This should be a happy occasion—them coming back—but, somehow, it feels sad. It occurs to me that I don’t do a lot of thinking, here—sitting on my front steps in the biting wind of mid-December. The stone feels wet as the cold seeps through my leggings.
I’ve lived in this house since I was born (fourteen years), and I haven’t really sat here before.
I’ve lived in this town since I was born, but I’ve only lived here for a few months without them. I know that Genevieve will get here first, what with Aspen probably having to pack seven more outfits, and Zeke’s brother probably threatening to throw up at any minute.
I have to believe that this is happening, but none of it really feels real. I’m vaguely aware of the fact that I haven’t eaten anything all day, and my body definitely feels its complete lack of any sleep. My face doesn’t change from its neutral expression as a beige Subaru pulls up next to the sidewalk.
Genevieve gets out of the car, and I run to her. I don’t remember standing up, but before I have time to think about how I’ve crossed down to the sidewalk, she has swept me off my feet—she’s always had more energy than me. She says something that sounds like, “Molly, I missed you so much!” and I might’ve replied, but I’m not sure because, all of a sudden, I’m on the ground, and Genevieve is leaning over me, and my vision is getting dimmer, and then my mom is there, and then, and then…
Then I am finally, finally asleep.
“Gee, look at those dark circles – Noe, has she been sleeping?”
“I think so; she hasn’t been waking me up, but, I mean, I don’t really know.”
I crack open my eyes. “I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.”
Noelle, my sister (older by only ten months), reaches to help me sit up, her eyes narrowed.
“Moll, how little is ‘not a lot?’”
“I don’t know – not a lot?”
“None,” I answer, sheepishly. I see Noelle’s dark eyes roll as she throws her hands up in a gesture of exasperation. My eyes slip to Genevieve’s green ones, which are soft and concerned. “I know I need to sleep, Gen—-it’s not like I don’t try.”
Genevieve cracks a smile, although her eyes are still worried. “You’d better sleep while I’m here, or I’ll get Zeke’s dad to send me an anesthetic, and then you’ll have to.”
“Noted,” I laugh. Zeke’s dad’s a pharmacist, but he has strict rule against sending people anesthetics via mail. “Have you gotten any texts from Aspen or Zeke?”
Genevieve snorts. “Yeah—Aspen will be here in about an hour or so, but Zeke’s going to get here later than expected. His brother’s actually come down with the stomach flu and his mom has to go get him an IV ’cause he can’t keep any fluids in him.”
“Solomon?! Actually sick? No way!”
I stand up, and Genevieve takes my hand as we walk down the stairs. Noelle follows behind us, calling out to our mom, “Molly’s awake now—she’s fine. Can we decorate cookies?”
“Sure, they’re on the coffee table, hon!”
Noelle asks me to get the decorating supplies, but I loiter at the door to the kitchen, watching my sister and my best friend. Noelle doesn’t even have to motion for her to sit on the sofa—Genevieve plops down, and stretches way out, her long legs reaching down the length of the couch. It’s as if she never moved. She fits in so comfortably with everything in the living room, the sofas and the Christmas tree and the coffee table and Noelle. They’re sisters, I think, just as much as Noelle and I are sisters. I watch as Genevieve’s blonde hair mingles with Noelle’s brown waves, and I sigh, reminded of a time when this was more normal.
I turn around. “Yeah, mom?”
She looks at me gently for a moment before wrapping me in a warm hug that smells like sugar cookies and ginger snaps. “It’s gonna be alright, Molly,” she says into my hair. I’m not sure why she says it, but some little ache inside me responds, and my eyes start to water, and before I know it, I’m speaking.
“I’m not sure it will.”
“It will, Molly. You’re gonna be alright.” I want to believe her, so I nod, and wipe my eyes on her shirt. She doesn’t mind.
“Molly?” It’s Noelle. “Did you fall into Wonderland? Genevieve says she’ll eat me if we don’t decorate these cookies!”
Mom chuckles, lets me go, hands me the tray of decorations, and kisses me on the head as she propels me into the living room. “Don’t you go and eat my eldest, Genevieve! I don’t know what I’d do without my two girls—they balance each other out.”
Genevieve laughs and moves over a bit to give me room on the sofa in between herself and Noelle. As we begin to decorate, Noelle asks, “so, what are you two planning on doing with Aspen and Esther?”
“Right. Sorry. Zeke.”
We sit in a very awkward silence for a few seconds before Genevieve decides to respond to the question as though Noelle’s name slip never happened. “I think we’re going to be doing a lot of shopping in Havelock Village—getting gifts for each other and all that. I think I have everything figured out. It’s really easy to shop for Aspen and Molly, but Zeke and you are more difficult.”
“Phoey! I’m not difficult!” protests Noelle, flicking sprinkles at Genevieve and earning a warning glance from Mom. “Just get me more makeup and I’m set!”
We all laugh. Noelle’s daily application of incredibly red lipstick had become routine in our family, and she saved the crazy eye-shadow jobs for special occasions and other people. One day, she hoped to go cosmetics school and get a job doing makeup for movies.
“Well, Zeke’s really difficult,” Genevieve says, finishing her fourth perfect cookie. “I never know what to get him! Usually I just end up buying him t-shirts, but since I already always get clothes for Aspen, it seems kind of unoriginal. I wish I could do what you always do, Molly!”
I blush. Every Christmas and birthday since we’d met, I’d always given everyone the same gift (although these gifts had gotten considerably better over time). I was compiling a cookbook, and every time there was an occasion where someone was to be given a gift, I would create a recipe that they would enjoy and that would remind everyone of them. The early recipes in the book were virtually inedible and were written by Mom, since I hadn’t yet learned to write. They progressed into my awful five-year-old handwriting and were mostly sprinkles on toast until I actually began to cook things. It was a fun tradition—everyone knew what I was going to give them (food), but no one knew what kind of food they’d be getting.
“Sounds fun. I might be doing a little gift shopping, myself…” Noelle ends the sentence with a wink and a mischievous grin, and I feel myself smile. There was no reason in the world to worry right now. There was nothing that could conceivably go wrong. I had Genevieve. I had Noelle (on her best behavior because of Christmas). Pretty soon, I would have Aspen and Zeke. It was like mom said. It was all going to be okay.
I was going to be okay.
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