Smoke in Summer

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She'd lost it

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She'd lost it. When had calm turned to frantic? When had collected turned to outburst? When had control dissolved like sugar in tea? She didn't know; she couldn't tell if it was her mother she was angry with for dying, her father for his indifference, or God for letting it all happen. To spite all three of them she'd disbelieve in one.

She paced her room, then took a seat on her bed, then lay down. She breathed deep, her mouth dry. She brought her fists down on her bed. It didn't help. Breaking something seemed appropriate. She grabbed the clock off the bedside table and sat up to throw it at the wall, then froze. The second hand ticked. She could feel it like a heartbeat. She knew the longer she waited to leave her room the more embarrassed she'd be. Still, she couldn't muster the energy to face him—any of them. Sadie took a breath and placed the clock back on the table.

She slumped back on her bed, counted the reasons to be angry at her father while looking at the ceiling. He threw a punch. Once. He wanted everyone to be like him, or like Mom, not themselves. He wanted her to believe in something she couldn't believe in. Was it because Mom died? She was dealing with it better than he was, right? She was living her life, not trying to live someone else's, not waiting every moment in the hope that when she died she would be reunited with someone long past gone. And despite all these reasons, the one thing she wanted was. . .

Why does it hurt? There was something tight within her chest. Something holding her heart in a grip.

Flora said, "He's all you have."

Don't I know that?

Flora asked, "Do you?"

Sadie lay awake thinking for a long time. She wasn't so much unlike her father, she supposed. Like her father she needed Flora, so why wasn't it easier for them? Why did her absence tear them apart?

Sadie never heard her father come up the stairs, and she never meant to fall asleep.


She woke in darkness. Her bedside clock clicked. Wide awake, she waited for a moment. No movement in the house. Fumbling, she found the chain to her lamp and tugged. The clock read just past two. She had slept so long. The pit in her stomach growled.

She slid from her bed, eased her door open, and crept downstairs. She was unable to escape the creakiness of the floor or the strange phenomenon that amplified everything when others are trying to sleep nearby. She stopped outside the living room. Uncle Tom was asleep on the couch, still dressed, the table lamp was on right beside him, a small amount of diluted amber liquid in a low-ball glass on the floor below him. She tiptoed past and entered the kitchen.

The refrigerator light was blinding compared to the dimness of the stars that shone through the window, splashing floor and walls with silver. She picked through the contents, looking for anything that would fill her stomach. She took a loaf of bread from the fridge and fit two slices into the toaster, then she found the jam.

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⏰ Last updated: Nov 20, 2022 ⏰

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