Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Live Writing Exercise 23

We are now nearing the home stretch, and I will try to include a bit more meat with each of these posts.  Meat is good for you, put a little hair on your chest.


            Once they were outside, Brekkyn released Tanissa’s arm, and proceeded to kick the aquarium’s welcome sign.  This was like the fits her little cousins sometimes threw, back when they were two or three years old, Tanissa reflected.  She didn’t want to stand around watching it, but she was afraid to say anything to her, in case . . .

            In case what?

            The day was overcast and very cloudy, but felt hotter than the last few sunny days.  “You thirsty?” she asked quietly.  “We could get Slurpees at S--”

            Brekkyn spun around, her hands in fists.  “Let’s go,” she ordered, and started in the direction of the convenience store.  The Slurpees were on special, but they got them free anyway, and Brekkyn, who was still stewing asked, “You ever smoked before?”

            “Cigarettes?” Tanissa asked.  Her aunt smoked, but it had never been an attractive habit, especially the way her dad and mom hated it.  In fact, she’d promised her parents she would never start, the last time they’d talked about it.  “No.”

            “Well, today you are,” she said, and got the clerk to give her a pack of Kools.

            “Uh uh,” Tanissa said, following the other girl out of the store.  Brekkyn did not hold the door for her, and it nearly hit her arm hard enough to knock the Slurpee out of her hand.  Brekkyn kept walking. 

            “We could do something else,” Tanissa offered, aware of a bit of a whine in her voice, but unable to do anything about it.  “There’s that vampire movie we were talking about when--”

            But Brekkyn had already gone around the building, through the little alley and toward the garbage dumpster. 

            Tanissa coughed.  Something awful was in her throat, and coating her mouth.  She tried to spit.

            Even before she noticed the cigarette in her hand, she knew what had happened.  She could feel the smoke inside her chest, and something else, a light-headedness she associated with hanging upside down from the jungle gym as a kid.

            “What did you do to me?” Tanissa demanded, but of course she knew.  Brekkyn had wanted to smoke, but she hadn’t wanted to smoke alone.  She tossed her Kool onto the ground and gave it a healthy stomp.

            “You shouldn’t have said that to me,” the mer-girl said, matter-of-factly.

            She seemed so proud of herself, so prim and proper with half a cigarette between her fingers like that, that Tanissa was suddenly filled with loathing for her.  “Said what?”  She honestly couldn’t remember.  “You were so angry at your mama for smoking, and now you--”

            “That’s different.  This is cigarettes.”  She sighed, appearing to give in, even though she wasn’t.  “Look, you’ll get used to the taste.  Same with beer, although I hated the taste when I tried it.”

            Tanissa was mortified at the thought that Brekkyn would make her smoke and drink and sneak out on her dad, to get her in trouble, to make Dad made at her (or worse, disappointed).  But what could she do?  How could she stop herself, if Brekkyn wanted her to do something?

            The thought was disturbing, and suddenly, she felt sick.

            “You gonna upchuck?” Brekkyn asked, amused.

            Somehow, Tanissa held it in.  She didn’t want to give the brat the satisfaction.  She would spend the rest of the week with her dad only, and do whatever she could to keep away from her new best pal.  Maybe it would work out okay, but she dreaded it.  Which was worse, to be enemies with a spoiled, magical bully, or to be her only friend? 

            “Please don’t make me do stuff, Brekkyn,” she said, as calmly and politely as she could.

            “Or what?” the other girl sneered, taking a deep puff from her cigarette.

            “Or we won’t be friends anymore.”

            That had the desired effect.  Brekkyn froze, her eyes widening in what appeared to be regret, or at least hurt.  And she said no more.


           They rode the bus home in silence.  Or rather, Tanissa rode silently, while Brekkyn kept asking her what was wrong, what her problem was, why she was acting that way. Tanissa didn’t know how to explain it to her, or if she could express her feelings with words and not tears. 
            And was it even worth trying?  Could someone as spoiled and used to her own way as Brekkyn Mannion even understand the rights and feelings of others?  Was it something they had covered on My Little Pony or McKenzee and Cassbie (which somehow seemed the less likely of the two)?

            They got to the apartment complex and Brekkyn burst into the living room for no discernible reason other than to scare her mother.  The woman was sitting on the couch, the television off, reading a book that she slipped by her leg when the girls walked by.  Tanissa thought it was a Bible. 

            “Girls,” she said, looking like a kid in Time Out.

            “Hey,” Tanissa said, but her daughter said nothing.

            Brekkyn immediately suggested (was it a suggestion?) they finish their Monopoly game. It was too cool in that room, the air conditioner blowing as though trying to keep meat from spoiling.  Iggy Azalea played from the girl’s iPod speakers, and Tanissa longed to be out of the room and back with her dad, who could be home by now, if he managed to sneak out early.

            Brekkyn landed on one of the properties Tanissa owned, and her breath caught in her throat for a moment as she anticipated . . . what?  A tantrum?  Retribution?  Monopoly was a very hard game to cheat in, and that made it a challenge to intentionally lose.  The best she could manage was to pretend the Chance cards she drew were all bad and hope the dice were against her. 

            Nearly an hour into the game, there came a soft knock on the door.

            “Yes?” Brekkyn called out. 

            Her mother opened the door halfway, not coming inside.  “Tanissa honey, your daddy’s here for you.”

            Ahh, saved by the bell.

            She stood up so fast she thought she might stumble, and moved toward the door.  Mrs. Conlee met her eyes for the briefest second, then she took a step back to let her guest go through.

            “Thanks for the game,” she called back to Brekkyn.
            Dad stood just inside the apartment, his white shirt and uniform on, his tie removed.  He looked uncomfortable.  “Hope she wasn’t any trouble,” he muttered to Mrs. Conlee.

            “No, she’s very sweet,” the woman said, patting Tanissa on the back with her bony hand.  Then she stopped and watched them head out the door.
            “Thanks,” Tanissa said to the poor woman, and their eyes met one last time before she went down the hall.
            “Hey, baby,” Dad said, rubbing the top of her head.  “How was your day?”
            “It was alright,” she lied, but immediately worried about the smell of tobacco she may or may not be carrying right now.  It was her father who’d asked her to vow not to smoke the year or two before, and she knew it was a much bigger deal to him than it was to her mother. 
            “Home early,” Tanissa said, though he had promised her he would.
            “Yeah.  Your, uh, mom called a few minutes ago.  Wanted to talk to you.  She wasn’t too thrilled to hear we weren’t together.”
            “What did you tell her?”
            “I was already almost home by then, so I just told her the truth.  That you’d made a friend and were downstairs playing.”
            “I’m not sure we’re friends,” she admitted.  “I don’t want to play with her anymore.”
            He glanced back the way they’d come.  “That’s fine by me.  The mother looks, uh, not quite well, you know?  Is she . . .”
            “What?  Is she what?”
            “Nothing.  She just gave me a sort of vibe.”
            Tanissa didn’t know what that meant exactly, but she could agree with it.  It was hard to feel sorry for Brekkyn, even knowing she was lonely, but her mother was easy to pity.
            “So, I need you to give your mama a call.  Just tell her what’s up.  Tell her about your friend--if there’s good stuff to tell, you know?  If not, well . . .”
            He took a big breath.  “And, if you can help it, leave out anything about me going to the airport.”
            “Okay, Dad.”
            “I’m gonna go change.  Just talk to her as long as you want,” he said, handing her his cellphone, and heading up the stairwell (Dad never took the elevator if he could help it).
            She shook her head.  She could tell he wanted her to lie, but didn’t dare tell her to lie.  There was something lovably awkward about that.  She dialed the number, and her mother’s voice was there after the second ring, saying, none-too-sweetly, “Is she around now, William?”
            “Hey, mama, it’s me,” Tanissa said, trying to sound as upbeat and excited to talk to her as possible.
            “What’s really going on, Nissa?” her mother asked, no joy in her tone.
            “What do you mean?”
            “Your dad fed me this story about you not--”
            “I made a new friend, Mom.  She lives in Dad’s building.  We’ve been playing Monopoly.”
            “Honestly?  I thought your daddy was spinning one of his yarns.  Sometimes h--”
            “Nope.  We went to the aquarium, got Slurpees--”
            “Alright, alright.  So, tell me what’s been happening with you.”
            She talked to her mother for a long time—maybe half an hour—pacing up and down the halls and stairwells, wrapped up enough in the conversation that she didn’t see Brekkyn enter the elevator and go up to the third floor.  Tanissa’s mother was very close to her, and worried with them apart, and insisted on many details about her meals, activities, and the amount of television and sleep she was getting.
            “And what’s this friend of yours like?”
            “She’s . . . she’s kind of persistent, you know?” Tanissa said, considering what to leave out.  “Real happy to have somebody around her age.”
            “And why’s that?  Are there no children in your daddy’s building?”  A red flag, apparently.
            “Yeah.  But they’re mostly little kids.  And boys.”  Tanissa missed her mother, but was not as willing to confide in her as she was with her dad.  She wondered if Mama would even believe her if she told her the whole story.  Doubtful.  Her dad, on the other hand . . .
            “Mama, I gotta go,” she said, at last, turning herself around and trying to figure out which floor she was on.  “I said I’d pop popcorn.”  It was a flimsy excuse, but she was distracted.  She promised to be good, and to keep her dad out of trouble (whatever that meant), and hung up the cellphone.

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