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II: HER WORDS • Fiction Like a Ghost The game was ending just as I heard the old, rickety minivan pull into the


driveway. I tapped my fingers on my bottom teeth, a nervous habit I never was able to shake. My eyes darted from the window to the small screen, desperately hoping to hear the buzzer before the front door. Three free throws and about ten minutes later, I heard the garage door close and gave up hope. Just as the keys clanked on the granite table in the dining room, I grabbed the remote, clicked the TV off and walked on light feet to the door, closing it a little harder than I wanted to. The chatter downstairs turned to a nervous silence and I made my way to my room as quickly as possible. I was getting pretty tired of having to keep quiet all the time, covering my tracks everywhere I went. They were always so damn uptight about the TV, like we were going to lose brain cells or something. I think I get enough of that listening to them bitch about paper towels and dishwasher soap. I sat in my bed for a while, staring at the ceiling with crossed arms until I heard the door next to mine close. “I can’t believe the Bulls pulled that one out.” Well, I wouldn’t need to look up


the last few minutes. Fucking thin walls. The Dolan’s were my quasi-foster family/ fucked up housemates. We never


really nailed down a name. Josh and Jake were a few years younger than me, but since we grew up together and they were pretty much all I had, we got along alright. Even if I did have to endure all of their preteen bullshit. Their parents, Avery and Elaine, may not have liked it when they called me their older brother, but I might as well have been. I think it was good for the twins to have someone around, anyway. The way their mom and dad put them in matching polo’s and sneakers was disgusting. Without me, they’d have gotten their asses beat every day. “Spoiler alerts, kid.” I gave Josh a light shove as I walked into the room. “Shouldn’t be watching that shit anyway. The Bulls are garbage.” He spoke with


confidence, but walked around his brother with his head low, ducking my swinging arms.


“Well mom wouldn’t appreciate the TV being on without her supervision, boys.


You know how important it is to follow the rules.” Jake never said an honest word in his life.


Elaine would have lay down and died had she ever found out why her lovely


Jacob came home so tired most nights. Oh, baby go get some sleep, your eyes are beet red. The three of us would always have a good laugh about that. Jake was usually laughing the hardest. I ended up just sleeping in their room that night. We talked for hours like we


usually did. Mostly about nothing. I slept through two alarms and two showers the next morning, not even stirring when the top bunk creaked and footsteps on the ladder passed right by my ears. I woke up to the smell of bacon. The neighbors must have been having a family breakfast. I slammed the window shut and fell face first into Josh’s pillow. Elaine was still downstairs when I finally rolled out of bed. As I walked down to the kitchen, I saw her sitting at the dining room table, her back stick-straight against the chair, a cup of coffee in her right hand, newspaper in her left and pointed reading glasses perched at the end of her thin, sloping nose. It must have been a while since me and the twins snuck out because I forgot to skip the bottom step. It growled and creaked under my weight. Elaine let out a shriek and looked right at me. Not even at me, really. More like through me. She stared for a long moment, her eyes wider than I would have guessed was possible, her pupils huge and black. She looked


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