Etta listened carefully to her mother’s chatter. She sounded better. Healthy. Even enticed.
After their inicial talk, it took a few more days for Melia to collect herself, but once she did, she was keeping busy. The kids had been surviving on peanut butter sandwiches since the funeral, the house was fairly neglected and the garden…
…well, the garden looked as pitiful as Melia felt.
She had got a lot of work to do. Luckily, seeing her up and about infused the rest of the household with a new spirit. With their mom back, they felt a bit more like a family. A painfully incomplete family, but a family nonetheless. They were ready to help.
Few weeks and hours of persuasion later, Melia replied to the letter she had gotten from the SimChef producers and soon after that, it was time for her first screen tests and shoots. With a heavy heart, Melia left her teenagers home with Devi and flew to San Myshuno.
That didn’t stop her from stressing over her children’s well-being, of course. She was calling twice a day, armed with dozens of questions and concerns.
Etta was thinking about it on her way home from school and she decided she didn’t mind. It was a sign her mom was slowly getting back to normal and Etta would do anything to help with the process, even if it meant answering even a thousand phone calls a day. She was ready to be on her best behavior.
However, not everyone in the household was of the same mind as Etta found out when she got home. She was just raiding the fridge for leftovers, when Amon appeared out of nowhere, grabbed some frittata and took it to the living room to enjoy his lunch on a comfy couch. Etta followed him, the question already on her lips.
But Etta was unmoved by his pleas and remained quiet until he gave up.
Amon rolled his eyes and grumbled.
Etta instantly thought of the essay about Lord of Frogs that was due Monday and a pile of unfinished AP microeconomics exercises on her desk and she was about to say no, but then she remembered Dante was Amon’s friend, too.
Amon rolled his eyes again and nodded as she left the living room. Etta then rushed upstairs, craving a few moments of solitude. She grabbed the book, determined to finish it that day, so she could start working on her essay. But the book was not as exciting as she would like it to be. Soon she found herself drifting off only to be abruptly awaken by ear-splitting, harsh noises.
Etta was disoriented for a second, staring at the dark sky outside and then she realized she probably slept for a couple of hours. She quickly identified the source of the sounds – dance music and chanting and laughs – and she immediately felt her blood boiling with anger.
She walked out of her room, only to find people crawling all over the place and a whole crowd of her schoolmates dancing and singing along the stupidest song she had ever heard right there in the hallway.
Amon was among them, trying to dance his way towards Taylor, a super pretty cheerleader he hadn’t dated yet.
He slowly walked away and the little group he had been dancing with dispersed towards the other side of the room. Except for Taylor who did not like the interuption.
Etta didn’t wait for an answer and without wasting another breath on that plum, she left. She found Amon in the kitchen with a usual smug grin on his face.
A guilty expression flashed through his face, but before he could say anything, his lovely lady friend appeared, pushed Etta out of the way and gave her a disaproving, mocking look.
Etta ignored her remark and took a deep breath in, trying hard to keep her voice down.
In that moment Dante walked in throught the garden door, wearing a swimsuit for some reason and inquiring about more alcohol. Amon gladly jumped at the opportunity and escaped the conversation.
Etta felt tears burning in her eyes as she stood there like she was invisible while they all went about their business. Amon tried his best to acknowledge her as little as possible and she never felt more awkward and helpless.
But Taylor’s cold, disdainful laugh cut her off mid-sentence.
Etta could not believe her ears. She was genuinely counting on him to defend her against Taylor, not the other way around. The betrayal left her speechless, but her brother was not done.
His words were like a slap in the face. She wasn’t ready for the humiliation that came with it, neither for Taylor’s hysterical laughter. For the first time in her life, she wanted to say something awful, too, she wanted to hurt him and to share her heartache, but she couldn’t fight the tears any longer. She turned around and ran to her room, sobs escaping her lips already.
A couple of minutes later, someone knocked on her door.
But he, of course, did not respect her wishes and walked in. Except that it wasn’t Amon.
Etta sprang up from her bed in panic. He sounded genuinely concerned and on any other day, that alone would probably make her feel better. Right now, though, she was upset and confused and she didn’t want to see him any more than her awful brother. But more importantly, she didn’t want him to see her like this. She desperately needed few moments to collect herself.
Etta wiped her tears and waited for him to leave, but he just sighed and came closer, his voice breathy and soft as a summer breeze.
She didn’t know what to say. With terror, she realized he was right and it paralyzed her to be suddenly so exposed. She didn’t have the strength to respond.
He gently pulled her even closer and Etta, not fully realizing it, let herself fall further into his arms.
Etta couldn’t stand it anymore. Something broke in her when he said it, the words scared her to death with their accuracy. They shook her soul and resonated with her very core and she cried and cried and he held her like there was nothing else in the world but her sorrow.
And for the first time in weeks, she didn’t feel alone in the world.