Authors: Carol Lynch Williams
Copyright Â© 2015 by Carol Lynch Williams
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ePub Edition Â© July 2015: ISBN 978-0-310-74660-7
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Cover design: Brand Navigation
Interior design: Denise Froehlich
15 16 17 18 19 20 21 /DCI/ 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
At the foot of my bed
is the nightmare.
ere's how it ended.
“Sarah, we're too serious.”
It was late. After dusk. This past October, when the skies teemed with snow clouds and we wondered if this would be a bad winter.
I couldn't see the stars. Words caught in my throat. Stuck there. Garret's words had pinned them.
“What do you mean?”
He stood next to me but I almost couldn't see him. Just his outline. A silhouette.
He held my hand, his fingers loose. “We have to make room for other people,” he said, and for a moment I wondered if I was dreaming. The wind blew, and I felt chilled through, like the air touched my bones. The parts of me that had slipped away when I became comfortable with Garret dropped onto my shoulders one by one. I wanted to run, get away. Not listen.
“What are you saying?” I asked. “I don't understand.”
Garret straightened. I looked up at him. His features weren't clear in the darkness, but I'd memorized the green eyes, the blond color of his hair, that smile.
He didn't smile now, though. “We need a break. We need to
see if we're right for each other.” The words flowed from him like they were someone else's.
It was too much pressure, he said.
(Did he mean I was too much pressure? That we together were? That we didn't work, though I was sure, was positive, we did? How could his words shake me up so?)
His mother was always on his back, he said.
He had to date other people, he said.
And that was that.
After more than eighteen months of being together, of being a couple. After I gave my heart to him. Nearly everything I had. After all that, he decided to look elsewhere.
saw it, Annie.” Mom's talking. Intent.
They've waited on dinner for me, and I slip into my chair, late.
Annie doesn't answer our mother. She fills her plate. Careful. Making sure nothing touches on the china. Neat compartments.
Dad looks at them from the end of the table. Every night, Mom sets out a meal like this. She used to run her own catering business and, as she says, “A pretty table is in my blood.”
I dish the roast beef and onions and potatoes out. The aroma of the food swirls around in the air. “What's going on?” I ask.
Dad shrugs. “Girl things, Sarah,” he says.
I raise my eyebrows at him. ”Uh, Dad?”
Then he winks.
Those girl things. I go silent.
Mom folds her napkin. “Annie was invited to sit as a judge on a Junior League beauty contest.”
Annie and Mom. For two people so similar, their expressions are opposite. One face blank. The other animated.
“She opened my mail,” Annie says to me.
“I suggested,” Mom says, “she drop a few pounds in preparation.” Mom stirs butter into the potatoes. “I think she should do it. Be an example to these young girls.”
I glance at Annie, who stares toward the fireplace. There's a snap of burning logs, and sparks slip up the chimney.
Dad says, “Are you kidding? What an honor. You were the best, now weren't you, Annie?”
The talented one. With all the promise in the world. Now she's the silent one.
My sister is heavy. She looks different than Before. That's what fat does to you. Her hair isn't blonde like it was. She's traded pageant dresses for sweats, but she's still beautiful. She has the same perfect, creamy skin. Her eyes sparkle. Her teeth are perfect. When she smiles, you know she means it.
But Annie's not smiling now.
“Did you hear me?” Mom says. “It's not for two more months, not till April fifteenth.”
“Tax day,” Dad says, and his phone, sitting on the table next to his wine glass, buzzes.
“You could drop a few pounds by then.” Mom takes a breath. “Maybe participate again.”
Annie doesn't seem to notice our mother. But I see her flinch and it's like I flinch too.
Twins. Twins are supposed to feel the same. Look the same. Are supposed to be the same. Right?
If she won't speak, I can. I get not wanting to do something even if you're the best. Mom has to know things have changed. For Annie. For all of us.
I draw in a breath. “Mom?” I say when Annie stays quiet. I jab at a raw spinach leaf. I'm annoyed. At Annie for staying quiet. At Mom for saying these stupid things. At Dad for getting on his
phone. He's talking to someone. There's an almost-smile on his lips. “Mom, Annie gave that up. Remember?”
Mom's surprised. Like Annie hasn't said she's not interested in the pageant world a hundred times over the last few months. “What do you mean, Sarah? That Annie won't judge? That she'll never be a part of that again?”
Dad excuses himself and strides over to the fire. “Jim, good to hear from you!”
I can do this. “Well,” I say, but Mom stares away from me, that napkin of hers clenched in her fist. I can't drag in enough air to satisfy this fight. So I think the words.
You are so impossible lately, Mom. And Dad is too absent. And Annie, you . . . you're doing nothing but eating.
It's true. Right now she's eating in slow, perfect, exact movements.
The whole family is strained. Stretched at the edges. The stitching hanging loose. It's been this way for ages now. Since the Weight.
Dad doesn't finish his plate. Doesn't look over at us, he's that engaged with Jim.
When I say, “Come on, Mom,” my voice comes out whispery. Taut. “You don't need to suggest diets. Annie's a big girl.”
Wait. I didn't mean that. Big is the wrong thing to say. I feel my face color.
Dad gives everyone a thumbs-up. He comes back to the table. “Gotta work,” he says. As he turns toward the other end of the house, where his home office is, I hear, “Don't forget we're having that party here Saturday night.”
A tradition we
my whole life
whether all of us have
wanted to or
not â is
these (now) insane mealtimes
Soldiers our family. Makes
Us do what we should
What we're told
Meals are a joke.
No one listens to anyone.
We all talk â except Sarah â and not one of us
when I look around at us
see who we've become,
I'm surprised that
were related: a family. Happy.
More family moments
my father insists on,
are the parties.
I used to love them.
Mom developed the menu,
Sarah practiced violin all over the house (when there was no one near)
I went with Dad to order flowers
and send out invitations
(nothing Internet â
just old-fashioned mail).
Yes, I used to love them.