Strangely Normal - By Tess Oliver
Sophie’s small finger poked me hard in the center of my back. “Eden, you should come.”
I rolled away from her only to fall into the mammoth sized hole in the center of the mattress. A hard metal spring jabbed my hip as my sister’s finger stabbed my cheek. I yanked my pillow from behind my head and pressed it over my face.
“Leave me alone, Sophie,” I mumbled.
She climbed onto the sofa bed and tried to pull away the pillow. “You need to come to the kitchen.”
Frustrated, I yanked away the pillow and scowled up at her. “If you haven’t noticed, Sophie, this bed is sort of in the kitchen.”
“But Janie is sticking a fork in the toaster.”
I shot up so fast, Sophie fell to the floor. I stepped over her and reached my four-year-old sister, Janie, just as she plunged the fork prongs in. I grabbed her hand. The fork dropped to the floor, and she burst into tears to join Sophie in a chorus of sobs.
I lifted Janie into my arms. “It’s dangerous to stick a fork in the toaster, J. J.. Don’t ever do that again.”
She swiped at her tears with the palm of her hand. “But I’m hungry. And mommy did it yesterday and a bagel came out.”
As usual Mom had been the model of good behavior. “That’s because she put a bagel in the toaster, Janie. They don’t appear by magic.” I lowered her to the ground.
Sophie had recuperated after having been ejected from the bed. She rubbed her bottom and hopped up on the kitchen stool. “But we’re out of bagels.”
“Then have some cereal.”
“But there’s no milk.”
There was no sound coming from my parent’s bedroom, which meant Mom was still sleeping. Not unusual. I looked back at Sophie. “Did Dad leave for work already?”
Sophie looked up at me through tear clumped lashes and shook her head.
I walked over to their bedroom door and knocked. “Mom, we need milk.” No answer.
I had just enough time to get ready for school and race over to the mini mart. I swung open the door. “Mom, I’m going to need a ride to school. I’ve got to go buy some milk.”
She sat up groggily. “Shhh, your dad is sleeping.”
“Shouldn’t he be at work?” I made no attempt to lower my voice.
Mom slid her feet from the covers and tiptoed over to me. Her eyes were bloodshot. “He lost his job yesterday, so he had a rough night.”
“Too much beer?”
“Well, Eden, he was upset.”
My mom never found any fault with my dad. I suppose I should have been happy that my parents loved each other passionately, sometimes disgustingly so. They’d been married since they were eighteen. I was two years old at the time. They’d each found their soul mate in life. Unfortunately, sometimes it seemed that they were two soul mates who couldn’t have been worse for each other.
“Is there any money for milk?”
She walked over and picked up Dad’s jeans off the floor and dug in the pockets. “Here’s a five. Bring back the change.”
“Darn and I was planning on using the change to buy a car.” I took the money from her hand and headed to the bathroom.
The bathroom light had a yellow tint that made everyone’s mirror reflection look as if they had liver disease. But the yellow glow wasn’t just in the bathroom. Tobacco stained walls and urine stained carpets gave a pee-like ambience to the entire apartment. I’d begged my parents not to take it, but it was all they could afford at the time. My dad had been in his usual state of being between jobs. He’d spent much more of his life between them than in them. The dribble of water coming from the moldy shower head made washing hair a chore, so I threw my long hair in a loose knot and skipped the shampoo.
Sophie and Janie had crawled into my bed and were playing hide and seek under the covers as I pulled on my jeans and t-shirt. “Sophie, you need to get ready for school while I’m getting milk.”
“I’m not going today. Parker Smith shoved me really hard yesterday, and I was crying so Mommy said I could skip school today.”
Mom had never been a big proponent of school and even though she’d had more than her share of nasty notes about poor attendance from the schools and even the district attorney’s office, she’d still kept me home through a lot of my school years. And I’d always been