I'm on a mission to write a collection of short stories.
I have the first one finished.
It's called Glass House.
The house reminded me of a toy chest I had when I was little. It was filled with used trinkets, thingamabobs, thingamajigs, and any kind of thing you can think of. Despite all of the clutter, it was essentially empty just as the wooden box I kept all of my dolls in was. There was no heart, no soul inside of that house. Even when people were still living in it, the place seemed dead, like it was a glass corpse, rotting from the inside out.
I saw the Franklin’s lives unfold every night. Everyone in the neighborhood did. People from neighboring counties and cities came by to take pictures, to ask questions about the famous glass house. One time a kid threw a rock at it, thinking that it would be funny, that even if the house shattered into a million pieces, Mr. Franklin would be able to piece it back together.
Strangely enough, that rock was the beginning of the end.
Mrs. Franklin wanted to move. She was tired of her life being on display for everyone to see. She wanted some privacy; she wanted to be able to eat breakfast without someone staring at her from the other side of the glass. I knew all of this because Jameson told me. He told me everything that went on in that house, because even though you could see everything - you couldn’t hear it. It was like a real-life silent film, only this one was in Technicolor.
Never really understood why Jamie ever told me anything. We hardly spoke to each other in school. He hung out with the artsy types, and though I didn’t like to be - I was a loner. No one wanted anything to do with the girl whose father died in a fire.
A fire everyone thinks I set.
My mother doesn’t even let me near any open flame. She checks my pockets for matches whenever I walk through the door. Sometimes I’m happy my house isn’t made out of glass.
I don’t tell Jamie any of this because even though he’s telling it all, giving me the inside scoop, he doesn’t need to know about the times my mother gets so drunk that she says things she claims she doesn’t mean. Things like I wish it was you instead of him and I wish you were never born. There was a time when she loved me, a time when she didn’t look at me like I was a demon sent from her own personal hell. She still tells me that she loves me but I know she isn’t sincere, that those three words are proof that she’s trying to forgive me for what everyone has made her think I’ve done.
If it weren’t for her and Pa’s religious upbringing I probably would’ve been in some home for troubled teens, or out on the street begging for handouts. She probably would’ve moved so far away that I wouldn’t be able to find her. Not that I would want to anyways. Just because she was trying to forgive me, it didn’t mean that she did, and I didn’t like living with someone who secretly hated me. I’d rather her tell me how she truly felt instead of pretending like we were still the same people we were before.
Pa always preached that forgiveness was the key to living a good life, and that grudges never got anyone anywhere, but I couldn’t bring myself to forgive him.
I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It.
Sometimes I think Jamie wants to ask me about him, but he doesn’t. It’s like he knows that I don’t want to talk about it, that I won’t talk about it. Not even with him, the boy who has eyes that are so empty they almost seem to be made out of glass too.
There is always something for him to tell me. It’s like he wants his lungs to be empty of all of the secrets of the glass house. He tells me how his parents always argue, over the miscarriage, over him, over their marriage, the house, anything he can think of really. He tells me they never have time for anything he does, and are always telling him he couldn’t survive on his art alone, that he needed to do something practical with his life after high school.
“They’re all about keeping up appearances,” he says, and I nod like I understand, because in a way, I do. I guess.
“It wouldn’t be like that,” he continues. “If our house wasn’t fucking made out of glass.”
And I want to tell him that yes it would still be like that. I know this, I want to tell him, because my mother tries to make it seem like we have a loving, healthy relationship. She tries to pretend that Pa’s death only brought us closer together so people can think that we’re on the road to recovery even though we both know that road is miles and miles away.
But my mouth stays sealed shut, like a vault. Soon Jamie has told it all and we’re sitting underneath the old oak tree that separates our houses. Usually after he’s finished he thanks me for listening to him, like I’m his shrink or something, and slips back inside his house before his parents can notice he’s gone, but this time he stays. The air is congested, heavy, like soon something somewhere is going to explode. But the world stands still for a few moments. The crickets chirp. The cicadas hum. Then he’s kissing me. I don’t know how or why but I don’t protest. I let it happen because my body has been keeping a secret of its own all this time. It wanted this to happen. For Jamie to lean over and kiss me. All the times I sat out here and listened to Jameson Franklin talk about what it’s like to live in a glass house with a family that was just as breakable as the glass tomb he lived in, I wanted him to – my body wanted him to – kiss me. That makes sense.
It has to because I don’t break away. I lean into his kiss, let his palm rest against my cheek. I taste the beer on his lips. He offered me a taste plenty of times but I refused. If only he knew that my mother was a drunk, then he would understand. Then maybe…he wouldn’t have left.
I have a hard time telling people things. I’m not see-through so no one ever knows what’s going on inside of me. When I didn’t cry at my father’s funeral, everyone thought maybe I was heartless, that I was hollow, just like the glass house is now that the Franklins are gone. But the truth is I was cluttered. I was alive. I was more alive than I ever felt since my father died. He lit the match himself. He kept telling me he was sorry, and that the only way he could forgive himself is if he burned in hell. Maybe things would’ve been different if he wasn’t drunk. Maybe he wouldn’t have tried to…
I can’t think about it.
My mother still hates me silently. She still drinks and yells and says that she wishes I hadn’t been born. She still apologizes and checks my pockets, making sure that there aren’t any lighters or matches. I’m always clean when she checks me but that doesn’t stop her from seeing for herself.
We never know what to say to each other so we don’t speak actual words, unless she’s screaming, and that doesn’t count because she’s drunk and even though you can understand what she’s saying her words are born from an alphabet that I haven’t learned yet.
Jamie still hasn’t returned my call. Calls. I called him more than once. Not that I’m desperate or anything, I just want to know why he left, why he unloaded all of his burdens on my shoulder, kissed me and left. It wasn’t like he had to go. He was eighteen, an adult. If his parents wanted to leave, fine, but that didn’t mean he had to go. Jamie was the only person who didn’t make me feel invisible.
Now that he’s gone I really do feel like that glass house.
When his letter arrives a few months later, I almost throw it away. But then I don’t. I open the envelope carefully, as if I’m holding a bomb that’s getting ready to detonate. I unfold the paper, and let the words he wrote explode in my face:
I thought maybe it was best to leave you alone. You’re stronger than I am. You’re not made out of glass; you’re not something that can easily break. I envy you for that, but I also know that your ability to keep things bottled up inside, means that you are dealing with something far more heavy than anything I have had to deal with. You never told me what it was and I kept hoping that you would, when you were ready. Then I kissed you and I thought maybe everything between us would be ruined. You’re the only person I can talk to, the only person who will listen, and I kiss you like you just being there isn’t enough, like I need to somehow become one with you to make myself feel whole again. That’s why I left. You’re strong – you’re made out of brick and stone. I am weak. I am glass. I hated that house so much because it was me, it was my parents. We were fragile and see-through and eventually we broke, we shattered. The truth is, I guess, is that I wanted to feel something other than that and when I kissed you I did feel something. I felt everything. You pieced me back together every moment that you were there for me. Part of me was hoping that I could break you apart, see the stuff that you were made of, so that I could somehow become like you, but then I realized that your strength is an art, one that I have to master on my own. Maybe one day we’ll see each other again. We only moved across town, so I’m not that far away. My aunt and uncle took us in. Their house isn't made out of glass.
Tell me what you guys think. I'm currently writing the next story in the series. It's called Seven and it's about a girl on the run. Might post it next Tuesday, so stay tuned.
Thanks for reading! <3