Every Saturday afternoon our stepmother drove the four of us to the ice arena in Somersville. If you got in trouble that week, you'd still get to come, but you weren't allowed to skate. Take Gemma, who'd stolen a ten dollar bill out of dad's wallet: she'd been properly scolded, had to pay him twenty dollars back, and at the arena she was forced to watch us from the benches shielded by sheets of plexiglass. "This is so stupid," she sulked, when I stepped out of the rink to peel off one of my three sweaters. "Why did I even have to come?"
But we both knew the answer to that. It wasn't really about us skating. It was about our father having some peace and quiet in the house. He'd been working on his novel for almost a year, and these Saturday afternoons were the only time he truly got any work done. Each time we got back from Somersville, the stack of typed pages on his desk had grown the slightest bit taller. The stack was held down by a paperweight that looked like a crumpled up sheet of legal paper, a Christmas gift from the year before.
"Can I read it?" I'd asked once, and he'd said, "When it's published," then shooed me out of the room.
But how could I not? I convinced myself that I had a right to. And if you thought about it for long enough, I had an obligation to read it, really, because what if our house happened to catch fire in the middle of the night, and he wasn't able to save his manuscript, and he'd be forced to reconstruct it from memory? If I read it, too, his task of rewriting wouldn't be so daunting. I could help him out. So there: it was practically a necessity.
In the end, Gemma wormed her way into my plan, of course. Getting involved in things was her specialty. After two hours of searching we found the key to the study, went in, snatched the first twenty pages, and read them as quickly as we could. Then the next twenty, and the next twenty. We were done with what he had written so far in just enough time to put everything back in its place.
"The kids in the book..." I said to Gemma, grabbing her by the arm before she ducked back into her room, "That's not – that's not us, is it?"
She understood what I meant: that the kids sounded a lot like us – ice skater aficionados, four sisters. But these kids in his novel were awful. They were bratty. They whined all the time. One of them had even gotten hit by a car because she didn't check for traffic before running out into the street. Who would write something like that?
Gemma shrugged. It could be, she said. But probably not. "Don't worry about it," she said. "It's just fiction, after all."
Fiction Friday is an outlet for experimentation while I slowly work on becoming a novelist. Read the rest of the stories here...