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Well, I missed the EM list this month. :P Doh! But I'll post anyway. Since it's Nano, I have plenty of crap to share. I'll have to post my excerpt with an R rating because there is a bit of language in it. Hope you enjoy.
Brother glanced over to check on his sister, sitting on the very edge of the couch and balancing her tv dinner on her knees. Olivia was five today and Dad hadn't remembered in time to bring home a present from Walmart after work.
No surprise, there, though, and he was used to helping out. His dad said he was a effing helper. At school, his teacher even gave him a star for helping clean the erasers.
This time, Brother knew just the thing to make up for his mistake. The storage space under the house had been flooded earlier in the summer so the mud that was the floor sucked his shoes with every step he took to the back wall. His dad could reach the top shelf, no problem, but he had to climb. He breathed a sigh of relief, finding it dry. The bracelet he'd put there after his mother left had turned a funny green, though. He shrugged.
Olivia's favorite color was green.
Someday, he'd thought he would buy her one of those pretty rings from the television, the one with a great big stone on it. It was as big as a chicken nugget!
A roar blared from the screen, drawing his attention back to the wrestling show that came on every Thursday night.
“Dad, maybe we could sing Happy Birthday to Olivia now.”
Olivia stood with a smile and picked up all the trays. She was shy, even with her family, and blushed when her dad looked at her and narrowed his eyes. With a quick look at Brother, she fled the room. He could hear the lid of the trashcan as it snapped back into place.
His dad grunted. Not a great sign, but he did place his beer on the table. “You didn't get no cake, did you, boy?”
Brother's pulse jumped at the accusation in his dad's question. “I-- I made a cake.”
“No cake.” Red-faced, his dad slurred with a frown. “You know goddamned well, 'Livia can't have cake. It'll take the very life from her.”
“No-- no-- There's no sugar in it. I swear. I followed the recipe and didn't add any sugar.” Though his hands shook, he stood his ground. “Just like the doctor said, no sugar.”
“Effin' A, you little pipsqueak.” Looking through the top of his eyes, the bags beneath, dark and sagging, his dad relaxed back onto the couch with an chuckle. “Son of a bitch. They's said you was slow. Pricks, the bunch of them, sitting in their offices and handing out effin' evaluations. So, you made a cake. No sugar.
“'Livia! Come on in here so we can sing you a happy birthday.”
Brother turned and coaxed Olivia from out of the hallway by holding out his hand with a smile. “Sit here. I'll go get it.”
The cake was small and it had risen too much, then fallen when he took it out of the oven. Opening the drawer next to the stove, he pulled out a candle—a pink one. Perfect for a girl. Carefully, he placed one foot in front of the other down the short hall. The cake wobbled as he entered the living room.
Olivia's smile gave him courage and he gripped the plate a little tighter as he took a deep breath and started to sing. She sang with him, her eyes shining, her cheeks flushed. The guttural sounds of their father's voice, joining in, startled him for just a fraction of an instant. Brother knew this was a special day, and Dad must have figured it out, too.
With her eyes closed so tight—she looked just like his friend Kim down the street—his sister blew out the candle.
“Did you make a wish?” he asked, teasing her.
Her curls bounced with her answer.
“I got a present for you.”
His dad sat up and eyed him suspiciously. “You steal it, boy?”
Brother took the wrapped gift from his pocket and set it on the table. “I'll cut the cake while you open it.”
She took her time, and he worried when her movements became clumsy. When she wasn't feeling well, she needed his help more. He really was a big helper.
Finally the small package was open. The bracelet looked much worse up here.
He wasn't supposed to cry. That's what his dad said. So he blinked away the prickly feeling.
“It's lovely. Thank you so much.” On her wrist, it could have been gold and he was proud that he'd given it to her, even if it wasn't. The smile she sent him was quiet, as if she understood things he didn't. She touched his arm before coming around the table and hugging him. “Thank you.”
Brother closed his eyes and hugged her back. She gave the best hugs ever.
“Looks like a piece of crap to me.”
With a wink, Olivia ignored their dad. “Let's go outside and play until bedtime.”
Glad to escape the disappointment of that small room, in that dark house, he grabbed his sister's hand and raced toward the front door.
“Aren't ya gonna eat the goddamned cake?”
They slowed but didn't stop.
“Don't forget your sister's medicine! Before bed. Don't forget.”
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