Status: Final Revisions 75% complete
Candle-light flickered, making the lines of our old oak dining table look like deep shadowy indentations. I warmed my hands around my mug of hot chocolate. It would have been a perfectly normal family games night, if it weren’t 3 in the morning and we weren’t all there because we couldn’t sleep.
Amanda, my adoptive mother, rocked back in her chair with a sigh. “Seriously? We have no hope of catching up to you now!” She shifted the letters on her stand with dainty hands. Evidence of her lifetime of ballet training was apparent even in the smallest movements of her fingers. She smiled at me, but it didn’t reach her eyes. I was used to her empty smiles by now.
We all studiously ignored the chair across from me - Sam’s chair - sitting empty in the shadows. No matter how hard we tried to bury the sadness, forget the loss and enjoy ourselves, she reminded us. She was everywhere.
I looked at Jake sitting at the head of the table, so large his elbows reached from one end to the other as he leaned over the board. The creases of many sleepless nights hung around his eyes like forgotten spider webs. Until this summer, I had never seen him ruffled. He had always been the solid pillar in my life, the knowledge that nothing could ever really go wrong.
Until something did.
He drummed his heavy fingers next to the board. Then, slowly, deliberately, he placed his letters down. “D-R-O-” I watched Amanda’s eyes flash and then go completely dead as he continued.
“Drowned, plus a triple word score. Read it and weep.” Then, suddenly he paused, hand hovering over his last ‘D,’ as though he were a wind-up toy who ran out of juice.
No one moved, not even to breathe. This moment, the game, our smiles and laughs, had been encased in a thin layer of crystal. And now, the brittle, icy sounds of cracking could be heard all around us.
Amanda pushed the scrabble board hard across the table into her husband’s lap. Letters flew everywhere.
“Jacob!” Her eyes were no longer lifeless. They were fierce, hurt, devastated. The spiderwebs around Jake’s eyes deepened as the pain cut through him like a knife.
It was too terrible. So I left.
In my room, I pressed my face under my pillow and chanted my sister’s name over and over to drown out the tearful sounds from my parents’ bedroom.
But no one answered.