Break of Dawn

Dawn slipped her fingers between Carlo’s. They squinted their eyes from the sunlight as they walked out of the dorm building.

“I’m just gonna head to class from here,” Carlo said, taking his hand from Dawn’s.

Dawn grabbed her cellphone out of her back pocket and slid her thumb across the screen. “You have 15 minutes. Come to The Cup with me.” She crossed her arms and frowned.

“I want to read over my notes.”

“You can come to The Cup with me. I’ll test you.”

“Nah, just go.” Carlo pointed his hand with the notebook to The Cup, the coffee shop across the field.

“Hug me first.” Dawn closed her eyes and held her arms open.

Carlo wrapped his arms around Dawn’s shoulders and kissed her blonde head. “Bye Dawn,” he said before letting her go.

“Text me when you’re out,” Dawn said as Carlo walked away.

*

The bell on the door jingled as Dawn entered The Cup. She stopped as soon as she stepped in. The counter’s line ended near the entrance. She scanned the couches and tables in the dining area for someone she knew.

“Looks like everybody had the same idea.”

Dawn smiled and turned around when she heard his voice.

“Andriel!” She hugged him. “You’re out of class early. Usually I don’t see you here for another 20 minutes.”

“Yeah. Professor showed up late, turned on some movie made in the ’80s about the culture of Guatemala and was on his iPad. He obviously didn’t want to be there today so why should I?”

Dawn shrugged. “Nobody cares about anything anymore.”

“Nope.”

The line moved up and Andriel puffed his chest out and purposefully walked into Dawn. “Excuse me, miss,” he said in a deep voice.

She grinned and pushed him away. “You’re such a creep.”

Andriel rubbed one of his big hands through Dawn’s hair, pulling it in front of her face.

“Cut it out!” She laughed and parted her hair. Read More

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My mother would scrunch her nose and her forehead would crinkle. Her blue eyes would slant and her barely visible eyebrows would almost touch. “I don’t like fish,” she’d say as she’d either push the plate away if my grandfather placed it in front of her, or wave her hand in front of her nose and back away as he opened the oven with his navy blue mittens.

*

“You ready for some swordfish, Casey?” my grandfather raised his voice above the hum of the stove’s fan. He had his eyes on the fish as he carefully placed it on the long plate on the counter. He removed the mittens and grabbed bottles of green seasonings to cover the peach flesh with.

He pointed his sweaty nose to the kitchen table as he made his way over with the dish.

I clutched the back of the kitchen chair that I always sat at (it used to be my mother’s spot at the table when she was a kid) and shook my head no. My hair flopped back and forth over my shoulders and I bit my bottom lip with my buck teeth.

“No? What do you mean, no?” My grandfather looked at me, eyes squinted. “This is good fish. It’s home cooked. I thought you liked it.”

“I’m not hungry.” I looked at the blue tiles on the kitchen floor. Little particles of dirt clogged the once white cracks.

My grandfather eyed my face, but I pretended not to notice. Read More

Eavesdropping

Last semester, one of my fiction professors assigned the class an eavesdropping assignment. That night, I was reading in the library when an unhappy couple caught my attention.

I raised my head from my book as I heard feet shuffle across the carpet. It was just about midnight, and I hadn’t seen any other students in the library’s basement. I sat cross-legged on a chair, one elbow leaning on the round table, the other on the corner of my open book.

A sigh came from between two shelves. “I can’t believe this.”

A short guy with black hair shook his head as he looked up. He held a cup of coffee in each hand and his jeans swished around his sneakers. He tucked his chin downward to sip from one of the white cups as he headed to one of the fluorescent-lit study carrels.

He gently kicked the green door, and it squeaked and swung back into a blue chair that was in the way. Next to the chair was another chair, where a girl with puffy chestnut hair in a dark sweatshirt and blue pajama pants sat. She slouched across from her laptop that was surrounded by packets of paper and a notebook.

“You’re so lazy. I can’t believe you couldn’t get your own coffee,” the guy said as he handed her one of the white cups. “You made me go all the way to Starbucks and come back here. You’re so lazy.” Read More

Unclipped

You’d think my Aunt Ebba would own a cat. One of those fluffy Persians that could sit on her lap as she stroked its fur with her scarlet finger nails. But no, she owned an obnoxious cockatiel named Pikachu.

Aunt Ebba loved to talk—she spoke three languages. So did Pikachu. He was all that she had left in her maze of a Victorian house. They’d watch Spanish soap operas together; Pikachu would recite French poetry as he stood on her shoulder, nuzzled up against her chin. It was astonishing, but quite sad. Aunt Ebba was lonely.

She hadn’t worked since her job at the florist as a teenager. After that, she went to college to study literature, but no career came from it. She married straight out of college, into a wealthy family. Her first husband was my Uncle Ty. He was a stock broker from New York. Aunt Ebba was in love with him; she gave up everything for him. She moved from her close-knit family in Jamestown, Rhode Island to live with him in his luxury apartment in Manhattan. He led a stressful life, and died young of heart failure. They had one son, my older cousin, Winthrop.

After Uncle Ty died, Aunt Ebba was depressed. She wouldn’t eat, she couldn’t sleep. She’d call my father, her brother, and cry to him on the phone about how she saw Ty in her dreams, and how she thought he was leaving her “signs from the other side” wherever she went.  She’d talk about how Winthrop looked so much like him, with his curly hair and small lips. My father would twist the phone’s cord as he gently spoke, and glance over at me and my mother, who stood behind me, hands on my shoulders. She would take me into another room when my father was on the phone with Aunt Ebba. I was a little girl then, and the sad tone in my father’s voice would upset me. My mother, with her teal watery eyes, would take my wrist and lead me away.

“Aunt Ebba has that really bad cold again, Liliane. Daddy needs to talk to her to cheer her up,” she’d say as she squatted down in front of me to stroke my hair when I asked why my father was unhappy. Read More

Summer Shenanigans

It was the summer after eighth grade and we were bored. The afternoon’s heavy air kept us from working on our tree fort, which was made of wooden boards that we stole from a construction sight down the road with my father’s wheelbarrow. New houses were being built in the neighborhood, and we didn’t want them there anyway. All the places we played manhunt or paintball in on the weekends and in the summers were being replaced with fancy homes and long driveways. It only made sense to slow down the process by stealing the workers’ slabs of wood when they went to grab lunch from the deli around the corner. Every day they went at the same time, like clockwork, and we were teenage geniuses.

Our tree fort leaned against a thick tree trunk, tucked in the middle of the green woods behind my house in the suburbs outside of New York City. It was the only woods left in our little town, from what I could see. We sat, sweating on the crooked benches made from slabs of wood. My twin brother Cory, and our neighbors, Evan and Rachel, who were siblings, spoke about the upcoming school year as I doodled on the uneven walls around us with a black marker. Like me, Cory and Evan were going into ninth grade, and Rachel was going into seventh.

Evan glanced over at me a few times before shouting, “What are you doing?” He folded his fat arms and his lips grew into a smirk.

I slammed a hand over my creation. “You can’t see it yet.”

“You know I’m just going to scribble over it like I did to the rest of your stupid drawings,” Cory said. We locked eyes of the same shade of brown. “You’re making the fort look stupid.”

“I bet it’s another drawing of Dylan.” Rachel grinned at me as she tied her frizzy hair up with a rubber band.

“No!” I threw my hands into the air, revealing my masterpiece.

“What did I tell you?” Rachel said proudly.

“I don’t get why you like that kid anyway,” Evan laughed. “He doesn’t shower.”

“I don’t like him!” I stamped a sneaker into the dirt.

“Just admit it,” Cory said.

“No.”

“Just say it, Leah. Then you can stop drawing all of your Dylan fantasies all over the fort,” my brother said, wiping his forehead.

“It’s not a Dylan drawing this time! And the only reason I drew Dylan before is because he’s fun to draw.”

Evan began making kissing sounds and I felt the color of embarrassment make its way across my face. Read More

Easter Eve

I squinted as the hazy lights from a car slipped between the blinds and scanned across the wall. I was able to see my brother, Skylar, across from me. He sat with his back against the wall, head slightly tilted, as he wondered what I would say next. I glanced back at the bed behind me, where my brother Derek was, curled up on his side with his stuffed panda squashed into his bony chest. His eyes were shut but I knew he was listening.

When the lights went off downstairs and nothing could be heard except for the hum of the refrigerator, I scuffed my way into my brothers’ room hugging a pillow, my sleeping bag trailed behind my feet. We were excited, we wanted to share our thoughts. We sat up, legs jumbled in blankets, and talked about where the Easter eggs would be hidden by the morning, what kind of toys and candy would be burrowed in our Easter grass that overflowed from our pastel, straw baskets, and whether the Easter bunny was real or not. I had mentioned that I knew that he wasn’t real after Skylar said he wanted to see him in our living room. He didn’t know whether to believe me or not. Derek had no say in the conversation. He just flipped his pillow to the cold side, buried his cheek in it, and told us that we should sleep.

I adjusted myself in my sleeping bag on the floor in between their beds and turned around.

“I think I have double A batteries in my Furby that we can use,” I said.

Skylar sat crossed legged beneath his comforter as he fumbled with the back of his battery-less Star Wars stormtrooper toy. It was equipped with a motion sensor on its white belt. Its plastic legs were stiff and its flexible arms hung down; one hand clutched a black gun. When something moved in front of it, the tip of its gun would flicker red and the sound of a laser would electrify the room. It was the perfect way for me to prove to Skylar, the youngest of the three of us, that the Easter bunny really was Mom and Dad. We just needed batteries. Read More

The Door that was Always There

My bangs were stuck to my forehead, the taste of freedom lingered in the summer air. I had two more days of riding the bus before eighth grade would become history, before it would mesh together with the few years before it, before it didn’t matter to me anymore.

I didn’t know it then, but the end of my eighth grade year would become impossible to forget.

My head bounced against the window stained with fingerprints, my hair was frizzy. I rested my sticky palms on my knees as I zoned out. My vibrating cell phone brought me back to reality as it buzzed in my pocket. I took it out, and when my eyes set on his name, I smiled.

“Is it him?” asked Hannah, who sat next to me, as she took the ear bud for her iPod out of her ear.

I nodded my head as I read my text message.

Hannah laughed as she eyed my face, her blue braces shined. A crinkled piece of purple gum was tucked in her cheek.

“What did he say?”

“He wants to hang out today.” My feet shuffled.

Hannah squealed as she leaned over to see the text message Damien sent me. “That is so awesome, Meg! You better hang out with him, you need yourself a dude!” Read More