The door shuts with a loud bang. The vibrations travel through the house and shake the furniture. From inside the kitchen a loud, raspy voice booms, "Taylor Lee, how'd ya be?" Grandpa.
He's been saying that to me for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I would try to come up with neat rhymes that I could say back, but nothing ever sounded right.
"I'm fine," I shout from the living room.
I hear his heavy footsteps crash through the house, getting louder and louder the closer he comes. I watch the corner until his round face peers out from around the edge. Short, gray and brown hair jets out from his chin and upper lip. Blue circles with light lashes watch me like I'm the first ray of light they've seen in ten years of living in the dark.
I squirm in my seat and glance at the clock, 3:57. Why is he home so early? It's Wednesday, he's suppose to go and play cribbage with his pals and drink 'coffee'.
"Hi," I say looking back at him.
"Hola! Que tal? Como estas?"
I smile and role my eyes playfully, "Estoy Bien."
He smile, then his face drops, "Did you make your bed?" he asks. A dark glint shimmers in his eyes.
I hesitate uncomfortably, "This morning."
He nods and turns around, heading back to the kitchen. I listen to what he's doing for a bit then convert my attention to the T.V.
After a few minutes of clanking pots and clashing pans he shouts to me, "Come here and help me cook!"
I sigh heavily and glance at the clock, 4:07. "Dads going to be here in a bit," I shout back.
I focus on the show again only to be interrupted by another loud shout, "Well, you need to learn how to cook."
I roll my eyes, "I know how to cook."
"Yeah, Like what?"
"Lots of things." I hit the pause button and wait for a response.
There's silence for a few seconds the, "You're going to be a wife one day and you're going to be expected to cook something for your family…."
I quit listening to him and play the T.V. I laugh out loud as Gabe Duncan come out wearing a shirt dipper.
I look back at the clock, 4:14. I'm just about to start watching television again when his loud voice echo's through the hall, "Did you make your bed downstairs?"
I shake my head, "Yes!" I hear him grunt, followed by a loud crash.
My heart picks up slightly as I quickly hit pause and shout, "You ok?"
There's silence for a bit and I'm just about to go and see what happened when he answers with a bark, "I'm good."
I slouch back down into the chair and look back at the clock, 4:17. He should be here any second. As if by magic, the front door jiggles and swings open with a ding.
"Avery!" grandpa shouts.
I hit play and wait for him to enter the room. Sure enough, grandpa tells me to the T.V. off and help my brother with his homework.
I hit power and set the remote down on the counter. I slide the T.V. tray between my chair and the edge of the couch. Five seconds later Avery pops his head out from around the corner, backpack in hand.
His cheeks are slightly red from the cold and his smile stretches across his face. I mirror him, our crisp, brown eyes glimmering.
"Get your homework done," grandpa says, making some more noise.
I nod to the tray and raise my eyebrows in question, "So, what do you got?"
He walks over and sits down dramatically, "math."
I pretend to look horrified as he pulls his folder out of his bag.
"Turn the T.V. off," he booms.
"It is," I say.
I look back at the tray to his worksheet. "Do what you can and then when you're done I'll help you out," I tell him.
He sets off to work and I lean back into the pillows after about seven minutes he pokes me. "Yeah?" I ask.
"Number ten," he says pointing to it.
I reach out and snatch the paper, reading the directions. I set it back down, "What it's asking is how you find 'x'. Remember we did this last week, first you need to subtract then divide," I explain.
He stares at the paper for a god minute before he finally understands what I'm saying. His eyes light up and his mouth opens in a big o, "ohh, I remember now." I nod and sit back.
"Did you make your bed?"
I sigh inwardly, "Yes, this morning." I listen to him in the kitchen moving around like crazy.
"Done," Avery beams.
I open my mouth to tell him to let me see it, when grandpa comes crashing in, "Give it here," he demands.
Avery looks at me, ten cautiously hands his paper to him. We both tense up as he reads it over. His face is tight and his mouth is set.
"Everything's right," he says. Avery sighs. "But, you spelled first wrong."
I sigh and Avery takes his paper back to fix it. "You should know how to do this," grandpa says harshly.
I open my mouth, but Avery beats me to it, "Grandpa, don't!"
"I'm just saying, you need to learn how to spell."
I sit straighter in my seat. "I know how to spell," Avery snaps.
"No you don't."
"Yes I do."
"Obviously not if you can't even spell first right!"
"Ok," I say gently, "He made an honest mistake and he knows now. He's just not a very strong speller."
"Well someone has to teach him!" he yells. His face is turning different shades of red as he speaks.
"The teacher is, you taught him, now leave it be," I tell him with a little bit more force.
"The teacher isn't doing a good job. He can't spell at all and I'm just showing him!"
Something inside me snaps, I don't know if it was the tone in his voice or the way he's always harassing Avery on how he can't do things. "You did and now he knows, just let I go. He got his homework right," I say through clenched teeth.
I glance over at Avery, his eyes are huge and his body is stiff. He's looking directly at grandpa's angry face.
"Well he doesn't know how to do it, he's stupid!" he says, his voice on the brink of yelling.
I gasp and look at Avery. His eyes glass over and he throws himself into the nearest pillow.
I turn my gaze and glare at grandpa. His eyes are blazing as he taunts me to challenge him. If he wants something, he'll get something.
I open my mouth and let everything loose. Every single time he yelled at me for something I didn't do, every time he insulted my parents behind their back in front of me, every time he forced my to do unnecessary things comes back at him in a fit of rage. "How dare you say that! Just because he can't spell a word doesn't make him stupid! In fact he scored about average on all of his test. You have no right to call him anything!" I scream at him.
His face turns a deep shade of red and he whirls around, storming o the kitchen.
The second he's out of sight I'm by Avery's side. His body is shaking and small whimpers escape his mouth. I kneel beside him and whisper in his ear, "Look at me."
"No," he cries.
I start to rub his back, "Look at me," I repeat. After a few minutes, he shifts and peeks out of the pillow. "Hey, I sooth, patting his head, "You're not stupid."
"Yes I am," he yelps and shoves his face back down.
"No you're not! You're one of the smartest kids I know. Grandpa's just drunk and doesn't know what he's saying. He's the stupid one, I mean look at me. I absolutely suck at spelling, yet I taking advanced classes."
"That's you, I'm me," he shouts into the fabric. Thankfully, it's muffled and it doesn't make it to grandpa's ears.
I sigh as he mumbles to himself. "Turn off the T.V." he yells.
"It is," I yell back, flinching at the sound of his voice.
"I don't like your mouth!" he screams at me.
I roll my eyes and look back at Avery.
I jump when I hear him in the entryway, "I don't like your mouth," he repeats.
I turn to him and stare him down. In an even voice, I channel all my hate into my words, "You didn't have to call him stupid."
He blinks in surprise, but quickly composes himself. His beer belly swells up as he responds, "I-"
Do you think mom's stupid?" interrupt, "Cause, she isn't the best speller, yet she graduated on the honor roll, with a few hundred kids to compete with. How about me? Do you think I'm stupid? We all know how well I spell, but I'm getting the best grades in our family while talking advanced classes."
He grunts obnoxiously and glares at me. We stare each other down until his gaze shifts to Avery. I smirk and he gives me a hard stare, "I don't like your mouth." He says each word slowly, expressing how much he loathes me. The words wash over me and he turns back to the kitchen, grumbling under his breath, calling me dirty names.
I spin around to Avery and look at the time, 4:39. "You're fine," I tell him shakily, "Dad's going to be here soon."
We both gasp as there's a huge ban in the kitchen, followed by a even louder screech, "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!"
Avery's eyes look like they're going to pop out of his head as I grab his arm and pull him toward the kitchen. I lean down and whisper, "Don't make eye contact."
My knees knock together as we get our stuff. I throw my backpack over my shoulder and open the door for my brother. He rushes out and I turn to leave.
Grandpa coughs and I snap my head in his direction.
"Go make your bed," he demands rudely.
I throw him a dirty look and slam the door shut. I walk over to Avery and hug him, his short hair brushing the underside of my jaw, tickling me.
I slowly peel him off and take his hand. Together we walk down the hill to the baseball park, our footsteps echoing in the open air.
"What do we do now?" he asks.
I look down at him and meet his gaze. his warm, brown eyes are searching mine desperately for an answer. "I call dad," I tell him.
We stop at the end of the hill and I pull out my phone. I turn my back to him so he won't see my hands shake and hit the number three. I put the device to my ear and wait. Seconds feel like hours and by the second ring, I'm dancing in place. The fourth ring cuts short and I take a steadying breath.
"Hello?" a husky voice asks on the other line.