Just Past Three in the Morning (16)
“Penny was right, you really should have sex on this rug.”
“Quit it. I'm still your sister.”
“Prude.” She stuck out her tongue, and did that neat little roll into a cross-legged pose that every girl on earth except me seems to have sorted out.
And were her and Greg at it like bunny rabbits? Almost for sure. Let's face it. It wasn't something I wanted to think about, but she was just gone eighteen and she'd been with Greg for a bit over a year.
“I'm not a prude, there's just some things I don't need reminding about.”
“Fine. But the rug's awesome. It's as comfortable as sleeping – or whatever – on a bed.”
That was the pattern these days. When things got too much at home she'd come over here for a day or two, just to get away from it. The explosions of shouting and recrimination were much the same – flares of heat and colour, simmering down into bitter complaints – but the aftermath was longer now – the cold that had settled between the two of them was almost a permanent fixture.
“They never warm up to each other anymore. Hardly ever. It's hard to be around them.”
Yeah, when she'd finished school, as soon as she could hook herself up with a job or a student loan, I was pretty sure she'd be out of the house. And I imagined that house, without me or Shelley to soothe over the tension, another person's presence to behave for: was it going to be ten times worse, or would they just have to face each other?
“Jen thinks she knows a place she can get us into. Big place up on South Bacon Street. Sometime next year – she'll make it happen.”
“Sounds like a doss house.”
“No. The guys are really cool. Trust me.”
At eighteen? But it hadn't been that long ago for me? Embrace it, I wanted to say to her, take all the youth you can while you can get it, and live it to it's absolute essence. Drain it dry. Life catches up with you. Me: twenty-five. Shaking my head at myself. So easy for life to pass you by.
But I said: “Just check stuff out. Due diligence, okay?”
“Yes, Mum two.”
Davey came over for dinner with us. When I say “dinner” I'm talking about fish and chips spread out on the floor with us lounging in bean bags and watching TV.
And us with our ulterior motive.
Fact is: we were scared about things. The way Mum and Dad had gotten recently. I felt like we needed a double agent. “Have you heard anything? What does Uncle Harry say to you?”
Davey shook his head: “Not much. I mean I know they're having problems. Dad seems to think they'll work it out.”
“I'm less sure.”
“That bad, huh?”
“If not worse.”
“Well, all I know is what Dad tells me. And its probably not all the facts. I think maybe your Dad feels under-appreciated for some reason. I've overheard him once saying that nothing he does is ever good enough, she always wants things out of him that just aren't the way he is. Guys say those things. 'Had enough nagging' - I don't know what you can read into that.”
Shelley blurted: “I think they could leave each other.”
“Not really? Uncle Geoff and Aunt Maddy?”
“I think they could.”
Davey looked at me. I wasn't sure. I nodded. Because, for sure, the fear was in there, just cold and shadowy right beneath my skin. Did I really think it would happen? I don't know. But the gulf between the two of them, it was a real, waking, everyday thing. Young or not, Shelley should know – she was living with it.
“So,” I said.
“Uh-oh.” His shields were ready to come up.
“We thought maybe you could get Uncle Harry to say something. Just to talk with Dad, like, see where things are. Maybe get it across to him that me and Shelley are worried.”
“You know you could...”
“Talk to him? Ourselves? Davey, it's Dad.”
“Look: I just think he'd listen if it came from Harry. It's different. And he's more divorced” - the D-word just coming out without me meaning it to - “from the whole situation, more distant. He can say things me or Shelley couldn't. And Dad might open up to his brother.”
“Who'd report to me. Who then reports to you.”
“We'll need a secret handshake.”
“So you'll ask him?”
“I'll ask him. This is getting out of hand.”
I put my arms around him quite spontaneously. “You're the best, Davey. Knew I could count on you.”