Blue skies of 2nd chances
BenAfter I left school I headed home to get ready for the party at Rack’s, my mom and Don were out doing some late Christmas shopping and probably hitting some local bars along the way, and Cassi should still be in school for another hour so that meant that I would have the house to myself for awhile. Usually I park my old beaten up truck alongside the curb but today I pull it into our three car garage. I close the garage door, let the truck keep on running and crack the windows just a bit so I can get a wift of the gas. I shove my hand into my jean pocket and dig out two more viccodin pills, pop them in my mouth and sallow them. I know at any point and time I could die from overdoes, or the inflation of the fumes. The thought of death being as simple as this seems nice to me at times. To just close my eyes and never wake up again is like an easy way out. I lean back and close my eyes focusing on the grinding of the engine.
“Stop Ben, think of Cassi.” My eyes dart open and I jerk up in my seat. I look around the garage, but I’m still alone. The voice is familiar, but there is no possible way it could be him, my older brother had died more than three years ago in a school shooting. I have an outer-body experience and let my mind wander back to March 12th, 2009.
I was only fifth teen at the time and Cassi was only eight, so I would like to say that it didn’t affect her as much as it did me, but you would be surprised at the things children know about the world at the age of eight. I was sprawled out on the bathroom floor sick as a dog with the flu, while Ethan got Cassi ready for school. More often than not I would hear Cassi complain about how her head band didn’t match her outfit, or how she liked it when I dressed her more. I was so weak that I couldn’t even bring myself to stand up with the support of the sink. Every time I moved it was shear agony and I was more than likely to find myself more nauseated than a drunk with a hangover. Before they left Ethan poked his head in one last time, slipping his jacket on.
“How you doing?” he asks setting a glass of water down by my face.
“Awful.” I mumble into the bathroom rug.
“I’ll call you on my lunch period to check on you.” He says looking at himself in the mirror.
“Come on Ethan I don’t want to miss my first recess! “ Cassi yells from the opposite end of the house.
Ethan laughs “I better get going, wouldn’t want to be the cause of Cassi missing her recess. I’ll see you later.” He says lightly slapping me on the back.
“Okay.” I say looking up at him.
March 12th, 2009 was the last time I saw my brother.
From what people have told me my brother died saving twenty people including four teachers. The memorial service took three days to properly commemorate each individual. My family sat in the back row of the church those days along with countless others in a confused mist that settled over the town of West River. Looking at my mother, stepfather, father, and my little sister who was nestled in between my arms it hit me that this was the first time in years that we had all been together in five years. Considering the circumstances though I felt no great need to jump up and down with joy. The only reason why we were being decent to one another was because my brother was dead. Not because it was someone’s birth day, or because someone had graduated, it was because my brother was dead.
“Ben?!” Cassi whispers lightly shaking my shoulders.
I take a deep breath, blink a couple of times, and look at Cassi. “It was just a dream.” I mumble to myself leaning against the steering wheel. I’m still in the garage, and more shocking my truck is no longer running. “It was just a dream.” I mumble again looking at Cassi.
“What was your dream about?” Cassi asks opening the door of my truck and hopping in with me.
“Nothing, just about Ethan.” I say stretching my stiff arms and legs.
“Oh …” she says playing with the seatbelt. “I miss him.”
“I do too squirt.” I say climbing out of the truck and offering to help her out. But she waits for me to put my arms down before she jumps out.
“So what are we going to do tonight?” she asks picking her Bratz doll.
“We’ll as soon as mom and Don get home I am going to a party. You can stay here and color or something.” I say scrunching my eyebrows together.
“What do you want for a snack?” I ask digging through the freezer.
“PIZZA! PIZZA!” she squeals jumping up and down. I should have known pizza has always been Cassi’s favorite food.
“Okay, okay settle down.” I yell over her opening the door to the house.
After I stick the pizza in the oven, I let our dog Spink out, check my email, and spend extra time picking out my clothes for the party tonight. When the timer goes off I call Cassi, and check the time. 5:30, Mom and Don are running late “probably already hitting the local bar.” I think to myself, I’m half tempted to send Mom a nasty text when the door bell rings. I jump down the flight of stairs open the door and am greeted with the usual ring of smoke that accompanies Jay.
“You are never going to believe this man, Vicky and her friend bailed on us for tonight. So I thought we could get some of the guys together and still go to Rack’s Bar.” Jays says flicking his cigarette into the yard.
“Sounds good to me.” I say standing out on the porch. The air outside damp and cool because of the storm that still lingers around the town of West River.
“I thought you would say that.” Jay says allowing himself inside, just like he has done for the past ten years. He kicks his shoes off, saunters up the stairs, plops down on the couch and makes himself at home.
“Hey Uncle Jay! I’m eating pizza!” in between bites Cassi mumbled.
Jay really isn’t Cassis’ uncle, but he might as well be because he has been around her as much as I have. Ever since Jay turned twelve he has been crashing on our couch every night. For his sixteenth birthday Jay did not ask for a skateboard or a pair of roller blades, or even hard cash to blow at the mall. Instead he asked my mom and Don to legally adopt him, naturally they were hesitant at first, but after realizing that Jay needed us it didn’t take long for the paper work to be completed. Since then Jay has officially been a part of our family. After all this time I suppose finding a home like ours, no matter how screwed up I think it is, to Jay it is like winning the lottery.
“I see that kid.” He says flipping through the channels.
“Dude, let’s get out of here.” Jay says after awhile standing up from the couch.
“Can’t, mom and Don aren’t home yet. I’m on Cassi duty till they get home.” I say ruffling my hair.
“That sucks.” Jays mumbles unbuttoning his shirt.
“I can hear you Uncle Jay!” Cassi says somewhere in the kitchen.
I stifle a laugh, “I know.” I mouth silently to Jay across the room, motioning towards my room.
As soon as Jay and I sneak away into my room I unbutton my own shirt and start going through the small pile of clothes I had already picked out for the night. I hold up the shirts one by one standing in front of the mirror carefully inspecting them for perfection. Only to realize that the entire time Jay is standing in the opposite corner of the room watching me like a hawk.
“What the hell are you doing?” he asks striding across the room kicking piles of garbage out of the way.
“I’m just trying to decide what shirt to wear for tonight.” I say narrowing my choices down to three.
“Dude, who cares, we are guys we can look ridiculously good in anything!” he says ripping the shirts out of my hand
“That’s easy for you to say.” I shoot back rifling through a pile of jeans on the floor.
“Yeah, I know one of the many joys of being me. Now would you hurry up, I think the rents just pulled up in the driveway.” He says throwing one of the three shirts in my face, looking out the window.
I don’t even bother checking the shirt, trusting Jay’s decision. As soon as we are both dressed we slip out of my room and into the living room itching to get out of the house. Cassi is busying herself with the new coloring books I bought for her just a few days ago. Her face is all scrunched up in concentration focusing on staying in the bold lines.
“We’re home.” Mom’s voices carries up the stairway as the door creaks and bangs shut.
Both Jay and I jump to our feet ready to get the hell out of the house as soon as mom trots up the stairs.
“Hey guys how was your day?” mom asks slurring all the words together so it sounds like gibberish, unsteadily making her way towards Cassi in the kitchen.
“It was okay.” Jay and I answer simultaneously slipping our shoes and jackets on.
I snatch the car keys from the hook on the wall “Okay well we are going to Rack’s Bar tonight for a party don’t know when we will be back.” I say waiting for mom’s response, but she doesn’t even notice. I elbow Jay in the side and we race down the stairs out to the car before mom can register what I have told her. We bolt out the door and past Don before he can even sputter out a word. Jay gracefully slides across the hood of the car to the driver’s side waiting for me to toss him the keys.
“Tonight I’m driving!’ he says clapping his hands together
“Just make sure we get to Rack’s Bar sometime tonight alright? I’m dying for a couple of drinks, I’ve went a whole three weeks without one, and I’m ready to get wasted tonight! But that stays between you and me!” I say chucking the keys over top of the car to Jay.
Jay slams the car door behind him and cranks the stereo up so loud that the car’s body begins to vibrate. After that he revs the engine a couple of times before peeling off down the road.
“So what’s the deal with you and Harper?” Jay asks slamming on the breaks for a stop sign.
“I don’t know man. One day things are perfect the next day one little fight can is the end of the world to her.” I say rolling my window down.
“Well I say you guys should just be done for good. You deserve a girl who is going to make you happy, you know build you up all the gooey love shit.” Jay mumbles merging into the traffic.
I don’t even answer him; I’m too busy watching the other cars pass us by. The combination of rain and the classical jazz music lolls me into a lazy mid -summer day dream. I close my eyes just long enough to see her face. “I wish it was that simple.” I think to myself.
“So what are you going to do if Harper is at the bar tonight?” Jay asks pulling me back from the abyss.
“I don’t know, probably just ignore her.” I say sounding a little unsure of myself.
“Good!” he says too excitedly pumping his fist.
I spin around in my seat more than surprised by his answer. When he looks back at me I can tell by the expression on his face that he didn’t mean for it to come out that way.
“I’m just going to say it now; I never really liked Harper in the first place.” He says avoiding eye contact for a few seconds. But temptation proves too great for Jay and he glances back over to me.
“It’s alright man.” I say reassuring him. We blow through a couple more red lights and before Jay and I can find something else to talk about we pull into Rack’s bar parking lot.
“Looks like it’s going to be a full house tonight.” Jay says driving around in circles trying to find a parking spot.
“Nah, it will be fine.” I say looking through my wallet for a twenty dollar bill. Until a group of squealing girls and muscle head jocks walk past the front of Jay’s car. Any fool could see that they are already drunk; stumbling over each other splashing through the puddles of rain. They somehow make it past the bouncer and into the bar for few more drinks.
Jay opens his car door “You ready?” He asks throwing his leather jacket into the backseat.
“Yeah ready to get wasted.” I say with a twisted smile on my face opening the car door.