Under This Roof

The door handle slowly turned. I noticed a small fleck of white paint crinkle and fall to the floor, leaving an abyss of gray on the door. My dad had said we would get it redone, but we never did. Maybe when they move in we will, I thought. Maybe we will redo the entire apartment, or even move to Maui or someplace exotic, and then all my memories will fade away with the blowing wind.

The door opened, and I saw them pale in the face, carrying big duffle bags that made them seem tiny. And at that moment, I felt huge. Her awkward “hello” sent shivers through my body as I realized my new responsibility.

She was a tall, dark, and brooding teenager. Her hair was thick and tangled as if she had just been to the ocean. But I knew it wasn’t the crashing waves that knotted her hair. Her eyes were so dark brown that if she said they were black, I would have believed her. There was something desolate about her gaze. Something despondent.

He was younger and lighter colored, and his hair was curled in all different directions. His shirt was sky blue. The blue that makes you want to take a deep breath and go to sleep. His piercing, gray eyes made me want to uncover what lay beneath, but I averted my gaze to a dust bunny floating above the ground. It seemed there was a string attached to it, guiding it somewhere, but that place was unknown.

As they walked through the alcove, the ground lowered where their heavy feet stepped. It was as if the ground wasn’t strong enough to hold the weight of their luggage. One more bag and it would have crumbled under their feet. We reached the room, and for the first time, I realized how much my dad had changed it. My playroom had become their bedroom. I could swear the walls were tan but my dad said white. I think he was pushing it. The bedspreads were a mix of blue and gray, and looked like a Picasso. A painting of the sun hung above the bookshelf. It was truly beautiful but belonged outside, above the blossoming trees and budding flowers. My new stepmother said it was a nice house and a nice room.

I needed space to think to myself, so I went to the kitchen, opened up a drawer, and pulled out a glass bottle. It was hard to open at first, but once the fresh water came trickling down, I forgot about the indent from the cap in my hand. The pure, whole water touched my lips, and I felt it flow down my throat and calm my stomach. I kept drinking until the whole bottle was finished, and I had forgotten that this was the last one.

I decided to lay my head upon my purple pillow and breathe in the deep smell of rose perfume. I didn’t like it. All I wanted was to have a gray pillow with no fragrance, so I wouldn’t feel guilty for getting to stay in my own house while they had to leave theirs. I hoped we could connect under this roof and become a family.

Dinner that night was cold split pea soup. It was dull green and chilled my tongue. There weren’t enough dinner bowls, so I offered to use the ceramic bowl I had made at camp a few summers ago. At first, my dad forgot about it, but when I showed it to him I could tell he was thinking back to the day I brought it home. I said I made the bowl for him and Mommy to share one big spaghetti, like Lady and the Tramp, and then he told me about the divorce. It was like I was standing in the calm ocean, and then an unexpected wave crashed into me, and I went rolling under the cloudy sea, and when I came up for air, I felt a searing pain in my lungs from the salt water, and my eyes could not open, for the salt had blinded me.

That night, I had a dream. I dreamt that I was the wood in a fireplace, just sitting there in the cold, damp night because no one bothered to light the fire.


3 thoughts on “Under This Roof”

  1. Age 13 or 30, I couldn’t have been more moved by this short piece.
    Obviously a very, very gifted young lady.
    I want to read everything she writes!

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