It was his sister’s room, in his hand a mentholated cigarette, half sitting out of the second floor window. The fag, barely held between his fingers, pointed to his denim knee and threatened to break ashes that would sear pock holes in his jeans. Jack brought the filter to his lips and dragged a sigh. The suburban sky was green-gray and his toes were getting wet in the rain. His other foot rested on his sister’s window seat and grabbed at the pillows with his toes. A small FM radio sat in front of him in the window frame and littered the damp sky with “pure eighties.” The station was laughable, but would occasionally play something not written or sung by a hair band. Jack reached out his empty hand and let the rain gather a pool in his hand.
Like a commotion Mae turned with the curb and started running down the hill, her hair soaked through and knotted around her shoulders. The curb gravel proved dangerous under her blocky, orthopedic-like shoes, but she rode it all in stride.
Jack caught the gravelsound in the distance and searched the neighborhood until he saw her at midhill. The girl was long-legged and wobbly. She scuffed down the hill with no vain attempt to hide her inability to run pretty. Jack took the water cupped in his hand and threw it into his hair, leaning out of the window, and scratched his dusty brown curls around until his hand was dry. At the bottom of the hill, she made no attempt to stop, but kept running up toward his house. Jack sat plainly uninterested and curious, staring as she got closer.
Sliding into the driveway, Mae stopped and looked up at the shirtless boy.
“Are you Jill’s brother?”
“What’s it to ya?”
“Does Jill live here?”
Jack barely saw the girl’s white eyelashes and slit his eyes. She was strange as a runner, and a stranger at that. Jillian wouldn’t be home for another three hours.
“Yeah, but she’s not here.”
“Do you know how long it’ll be before she’s back?”
“Should be fifteen minutes. If you like, you can let yourself in.” It was a blatant lie—completely unintentional, partially apathetic, but she had white eyelashes. Jack reached over to his bare, olive shoulder and scratched. He cursed his cigarette in Portuguese and stuck his lips out for another drag. He pulled his leg in the window and dropped it to the floor, drying it off on the carpet. He grabbed his sister’s kitten-shaped ashtray and polished out the cigarette, leaving it on the windowsill with the radio. He blew and brushed the smoke out the window and closed up the room.
Mae was at the foot of the staircase when she caught the boy crossing the upstairs hall. He was maybe two or three years younger than her, she thought, and okay to look at, at least with his shirt off. He stepped into a room for only a moment and walked back out with a shirt in his hand.
Jack thought he caught the girl looking, but opted to give her the benefit of the doubt, he was only seventeen, his sister was twenty-three, at home from school for spring break…this girl had to be about the same age. He made his way down the stairs, “Yeah, she’s at the dentist’s right now. She’s had a toothache for the last three weeks. Don’t know why she waited so long to go. She’s a damn dental assistant for God’s sake.” He found it easy to tell stories to strangers. The dental assistant was true enough, but her toothache was made up…Jill was actually watching her fiancé making an ass of himself in front of a coffeehouse crowd and spit of preteen groupies.
“She left about two hours ago. Unless the dentist decided to go after the thing, she should be home real soon.”
Mae followed the shirtless boy into the kitchen. He stopped in front of the dishwasher and lifted the shirt over his head. She stopped breathing for a moment as the hair stretched over his armpits, he was considerably nice to look at for a mere boy. When he pulled his head through the long-john shirt, she lifted an eyebrow. “You should stop that, you’re making me feel old.” He turned his wet, curly head toward her, but didn’t catch what she’d said.
“You wanna wait here?”
“Well, you want anything while you’re waiting? We got oranges and bottled water, and that’s about it.”
Jack reached behind the girl and grabbed an orange the size of a heart attack. With a nod, he handed it to her, “I’m Jack.”
“Thanks.” Mae took the orange and tugged at her undershirt. She had taken off her shoes at the door, and her socks slid easy along the linoleum. She put the movie on the counter and ran the orange under the faucet.
“Interesting choice. Were you two gonna watch that?” Jack eyed the movie with feigned interest, opening a cabinet and grabbing a plastic cup. The girl turned away from him and mumbled something as she wiped off her hands and the orange with a paper towel. “Huh?”
“Where’s the trash can?”
“Oh, it’s over here. What’s your name?”
“I’m Mae. I met your sister in Life Drawing at the university.”
“You met her drawing penises and stuff?”
“Well…I guess I did.”
Jack shook the image from his head and walked to the den with a glass of water in one hand and the movie in the other. He put the glass on the side table next to the couch and shook the movie from its sleeve. He could hear her flop on the couch and rip into the orange peel. Grabbing one of the remotes, he popped the movie in the vhs and turned the TV on. Pushing play, he turned around to see her sitting Indian style with a paper towel in her lap. He walked to the couch and sat beside her and pulled his heels up to rest on the edge of the couch like he was sitting in a really short barstool.
“Do you get along with your sister?”
“Not as often as we should…”
“Hm.” Mae flicked some orange peel out from under her fingernail and watched the movie fade in.
The den was all white save for the two figures on the couch and the entertainment system. Orange smell permeated the room as another bit of skin was peeled off the enormous fruit. Foreign voices filled the empty rooms as the TV echoed through the house. Rain tapped against the sliding glass door. The movie went along in stillness and ended in silence.
“You two were gonna watch that?”
“No. Jill just wanted to borrow it.”
“Yeah, but I’m always up for it.”
Jack stood up and rewound the movie. Standing beside the TV, he watched the girl as she bundled up the napkin in her lap and stood up. He couldn’t shake his head as he had just popped in the movie without thinking. As she walked toward the kitchen, he noticed that as funny as she ran, she walked like a woman. Also, she wore navy blue… Jack was sworn to the idea that any girl who wore navy blue was easy to get along with. On this girl, it just made her blond hair look as white as her eyelashes.
“So, you’re Jill’s brother?”
“I thought we’d established that.”
“I was just saying.” Mae yelled from the kitchen, dumping the bundle of orange peels in the trashcan. She leaned back against the counter and found herself wondering. “Is she going to be back any time soon?”
“Oh. And you’re sure she’s your sister?”
“Most of the time. When I was little, I swore up and down she was adopted.”
Mae walked back into the den and leaned against the entryway. “Why’d you say she’d only be fifteen minutes?”
“I dunno.” Jack leaned over and took the tape from the VCR and put it back in its sleeve. He stood up and looked her in the eyes, “You have white eyelashes.”
“Most people would have just told the truth.”
“I’m not most people.”
“No, you’re Jill’s brother.”
“Well, at least now I have no doubt.” Mae smiled, remembering the day in Life Drawing class when Jill took a naked forty-ish year old man and repositioned him so he’d be easier to draw. One never felt so awkward before without realizing it.
“Do you really smile this often?”
“Okay.” Jack looked away, walked to the dinning room, and set the movie on the table. He quickly adjusted himself, with no one being in the room, and moved back into the den. The girl had left the entryway and moved to the staircase, shoes in hand. “You goin?”
“Is your sister gonna be here any time soon?”
“Should I stay then?”
“Well, I could, but then, I have no clue who you are.” Mae untangled the first knot and slipped a shoe on. She looked up to see the boy scratching his curly mop hair and watching the front door.
“You told me that already.”
“I’ve never seen someone with white eyelashes before.” Jack watched as the girl looked up from tying her shoe and they caught eyes. He bent over and sat on his feet. She was pretty. He noticed she had large doe eyes and small mouth, nothing impressive, but nice looking in the moment.
“I’m gonna go then.” Mae briefly curled her lip and wiped her hands on her jeans. As she stood, so did the boy. “Nice to meet you, Jack.” She stuck out her hand. Ignoring her hand, he leaned over and kissed her briefly.
“What the hell was that?”
“You kissed me?”
“You’re not offended.” Jack turned and walked back up the stairs without hurry. As he reached his sister’s bedroom he could hear the front door open and slam closed. He went back to the window seat and opened the window into the rain. Jack fished out the mentholated cigarette pocketed inside some ashes with his thick fingers and heard the gravelsound again.