Of Flame and Light(2)

By: Cecy Robson

I suppose forever only counts so long as I didn’t change, so long as I remained perfect in his eyes. But I never claimed to be perfect, even if many believed I’d looked the part.

My arm flickers and zings, the electrified charge is strong enough to startle me and slap any remnants of sleep away. Yeah. No way am I perfect. Not by a long shot, especially with this thing constantly mocking me and reminding me of everything wrong in my life.

A sharp rap to the door has me glancing toward my right. “Taran?” my perky sister Shayna calls. “I heard your alarm clock go off. Want some breakfast?”

I lift the bane of my existence and sigh. Alarm clock? I suppose that’s one word for it.

“T?” Shayna presses. “I’m making waffles.”

She semi-sings her last few words which is a very “Shayna” thing to do.

“I’ll be right out,” I answer.

“Cool!” she responds. “I have plenty.”

It’s not that I want to eat. It’s that I know how worried my sisters are about me. So I sit with them when I can, and plaster on a smile when I need to, but even that’s burdensome, which sucks. I don’t want my time with my sisters to be a chore. I love them. But I’ve learned some things can’t be helped.

My arm fires with its haunting glow. Case in point.

With a groan, I slip out of bed, pulling on a fresh pair of panties and a bra before heading to my bathroom to clean up. After a few swipes of mascara and some lipstick, I yank on a form-fitting red dress and shove my feet into a pair of platform pumps, doing my best to strut and not collapse back in bed. Yet even though I’m almost to the door, there’s one more thing I need. Most women won’t leave their homes without their cell phones. I can’t leave my room without my elbow-length gloves. It helps me hide the ugly appendage and the light show that accompanies it.

But now that my arm’s buzzing . . .

I pause with my hand on the doorknob. What am I going to do about this thing?

I take a breath and wrench open the door, tugging on my gloves as I walk down the hall and into our large kitchen. Shayna abandons the waffle iron when she sees me and skips forward, her ponytail bouncing behind her.

She throws her arms around me like it’s been months, not hours, since she’s seen me. “Hey, T!” she tells me brightly.

I pat her back, wishing I could hug her for real. But real hugs lead to my very real tears, and I can’t keep doing this to my family. “Hey, princess. Wow, everything smells great.”

It’s the truth, yet my comment sounds phony and forced, even to me.

Her arms fall away slowly. Although she keeps her grin, I sense the worry behind it, as well as her fear. “You look hot,” she tells me, punching my good arm affectionately.

No. I look acceptable. I used to spend over an hour styling my dark wavy hair and applying my makeup. Now, I do enough so I don’t resign myself to sweats, watching made for TV movies, and stuffing my face with potato chips.

“Thanks,” I manage with yet another forced grin. I make a show of taking in all the breakfast foods, including the freshly baked muffins. “Yum. Do you need help setting the table or anything?”

“No. It’s all good.”

She says nothing more which is unusual for Shayna. Either she’s waiting for me to speak, or she’s debating what to say. I can’t take another pity party so I lift a pan filled with eggs and plate stacked with waffles and bring them to the table. “Where’s your puppy?” I ask. Or in other words, where’s your gigantic scary werewolf husband, Koda.

“Oh, he already ate and left. He’s doing more at the Den since Celia’s been needing more ah, time with Aric.”

Okay, now I really grin, and so does she. Time with Aric is a mild way to describe what Celia desires from her husband.

Our youngest sister Emme walks out of the laundry room blushing, which tells me she’s heard us discussing Celia. Shayna’s grin quickly turns into a laugh. Emme’s shyness has that effect on her.

Emme clears her throat, but not her obvious discomfort. Where Shayna has dark straight hair, Emme has soft blonde waves and fair skin that reddens the longer we take her in.

“Emme,” I offer. “What’s the big deal? So what if Celia’s banging Aric like the lead drummer at a Fourth of July parade. They’re married. It happens.”

Emme holds up her hand. “Taran, please let’s keep their private life private.”

I reach for a glass of freshly squeezed juice. “I would if they weren’t so damn loud. I swear, I thought the walls were going to come down around midnight when they―”

“Taran . . .” Emme whimpers, shaking her hands like she can’t stand to hear another word.