Liza cranked up the volume on the TV. The banging and yelling faded. “There we go.” She could still kind of hear Laura, but now it was easy enough to tune her out. Liza dropped the remote back on the floor and resumed her dinner. She lay on the living room sofa watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory. A container of chicken and broccoli sat on her stomach. Scattered on the floor next to her were a can of soda, a napkin, the remote, a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, and an empty salsa jar that she intended to use as an ashtray. You know, why invest in real ashtrays when you’re quitting next week? Or the week after. Maybe.
A Christmas commercial came on. A family sat around a tree that was decorated in color-coordinated ornaments. It was in the corner of a cavernous family room. The 2.5 kids were in the middle of a sea of perfectly wrapped presents. Mom and Dad smiled down at them from the sofa, where they sat in identical robes, drinking coffee from identical Christmas mugs. Liza thought the girl was a chubby little loudmouth, and the boy was a brat. Dad was probably thinking about stopping by his assistant’s house later when he ran out to get cranberries, and Mom had more rum in her coffee than coffee. Over the years, Liza came to realize that the people who pretended to be perfect were more messed up than the people they looked down on. Liza’s cell phone hooted. She thought about ignoring it, but there were still one or two people in the world that she liked enough to respond to immediately. It was Jake.
“WHAT R U DOING OVER THERE?” He always wrote in caps, so it was impossible to tell when he was actually angry.
“Eating dinner,” typed Liza.
“WITH JIM PARSONS?”
“Yes, care to join us?”
“HAHA, I WISH. SAM IS COMING OVER.” Sam was Jake’s boyfriend. He worked for the government and was on some crazy, rotating shift schedule.
“Ah, thanks for the heads up. I was going to turn it down, but since I don’t have Sheldon’s noise-cancelling headphones, I think I’ll leave it,” typed Liza. It drove Jake nuts when Liza typed long sentences. Every message she sent came through as two or three texts.
“WHAT R U SAYING? OH, SAMS HERE. TTYL, BITCH.”
Liza tossed her phone on the floor amongst the other stuff. She was glad that she’d changed her number a couple of months ago, or Laura would be blowing up her phone. Her sister turned up tonight not long after she got home from work. Liza was standing by the door, sorting through her mail. She heard someone try the doorknob. When she looked through the peephole and saw Laura, she almost exploded. Laura disappeared over the summer, again, leaving behind Casey, her terminally ill daughter, for Liza to take care of. Now she thought she was just going to walk back into the house, months later. Um, no. Liza and Laura grew up this house, but their parents left it to Liza in their will. Laura had disappeared with Casey when the girl was a baby. Their parents had both died in a car accident and Liza never heard from her. Earlier this year, she showed up on Liza’s doorstep with Casey. Liza only took them in for Casey’s sake. The eight-year-old was sick with leukemia.
Liza was done dealing with Laura now that their parents and Casey were gone. Laura was going to have to fend for herself for once. So, Liza had gone down to the basement and moved the boxes filled with Laura’s things to the backyard. She went back upstairs, opened the door, and told Laura that she didn’t live there anymore and her stuff was out back. Laura freaked out, kicking the storm door and screaming at Liza that this was her house too. Liza had shut the door and gone about her business. She would have thought that she would feel bad.