Evie fills the mixing bowl with dregs of bran cereal. She pours milk over the flakes, sending them crackling to death by drowning. She streams chocolate syrup over the whole thing, then churns it with a spoon. A chocolate smudge swooshes across her cheekbone like war paint.
I grin at my new best friend, the queen of all cool things, of all things defiant: mismatched socks, unsigned permission slips, chalk drawings all over the driveway.
“Lunch is served.” Evie hands me a ladle.
The sour milk curls on my tongue, the flakes cling to my teeth. Milk drips down Evie’s chin.
I look for paper towels but only find the naked cardboard roll. The garbage can had vomited its refuse all over the floor. I nudge an egg carton full of broken shells. Clumps of strawberry jam dot the linoleum like clotted blood.
“Where’s your Momma?”
“She’s not here. She took the big suitcase.”
“I don’t remember.” Evie writes her name in the table’s dust. It’s nothing like the big, loopy scrawl in the colored chalk outside. This word, this Evie, is small, faded, lonely.
“Do you want to come to my house?”
“I better stay here and wait for her to come back.”
The tower of dirty dishes taunts me from the sink.
“I’ll wait with you.” I take another slurp of cereal and force it down.
Evie smiles. She writes my name in the dust, linking it with her own.
Madeline Mora-Summonte reads, writes and breathes fiction in all its forms. Her story, “The Empty Nest,” appears in Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer (W.W. Norton, 2010).