“The kids don't have passports, Zay. And Mercedes doesn't want to take the baby on such a long flight. Can you imagine trying to care for a six month old in a hotel room? Or how about at the side of a hospital bed?”
“Dude, it's a fourteen hour drive up there and all I have is my ugly ass Geo. The car is older than I am, Rob. I was conceived in the backseat of the damn thing. I can't drive that piece of shit to the grocery store, let alone into California.”
I pop the top on my Mountain Dew and down half of it before Rob decides to speak again, his voice low and thick, like he's on the verge of tears. Fucking Christ. In the background, Kinzie screams again, sending a chill down my spine.
“You're my last chance, Zay. Please. Please do this. What would Mom and Dad say if they were here?” I roll my eyes and run the fingers of my right hand through the hair on the left side of my scalp. The other side is currently shaved like a military man gone punk. “I'll tell you what they'd say: Family is everything and everything is family. This is as much your problem as it is mine, Zay. We're brothers, and even though you can be an irresponsible prick sometimes, I love you.”
“Gah,” I stick my tongue out at my own reflection and shake my head. I can't take this lovey family shit. I feel myself just about ready to cave in. My buddy runs the shop I work at, so he'd understand. Besides, I could get the new dude, what's-his-face, to take over my appointments for me. I'd miss out on a lot of nipple piercings, but what choice do I have? I can't tell Rob no and not feel like a piece of human garbage, now can I? “Fine.”
Rob sighs in relief as goose bumps break out over my arms.
I'm going to hate this. Every second of it. I know that to be a fact.
“But I want a plane ticket. I can't drive fourteen hours straight, man.”
“I can't afford a plane ticket for you. I just spent all of my savings on tickets for Mercedes and me. You'll have to drive. If you leave now and take minimal rest stops, you can be here a few hours before our flight leaves tomorrow.”
I start to protest, but the phone is suddenly snatched away from my brother by his wife.
“Thank you, Zay,” she sobs, voice thick and sniffly. “Thank you so much. I love you like the little brother I never had, you know that right?”
I'm a sucker for pretty girls in distress.
I purse my lips so tight that my lip rings stand out like swords on either side of my mouth.
“See ya in fourteen hours then.”
Here I am with my hair all mussed up and my kitty cat pajama pants wet from the dew soaked grass. Not exactly the way I had envisioned this night going. Granted, I had known moving back to Eureka wouldn't be pleasant, but I hadn't expected this. Mom had led me to believe that she would be here to help me out, teach me to be the parent my sister refuses to be anymore.
So much for keeping my life on track.
I breathe out and my breath fogs white in the cool night air.
“Grace?” I call, searching the massive backyard for my niece. “Honey, it's not a good time for hide and seek.” I hear giggling and see a flicker of a white nightgown dart between two trees. My skin ripples with goose bumps. Yikes. Horror movie, much? Nobody in their right mind walks around a mist drenched yard at two in the morning searching for a creepy cackling child.
I suppose I'm not exactly in my right mind then.
Must not be if I was willing to leave UC Berkeley for my hometown, step into someone else's life like this. It's a life I definitely didn't want. There's a reason my sister had her first child when she was sixteen, and I'm still a virgin.
“Gracie, baby, it's time for bed. Auntie starts her new job soon and she'd really like to catch up on some sleep before she takes her clothes off for strangers.” I whisper that last part to myself, doing my best not to think about the adult dancing job I just landed at the Top Hat Gentlemen's Club. I still have a few days to find something else, anything else.
My waist length hair blows around my face in a brunette curtain as I sweep it back and try to slink quietly through the grass toward the back corner of the yard. I think I can see a snippet of Grace's nightgown from here. I'm just about to dart around the tree and grab her when my foot lands in something questionable. One glance down and I see that it's a giant pile of dog crap. Shivers take over me as I cringe and try not to throw up.
My parents are on vacation in Edinburgh, Scotland, so any chance of help is far out of reach. While they're at the zoo gawking at pandas and whatnot, I'll be here trying to figure out how to juggle my new job and my biostatistics classes against a sudden influx of responsibility. How many twenty-two years old inherit two children from their awful, selfish, drug addicted sister? What kind of person just up and leaves the country, abandoning their kids alone at home? Ingrid didn't even tell anyone. She left a note and said good-bye to her girls while they were busy watching Netflix.