Wow, I can’t believe how rusty my writing has gotten! Even more reason to take up the 100 Themes challenge in my free time. I’m using prompts found here. Anyone feel like joining me? :)
Wisps of grey and an edgy sigh whistled through his teeth. “Don’t be a pain. Get out.”
She fidgeted at the door, her shuffling feet scuffing a scratchy pattern against the torn carpet. It used to have a proper colour, the same way this crumbly shack of a house had once felt like home. “You shouldn’t smoke inside,” she said hesitantly. “Mama will be mad.”
“Is she back?” She shook her head, mousy curls bouncing on her skinny shoulders. “Then leave me alone.”
She didn’t move. Her curious gaze followed the trail of smoke from his lips to the thin haze hovering below the grimy ceiling. She stared at the cracks in the peeling paint, probably expecting in that gullible way of hers for the smoke to seep through and flow into a chimney of rust.
“Can I try?” she blurted.
The bolts of the bed squeaked as he turned. She shrank away as if being looked down at from the top bunk was more intimidating than divine judgement from the heavens. An awkward growth spurt had stretched her into the second-tallest fifth grader, a mess of gangly twig limbs. She looked like a flightless bird caught in crosshairs.
His eyes narrowed. “She hit you, didn’t she?” he asked sharply.
“Did not,” she mumbled.
A low growl rumbled in the back of his throat. “Where?”
“She didn’t,” she insisted. Her arms were crossed behind her back, where he knew her nail-bitten fingers would be flexing nervously into eerie, double-jointed angles.
The hardness of his fiery gaze seemed like it was trying to solder the lie into her tongue. Yet his expression was colder than the ashes in the tray when he wordlessly dangled his arm down to offer her the cigarette. She stared at it in surprise. Then she anxiously licked her lips and took it with her pale fingers.
A tentative puff was all it took to send her into a wheezing spiral. Tears sprang into her eyes. His strong jawline shifted beneath his skin, murky eyes flickering. Folded into herself, she shakily held the cigarette back out to him. He passed her the tray. “Put it out.” She obeyed with desperate regret, still choking on bitter fumes.
He looked steadily at her. “You won’t try that again,” he said. The stern lines in his face might have resembled their father. They might not have. You couldn’t tell that much from a torn photo. “Understood?”
She nodded tearfully.
In one resolute movement, he threw the tray out the open window. It clipped the edge of the frame with a crack and wobbled drunkenly through the air until it shattered loudly in the middle of the driveway. They both winced.
“Mama will…” she began to whisper, then trailed off into silence.
He rolled back into his initial position, ignoring her. Smoke continued to circle languidly above his head even as a chilly breeze swept through the window. All of a sudden she didn’t want to stand where he couldn’t see her, so she climbed up the creaky ladder and peered down at him. “Are you angry?” she asked in a small voice.
He didn’t open his eyes. “What do you think?”
“Don’t become like her,” he muttered, almost to himself. “Just don’t.”
She didn’t want the lonely smoke to get to him, so she waved her arms above his head until they felt heavy and the grey wisps left his motionless, uncaring figure alone. Then she curled into a small ball in the bottom corner of the bed, at the foot of his warmth, and lay there until ashes blew into dust and settled into a smoky blanket around her shoulders.
feature image from ~Maizzi