It was late March; not bad during the day, but chilly at night. Liza rolled down the window as soon as they got off of 95. She leaned back against the headrest. The air felt nice and carried the unfamiliar smell of firewood burning. Depending on where you were in the City, your nose could be accosted by anything from stale beer, to urine, to cooking grease. Most of the houses didn’t have fireplaces. It was probably a good thing. No one around here would know how to start one without a can of lighter fluid anyway.
She and Bruce had their hands clasped together on top of the console. Liza rubbed the side of his hand with her thumb. They stopped at a light at the foot of the off-ramp and a man limped up to the car with a sign saying that he was a homeless veteran. Liza saw him all the time. She used to give him a few dollars or a couple of cigarettes now and then, until Cynical Liza intervened. Cynical Liza wanted to know where he got fresh clothes and supplies to make signs. He was also a bit overweight.
Bruce was watching him carefully. Liza wondered what he was thinking. Did he miss that life? She didn’t understand how he could, but then, living that way had always been a choice for him. The light changed. Bruce smiled at Liza and squeezed her hand before moving on.
Back at the house, Bruce snaked into an empty spot as if he’d been parallel parking all of his life. “Who’s that?” he asked.
Liza followed his gaze to the front of her house. Oh, super. “It’s Laura.”
“She doesn’t see us yet. Do you want me to drive around back?” asked Bruce.
It was tempting. She didn’t feel like dealing with Laura. Liza wanted to go inside and crawl into her warm bed with Bruce. But it looked like she was going to have to get this confrontation over, or Laura would never stop turning up. Liza sighed. “No. I’d better talk to her.” She got out of the car and headed up to the street.
Laura caught sight of her as she was passing Jake’s house. “There you are, you bitch!” screeched Laura at an unnecessary volume. Liza cringed. Laura was a drama queen who was quick to air her dirty laundry in public. She stalked down the steps. Liza fantasized about nailing her in the face and continuing on into the house.
Little Sister was nearly as sturdy as Liza, but she was a girly girl. She was all talk; loud, inexplicably arrogant, trash-talk. Growing up, Liza was the only think that stopped Laura from getting her ass handed to her on many occasions.
Liza became aware that she was by herself. She turned. Bruce wasn’t there. He wasn’t in the car either. Whatever. She didn’t need help.
Liza and Laura met on the sidewalk in front of the house. “Where’s the rest of my stuff?” demanded Laura. She was in Liza’s face, pointing, breathing, angry. Liza took half a step back and tried to think of what “stuff” Laura was talking about. “Ya better give it tuh me!” said Laura. Liza was disgusted by her sister’s accent. She no elocutionist either, but you would never believe that they grew up in the same house. She wondered where Laura stayed when she disappeared for months or years at a time.
Laura leaned in, close to Liza again, and brushed her with her hand. Liza didn’t see red. It was more like she saw sparklers. She grabbed Laura’s finger, stepped forward and head-butted her in the face as hard as she dared. She didn’t want to hurt herself, after all. Michael would have to tell you what happened next.