I'm sitting in a brown leather seat that Cujo might've gotten too fangsy with in a past life. Yeah, this car's a piece of shit, but what can you do? It's not mine. It's Mark's piece of shit. Correction: It's "old-fashioned."
It's so hot outside that the road ahead of us is undulating like in those global warming awareness movies you see. Yellow sky, yellow grass, green-leaved trees. The New York Thruway's not the most beautiful place, but it's certainly better than the gas station Mark just picked me up from. At least this way we're moving.
Mark is driving, eyes so focused on the road you'd think he wants to fuck it or something. The glare of the sun is burning my legs that're propped up on his dashboard, and Mark gives my sneakers the occasional evil-eye—stop scuffing up my dashboard. I know it's depressing, but that's most likely the most prominent inkling in his pretty little head right now. Mark happens to be a just a tad too attached to his car, which is why one of my most frequent musings in the past year was how best to utterly destroy it.
"Open the glovebox," says Mark. Still no eye-contact. Coward. I lower my legs from his dashboard, and I swear I can see a look of relief flit across his face before he reverts to vacant bathroom Mark again. I roll my eyes as I hunch over to open the glovebox. I squint when the glint of the little disco ball ornament dangling from his rearview mirror stings my eye. I yank the little glittering ball from the mirror, roll down the window, and toss it into the stagnant air. A car honks from behind us. "What the hell was that for, Ollie?" Mark snaps at me. I open the glovebox and retrieve a stack of envelopes from its meager contents. "Hello? I said-"
"I heard what you said, I just chose not to dignify you with a reply," I retort, tearing the flimsy rubber band from the stack of envelopes. Mark might be sweaty and unfairly good-looking, but no one ever said that he was the sharpest knife in the set. "From Tabby, from Tabby, from Tabby. Is this like 'the Notebook' where she wrote out three-sixty-five sappy letters per year and all of them were intercepted by you?" I ask.
"One, I'm not her parent. Two, you're not her lover. Three, you weren't gone for a mighty reason like serving your country. So no, this isn't like 'the Notebook,'" Mark rattles off. Okay, even Mark has his moments. Ollie one, Mark one. We're all tied up, who's going to win? This is exceptional behavior from Mark, nevertheless.
"Did you intercept the letters?" I sigh.
"No." I furrow my brows. Then why does Mark—oh. Ouch, that almost hurts.
"She never sent them," I conclude. Mark shrugs. I shove the stack of unwieldy missives back into the foul glovebox from whence they came, and I make sure to slam it shut with the filthiest part of my left shoe, rubbing it against the glovebox for extra measure. I examine the layer of dirt left behind and I deem it satisfactory, reclining into my seat.
The drive, like the line in the DMV, seems to last far too long to reach a point that I am not anticipating with a delighted smile. So I break the silence because I just can't seem to help myself.
"I see they put up a new sign," I say, noting the "Littleton, NY" sign is finally repaired.
"Things change in three and a half years," says Mark. Yeah, no kidding.
Not twenty minutes later the car's pulling uphill. There's the first of the tombstones on our steep-hilled graveyard. Fun fact: There's a creepy forest at the top of this hill. And where did I grow up? Well, it's the big creepy house by the edge of the forest with the riveting view of the graveyard. Sometimes I wonder how ye olde real estate agents would have sold this dump of a property.
"Well, there's a lovely forest where you might find game," I would have said in their place, "and look! Not too much of a hassle for your children to get you buried after you died. It comes at a nifty price, and I imagine you'll find the creaking of the staircase a charming new addition. You can light candles in the night when the power goes out and wonder if a zombie's going to slink up behind you, you'll get ballsy teenagers as your Halloween trick-or-treaters annually, and your taxes won't be too high. Oh, and look! The church is only two blocks away!"
Yeah, I don't think that would've won them over either. So much for the budding career in advertising that I never prepared for.
Mark gets out of the car to open the iron-wrought gates, which, like most things on this property, are rusted over and tend to shriek when moved. Mark returns to the car, slamming the door shut behind him. He shifts from park to drive and coasts over the snap-crackle-pop gravel into the large, circular driveway. He parks the car, and we sit there for a spell. Mark fidgets for a moment, opens his mouth like he's gonna say something for once in his goddamn life, and then he shuts it. Well, I can't say I'm disappointed.
I unbuckle my seatbelt and open the car door before proceeding to rattle the car with one of my sharpest door-slams yet. Hopefully it'll dent. I knock on the trunk, and Mark pops it open from inside the car. I hoist out my baggage and close the trunk, marching up to the rickety front steps of the imposing, faded-yellow Victorian house, the forest swaying in the idle breeze.
I open the decrepit screen door, open the unlocked front door, and I enter the house that still gives me nightmares—
"Ollie, SHUT UP, YOU'RE ALREADY GUILTY-"
"I DIDN'T DO IT, I SWEAR, PLEASE, I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER, I WAS DRUNK AND SO WAS SHE-"
"YOU'RE A MURDERER! YOU KILLED HER!"
I stand frozen in the doorway, fists quaking the earth in a storm and I can't stay here, can't be here, can't can't deal with this I'm not ready I swear this is where I lost everything and I'm feeling so much just standing in the doorway I should leave go someplace else where I'm not some monster where I'm not Ollie Mae but someone let me leave this hell, anywhere but here—and that's when Mrs. Blake that old batty bitch shows her face.
"Ollie!" she greets me, all warm and sunshine-smiles and I fucking hate her so much. I try to smile for pretense's sake but it just doesn't work and she throws herself at me unceremoniously, wrapping her arms around my neck in an embrace like she's saying, "I can strangle you like this and everyone would think that it's just a gesture of how excited I am to see you." Fucking hell, get me out of this joint. I don't hug her back, and I hope she gets the message.
"Mrs. Blake," I say when she finally releases me from her deadly embrace.
"Ollie, there's someone here to see you," Mrs. Blake gushes to me. Oh, so that's why she's all hypes and giggles.
"Joy," I say, dropping my bags on the floor and following Mrs. Blake into that sixties-style kitchen. It looks almost like something out of the movies, and it's disgusting. I search the room and…oh. There is someone here to see me.
I can't say I've ever seen her, though. She's got sleek black hair that's wild and voluminous, she's pale like a vampire, her eyebrows are perfectly arched, lips red like blood, and when she smiles her teeth are white like pearls, canines sharper than a pick-axe. In short, she's beautiful and she doesn't belong in this ratty kitchen with us blue-collar drama queens.
"Ollie," she addresses me. I nod slowly. Yes, that's my name, oh marvelously stunning woman. And who might you be? "I'm Kendra, your aunt." Oh god I asked her that question aloud. Well, now that we're introduced…
"You're my aunt?" I repeat. Kendra nods like it's no big deal, but…other than Gramps…I've never had…well…living or known family. "Which side of the family?" I ask, sitting across from her.
"Don't sit down. I was thinking we could go for a walk," says Kendra, eyes sliding over to Mrs. Blake.
"Oh. We could…we could do that too," I agree, eyes trapped by her nacreous teeth.
"Alright," says Kendra, rising to her feet. I follow, and the next thing I know, we're outside again. We walk into the graveyard. "I'm your mother's older sister." I nod slowly. Okay, feeling a little dizzy is normal, I never knew about this and frankly it's quite shocking. Why does nobody ever tell me anything? Oh, right, because I was in fucking prison for three years for underage drinking and other trumped up charges that were just a nice way of saying, "We strongly believe that you killed Nora, but we have no evidence to back our claims up. Have fun behind bars, bitch."
"So…my mom had a sister," I say after a long moment of silence.
"Two, actually," Kendra corrects me. I blink.
"And where's the other-"
"Dead," Kendra says, glancing aside.
"Sorry," I offer, although I really could care less by this point. Kendra shrugs. "So why now?"
"What do you mean?" replies Kendra.
"I mean, why are you only coming to see me now? Why not when I was five and I was an orphan in need of a parent?" I clarify.
"I was occupied with other matters," Kendra says uneasily.
"Other matters?" I repeat.
"They were of utmost importance," Kendra assures me.
"I'm sure," I deadpan.
"Seeing as you're still just a fledgling, I don't see why I have to explain myself to you anyway," says Kendra. "You got raised pretty well from what I can see. You learned how to handle yourself in a prison, and that's good enough. Things're gonna be hard from hereon out."
"I'm well aware," I laugh.
"In ways different than you might predict," says Kendra. "Be careful, Ollie. There're things going on in the boondocks…things you couldn't come up with while high and smashed simultaneously."
"Something even Lewis Carroll couldn't anticipate?" I joke.
"I'm giving you a heads-up, kiddo. This town has a crazy history, and history has a tendency of repeating itself," says Kendra.
"Could you be any more cryptic?" I growl.
"Have a nice day, kiddo!" She might be my aunt, but she's an asshole. I go back to the house and hope that someone will put me out of my misery already.