Under the intense sun everything was glossed with a monochrome of yellow. She was perched on a branch, resting her back against the wide body of the tree. From under her hood, brown jagged hair peeped out covering her right eye. Her left eye which was exposed was red and swollen. There was no doubt she had been crying.
Luke peered at her from under the tree. "Mel?"
Mel raised her head instinctively and closed her eyes. She knew that voice anywhere. It was imprinted in her mind forever like footprints on the moon.
"Where the hell have you've been?" Her voice rang out, angry.
A few birds near his feet shuffled uncertainly. He had no answer.
He looked at his hands pretending to have found them interesting. But there was no evading his sister.
She bolted down from the branch with one graceful leap. Once she landed, she hurtled her fist into his jaw.
"What did you do that for?"
"Where the hell have you been?
His eyes flickered at her before veering off to the calm lake spread before them.
"I decided to take a break, you know. Took a couple days to clear my mind."
"Leaving me all alone. Thanks. I have the best brother in the world and now I have the best mother in.."
Something in the way she spat the word mother out was alarming. It was only then he realized how tired she looked, like her lifeline was about to snap at any moment. She worried too much.
"What happened to Janice?" He always called his mom by her name.
"She left us. Couldn't deal with this fucking life. So she just walked away."
"Was it because of me?" He asked carefully.
Mel smiled sadly. "No way. I don't think she even realised you were gone."
"Oh." Nothing left to say.
Mel walked over to the lake's edge. "Don't ever do that to me again alright? I thought you left me for good."
Never again, Luke thought, Never ever.
The rumble of a car cut through the heavy humidity. As the car approached nearer, the driver ceremoniously cranked up the music. His hands were both on the wheel (for once) and a cigarette hung loosely between two fingers. Every now and then, the fingers were brought to his lips to reel in the nicotine.
Stone braked abruptly when he reached them. Waiting for them to get into the car, he stared at them, mostly at Mel. He was always intimidated by her. But not today. Today she was dressed in black, her hair was left open and her eyes stared back at him, brown with crinkles of sadness in them.
He wondered what could have made her so upset. She seemed unguarded today, exposed in a way. She got into the backseat wordlessly. No sharp remarks or abusive commentary at him today. Something about that seemed unnatural.
Luke got into the passenger seat and answered his unasked question. "Janice left us."
Shit, he thought, no wonder the queen of babble was so silent today.
"What do you want to do today?" He asked passing the last cigarette in his pack to Luke. Luke lighted it, took in a deep breath and let out a wave of wispy curls.
He was about to put it in his mouth again when Mel reached ahead and plucked the ciggarate out of his hand. "What the-"
She curled back into her seat and smoked for the first time in her life. The boys stared at her, Luke with indignation and Stone with a stunned expression his hand hung in midair
She looked away at the yellow sky, letting the smoke engulf her.
"Just drive." She said.
Stone smirked and stepped on the gas.