Kori walked in the back door and dumped a pile of mail and the Sunday paper on the kitchen table. She shot Avery a dirty look which he didn’t catch because he didn’t bother to look up from his magazine.
“Hi to you, too,” she snapped. Avery took a bite of his cereal.
Kori got close to his face: “Hi!” she yelled.
Avery pulled the honey pot over, forcing Kori out of his immediate space. She crossed her arms and stared at him as he rolled the honey dipper around inside the pot. He pulled up a ball full and drizzled honey over his Cheerios, making little swirly patterns with the sticky golden liquid.
“Are you going to say something?” Kori asked.
He replaced the lid and pushed the honey jar away before turning his full attention to his sister. He scowled, contemplating his options.
“Yeah. I’ll say something. Don’t you think you’re behaving outside the scope of what constitutes a good role model?” He took a sip of his juice and rather than waiting for an answer, turned back to his magazine. Kori watched him, mouth agape.
“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?” she shot back.
Avery pushed his chair back and crossed his legs. In that moment, he felt he’d become one with his father. He felt agitated and fatherly, a lecture for the child’s latest transgression poised on his tongue.
“It means, you’re acting like a….” His mouth formed a “w,” but no sound came out. Avery’s face felt hot. He dropped his chin and looked at his stockinged feet.
“What? Go ahead and say it.” She threw a piece of junk mail at him. “Say it!” The envelope bounced off his shirt and fell to the floor. “Say it, you little dweeb.” She threw a stack of napkins at him. They fluttered to the floor like baby birds falling from the nest. “Who the hell are you to judge me? Huh? Do you know how hard it is being me? Keeping all this together?” She waved an arm behind her, a gesture so dramatic it may as well have encompassed the entire world, not just the pots and pans.
Avery rubbed the bridge of his nose, exactly the way Marty used to do to hide his smile.
“Stop it, you little bastard.” Kori lunged at her brother, intent on strangling him.
Avery had a good deal of upper body strength to his credit despite his lanky frame. He grabbed Kori with ease, stopping her in mid-lunge, holding both arms, their faces inches apart. He looked closely at her now, at the worry lines on her face, at the dark, puffy circles below her eyes, and he softened. He released her and she sat down opposite him, looking pitiful and embarrassed. Avery returned to his magazine and pretended he wasn’t moved.
“Just say it, would you?” Kori choked out the words.
“Okay. You need to be home more. Not just for Gil. For me, too.” He pushed his cereal bowl away. “I can’t remember everything. I have school, you know? And there’s laundry everywhere and grocery shopping and Gil’s homework to check and I got my own homework. I mean, look at that.” He waved his hand in the direction of the gargantuan pile of mail. “I think subconsciously I didn’t pick it up because I know there are bills due and I’ve got no money to pay them with. I never know if there’s going to be enough and I keep hoping that Social Security will make a mistake and send us two checks so I can pay off some of these credit cards that I’m using, not to buy fun stuff, but to buy groceries.” He dropped his head to his hands and stared at the floor.
Kori rubbed his back, but he shrugged her off and pulled himself together.
“You gotta get back to work. You have jobs waiting. Clients who can be tapped for other clients. Otherwise we’re gonna drown here, Kori.”
“Avery,…. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize.” Avery rolled his eyes.
“Alright, I did. But I was trying to hide from it, too.” She flopped down in the chair next to him. “Sorry.”
“It’s all right. Let’s just get back on track, okay?”
“Okay.” Kori slumped in her seat. “Anyway, I broke up with Chris.”
“You’re kidding. You and Mr. Wonderful are through?”
“He wasn’t so wonderful.”
“That’s not what you said last week.”
“Yeah well, last week my head was in a bubble of love and this week the bubble’s burst. Life’s much clearer without the filmy soap residue.”
“Same old, same old, I guess. My “last man on the totem pole” complex. He’s so wrapped up in his work. I didn’t see that much of the time he was dedicating to me had to do with the story he was unearthing. His interests have been waning ever since the story ran on Gil. I got tired of ignoring it.”
“What did Chris say?”
“So you didn’t tell him.”
“I don’t think I need to.” Kori sighed. “Please don’t beat me up about it.”
Avery shrugged. “What good’s it do to beat the animal that pulls the plow?”
Kori wacked him on the back. “Are you calling me a cow?”
“If the yoke fits,” he said.
“Bastard.” She smacked him on the back again.
“Hey. Mr. Right’ll come along. What did Mom say? For every pot there’s a lid?”
“Are you calling me a pot now?”
“Jesus, you’re a bitch,” Avery said. “Now leave me alone, please so I can finish my gourmet breakfast.” He pulled his cereal bowl over and took a bite, but spit it out. “Uch. I hate soggy cereal.”
He dumped the mush in the sink and poured a fresh bowl. The doorbell rang.
Kori looked at the kitchen clock. “Who’s coming over at 9:30 on a Sunday morning?”
“Could be your new Prince Charming,” Avery said, pouring milk into his bowl. Kori scrunched her nose, looking distraught.
“What if it’s Chris?” Kori asked, doing her deer in the headlights impersonation.
Avery laughed at the look on her face. “What if it is? You broke up with him, right?”
Kori didn’t budge.
“You better answer the door before the bell wakes Gil up.”
“Will you get it? If it’s for me, just say I’m not here.”
Avery drizzled more honey into his bowl. “No. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m eating.”
“Fine,” Kori huffed, and stomped from the kitchen.
to be continued. . .