Take any one genre of popular fiction literature — Action-adventure, Crime, Detective, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Romance, Science fiction, Western, Inspirational, etc. — and write a (short) story in that genre, but make all aspects of the story grossly stereotypical for that genre to the point of over-the-top.
I watched the road with false interest as she drove, humming to the radio because she would never sing in public, her fingertips passing along the sides of the steering wheel. I could feel my phone vibrate against my ankle and kicked my bag further to the floor as we floated past lanes of semi-perfect houses with tiny gardens, a few of them worn from years of rain, a few of them bright as neon colors, the imminent contrast sending a lump of disgust up the skin of my forearms.
“Do you think he’ll come back?”
I glanced down at the floor, waiting for my phone to stop ringing in its physical silence. It could have been him. “I doubt it. I’m,” I took in a breath, closing my eyes, “not actually even sure whether I want him to.”
“Haley,” she said, her eyes a glow of what I suspected to be pretense worry. “Tell me what he did. You know I’d never pass it on.”
I shook my head, dragging my fingernails along my thigh, suddenly itchy.
“I have just,” she paused, turning to me. “If he touched—“
I held my hand up, waiting for words to come walking out of me. They didn’t.
“He did, didn’t he?”
“I’m going to fucking murder him!”
“Em, there’s nothing—“
“That’s sick. He’s your brother.”
I shut up, my tears resembling acid as they scrambled out of my eyes. “Stepbrother. He was—“
“Drunk? Not himself? What?”
I opened my eyes to find hers rimmed with anger. “I don’t think he meant—“
“You told me you woke up with no underwear.”
“Well—“ I stammered, digging my nails into my jeans. “That doesn’t mean—“
“I know. It could’ve been one of his friends.”
She let her head fall down against the steering wheel as we waited at traffic lights. I held my hand out to her shoulder. “I’m sorry—“ she hesitated, placing her hand over mine. “I just don’t understand why you can’t tell me, out of all people.” She turned to look at me, a sad smile playing at her painted lips. I let the tears crawl their way down my neck. I let her eyes strip my skin off in slow, efficient strokes, grinding my bones into white dust. I was out of excuses.
“Is your aunt over again?” I tilted my head to the side, suddenly relieved as I saw her smile.
“How’d you know?”
“You smell like scented window cleanser again.”
She laughed as she turned the last corner, slowing down as we neared the end of the road. “Believe it or not it’s her perfume. The whole house is full of it now and she’s been here for three days. She’s helping Mom read through the script.”
“How’s that going?”
“Slow. They’re finishing more bottles of tequila than they are finishing chapters.”
She grinned. “Yeah, I know. But at least she stays in her room. It sometimes feels like I’m on my own,” she said, parking the car by the side of the road.
“I know what you mean.”
I watched her exit the car, my nails finally letting go of my thighs, leaving marks on my jeans as though something tiny had lived there for a while. I felt safe with my nails sunken into something. That’s why I hardly ever cut them short. I drew in a deep breath before grabbing my bag from the floor. My phone was making my whole bag shake on the car floor. I dug my phone out, deleting all missed calls without glancing at the screen.
I don’t think I ever wanted more to be her than I did that day. I was undecided whether it was being with her or being her — but I knew she was the only thing that gathered up each tiny droplet of desire into a river that was in danger of taking over my veins. I was told once it was all I needed in life; desire. I think I read it in a book somewhere or heard it from a teacher.
The house smelt like the flowery window cleanser again as suspected. It was a nice change to the insistently dry and lifeless scent of home that roamed through every visible piece of my clothing. I held onto my bag with my thumb as we descended the staircase, the glass wall with its view of the sea sending the corners of my lips to their equivalent of a grin. My Dad used to say it made me look like a hyena.
“I must confess,” she said, holding her hands up. “I don’t know any French.”
I shook my head while laughing. “It’s fine.”
“I could teach you Spanish though.” She grinned as she leaned down to fetch ice tea from the open fridge, setting it on the table with a huge clink.
“Maybe some other time. My brain isn’t actually in language-mode right now,” I replied in almost a mumble, my eyes too busy following her hands as she removed her jersey. “Is that what I think it is?” I pointed my finger to the DVD cover lying on the armrest of the couch.
She nodded, spinning her finger around in the air, asking me to turn as she took off her top. I don’t think I’d ever minded her tendency to change clothes while having company, not to mention when having me around. I counted to ten, slowly, splitting the numbers in two so that it would take longer — but it wasn’t my fault the window chose to reflect her image. I grabbed the DVD from the armrest, inspecting it. Seven, seven point five, eight…
I tilted my head to the side as I read the text at the back of the cover. “Yeah?”
A wave of cold coursed through me as I felt her hands upon my shoulders, causing my eyes to snap shut. “We can watch that if you want,” she whispered, the tip of her nose touching my ear just barely.
“Where’d you get it?”
She drew my hair to my left shoulder before turning me around. “Believe it or not, Mom’s obsessed with Kubrick.”
“I never would have guessed that,” I said, a mild laugh escaping me.
She smiled, her hand lingering at my shoulder. “I knew you loved Killer’s Kiss, silly. You wouldn’t shut up about it during drama last week.”
“Oh, so your Mom doesn’t like Kubrick?” I raised an eyebrow, placing the DVD on the couch.
“I don’t think she’s seen anything by him.”
I glanced at the DVD, suddenly noticing the homemade quality. “How did you get this? It’s not even released on DVD.”
“I saw it was on last weekend so I recorded it,” she said with an almost triumphant grin. “Want to watch it?” She looked down at our feet before raising her eyes to mine. It’s what she always did, in slow motion, as though an invisible laser would come out of her irises to exam me from head to toe.
I nodded. Of course I wanted to watch it.