THESE DAYS • by Allison Rae King

My older sister Kolt storms into the kitchen like an angry ostrich, all neck and ruffled feathers and big round eyes. Her fists are balled, her face splotchy red, a duffel bag slung over her shoulder. She’s barefoot. I bite back an uh oh and mind my own business at the stove where I’m making her a send-off breakfast. She swore she was leaving this time.

“Well?” she demands, staring laser eyes into our father’s skull. She hasn’t said one word to either of us since last night.

Dad spoons rainbow cereal into his mouth, milk dribbling down his beard. He has broad shoulders and cinder blocks for hands. He isn’t usually concerned about etiquette, but he takes his time, dabs his mouth after each bite, chews thoroughly, places his spoon neatly on the table, sips orange juice with his pinky out.

Kolt fumes.

Dad says, “Well what?”

“Where are they?”

Her face is a plum rose color. If she suddenly morphed into an animal, it would be a cartoon bull with red eyes and radiator nose.

“Did you check lost and found?” Dad asks.

We don’t have a lost and found box.

“Give them back. I’m going. You can’t stop me.”

“There’s the door.”

We all look out the curtainless back door, the glare coming in off the snow is sharp. After our mother died, my father took down every window treatment, as if he wanted the sunlight to scour away the gloom we all felt from her absence.

“You can borrow mine,” I say, flipping the eggs.

Dad heaves out his chest and crosses his arms, a smile on his face. “There you go,” he says. “Problem solved. Just borrow a pair of your sister’s.”

Kolt crosses her arms. “I’m really leaving this time.”

“You can’t borrow my sneakers then,” I say. “I need those for school.”

“Do what you want,” Dad says.  “Borrow shoes and get on your way. It’s pretty cold today. Hope you know where your coat is.”

Kolt huffs, stares at her fists, probably wanting to pound something, me. Eventually she uncurls her fingers, whisper-hisses, “You know her shoes don’t fit me.” 

They lock eyes — two grumps who want to make peace but don’t know how.

Dad tells her to sit. Kolt drops the duffel bag and sits but only after she scoots a chair far away from his. I place the to-go order in front of her, making it a for-here order. I laugh at my own inside joke. Kolt shoots me a nasty look and I mash my lips tight.

This is how it is these days since our mother died. Our kitchen is heated to cozy. We eat breakfast in silence but we’re together. Outside the sun is a bright ball of winter yellow that casts a cheery light across the kitchen floor and table. Just beyond the thin delicate pane of glass separating the inside from outside, I can almost hear the drip-drip-drip of icicles starting to melt.

Allison Rae King lives and writes in Florida. Her work can be found at Flash Flood Journal and Outlook Springs.

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