The Dark Divine Page 14

Six hard smacks and a thundering crash, and then it fell silent. So silent I wanted to scream just to break it. Then there was this tiny sound--a whimpering, doglike cry. I clutched at Jude's arm and leaned my head on his shoulder. He brushed his hand through my tangled hair.

"Then I'll tell," I said. "So you don't have to." Jude held me until I had enough courage to wake my parents.

Daniel's father split before the police arrived. But my father persuaded the judge to let Daniel stay with us while his mother figured things out. Daniel was with us for weeks, then months, and then a little over a year. But even though his fractured skull healed miraculously fast, he never seemed the same to me. Sometimes he was happier than I'd ever seen him, and then other times I would catch this pointed look in his eyes when he was with Jude--like he knew my brother had broken his trust.


I sat at the table and ate dinner by myself for the first time in ages. Jude said he wasn't hungry and went down to the basement, Charity was in her room, James had already gone to bed, and Mom and Dad were in the study with the double doors pulled closed. As I picked at my plate of reheated macaroni casserole and beef Stroganoff, I suddenly felt smug toward Daniel, like I was glad he was wrong about my perfect family dinners. Then I knew thinking that was wrong. I shouldn't want bad things to happen to my family, just to prove something to Daniel. Why should he make me feel guilty or stupid for having a family that wanted to eat together and talk about our lives?

But tonight, it was too quiet to eat. I scraped my leftovers down the disposal and went to bed. I lay there for a while until those phantom voices found their way into my head. But then I realized the loud tones came from my own home. My parents were shouting at each other down in the study. They weren't violent shouts, but angry and annoyed. Mom and Dad occasionally disagreed and argued, but I had never heard them fight before. Dad's voice was low enough that I could hear his despair, but I couldn't understand his words. Mom's voice got louder, angrier, sarcastic.

"Maybe you're right," she yelled. "Maybe it is your fault. Maybe you brought this on all of us. And while we're at it, why don't we add global warming to the list? Maybe that's your fault, too." I got up and closed my door all the way, slipped back under the covers, and pulled a pillow over my head.

Chapter Seven Obligations


Dad usually went jogging early in the morning, but I didn't hear him go out while I was getting ready for school. The light was on in his study as I passed the closed doors on my way to the kitchen. I almost knocked but decided against it.

"You're up early," Mom said as she shoveled a stack of chocolate chip pancakes onto my plate. She'd already made two dozen of them even though none of us--except Dad--usually made our way down to breakfast for another thirty minutes. "I hope you slept well." Yeah, with a pillow over my head.

"I have a meeting with Mr. Barlow this morning."

"Mm-hmm," Mom said. She was busy wiping down the already glistening counter. Her loafers reflected in the sheen on the linoleum floor. Mom had a tendency to get a little OCD when she was stressed. The harder things were for the family, the more she tried to make things sparkle. Like everything was perfectly perfect.

I poked my finger into one of the melting chocolate chips that formed a symmetrical smiling face in my pancake. Mom normally only made her "celebration pancakes" for special occasions. I wondered if she was trying to soften the blow for a discussion about Maryanne--prep us for one of Dad's sermons about how death is a natural part of life and all. That is, until I saw the look of guilt in her eyes when she placed a glass of orange juice in front of me. The pancakes were a peace offering for her fight with Dad last night.

"Fresh squeezed." Mom wrung her apron in her hands. "Or would you rather have cranberry? Or maybe white grape?"

"This is fine," I mumbled, and took a sip.

She frowned.

"It's great," I said. "I love fresh squeezed."

I knew right then that Dad wasn't coming out of his study this morning. We weren't going to talk about what happened to Maryanne. And Mom certainly wasn't going to talk about their fight, either.

Last night Daniel had made me feel guilty for having a family that sat around the dinner table and discussed our lives. But now I realized that we never actually talked about anything that was a problem in our home. It's why the rest of my family never mentioned Daniel's name or discussed what happened the night he disappeared--no matter how many times I'd asked. Talking would be admitting that there was something wrong.

Mom smiled. It looked as syrupy and fake as the imitation maple drizzled on my breakfast. She flitted back to the stove and turned over a couple of pancakes. Her face fell into a frown again, and she dumped the barely over-browned batch into the trash. She still wore the same blouse and slacks from yesterday under her apron. Her fingers were red and chapped from hours of cleaning. This was perfection overdrive, big-time.

I wanted to ask Mom why she would hide her fight with Dad by making ten pounds of pancakes, but Charity came stumbling into the room.

"What smells so good?" she yawned.

"Pancakes!" Mom shooed Charity into a seat with her spatula and presented her with a heaping plate. "There's maple syrup, boysenberry, whipped cream, and raspberry jam."

"Awesome." Charity dug into a container of whipped cream with her fork, "You're the best, Mom." Charity gulped down her pancakes and went for seconds. She didn't seem to notice Mom practically scrubbing a hole into the skillet.

Charity grabbed the raspberry jam and then froze.

Her eyes suddenly seemed glossy, like she was about to cry. The jar slipped out of her fingers and rolled across the table. I caught it just as it went over the edge. I looked at the label: FROM


"It's okay," I said, and put my hand on Charity's shoulder.

"I forgot ... ," Charity said softly. "I forgot that it wasn't a dream." She pushed her plate away and got up from the table.

"I was just about to start some fried eggs," Mom said as Charity left the room. I looked down at my plate. My smiling breakfast stared up at me and I didn't know if I could stomach any more. I took another sip of my orange juice. It tasted sour. I knew I could convince Jude to give me an early ride to school, but I didn't want to stick around and watch my mother's display of perfection start all over again when he came down for breakfast. I wrapped a couple of pancakes in a napkin and got up from the table. "I've got to go," I said. "I'll eat on the way." Mom looked up from scrubbing. I could tell my not eating hadn't helped alleviate her guilt. For some reason I didn't care.

Source: www_Novel22_Net

Prev Next