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I lie in bed with my eyes open. I'm awake… maybe. I haven't really decided yet. Outside I hear an engine revving as my idiot neighbor leaves for work. We're the same age, but I swear I'm at least twice as mature as him. Then again, he's the one with a job.
I roll over and try to go back to sleep, but then I sense movement in the house. By the soft footsteps I can tell it's Mom. My door creaks open. I pretend I'm asleep, but Mom's always known me a little too well. “How long have you been up?” she asks. I try to hold onto my façade of sleeping for a moment longer, but she doesn't leave, which means that she knows.
“A few minutes.” I finally let my eyes flutter back open. She's standing in pink cotton pajamas with her hands on her hips.
“It's summer. You're supposed to sleep in.” She says, like it's my fault that I'm awake. A slight smile flits past the corners of her mouth, but otherwise she is stony, and it only lasts for a second. I sit up a bit.
“Believe me, if it was up to me, I'd sleep the entire day.”
I shiver. She looks at my window where the first faint signs of dawn are creeping in, throwing light across the snowy carpet. She steps around my bed so that she can stand in it. She closes her eyes for a second. Just a second… and I know that she's hurting.
I roll the rest of the way out of bed and stretch. I'm aware of a collection of macramé bracelets sliding up and down my arms as I flex them. “Do you want some tea?” I ask.
“Thank you,” she says in response. I leave her standing in my bedroom, soaking in the first rays of sunlight. It's a new day, but it feels like the shadows of the past are all that the new sunrise brings with it. Not hope, not strength… just memories of experiences I'd rather never have experienced in the first place.
I set a kettle on the stove and start grabbing out supplies to make breakfast. Egg beaters, a fresh red pepper, shredded cheese, ham, and chopped nuts. I turn on another burner and begin on omelets. Mom comes down just as I'm finishing the first of them and I hand it to her on a plate. She nods, gives me a faint smile, and goes to sit down in the breakfast nook. A moment later, my father comes trooping down the stairs. “Good morning!” he calls to no one in particular.
“Omelet?” I offer.
“That'd be great. Thank you, Olivia.” He sits down opposite Mom. She doesn't meet his eye, but it's not his fault. I set a plate in front of him, and then go to finish the apricot tea. By the time my little brother has followed the smell of food into the kitchen, I have breakfast and a smile waiting for him.
Dad checks his watch as Cameron takes a seat and dives into his food. “Sorry, all. I have a meeting at 9:30, so I need to go, now. Do you want to go out for ice cream tonight, though?” He looks hopefully at Mom, who glances up.
He takes this as a good sign, kisses me and Cameron on our foreheads, and leaves. Mom watches after him, seemingly in a daze.
“It's not his fault he's so cheery.” I say, smirking. Cameron looks confused. Mom frowns and stands up from the table. I realize she's barely touched her omelet, and I look at her in worry.
“I'm just not very hungry right now.” She says before I have a chance to ask.
My eyes follow her out of the room, and I know she's going back to bed. A tear prickles the edge of my eye and once again I wonder why it has to be her; why it has to be my mom who has to go through this.
“Hey, Olivia? Brandon invited me over to his house this afternoon. Can you take me?” Cameron breaks into my thoughts.
“Yeah, of course.” I tell him. I collect up the breakfast plates and rinse them off in the sink. “What time do you want to go over?”
He squints through the sun, now blindingly bright. “At 1:00.”
I had been planning on going to the mall with my friends at that time, but I don't tell him that. “Okay.”
I shield my eyes from the sun so I can get a good view of my brother, and for the first time I realize how young he is… how very young…