Day Two — Happy Juice

“Here goes nothing,” Ainsley says aloud, turning off the ignition to Royce’s car. She had pulled into the driveway a few minutes earlier, but stayed in the car, staring at the home she had grown up in with her parents and four siblings. Not much had changed about the exterior of the two story Tudor-style home since her last trip home, except snow lined the rooftop and icicles had formed under the gutters from where the snow had begun to melt. She was still staring at the second story window of what used to be her bedroom when there was a tap on the window. Startled, she turns and sees it’s her youngest sister, Eliza. “Sissy, you getting out?” she asks excitedly. Ainsley smiles and says, “Of course.”

Once out of the car, Eliza hugs her tightly. “My God, Star, look at you,” Ainsley comments, noticing that her baby sister was far from a baby. Eliza’s once scrawny but now slender frame towered over her at 5’10”, her brown-hued face exactly like their father’s.

“Sis, where’s Tank?” Eliza asks, adjusting her book bag.

“Where do you think? His home away from home.”

“Dag, what did they take him in for now?”

“Driving with a suspended license.”

“Oh, boy. Will he be out in time for my show Friday?”

“He should be. He’s supposed to see a judge tomorrow.”

“What are you going to do about your brother?”

“Why do I have to do something about him?”

“Because you’re the sensible one. Hey, let me get his keys. I can just take his car to work.”

“Can’t. It’s uninsured. You beg me to come here and when I arrive you leave me with Cricket and Bubby?”

“Well, Daddy doesn’t get off for a few more hours. So it’s just you and Cricket.”

Ainsley groans and says, “How is she?”

Eliza looks at her sister with raised eyebrows. “How you think?”

“Star, it’s not even 4pm.”

“But its happy hour.”

“With Cricket, it’s always happy hour.”

*****

Ainsley walks in the door to the smell of fish and grease and the faint sound of blues floating in the air. She sits her bags down at the foot of the stairs, and then looks up. The same family pictures lined the wall of the staircase. She glances into the living room where the same floral print sofa and loveseat sat, the 7.5 foot Christmas tree in the corner. Not much had changed on the interior, either.

“Star? What did you forget, girl?” her mother Elizabeth calls from the kitchen.

“No, it’s not Star, Mama.” Ainsley says, heading towards the kitchen. Once at the entrance, Ainsley stops and leans against the door jamb. “Hi, Mama,” she says. Elizabeth, looks up from the stove and says, “Well, if it isn’t my prodigal daughter.”

“How are you?” Ainsley asks.

Elizabeth comes over to hug her, and as soon as she’s close, Ainsley can smell the combination of her mother’s “happy juice” – Sterling vodka and lemon lime juice. She looks over to the counter and spots the green liquid sitting in a highball glass. She shakes her head slightly. Just like the home they were in, her mother hadn’t changed much, either.

“Where’s Tank?” Elizabeth asks, resuming the dinner preparation.

“Sitting downtown in a holding cell as we speak,”

“That son of mine, what did he do?”

“Suspended license, no insurance. He said something about calling Vanessa.”

“Yeah, that’s his girlfriend.”

“Are they serious?”

“He’s shacking with her, so that should tell you something.”

“Well, I suppose.”

“I thought you were bringing a friend.” Elizabeth asks a moment later.

“Change of plans.”

“Hmmph,” Elizabeth says, not looking up from battering the fish. “You run him off?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ainsley asks.

“Well?” she asks, pausing to look at her daughter.

“No, Ma, I did not run him off.” She answers, rolling her eyes.

“Well, what happened?”

“Do we have to talk about it?”

“Sounds like he ran off to me,” Elizabeth concludes, then turns her attention back to the food.

“Mama!”

“Now, don’t ‘Mama’ me, Sissy. I know what I’m talking about. How you think me and your daddy still married after all these years? Because I know what I’m doing. You know what your problem is?”

“No, but I’m sure you’ll tell me,” she mutters.

“You’re too independent. Don’t no man want to be around a woman who don’t need him.”

“That’s ridiculous,”

“And just how long have you been married?”

When Ainsley doesn’t respond, Elizabeth says, “Exactly. At this rate, you’ll wind up being an old maid.”

“Oh my God, Mama,” Ainsley replies, exasperated. “Why do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“I haven’t even been here five minutes, and already you’re telling me how to run my life. You haven’t asked me how I’ve been, how my flight was, nothing.”

“No one’s telling you how to run your life. If you’re okay with living like a hermit by yourself in Florida – ” Elizabeth begins to say, but Ainsley cuts her off. “A hermit? Really, Ma? And why are you giving me such a hard time anyways, it’s not like any of us are married.”

“At least they’ve all had serious relationships. Which is more than what I can say for you.”

“Well, I’m not going to get into a relationship just for the sake of being in one.”

“Hmmph, with your attitude, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon.”

“Oh, my God,” she mutters, her frustration continuing to mount with her mother.

“Sissy, you’re 28 and haven’t had a real relationship. I was looking forward to meeting this man, because I was starting to think you were a lost cause. So, your mother was excited. And of course, here you are, doing what you always do, running the guy off. You get so focused on that job of yours, which I know isn’t going well, by the way. When was the last time you made a sale?”

“It’s been a few months,” Ainsley answers.

“A few months? You haven’t had a check in a few months?” Elizabeth asks, pausing to look at her middle daughter.

“I’ve got my savings, Ma. I’m fine. It’s the nature of real estate.”

“Well, it’s going to take more than a job to keep you warm at night especially since you’ll be out of money soon.”

“Ok, Ma, I’m headed upstairs,” Ainsley says then, wanting to get away from the conversation. It was either walk away or start banging her head against the wall. She would never understand why they had this same argument every time they were together. As she turns to head out of the kitchen, Elizabeth says, “Get settled and come back down to help me get the table set. Boo and Coco are on their way over, and your daddy will be off work soon.”

I can’t get away, no matter how hard I try, she thinks with a roll of her eyes. Ainsley then sighs and says, “Yes, ma’am.”

“12 Days” ©2010 by Dahlia Savage. All rights reserved.

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