Feeding Fat Animals
By: Nicole Louise Melleby
Dedicated to L.S.D.
(the person, not necessarily the drug)
© Copyright May 2007 Nicole Louise Melleby. All rights reserved.
I'm going to take all my anger out on this notebook. All of the anger and frustration and pain that consumed me and my family throughout the past year, I'm going to take out on this notebook. I almost feel bad for the notebook.
I was never really the writer in the family; actually I was never really anything, well, except the bitch I guess. But after years of listening to Jade speak so passionately about it, I guess it couldn't hurt to step into her little world of pens and pencils.
The year, to us, started always with Jackie's birthday. For as long as I can remember, my mom would never allow us to consider January 1st to be New Years, it was always November 12th, the day of her first baby's birth. Let me explain. You see, ever since my dad left, my mom had been on this "family means everything" kick, so the rest of us just grew to accept Jackie's day as New Year's Day, while the rest of the world was a good eleven months ahead of us. When we were little we even hit pots and pans at midnight of that day. Looking back now, it's kind of humiliating. Actually, it's very humiliating. But whatever. Moving on.
The title that comes with being the oldest is being the most mature, and it was a title Jackie embraced with open arms. Our mom worked a lot, as you could probably imagine, having us four girls to raise, so Jackie took it upon herself to play "mommy" while she was gone. It drove me absolutely crazy, because Jackie was only two years older than me and I hated being told what to do, but the younger two seemed to just accept it and, most of the time, listened to Jackie as if she really were their mother. That drove me crazy, too.
Another thing about Jackie, she was a hopeless romantic. A pathetically hopeless romantic. But she was shy. So unlike myself, she didn't have much luck with guys. And although she pretended it didn't, I knew it bothered her. My theory always was that Jackie divulged herself in work and the younger girls so much so she wouldn't have to realize how alone she really felt without a guy. That was only my theory, though, and I was usually smacked whenever I said it out loud.
Jackie was the only one of us who, well, didn't look like one of us. While at birth she was given the same blonde hair as our mother, over the years she had changed that color with dye to a red color that reminded me of Lucille Ball. She was also the palest out of all of us, usually getting pink rather than tan in the sun, and her eyes were a really dark, dark brown. But all in all, for a woman of twenty-five, I guess I can honestly say she was a fairly beautiful woman. And if she wasn't so goddamn shy, she probably would have had all the boys chasing after her.
Jade was five years younger than me, but for some strange reason, instead of me sharing a room with Jackie, who was closer in age, I was roomies with Jade until I moved out. I'm not saying I minded it; it was actually quite the opposite. Rooming with Jade all those years gave us a kind of bond that the other two didn't have with us or each other. It was sort of nice. I guess.
I wouldn't call Jade strange, but she was definitely different than the rest of us. To talk about her in a more… metaphorical way, the clouds people usually have their heads in, she lived on. She was a writer, and kept mostly to herself. And funny thing was, it seemed as if she were addicted to writing. The rest of us hated to write; we never even did well in the English aspect of school, so we all just considered this Jadie's weird hobby. Everywhere she went, she had a Mead Five Star notebook and a number two pencil, sharpened, and all ready in case she had a craving to write.
Jadie and I looked the most a like and I think it was mostly because of our hair. Unlike everyone else in the family, Jade and I shared the same dark brown color and unlike mom, Jackie, and Izzy, we kept our hair long. Jade also had these huge green eyes, the biggest eyes in the family. We were all jealous of Jade's eyes.
Isabella, known by pretty much everyone as Izzy, was the baby in the family. While Jade and I tended not to feed into her act, mom and Jackie babied her like no one's business. She was fifteen, a whole ten years younger than Jackie, and she loved being the baby as much as Jackie loved being the oldest. She was emotional, attention craved, and, well, I guess at the same time she was an okay kid, too. She loved getting her way, which drove me absolutely crazy, because I mean, I like getting my way, too. She knew how to get anyone out of trouble, though, I'll give her that. If mom was mad, no matter whom at, Izzy could make her smile. We all loved Izzy for this. Especially me, because well, I was the one mom was usually mad at.
Izzy had the same blonde hair as mom and as Jackie had once had, and it was almost always pulled up into pigtails. I hate pigtails. Her eyes were big and blue. They were that color blue that whenever she cried they turned that "look at me I'm a cute baby crying" color that no one can say no to, so she always cried to get what she wanted. Needless to say, Izzy cried a lot. I hated that.
Then there was me, Charlie. Not Charlotte, never Char, just Charlie. I guess every family needs someone who is simply pure evil, and I'm almost positive most of the time, that person was me. I'm not even exaggerating; I could sneeze on you and you would become slightly more evil. I really don't know what else to say about myself. I consider myself to be vindictive, selfish, and until I met and moved in with Timothy, I would have to say I considered Jade to be my only real friend. And that's only because we were roommates for a million years. I mean, me and Timothy have people we hang out with from time to time, don't get me wrong, but I wouldn't consider them friends. More like acquaintances I guess.
Oh, I'm married, by the way. Did I forget to mention that?
Yeah, surprisingly enough, I managed to meet a guy, fall in love, and marry him. I'll spare you the mushy details of our relationship, because besides maybe Jackie, no one really cares about that stuff. But one day there he was, my Timothy, with that bad boy look and long hair he had. Oh, and those earrings! We were young when we met, I was about twenty and he was around twenty-four, and a mere eight months later, we were engaged.
My family was – shocked – to say the least. Ever since I was a kid, I was always friends with the boys and didn't care so much for the girls, so when I brought Timothy home, they never thought for a second that we could be serious. When I came home with a ring, my mom nearly died. It was the greatest moment of my life.
She did try to stop me, though I really don't know why she bothered. She tried with the "you're too young to get married" and the "you don't know what you want yet" and the ever popular "you're just doing this to spite me". But my mom knew that, being the stubborn person that I am, I was going to do this whether she liked it or not, and the more she fought it, the more passionate I would become about it. So my mom eventually grew to like the idea, or at least grew to accept it, and I got married later that year. Only problem was, since we were a young couple living on basically minimum wage, we spent the first few years of our marriage living at my mom's house, God bless us. We stuck Jade in a room with Izzy, which she was not happy about, and Timothy and I shared my room.
It was an okay solution for a while, but things just got way too crowded. Jade and Izzy fought a lot more than normal, Jackie, who never liked Timothy for only God knows why, fought with him almost everyday, and everyone became more and more tense with each other. It just wasn't a good time. So basically, on the night of my twenty-third birthday, mom and Jackie sat me down and gave me two bullshit choices: either Timothy and I buy a house together and move out, or they kick Timothy out.
It goes without saying we decided to rent an apartment.
I wish I could say I was sad the day I moved out, but to be perfectly honest, I really wasn't. Jade was upset, and I mean, my heart really did go out to her. Honestly it did. But really, I just needed to get out of there and start my own life with my husband. Besides, I came home to visit a lot. And I mean a lot.
Sometimes, and in a way, it almost felt as though I had never left. You see, Timothy worked a lot more hours than I did, and I really hated being alone. I'm not complaining; I know it was necessary. I'm just saying I got lonely.
But I guess that pretty much brings you up to speed. I guess, really, that's where this story starts.
It was one of those days where I was left home alone bored, wondering whether I should a) make myself something to eat or b) sit blankly in front of the T.V. You know, one of those days where you wake up in the morning, look outside at the clear sky and the bright sun and think: what a beautiful day - the kind of day that starts with a hearty breakfast and ends with a newsreader saying, "... before turning the gun on herself." That kind of day.
I had the morning shift at the diner I worked at and Timothy had the night shift at the restaurant he worked, so by the time I got home he was getting ready to leave. This is how the cycle usually went; the only time we really always had together was the very late hours of the night. So we never really slept, just so we could spend time together. I know that sounds kind of cute and romantic, but it really wasn't. We just needed time to talk.
I'm not a person who can sit still and just relax. And when I had my afternoons to myself, especially after getting no sleep the night before, you'd think all I'd want to do is nap. Nope. Not me. So on those days when boredom completely took over and drove me crazy, which it did on most days, I hit the road to my mother's house. Like I said, it was as if I never left. My house was only like eight minutes from my family's. When I pulled into the driveway, the first thing I always did was count the cars to see who was home. This particular day, only Jackie's car sat in the driveway, which meant mom was still at work, Jade went out somewhere after school, Jackie either had off or got out early, and Izzy, the only one not old enough to drive, could or could not be home. I hesitated for a moment, considering whether or not I felt like dealing with Jackie and Izzy, and after deciding I could con Jackie into cooking me something nice to eat, I turned the car off and got out.
"Yo! Jackass, you home?" I shouted as I entered the door. Jackass was my little nickname for Jackie. She absolutely hated it. Within reason, of course.
"Upstairs!" Jackie yelled down. I closed the door behind me and walked into the kitchen to raid the refrigerator. I was surprised at how rundown the house had looked since my last visit. It seemed a lot…dirtier and as if there were a lot less decorations and accessories. Which was weird, because if you knew my mom, you knew she loved having everything look just pish posh and fabulous.
Izzy was sat at the kitchen divulged in her homework. She was always the good kid who came straight home from school and started her homework right away. She definitely didn't get that from me.
She seemed very absorbed in her work, so I figured I'd ignore her and walk straight to the refrigerator to grab something to eat. I opened the door and starred into the refrigerator for a good ten minutes trying to find something that looked half decent to eat, when Izzy interrupted my thought process with, "mom's on one of her health food kicks again" without looking up from her work. I moaned, grabbed an apple, and took a seat at the table across from Izzy. Ever since our dad had left, every so often mom would go on these random kicks. Eat healthy food. Family means everything. Always wear pink and a smile. Yeah, she was a real kicker, let me tell you.
The day's mail was placed at the table across from where I sat, and being the nosy, no let's go with, curious, person that I was, I reached over for it and started going through it. Izzy looked up from her work for a moment to see what I was doing, gave me a look that said "get out of our house" and went back to her work. Izzy hated that I visited so often. We didn't really get along too well.
Bills. Bills. Junk. A letter to the parents or guardians of Jade Clarke. More junk. To Jaclyn Clarke: IMPORTANT. Magazine. Bills.
While I admit the letter for "the parents or guardians" of Jade made me curious, because it was addressed from her school and I'll admit I get excited when someone else in the family is getting in trouble, the "important" letter for Jackie really got me going. I held it up to the light trying to read what was inside of it.
"What are you doing?" Izzy asked, skeptically, and with a little attitude I might add.
"Don't worry about it." I said, still trying to see through the envelope.
"Jackie's been weird about the mail lately. She's going to get really mad." Izzy said, putting her pencil down to really focus on me. I ignored her. "It's a federal offense to go through other people's mail." I continued to ignore her. Unfortunately for me, it was that exact moment Jackie decided to walk down the stairs, her hair still up in a towel, too lazy to blow dry it from after her shower. She starred at me without saying a word, trying to figure out exactly what I was doing, holding the letter up to the light.
Izzy, being the goodie two shoes that she was, decided to sell me out almost immediately. "Charlie was trying to read your letter, I told her not to!"
Jackie pretty much
leaped across the table and grabbed the letter out of my hand "What
is wrong with you!" She shouted at me. Not being able to control
myself, I laughed. Well, up until the moment I realized Jackie was
almost in tears. I stopped laughing and paused for a
"Something wrong, Jackass?" I asked, sounding almost honestly sincere.
"Izzy, go do your homework upstairs in your room for a bit for me." Jackie asked, noticing that Izzy was staring at her, almost in tears herself. Izzy always cried when other people cried. Izzy looked at me, then back at Jackie.
"Something's wrong?" Izzy asked, sounding about ten times more concerned than I did.
"No, sweetie, everything's fine. I just need to start getting set up for dinner and I need the table." Jackie said, in her mother voice, leading me to believe she just wanted to get rid of Izzy so she wouldn't worry and so that maybe we could have an adult conversation.
Izzy looked at me. She honestly looked concerned, but I nodded, letting her know in my subtle way that I was here to save the world, and she gathered her books, looked at Jackie one more time, and headed up the stairs to her room. Jackie put the letter back on the table without opening it, which killed me because I really wanted to know what it was, and without saying a word went over to the cabinet to take food out for dinner. "You staying for dinner?" She asked me.
"If that was an invitation, then yes. Timothy won't be home until like two." Jackie continued to take out pots and food supplies to cook the dinner. While I only mastered the art of microwavable meals, Jackie was a pretty decent cook.
She worked in silence for a few minutes, which irked me because I knew she wanted to talk, but I respected that she just wouldn't at the moment, so I took out plates and silverware to set the table. "Charlie, you really have no right to go through my stuff." And she speaks.
"I didn't open it or anything, dude, relax." I said. It's not like I could see anything; I really didn't see the big deal.
"Relax? Charlie, it's an invasion of privacy. You did it when you lived here and you still do it now that you're moved out. When will you grow up and stop acting like this." Jackie said, continuing to cook the meal, and I noticed her eyes were getting very teary. "You do nothing but cause problems. When you're here, Jade ignores everything else and is all over you as if you're God or something, and ends up blowing off her homework and ignoring the important things. She has potential in life, but aspires you be like you, and there's something very wrong with that. You always end up pissing Izzy off in one way or another, usually making her cry, and causing some sort of drama with that just because you seem to simply enjoy being a pain in the ass with her. Mom and you fight constantly about your career and your life with Timothy when you come home, because let's face it, you're caught right now at a dead end and you should have never left home to marry him. And who's the one who picks up all the pieces when you go back to your own house? Me. That's who." I was getting angrier and angrier with every word that left Jackie's mouth. It wasn't all true, and even if it was, it was whatever. None of Jackie's business, that's for damn sure.
"Okay, Jack, want to stop attacking me and tell me what's wrong?" I bit my tongue from screaming at her. Something was bothering her and yelling and freaking out on her wasn't going to help anything. I was a good person from time to time.
"Go home, Charlie. No one wants you here." What she said didn't bother me. I knew she only wanted to get rid of me because she was hiding something and didn't want me to find out. "Go home, so we have one less problem to worry about."
"Fine. Later, Jackass." I said, and walked out, not looking back. And I went home to enjoy a lonely dinner in my small, and very quiet, house.
Every night, I tried my hardest to be awake when Timothy walked through the door. And every night, I fell asleep on my couch to the sounds of Will and Grace or Friends or one of those other late night rerun sitcoms. But every night, Timothy would come home and lay on top of me. And I would only be mad for two seconds, because I'm always cranky when I first wake up, and then we would just lay on top of each other while we asked about one another's day. Tonight was no different, as he walked through the door, taking off his jacket, and lieing on top of me forcing my face into the couch asking how my day went. The only thing I could think to reply was "interesting."
He ran his hands up and down my arms and laid his head on top of mine. I closed my eyes. "Visit your family today?" He asked.
"Hence the interesting." He laughed, and I moved my head a little, not wanting to feel his breath so much on my face. "How was work?"
"Tiring." He wrapped his arms around me and letting out a long, drawn out yawn, as if to imply that he was going to fall asleep right on top of me. I pushed him off in a playful way, and he picked me up and dropped me to the ground where we started to wrestle. He pinned me down almost immediately, no matter how hard I kicked at and hit him. He turned over and got off of me, and we both laid on the ground laughing and exhausted. No matter what my mom or Jackie thought, marrying Timothy was the best decision I ever made in my life. Sure it was hard. It was beyond hard some days. But being with Timothy made me feel like there was more purpose to my life than, well, being a bitch, and I loved him more than life itself. Not to get all mushy or anything.
"You have the morning shift at the diner tomorrow?" He asked me. I moaned.
"Yeah." I sighed.
"You want to get into bed then? It's getting late."
"Not tired anymore."
"Want to play Playstation then?" I laughed. Timothy and I spent many a nights playing Playstation and talking about our lives together. From the outside we must have looked like a strange and demented couple, but I loved every minute of it.
The alarm went off the next morning, and I did my best to try to ignore it. Timothy and I had only gone into bed not even three hours prior. I figured I would get five more minutes of sleep. Just five more minutes. But one minute into my five minutes, Timothy rolled over and shook me. "Babe." He said, rubbing my back. I moaned in response. "Babe, don't you have to get up?"
I rolled over to face him. "I could spend five more minutes here with you if you'd like."
"No. I want you to get up so I can have your side of the bed." I pulled his pillow out from under him and hit him over the head with it.
I reluctantly, and I swear with a shove from Timothy, got out of bed and headed towards the bathroom to get dressed and ready for work. I didn't feel quite like taking a shower, I wasn't dirty, just very lazy, so I faked it and washed my face and pulled my hair back. It was whatever; I'd just take a shower when I got home anyway. I brushed my teeth, put on my work clothes, and headed out of the bathroom. Timothy was already situated and asleep on my side of the bed, so I didn't bother saying goodbye to him, and I left the house to work.
The diner I worked at was a small, but fairly busy, diner. No matter what time of day it was, we were full of different kinds of people wanting different kinds of food and needing different kinds of service. I was the diner's main waitress. For some strange reason, I was their best waitress. Don't ask me how or why I was considered the best, I just was. I mean, don't get me wrong, I was the hardest worker anyone could ask for. But I just wasn't a people person, and when it came to the customers I waited, well to be quite honest, I guess I was pretty god awful. In my defense though, it wasn't my fault. Our customers were just always so god damn retarded.
This particular day, we were full of special customers. And for some reason I had the pleasure of waiting them all. There was a middle aged man who came to eat by himself, which I have nothing against, but who asked for my number about twenty times. And after I said no about twenty times and told him I was married, as nicely as I could I might add, he still proceeded to give me a "love tap". Scum bag. There was also the elderly couple who complained about anything and everything in the restaurant and sent back their food about a million times. Yes, for the record, I will spit in your food.
Then there was this younger couple who sat in the back corner by themselves, and it wasn't until I went towards them that I realized why no one sat near them. The woman smelled horrible. And I mean horrible. Like, I honestly have no idea how that man, who appeared to be her boyfriend, could stand being near her. I had to hold my breath just to be able to take their order.
But at least they were all quiet. I also had the pleasure of serving today the lady with the screaming baby. I remember thinking if I was the lady, I would have given up and just went back home. Actually, if it were just me and the baby, I wouldn't have left home in the first place. I would have stayed home and enjoyed the company of my child in my house. I would be able to stay home and not feel alone and not have to visit my mother's house and be told off by Jackie. And if my baby decided to through a hissy fit, I wouldn't be in public annoying the hell out of everyone who was just trying to enjoy a nice quiet meal to begin with!
I was bringing another cup of coffee to the sleazy middle aged man, when I noticed Jade walk in and take a seat at one of the tables in the corner. I motioned to one of the other waitresses that I would wait on her, filled the sleazy man's cup trying my best to avoid another tap, and made my way over to Jade. "Shouldn't you be in school, missy?" I said as I made my way over to her table, trying to do my best Jackie impression.
Jade laughed. "I don't feel like taking gym this morning. I'm going to go in late. I figured I'd visit. You going to tell Jackie?" Jade looked like a cross between a punk and a nerd. She had on a baggy pair of jeans and a baggy, grey zip up hoodie with the hood up over her head but she carried around her notebook and pencil and sat down at the table writing as she talked.
"I'd be a pretty big hypocrite if I told." I said, shrugging. It was true. I barely went to enough classes to graduate high school. "You want anything? It's on the house." I asked her.
"No that's okay. Can you sit for a bit though?" I looked around at my tables. Everyone looked pretty content for the moment, or at least as content as they were going to be.
"Sure, I've got a few." I took the seat across from her and watched her write for a bit. I always wanted to know what she wrote, but I never asked. I always just figured it was a personal thing. She never offered to let me read it, so I always just assumed she didn't want me to. Surprisingly, and knowing how much of a nosy person I am, I was okay with that.
"Hey, Charlie?" Jade said after a minute or two, closing her notebook and looking up at me. The nervousness in her voice startled me.
"What's up, kiddo?"
"You think I could spend a couple nights at your house? Things are kind of weird at home." She said, looking back down at her notebook.
"Weird how?" I asked, thinking back to my conversation with Jackie, which was pretty much the definition of weird.
"I can't really explain it. But mom's different. Jackie's different. Izzy told me how Jackie flipped out on you, so you know that. She does it all the time now. Something's up. And I just don't want to be home." Jade looked back at me, and for the first time since she walked into the diner, I noticed the black bags under her red, worn out eyes.
"Jade, are you okay?" I asked. The question seemed to take her by surprise.
"I'm fine." She mumbled quickly, which led me to believe she wasn't. "Charlie, I just really need a place to stay."
"Look, Jade." She sighed. She knew where I was headed. "I just can't. There's no room in my house, you know that. And Timothy and I are hardly home and it's just too hard right now for us to let you stay. I'm sorry." It was all true. And I really was sorry.
"Come on, Charlie. I can sleep on your friggen couch. I'm small."
"Jade, you come on. You're going to just leave Izzy? And mom and Jackie obviously need the support. You're needed at home." I tried to be the voice of reason and play the "family is important" card.
"You were needed at home and you still got married and left." Ouch. Didn't see that one coming.
"Forget it, Charlie." She interrupted me. I hated being interrupted. "Forget I asked. I have to get to school." She got up and stormed out. I didn't bother chasing after her. Another thing we shared in common was our temper.
I went home after work when my shift was over in a hurry, hoping to catch Timothy before he left to start his shift. I walked in the door and caught him as he was struggling to tie his tie. "Need help?" I said slyly, walking over to him, putting my arms around his waist.
"Stupid tie isn't working." He said, not wanting to give up the fight with his tie. It was a pathetic sight that I really couldn't stand watching any longer, so I hit his hands away and took the tie from him to tie it around him myself.
"Let's not blame the tie for your own faults, dear." I said with a smirk, as I finished, and it was tied, in my opinion, perfectly.
"Yeah, yeah." He gave me a kiss on the forehead. "Thanks, babe. I have to get going." He started to walk away, but I grabbed him by the arm before he could. He stopped and gave me a confused look that seemed to say, "What the hell are you doing?"
"Wait one second. I need to ask you a favor." I could tell by the way he looked at me that he knew that he should expect not to like the favor I was about to ask. He just looked at me waiting for me to continue. "You have off tomorrow night, don't you?"
"Yes. My first day off in two weeks, Charlie. Why?" He said, stressing the fact that it was his first day off in fourteen days.
"I was thinking about maybe inviting my family over for dinner tomorrow night." I said. After my conversation with Jade today I had a sick feeling in my stomach, and I needed to do something. Sitting them down for dinner and having a conversation with them was the best I could come up with in such short notice. Timothy didn't seem too thrilled with the idea. He kissed me on the forehead again.
"We can talk about it when I get home." He said, sighing. "I really have to go. Goodbye, babe." I let him leave without saying goodbye back. We both knew I wore the pants in this relationship and if I wanted to have my family over for dinner, I would have my family over for dinner. Sometimes I guess I'm a little too independent for my own good, because let's face it; I really didn't care if Timothy wanted my family over or not. So once, and practically immediately after, Timothy left, I picked up the phone to call my mother.
The phone rang. And rang. And rang. And for some strange reason, instead of hanging up, I just listened to it ring for a good ten minutes. I was pretty confused; I was calling my mom's work number, and not only was no one picking up, but the answering machine wasn't clicking on.
I tried two more times before giving up and calling the house line. Unlike mom's office, the phone barely rang once before someone answered. "Hello?"
"Yo. Izzy?" I guessed. I really didn't know. They all sounded the same on the phone.
"Yeah." Izzy replied, her voice sounding almost disappointed in realizing it was me calling. "Not stopping by so you feel the need to call so we don't forget about you?"
"Don't kid yourself, Iz. You know you'll never forget me." I replied, thinking that Izzy probably was going to hang the phone up on me.
"What do you want, Charlie." She asked, after a short pause. The pause of deciding whether or not to hang up on me.
"Mom or Jackie around?" Not that I really wanted to talk to Jackie.
"Mom's still at work and Jackie's taking a nap." Izzy replied, sounding more and more impatient with me with each word.
I decided not to ask why on earth Jackie was taking a nap instead of being at work. I didn't really care all that much. "Is something wrong with mom's phone?" Our mom owned a small, pink, dance studio, about a half hour away from home. It was funny though, because while mom was one of the best dancers I knew, the three of us, Izzy, Jade, and I, were God awful. Jackie was decent. But anyway, her studio was small, but from what I understood, she had about a thousand students. How they all fit in the studio, the little pink studio, is beyond me.
"Not that I know of." Izzy replied, sounding suddenly interested. "Why? What happened?" Knowing better than to worry the baby, I replied nothing.
"Look, Iz. Just tell mom when she gets home to call me; it doesn't matter how late. Timothy and I want to have you all over for dinner tomorrow night."
"Why?" Good question.
"Timothy has off and he hasn't really seen you all much since we moved out." I replied making up a decent sounding reason. Izzy bought it, we said goodbye, and I hung up the pone to retire to the couch. Hopefully Timothy wouldn't care too much that I basically ruined his day off.
I don't know when exactly I fell asleep, but I will always remember having the world's most bizarre dream that day. I was in a classroom; a small, empty classroom, save for a bunch of empty student desks, an empty teacher's desk in the front, and a chalkboard. No students. No teacher. No decorations or student work of any kind. It was almost eerie. But then slowly, and as if they were fading into focus, images of people began to come into view.
They were fuzzy at first; too fuzzy and out of focus to recognize, but after a couple uneasy seconds, familiar faces started to take shape. A figure sat at the teacher's desk and I recognized it to be my mother. She looked worn out and she was slumped over and, to my surprise, crying. I had never seen my mother cry before. Not when my dad left. Not when my grandma or poppy died. Not ever. To tell you the truth, it was horrifying. She didn't say anything, she didn't move. She just sat at the teachers desk in the front of the room and cried.
In the corner of the classroom, the out of focus figure sitting against the wall facing the corner slowly came into focus as Jackie. She wouldn't look up. She just stared down at the bottom corner of the wall. Her cheeks were red, and she was rocking back and forth hugging her legs. Another horrifying image: watching a grown woman, not to mention your grown sister, rock back and forth in the corner of a classroom.
And next to me, the final fuzzy image, was Izzy. She didn't seem to notice Jackie or mom, or at least she didn't pay any attention to them, which was surprising because she would be the first one to run over to them and hug them and be all over them. But she just sat next to me holding a little paper football.
Izzy stared at me, and I kind of just smiled at her at first, but she just kept staring. It kind of pissed me off, but then she held up the paper football and I realized she wanted to play. So I held up my hands to make the goal, and she flicked the paper football at me. A phone started to ring, she missed the goal, and I woke up.
I opened my eyes slowly, too lazy to rub them, so pretty much accepting that everything was going to be blurry. The phone really was ringing, but I closed my eyes, not caring enough to answer it. I heard footsteps and a faint "Hello?" from the other room, letting me know that Timothy must have gotten home, and I must have fallen asleep for a lot longer than I thought.
"Okay. Great. See you then." I heard come from the other room. I waited for Timothy to come lay on top of me, but his footsteps seemed to be headed towards the other way.
"Timothy?" I said, groggily, sitting up on the couch. I wiped my eyes trying to be able to see a bit. He was on the stairs headed towards the bedroom. He paused for a moment, turned around, and came towards the couch. "What the hell, dude, you were just going to go to bed and leave me on the couch? Whatever man." Timothy would never leave me on the couch unless I deserved it. Actually, Timothy would never do anything to me unless I deserved it. So at this point, even though I pretty much knew I must have done something wrong, I was just playing the victim.
"I just got a phone call from your mother." And there it was. "She said to tell you that she thinks the family coming here for dinner tomorrow is a fabulous idea. She's bringing crumb cake." He was pissed as hell.
"Timothy, sit down, before you freak out—"
"What? Before I freak out, what? Realize that I should have known you were going to do this without considering whether or not I cared?" Timothy interrupted. I hated being interrupted. "Before I freak out, what? Keep in mind that you are always this selfish and I should have expected it?"
"Timothy, come on, don't do this." I really didn't have much of a defense. What he was saying seemed pretty true to me.
"Fine. I'll take that back because I know you better than that and I know I love you and you love me and all that crap. But God, Charlie, you knew that was my first day off in like forever. I just wanted a nice relaxing day at home with you, if that's so hard to ask, and you have to invite the in laws from hell for dinner." He sat down next to me on the couch in an exasperated way.
"Something's wrong at home." I said, looking at him. "I need to figure out what."
"You're at that goddamn house all the time. You can't figure it out then?" He just didn't get it, and I was almost just too tired to argue.
"I don't go over there to talk, I go over there to waste time. Jackie flipped out on me really bad the last time I went over. Something just doesn't seem right. They're my family, Timothy."
"Maybe if you didn't go over there so much Jackie wouldn't have a reason to flip out." That pissed me off. There was no need to throw that into the argument.
"Maybe if our work schedules weren't so screwed up I wouldn't have to go over there all the damn time." I looked away from him. I hated getting angry.
"Let's not make this about our personal life."
"You brought it up." We sat in silence, neither one of us knowing what to say next. "I don't go over there too much." I said, after what seemed like forever.
Timothy just stared at me for a second. "You're kidding, right?"
"Well if it weren't so goddamn lonely in this house I wouldn't have to!" I yelled, defending myself. It was almost a funny scene if you thought about it. We were both too tired to stand up and actually have a fight, so we remained seated on the couch, yelling at each other. Timothy put his arm around me and I put my head down on his shoulder. "Working sucks."
"Paying bills sucks."
"Never seeing you sucks."
"Paying bills sucks."
"Being married doesn't suck, does it?" I asked. Sometimes it felt like it did.
Timothy held me tight. "On the nights we argue, yes." I let out a small laugh. "But, babe. Knowing that I can come home every night and you'll be here to play Playstation with, or wrestle with, or just hold onto, makes everything worth it." I hated when Timothy said things that were romantic. But I kissed him anyway. I put my head back down on his shoulder. "You really feel that alone every day? That alone that you go visit your family every day?" He asked, suddenly.
"Yes." I said with a shrug. "I do."
He looked up at the ceiling. "We'll need to fix that."
"How?" I laughed. Timothy liked to solve things that there were, seemingly, no solutions to.
"I don't know." He said, yawning, causing me to yawn. "We'll get a dog. Or two dogs. Or have a baby. I don't know." His face turned beat read after he realized what he suggested last. I shot up and sat upright.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa." I started to shake and I didn't know why. "What was that last part?"
Timothy swallowed. His throat always got dry when he was nervous. Matter of fact, it made our first kiss very awkward. "Have a baby?" I paused. A million thoughts ran through my head. Was I ready? Could we handle it? Afford it? "Stop thinking." Timothy said, after he realized my head was shooting off in a million directions. I looked at him. "What, Charlie? Do you want one?"
I paused. Did I?
"No, Charlie. Don't think about it. Just answer me. Do you want a baby?"
"Yes." I said without thinking. The answer scared me. A lot. I stood up from the couch. "Let's just go to bed. We need rest to prepare ourselves from the 'in laws from hell' as you call them" I said, holding my hand out. I didn't want to talk about anything serious anymore. My head hurt. I was tired. I just wanted to sleep.
The next day was pretty much the longest work day of my life. I spent my entire shift making lists in my head of all the crap I had to do before my mom and sisters came over. My mother was very…pish posh…and most of the time the order we, okay I, kept our house in was not to her standards. Not even close. So when I got home I gave my house the most extensive cleaning it had been given in a very, very long time, ordered food that I would place on our nice plates and pretend I cooked myself, and take out and display all those tacky, pink, sparkly home decorations my mom had given me over the years that I merely stuck in a closet.
By the time the doorbell rang, Timothy and I were half passed out on the couch from the exhaustion of making the house acceptable to my mother. "Maybe if we don't answer it they'll go away." I said, way too comfortable to get up and answer the door.
"This was your idea, remember?" Timothy said, and much to my liking got up to let them in.
"Oh, hello, Timothy!" I heard my mother say in her excited way, as she threw her arms around him.
"Hi, mom. Come on in." He said, and my mom, with a big smile on her face, walked into my house, followed by the three girls, who each said nothing on their way in. They walked into the living room where I was sitting, and I got up to invite them into the kitchen, where dinner was ready.
"You cooked?" Izzy said, skeptically.
"Yes. I did." I lied, with a smirk, as the family sat down to eat.
We ate in silence for a while. It was an awkward situation, to say the least. Jackie wasn't talking to Timothy, as usual, I sure as hell wasn't going to talk to Jackie, and Jade wasn't talking to me. Mom, being mom, decided to talk about everything and nothing the whole time while the rest of us just sat there and ate. Izzy chimed in, annoyingly as usual wanting to be the center of attention, every so often. I couldn't even tell you what either of the two talked about. I just focused on my corn and how I hated getting it caught in my teeth and how next time I would cook, okay fine, order, something else. Maybe Chinese.
After we finished, Timothy started to get up to help me clear the table, so I whispered to him asking if he could think of a way to get the three girls into the living room so I could be alone to talk to my mother. I could tell he didn't want to, but he agreed anyway. "Uh, Jade, you any good at Playstation?"
"Bet I can beat your ass at it." She said with a smile. Her smile made me feel better, and at the time I couldn't tell you why.
"You're on. Izzy, you play winner?" Izzy looked thrilled to be included, and jumped up to follow them into the living room. Jackie, hating Timothy so much she didn't trust him with her so called baby sisters, followed them as well to keep a protective eye on them, and I was alone with my mother. I knew I married Timothy for a reason.
I began to clear the table myself and, much to my annoyance, my mom decided to help. I'm not ungrateful or anything, it's just you would be annoyed to if after every dish you washed, your mother would take that same dish and rewash it. We washed in silence for a while, which I didn't mind after an entire dinner of listening to mom talk and talk and talk, as I tried to think of a way to ask her what's been going on at home that's got everyone up in arms. But of course, the silence was too much for my dear mother, and she decided to speak first.
"Well, haven't I been talking up a storm tonight? Charlotte, doll, tell me how you've been." Oh, how I hated being called Charlotte. I cringed.
"Charlie, mom." I corrected her. I couldn't help it; Charlotte was so, just, not me.
"Oh, honey, Charlie is a boy's name. Charlotte is so proper and…"
"Pish posh?" I interrupted her. She rolled her eyes and continued washing the dishes. "I've been good. Lonely I guess, but good."
"Lonely?" Mom asked, very interestedly.
"Yeah, well, you know both Timothy and I have to work long, hard hours. Our schedules don't really work out very well with each others. It's just…hard." I never really understood why I felt the need to just be honest with my mother and not keep my mouth shut.
"Being alone is the price you have to pay to be financially stable, dear." She said. "You just had to get married, after all."
"I know this. I wasn't complaining." I said harshly, and then decided it was time to change the subject before we got into an argument over me and my marriage. "But forget me, ma. How've you been?"
"Busy, but you could have guessed that with well, the girls and the studio." She said, and then fell quiet.
"Izzy and Jade are getting big now, though. Jade's a senior with a car, she can't be too much trouble." I said, trying to dig deep into the wonderful world of Mom. "Plus, you've got Jackie helping out."
"It's not that simple." Mom snapped suddenly, which made me mad. I didn't say anything yet to deserve to be snapped at. "You think working is hard? Just wait until you have children, you'll see."
"Yes. I will see. Sooner than you think." I was getting angry, and most of the time when I was angry, I didn't think before I spoke.
My mom froze. I kind of did, too, but I wasn't one to back down. "What?" My mom asked. I wasn't quite sure how to respond.
"To be quite honest, ma, Timothy and I discussed having a baby." Again with the honesty thing. My mother's eyes shown with complete and utter fear, and I almost laughed at her for it. "What? Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Are you out of your mind?" My mom said, raising her voice. Jackie entered the kitchen after hearing mom getting mad, more interested in watching me and mom fight than Jade and Timothy play video games.
I was shocked. I would have bet money that my mom would want grandchildren. "Are you serious, mom?"
"You are going to stand here and tell me how you and Timothy both work long and hard hours so you can barely afford the rent of this small, two person apartment, and you want to have a baby? Are you out of your mind?" My mom was getting strangely emotional which each word that left her mouth. I looked at Jackie who immediately looked away from me. She knew what was up.
"Look mom, no offense, but what Timothy and I do financially is none of your business." I said, and walked into the living room. Mom and Jackie followed.
"It is my business! I do not want to see my child and grandchild living on the streets!" Timothy looked away from the video game, allowing Jade the advantage to strike his player and win the game.
"What's going on?" Timothy asked, handing his controller to Izzy.
"You and my daughter are going to put yourselves through financial hell, that's what's going on!" I was absolutely stunned. Now my mom was yelling at Timothy all because I had merely mentioned we had discussed having a baby. Timothy was stunned, too. He just stood there speechless. Jade and Izzy stared at Timothy for his reaction. Jackie looked down at the floor.
"Mom, what is going on?" I said, trying to keep a level head and not yell at her. I didn't want to make my mom cry today. "Something is up. I'm not stupid. First Jackie flips out on me, then Jade comes to the diner this morning begging me to let her stay here, and now this. What is going on?" The room fell silent. My mom looked over at Jackie and at Jade who both looked at the ground. Timothy and Izzy both looked around at the scene that played out in front of them in sheer confusion, Izzy looking like she was about to cry.
"We're leaving." Mom said, and walked out the door. Izzy, tears streaming down her face, ran after her, followed by Jade, who gave me a look that seemed to say 'wow, I'm going to kill you for selling me out'. I looked over at Jackie, who just stood in place for a moment. We stared at each other for a moment.
"Look, Charlie." She said after a beat. "You're not part of our home anymore. So just stay out of our problems. They don't concern you." She wasn't yelling, as a matter of fact she spoke rather calm, so instead of throwing her out of my house, I simply talked back to her.
"When my sister comes to me at work begging for help, then yes, it is my problem."
"No, Charlie. It's not." She said. We heard the car horn honk outside, and Timothy opened the door for Jackie, who turned and left.
"Well, that was fun." Timothy said, after she was gone.
"What on earth is wrong with my family." I said, because it was true. Something was definitely, definitely wrong. "I have to figure out what's going on."
"Do you have to figure it out this very moment?" Timothy said, and wrapped his arms around me.
"Well, I should really try and analyze this whole mess that we like to call dinner with my mother." I said with a laugh, pretty much killing what Timothy tried to make an intimate moment.
"Let's not waste my night off trying to figure out how your mother's mind works." He joked and kissed my neck. "Still want to have a baby?"
And me, being the stubborn, driven person that I was, said, "yes, Timothy. More than ever."