To be continued…

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