Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chapter Three, Part Two

Disclaimer:  This blog is not advocating student/teacher romances. There will be some romance.  But don't assume too much. ;)

 

CHAPTER THREE
Part Two 

We've only just begun…to live. White lace and promises...

The garbage disposal briefly interrupted the song streaming from Dan’s laptop in the living room.


A kiss for luck and we're on our way


Karen Carpenter. Why had Allie chosen Carpenter songs for her first album? 


So many roads to choose. We start out walking and learn to run
.

Peas and lettuce continued to float on murky water in the sink basin, while dinner sizzled next to him on the stove.


And yes, we've just begun!


"Were you trying to tell us something, Allison Marie Shields?" He mumbled and flipped on the disposal again. 


On...


He recalled plucking away on the piano keys and wondering about his sister’s scrawny appearance as she belted the lyrics to those songs.


Off.


Watching the signs along the way.


Still peas and lettuce.


"Ryan! What did you do to the sink?"


Talkin' it over, just the two of us.


"What?" Ryan strode through the entryway, looking like he'd just swallowed a banana whole, which was an improvement to the straight face and dark eyes that had been his signature for the past few weeks- not that Dan could blame him.

"What's going on?" he asked with his hand on his ever-hungry stomach. If Dan could just transfer that kid's appetite to Allie, the problem would be partially solved.


No it wouldn't. Anorexia is psychological, not physical.


Dan tossed a rag onto the counter, spraying dirty water against his nice, clean wall.

"When it rains it pours," he grumbled.

"Kitchen sink malfunction, huh?" Ryan asked. "Why are you blaming that on me?"


"I wasn't really…Just some ticked off humor."


"There's a new one....Ticked off humor. Use that one in class, do you?"


"Not yet, but there’s still plenty of time for it."


Sharing horizons that are new to us...


"Ryan, could you please turn off Allie’s-"


"Can you fix the sink?" He frowned into the mess.


"Hell, no, can you?"


Ryan’s chestnut eyes bulged.  “Cussing now, are we?”


Dan pursed his lips.  He’d been doing so well up until now. “Sorry,” he said, but sorry was an understatement. 

Not only could he not teach (so far), but he was a failure in the Christian Example department.  True, this had been a frustrating past two days and he was extra edgy, but how many times could he use that excuse before it became obvious that he simply had no control over his tongue?

He cleared his throat.  "What's Allie doing?"  The heaviness in his voice seemed enough to sway Ryan off of that subject, because he looked a little sheepish.


"She's resting…and don’t worry, I lectured her today since you weren’t here to do it.”


Dan's smile felt good after an entire day of mentally beating himself, and he was glad that his computer playlist had reached the end of Allie’s album.

“Anyway…” His brother turned toward the refrigerator. “I’m going to see what I can find to go with the meal…since you never fix anything with all of the food groups included.”

Tossing his tie toward the dining room, where it landed on the floor just short of one of the chairs, Dan leaned against the counter with a large glass of iced green tea and watched as Ryan dug through the refrigerator. 

Dan snorted. “You’ll just wind up bloated and sick.”  It was perfect science.  Starches digest in an alkaline environment, while proteins require more acid.  Mix them together and the body signals both, resulting in stagnation and bloating.  But explanations such as this always fell on deaf ears or caused eyeballs to roll. Like Ryan’s did as he peeked over the fridge door and then returned to his hunting.

A few seconds later, the kid produced some store-bought potato salad in a plastic container.  It was Dan’s turn to roll his eyes.

“I bet I can get Allie to chow down on some of this,” Ryan said. “She used to scarf on this stuff.”  He straightened to his full height, his mussed waves adding an extra few centimeters to his five feet eleven inches.  

Glancing at the food cooking on the stove, Ryan asked, “Is chicken all you can cook these days?”

“It’s fast. I’ve got work to do.”

“Work, work, slave, slave.  Hopefully you just mean paperwork, because I’ve already scrubbed the bathrooms and sh-“
Dan raised his hand. “Don’t say it.”

Ryan feigned offense with his palm against his chest.  “You can curse but I can’t?”

“What you were about to say is far worse.”

“Man.” His lanky brother shook his head.  “Ever since you became a Christian…You’re such a nerd.”

Nerd.  Boy Scout.  If only Rebekah knew the irony of being called a ‘boy scout.’  If she only knew. She’d made him look like an angel by referring to him that way, though she’d meant it as negatively as possible.

At least he could count on Allie to keep negative comments out of their conversations.

His stomach rolled as he thought of her, alone in the upstairs bedroom.  Hungry, he hoped.

The potato salad might not have been the best choice, but if Ryan felt like keeping her company and feeding her, then, “Go for it.”

His brother frowned. “Huh?”

“Go feed Allie.  I’ll be up in a little while.” Releasing his breath, he turned to mix the veggies and meat with a spatula.  Allie’s illness may have sprung an ulcer in Dan, but at least Ryan had begun thinking of someone other than himself- and at least he hadn’t been sneaking into bars lately.

“You know, you look almost as bad as Allie,” Ryan whispered, then shaking Dan’s shoulder so that some of the carrots in the pan streaked across the stove top. 
Dan frowned up at the kid, who mouthed, “Oops,” and then asked, “Whatsa matter?  Are the kids at school picking on you too much, or what?”
“Knock it off, Little Brother, it’s just been a rough two days.”

“How rough could it be to deal with a room full of jerks like me?”

Dan flashed a grin.  “Pretty bad, especially when I’d rather be here with my sister.”

“So, quit. It’s not like you need the money.”

"I need…?” He set down the spatula. “It’s not a question of what I need, exactly.” He thought of his students, so many with hardened expressions on their faces, so many who slumped in their seats, barely paying attention to anything he said.  He thought again of Rebekah Rose and wondered what was behind her tough act.  The similarities between her and Allie stopped with the hair and eye color, and he half wished Rebekah could have transferred her boldness to his sister. Annoying as Rose could be, at least she stood up for herself.  Stood up against him and anyone else who challenged her.

But her harassers were equally as lost as she was.

“Those kids need someone,” Dan said finally.

“So you’re going to play big brother to them?”

Detecting the sarcasm in Ryan’s tone, he squared his shoulders. “I’m going to do what I think needs done, within reason.”  And no true ‘bribing’ involved.
“You’re not going to go preaching to them, are you?  Because you know you’ll lose your job if you do.  Not to mention that it’s annoying.”

“Don’t start on me, Bro, I haven’t preached at you recently.”

“But you’ve given me my fair share.”

“So?  Gave you something to think about, didn’t I?”

“Maybe, but who says I needed it?”

“We all do.”  In reality, Dan would have liked to strap Ryan to a chair and preach at him all night for his wild, partying ways.  But little good that would do.  In the long run, Ryan’s choice to straighten up needed to come from the heart- not because his big brother had threatened him with a good throttling and a month’s worth of tofu casserole. 

“We all…?” Ryan shook his head. “Never mind. You gonna call a plumber for that, or what?” He pointed at the sink and Dan nodded.  No way in Heaven or Hell would he be able to fix a sink or anything else that required more than a hammer and nails or a wrench.

His family: packed with intellectuals who knew how to swing tennis rackets, play the piano, and jog a few miles a day.  But handy work?  That remained in the hands of hired servants, which seemed extremely screwy and ironic to Dan.  An intellectual should be able to figure out how to repair day to day items, but none of them had tried.

Just like most of us avoid fixing ourselves until we’re nailed to the wall.

After a few beats, Ryan withdrew his gaze and announced his intention to shove some food down Allie’s throat.  Dan watched him go and prayed once again that he hadn’t turned Ryan off of Christianity for good. 

He turned the heat down on the food, his fingers resting on the stove knob longer than they should.

Allie was in mortal danger and he’d been sulking over how terrible the past couple of days had gone.  He’d envisioned himself conveying his lessons with passion, executing perfect order over his classes. Instead he’d not only been slow, forgetful and semi-panicked, but he’d been mocked by several students. Rebekah Rose, Gary McGarvey, and Brian Cruise, to name a few.

As he snatched his glass of green tea, he splashed some over the counter and then cursed under his breath for making another mess.  Then he cursed himself for cursing and marched into the dining room.

He stopped.  A flood of little, rainbow dots danced across the walls, the carpet, and his white t-shirt.

The table in front of Dan still bore the gifts Allie had brought home a few months ago. 

“Since you’ve been too busy to decorate, I bought you these,” Allie said as she huffed into the room with a box. Folding his arms, Dan watched as she produced a pale blue table runner decked with white shells. On top of that, she set some candles- coconut scented he realized when she lit them. Between the two candles, she placed a bowl full of seashells and crinkled her nose. “See? Fit for male or female!”

It was then that Dan had hung the octagonal crystals in the window.  Any time the sunlight reflected off of the various facets, the rainbows appeared.

He swayed slightly, his palm pressed against the wall as he tasted salt on his upper lip.  After a few moments of staring at the small splashes of the color spectrum, red standing out the most and the indigo nearly indecipherable, he pushed away from the wall and crossed into the living room.  Rounding the stairway at the front door, he paused as he gazed upwards and then fastened his eyes once again on the rainbows spread across the area diagonal from where he stood. 

His legs felt heavy as he took the steps one by one, but at the same time, the trip to Allie’s room seemed to go so quickly that he may as well have dreamt it. 

He found his sister sitting in the white rocking chair next to her window, watching the street below.  Ryan had left the potato salad with her and had disappeared to Lord only knew where.  Typical.  He usually helped out as much as his attention span would allow and then took off.

Setting his glass down on the waist-high dresser top almost completely covered with Victorian-style, porcelain dolls, Dan felt a shiver as Allie’s dull eyes found him.  Her hair had been neatly combed, but her pale face mingled with the sheer nightgown and robe reminded him of the ghostly Lady in White

He eyed the potato salad sitting on the nightstand with a fork stuck in it.  How could he have allowed Ryan to feed her that junk?  All they were doing was feeding the blasted superbug, because bacteria feed off of sugar and simple carbohydrates. With two big steps, he snatched the salad container, his breath loud in his ears.  Allie’s brows curled as she watched him.

“Stop worrying, Dan,” she said hoarsely.

“Stop worrying?  I can’t, when this is the only type of junk you’ll eat.  Give me a few minutes and I’ll bring you something decent.”

“I didn’t touch it.”

“Like that helps.” He took a breath, his head rolling back and the textured ceiling coming into view. “You’ve got to eat.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” Her protest would normally have been blurted with irritation, but it came out so softly and feebly that he felt like a jerk for speaking roughly to her.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. 

“Dan...”

He lowered his head and peeked at her pale face, which impressed upon him that horrible, horrible sense that he was about to lose the little girl he’d always protected.  If she hadn’t been in the room, he probably would have raised the window and thrown the potato salad onto the front lawn. He’d punch the wall.  He’d kick the large, pink teddy bear Ryan had given Allie the other day.  He’d turn the chairs over and shout at God for allowing these diseases to wrack his sister’s life.

God obviously hadn’t been listening to his prayers.  But rainbows declared that He should have been.

“Could you stop huffing?” Allie asked and Dan stilled his breathing before inhaling deeply to calm his rising blood pressure.

“I’ve been praying for you like crazy,” he muttered.

“Well, your prayers must be working.”

His frown seemed to make her flinch but she held his gaze as he asked, “What do you mean?”

She shrugged. “You can’t come as close to death as I did and not think about…God…and what’s going to happen if you don’t make it.”

Dan straightened, hearing the ticking and tocking of the hall clock and the distant sound of piano music.  Next door, the dog that seemed to bark night and day had taken a break from his incessant grouching, which seemed odd.  In most of the novels Dan had read, the dog probably would have been going off right about now.

Allie’s words reticulated through his mind and he was almost afraid to ask the question that surfaced inside of him.  “Do you mean you’re thinking things over?”

A smile tugged at her lips.  “I am…but I don’t know what to do about it right now.”

“I’m more than willing to answer any questions-”

“I know, but…” She crinkled the nose that had always reminded him of a button sewn onto a Teddy Bear’s face.  “I think I need to sort through this alone.”

He didn’t realize he was still frowning or that his frown had deepened until she waved her hand and added recklessly, “Not that I won’t ask you anything if I need to.”

She’d better ask.  From what Dan had encountered in his twenty-four years, people often can’t grasp what God wants them to grasp without someone interceding. Be it a preacher, a teacher, or a friend.  True, Dan had discovered God through his own Bible reading, but he’d heard a bit of preaching on the salvation subject beforehand.  And so the puzzle pieces had begun to come together once he’d gotten serious about understanding God’s Word.

With the shake of his head, he said, “I wish I could make you understand it all with just one word,” and wondered why his voice hadn’t awakened him from this dream.

“You’re good at helping people see things, but no one can do that.” She snickered.

“What?”

“Help people fully understand something with one word.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”  Folding his arms, he smirked despite the sick feeling that still gripped him. What should he say now?  He was the older brother; he should have been guiding this whole conversation.  Guiding everything, in fact.

After a few moments of feeling brain dead, the compliment she’d paid recycled in his mind.  He almost managed to smile. “Careful, Allie, you just admitted that I’m good at something.”

Allie laughed quietly.  The way she tossed her head back reminded him of how she’d often positioned herself while belting high notes to any given song. If she’d get her strength back, she’d stop reminding him of the anorexic Karen Carpenter.

“You just have a way with people,” she said. “I remember that paper you showed me…you know, the one about the planets…I mean, that one you wrote to Dad but never gave him?”

Dan squinted.  He was surprised she remembered a paper that he’d shown her nearly ten years ago, one that he’d packed into his personal files, waiting for the perfect moment to hand deliver it to Oliver Shields.

“When I read that, I started to see how selfish I am.  Great comparisons in there, you know?  I wanted to do better after that…but I didn’t.”

He sank onto the bed with his hands folded in front of him.

“I’m going to do better now, Dan.” Her voice became choked as a tear rolled down her cheek and he reached across the space to pull her into his arms.  He held her as she wept against his shoulder and promised, “I’ll do better this time.  I’ll pray, I’ll read the Bible, I’ll eat…I can’t live like this anymore.”

Dan swallowed a sob and began stroking her hair.  Only God knew if Allie would make it this time, but he’d do his best to help her any way he could.  He’d conquer his doubts and he’d pull her out of this hell.  He’d do better this time, too.

Chapter Four can be found here:  http://bloodyroseandthorn.blogspot.com/2011/07/chapter-four.html

2 comments:

  1. Awww... I love the interaction between the siblings! So touchy and cute!

    Suzie

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, Suzie, I appreciate all of your comments. I'm trying like mad to get another chappie out. :)

    Jen

    ReplyDelete