Just Me(8)

By: L.A. Fiore



Good night, Sebastian.

Before I could put my phone on the bedside table, it buzzed, signaling an incoming text. Seeing Sebastian's number, even knowing already it was going to be from him, had my heart fluttering again.

Larkspur, sweet dreams.

Oh, I was going to be dreaming of him, no doubt. So, yes indeed, my dreams were most definitely going to be sweet.

***

Something jarred me from sleep later that night. I half expected to see someone in my room, but a quick look around proved that false. A glance at the clock showed it was just after three in the morning. Climbing from bed, I made my way downstairs to get a glass of water. I didn't immediately see my aunt sitting alone in the kitchen, but once I did, I wished I had stayed in my room. Her eyes looked oddly empty. “What are you doing up? Are you looking to raid the refrigerator? Am I not feeding you enough?” She said.

“I just wanted a glass of water.” My voice shook a bit, because truth be told, I was a little afraid of her too.

She didn't acknowledge my reply and I suspected that was because she had already dismissed me from her thoughts. It wasn't my intention to say anything more, but it was strange to find her sitting alone in the kitchen in the early hours of the morning.

“Are you okay?”

I didn't think she was going to answer me and when she did, shock and bewilderment filled me in response. She asked. “Do you believe in hell?”

It took me a moment to reply. “I think I do.”

“When I die, I'll probably go to hell.”

If that belief was based on her treatment of me, I had to agree with her on that point. But I kept that thought to myself. Her next words weren't directed at me. I had the sense that she was talking to herself. “There are times I wish I could go back and do it differently. Even though I won, I didn't really win.”

Her gaze lifted and a hint of tenderness peeked out. “It's not personal. Sometimes I wish I could compartmentalize my feelings, but I've never been very good at that.”

I didn't understand what she was saying. My brain wasn't up to the task of deciphering this conversation because it was on overload. Normally the only time my aunt deemed to speak to me was to rub in my face all the family activities I wouldn't be participating in, going so far as to lie to my uncle about my disinterest in family gatherings as the reason for my exclusion. This insight into her, regret however small, was as confusing as it was unexpected.

“You should try to get some sleep. You have school in the morning.” She stood and walked from the room. My mind was still processing the cryptic, and yet not unpleasant, conversation I had just shared with her, so I didn't immediately follow her out.

Returning to my room, I settled in for bed, but I was perplexed by my aunt's behavior in the kitchen. It wasn't long after I first arrived that her attitude toward me changed. She didn't treat me like family and though she didn't beat me, or lock me in my room, she always kept me on the outside. It started with her forgetting to include me. Small things at first, like not inviting me out for ice cream, or to walk the dog. She would claim she thought I wasn't interested or busy doing something else, but later the exclusions became more obvious. Like when she decided to redecorate the house and every room was updated but mine. She had insisted that she had already redecorated my room before I arrived—but considering the wall color in my room was the same color of the hallway just outside my room, a color my aunt had repeatedly remarked on not liking—it was clear she had lied. And I couldn't forget the homemade school lunches she made every morning for the girls, usually with a daily note of encouragement tucked inside, but for me I got an envelope on the counter with money. And the few times I was included, it was more in the capacity of hired help—carrying the bags for my cousins' purchases, which included not one article of clothing for me. The ten-year-old girl I had been was thrilled to have been included in the shopping trip—I didn't comprehend the snub.

On the surface, my aunt looked like any other soccer mom, but there were times when I would catch her unawares, and the expression, or rather lack of one, on her face chilled me. It was possible I was just being morbid, but to me it seemed like it wouldn't take too hard a push to send my aunt completely over the edge. She always made the hairs on my arms stand just a little bit on end.

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