Dayna hit the alarm clock and rolled out of bed on to the floor. Untangling
herself from the bed clothes she raked her fingers through her hair then
went to the mirror, shut her eyes, counted to four and opened them.
Disenchanted, she heaved a sigh of disappointment; another day and she
still looked like shit. Bony, angular and sleep deprived. She let her hair
fall in her face. oh well. there was always tomorrow to wake up beautiful.
Ten minutes later she was on her way out the door. She tended to wear
accessories in multiples, three bracelets on one arm five on the other,
four piercing per ear, two chains, two anklets , thumb and pinky rings and
a chain belt. The affect was a constant tinkling when she walked that made
her sound like a human wind chime.
She checked the living room to make sure all of last night's guests
were gone and that the twins had caught the bus to school. Josh was no were
to be found, but five year olds could hide in a million places if they
wanted so she didn't worry. Dayna had three minutes to leave with out being
late for class. Plenty of time.
"Danny, take off those chains. You look like a gangster."
Dayna looked up at the voice of her mother. She was wearing a robe that was
at least as old as the twins. Her hair was thin and wiry from too much dye
and her mascara had smeared under her wine soaked eyes. The comment was
rhetorical. Dayna ignored it and began gulping down a cup of cold coffee,
but it had vodka in it so she spit it out. She shifted her sight to the
clock on the wall. It said 3:14 which meant 7:19; one minute before she'd
"Danny can you take Josh to day care?"
"Danny, its three blocks from your school, can't you just drop him
"Mom, I'm late. Make Steve or Larry or whatever was here last night
She didn't mean that. She wouldn't let those men alone with her brother for
"John already left for work. Danny, please."
She looked at her mom for the first time in the exchange. The woman looked
so tired. "Danny, I don't want him alone with me all day. I'm not feeling
well. Just please take him will you?"
Dayna looked at the clock; 3:16. She'd be late anyways.
"Josh where are you?" she called walking over his toys. His walls were
covered with things he had drawn; cartoons, family and stuff from his head.
His bed was made which meant he had gotten himself dressed already (the boy
was a meticulous five year old) but his bag was still in the middle of the
floor so he was somewhere in the room.
"Josh come on I'm taking you to Blue Book today and I'm gonna be late."
There was a rustle from the closet and suddenly a skinny boy leaped out
shouting, "HERE I AM!!"
He ran up grabbed his bag and stood soldier style in front of her at
attention. "I'm ready! Are you taking me? Where's mom? Is she feeling sick?
Can I sit in the front seat?"
Dayna laughed as she watched him trot in front of her out the door.
Since she was going to be late at least he was entertaining company.
"Seat belt," she ordered as they pulled out of the driveway. Josh
didn't stop talking from the minute he sat down. Could they please put the
windows down? Was it alright to listen to some music? No not the loud loud
ones something softer. No that man talked too fast; he couldn't sing along.
How about the lady singing about the rain? Alanis Morriset went in and Josh
sang along to the song 'Ironic'. Dayna laughed as he made up half the
lyrics himself and sang loud and throaty. Daniel Bedingfield eat your heart
Josh's stomach grumbled. She looked at him sideways asking, "Have you
had breakfast?" He shook his head no. Looking at the clock she judged how
much time she would lose swinging by Mc D's.
She got off at the next exit making a skid noise with the car that
sent Josh laughing. "Where we going Dayna? Mc Donald's? Yay! Can we take
"Ok, but we gotta go really fast. You honk the horn at anyone who gets
in the way." Josh already had his hand on the wheel, even though he knew
Dayna would have to move it to drive. Tower Street was not really the
street's name, but it had six different tall buildings on it and Josh had a
nick name for all of them.
"Tell me, which building do you see?" Dayna asked.
"Pajama building!" he shouted. It was the bank, but it was two
buildings that rose up then joined at the top so that it looked like a pair
of pants. Next came the Painted Building, which was covered with panes of
reflective glass that mirrored the trees out side it making it look like
one huge mural. Then came the Pencil Tower, the Golf Ball Building and the
Palace Building that had a great Venetian façade. Next was McDonald's that
had the fastest drive-thru in the city. They picked up two egg McMuffins
and a cup of coffee and then skidded on the main road again.
"Ok Josh, close your eyes and don't open them till I say."
Josh knew this game. There was one building left, his favorite and he
had to see if he could spot it.
"Now!" Dayna said and his eyes flew open. He burst into giggles and
said, "I can't see it today Dayna! It's not there!" Dayne looked up and
grinned. The Invisible Tower was made of tinted glass panes and rose very
high in the air. But sometimes when the sky was a certain color it
reflected the sky so that it seemed to vanish into thin air and all you
could see were the dark windows and a few different colored columns that
appeared to be floating in space. Not everyday but some days. On the days
he could see the building Josh would sulk the whole way to school, but
today they were lucky.
She dropped him off and then skidded to class. Twenty minutes late she
walked into her English class acting as if nothing was a miss. Her teacher
stared at her before ordering her to the office.
"I had to drop off my brother. There was traffic."
"Get a note from the office young lady."
"Come on, sir. I'm old enough to drive, vote, bare children, work. but
I gotta get a note from the office for being late? Gimme a break."
"Save it for when you're elected class president, Parker. The office
or the detention hall."
School was always the same, like her face and her mother.
During break she sat with a friend Janis who smoked. Dayna cut a thin
line into her arm as the she drank her coke and Janis raised an eyebrow.
"I'm counting the days till I get out of here," Dayna offered.
"Things bad at home?"
"Please. They don't change. Mom's a mess, she'll always be a mess. I'm
tired of it all damnit! I want out of this town, out of this life."
"What happened last night?"
Dayna shrugged. "A party. Some creeps from God-knows-where showed up.
The twins just called the Brikley's and asked to sleep over. I gave Josh
some Dimeatap and sent him to bed."
Janis flicked some ash over the window sill and looked at Dayna
drawing in a note pad, slouched over the wall where they sat. "So after
graduation you're leaving?"
"Like a bat outa hell."
"And the kids?"
"Shit, someone else has to take care of them! I can't fuckin do it all
the time! I mean dammit, I didn't have them. Mom has to change or
something; I'm so damn tired of picking up the pieces."
"But you said your mom wouldn't change."
"Jan shut up."
Janis shrugged and handed Dayna a cigarette. She took a puff, grimaced and
handed it back. Dayna started erasing something, setting her chains
a'tingle. Janis asked, "Did you tell her you were accepted at Dawson's?"
"NO. I'm not giving her a chance to talk me into staying. I'll miss
Josh. I'll miss Mandy and Melissa. But I gotta get a life."
"Hey man I don't blame you. They'll toughen up. That's what we did."
"We did. And we survived. They'll be ok. I'll miss the kids though."
"So how many cuts away are you?"
"54. Then I'm gone."
The next morning Dayna's mother was dressed in a skirt and a button up
shirt. She had breakfast on the table by the time Dayna came down to leave.
Josh was there eating cereal and her mother asked her to come eat. Dayna
wanted to--- this was an apology breakfast--- but it was a façade. Pretty
like the Palace building, but much less solid. It would last two weeks at
the most and then the mess would start over again and Dayna couldn't stand
it. She kissed Josh who insisted on feeding her some Coco Krispies and then
left without saying good bye.
Dayna left in July. The semester didn't start until September, but she
wanted to move quickly. The scholarship didn't cover dorms but she figured
with her money from work she would manage. Her mother was frantic; crying
one minute and cursing the next.
"What about the kids? What about Josh? He loves you so much and---"
"MOM THEY ARE NOT MY KIDS! Most mothers would be thrilled about
"I am! It's just. you're my baby, you've never been away before."
"Mom I haven't been here a long time. You just never noticed. Take
care of the kids."
She left money for each of her siblings then was gone.like a bat outa hell.
Things at design school were different. The sudden loss of responsibility
made her dizzy at first, but after three months she had found her footing
amongst the girls in floral scarves and guys in purple. She was the charity
pupil and it showed, but she was used to that. Dayna called home every
couple of weekends and on holidays. Josh always answered the phone, but
then he had always been the family answering machine. He talked and talked
about school and the kitten he found and how he scraped his knees while
riding his bike. Her mother was there sometimes, more often asleep than
awake. but in the end Dayna was glad she was away, even though she missed
the drive to school, the endless chatter of her brother and the girls
In the summer Dayna's mother called to tell her she had gotten married to
Steve. Dayna wasn't sure if this was a new Steve or the old one, but she
congratulated her mother and drove down to have dinner. The Steve was a new
one. Her mother was in apology clothing and cooked dinner with sauce and
dessert. Steve looked like a lumber jack and smiled too much, but seemed to
really like the kids especially Josh. After dinner Dayna took her siblings
to the park. She watched the twins chase after fireflies while Josh told
her about school, tadpoles in the pond, mom's drinking and Spiderman
comics. That night she went back to campus feeling empty and alone but
removed. she decided that was good enough.
Over the next two semesters she didn't visit and but called on the
weekends. Josh picked up less and less until finally he stopped answering
the phone in her second year. Dayna guessed he was with friends now that he
was at regular school and she talked with the twins who were interested in
clothes. Steve was always at work and sometimes her mother slurred on the
phone, but more often it was one of the girls, who were always in a hurry
and on their way out the door.
During the summer Dayna thought she had fallen in love. The boy was not
cute but very talented and not gay. She spent the summer designing costumes
for women who got married at the end of the play and who were rich and
beautiful; all completely unnoticed by the ugly straight guy. By the fall,
her grads were slipping and she was starting to forget why she was
wandering around a campus of hallucinating creatives who wore clothing like
it was a statement and not a means of apparel. Late nights made her lose
her job and by January she woke up ugly and crying every morning. It was
time to visit home.
When she went home she found her mother asleep on the couch. The house
was a mess except for Josh's room and Steve was no where to be seen. She
found Josh watching re runs of old X-men cartoons and drawing pictures in
the TV room.
"Where are Mandy and Melissa?" she asked after she finished hugging
"Out. Melissa's maybe at the Brikley's. I don't know where Mandy is."
"He only comes at night."
Dayna watched him draw. "Tell me what's been goin on bro?"
But Josh was quiet. He drew her pictures of herself with all her bracelets
and earrings and pictures of their mother asleep.
Dayna spent a week home and mostly with the kids. She barely saw Steve and
ignored her mother. At 14 Melissa was turning into a pale thin bookworm and
Mandy liked beer and wore too much eye makeup. Josh drew them all even when
they went to the park. When it was time for her to leave, Dayna bought each
of them something and made them promise to come and visit her up north. She
took Mandy's silver nail polish and story that Melissa had written and
several of Josh's drawing to hang on her walls. Watching him draw reminded
her of the reason she had gotten into art school: she loved art and she was
good. There were Shakespearian costumes that needed to be designed.
In her third year Dayna got a call from a social worker. Josh, now in third
grade was not speaking. At all. When asked what the matter was he would not
say anything. It had been going on for two weeks and her mother had not
been helpful so they were contacting her. Dayna said she couldn't come down
right now but she would call. For a week she tried calling home but no one
picked up. She was in a tight spot at school--- it was not a good time to
leave. In a month and a half she'd have a break and then she decided she'd
sort things out.
Three weeks later they called again. Josh was painting himself blue. It
started three days before. They weren't sure why. but he would not speak
and he kept painting his face and arms blue. The county was concerned, the
mother was a blatant alcoholic and the stepfather appeared to be a non-
entity in the household. Since Dayna was over 18 they thought she should be
Dayna told them that she would make plans to leave in a week.
Two days latter the social worker called to say Josh was in the hospital.
He cut himself badly on a piece of broken glass from a mirror he had thrown
himself into. Dayna left 23 minutes after she hung up the phone.
When she saw him he looked pale and small in the white room. He looked like
the poor abused children from the Shield, not her brother.
Later he was taken to a government child center. He still didn't talk. And
he kept painting himself blue. The child psychiatrist gave him paper to
draw on, but all he drew now were black squares on blue. No pictures of
Dayna and her tinkling jewelry or their drunk mother or the tadpoles. Just
plain black squares.
Dayna woke up and rolled on to the floor. She raked her fingers through her
hair and looked into the mirror. She looked like shit again. She had lost
weight and was looking sunken in. She was staying in their old house with
her mother who never wore apology clothes anymore and was gone more than
she was present. The twins were home now and stayed on the floor in her
room. They said they wanted to be around her. Steve was gone. No one asked
were he went.
Dayna watched the twins get dressed and ready for school then sent them off
on the bus to school. They were not little anymore, but pain made them need
special care. She called her friends back on campus to ask about the work
she was missing. They reassured her that everyone understood about her
situation and to take care of her brother. That made her cry. She didn't
know how to take care of Josh anymore.
She wanted to go to the center but the idea of seeing her silent brother
sitting on the floor in the play room stitches still in his arms drawing
black squares made her want to vomit. She made sure her mom was ok and then
got into the car and began to drive. Down the street and on to the freeway.
Maybe she would get a Mc Muffin and pretend she heard Josh's voice
chattering away about cartoons, buildings and music, singing along to
alternative rock and giggling when she made the car skid.
She went to Tower Street and listened as her absent brother told her the
names of all the buildings, making the car skid at the U turn.
She picked up the Mc Muffin but couldn't eat. Then she headed to school.
the only road she knew. Suddenly she slammed the breaks and didn't hear
the tires scream from under her. She knew she had to get to Josh.
She had never driven so fast in her life, but when she got there she
couldn't move. She had to push herself to walk through the door inside the
building up to his room. When Dayna arrived one of the nurses was trying to
force him into the bathroom. He was painting himself blue again.
"Leave him alone!" she hissed. The blue splattered nurse scowled at her and
began to state the doctor's orders. Dayna grabbed her by the collar and
told her that she had three seconds to get lost. The nurses swore under her
breath, but backed off. When Dayna turned around Josh was on the floor
painting his arms and face blue. Slowly, carefully, Dayna sat down beside
him and brushed her fingers through his hair.
"That's a pretty color blue," she said softly. He didn't answer or even
look up. She kept talking anyway. "It's such nice color. sort of grey green
blue. Do you always paint that color blue? Like the morning sky?"
He looked up at her then looked down. Dayna's voice was almost a whisper.
"What are these, Josh? These squaures?" Silence.
"Cus they remind me of windows." He looked up again but didn't look away.
"Like the windows on the Invisible Tower. In the morning on the way to
school? Do you remember? Sometimes the sky was just the right color and the
whole building would disappear and you could only see the windows floating
in the sky. All the mirrors on the outside would reflect the sky and it
would just vanish." Josh was staring at her and crying silently. He still
didn't make a sound but tears came slipping down his nose and cheeks and
caught the sun light like tiny shards of glass.
"Why Josh?" she whispered "Why are you trying to disappear? Why do you want
to be invisible?"
He didn't say anything, just came close to her and nestled his head in her
lap, his little scarred body shaking by her side. They sat that way for an
hour just staring ahead at the window watching the sun travel over head
until they were in the shadows.
Only then did his tiny voice say, "So Steve can't find me."
Dayna felt her body shaking with rage and hurt and deep sadness. If only
she hadn't gone away. If only she had been there to take care of him.
They were both crying now but neither made a sound. Finally she said,
"There's always tomorrow, Josh. Maybe tomorrow we'll wake up beautiful."