Margaret’s Sister


Melting onto her golden skin, the Florida sun felt like a draped blanket of heat as she swayed gently in her hammock. Limp limbs swung dangerously close to the ground as she adjusted her face, pressed heavily against the beige colored fabric. She hadn’t felt the need to put on any make up or style her hair with that usual scrupulous touch since school had let out. The dryness in her throat sent her tongue sliding across the roof of her mouth trying to create moisture.

Her sister’s voice slipped into the summer haze and pulled her from that surreal moment between consciousness and sleep. Remaining still she listened to make sure she wasn’t dreaming and when the tone reached her the second time she rose. Bare foot, she lazily attempted to smooth the wrinkles from her cotton skirt before walking towards the back patio.

“Yeah?” She entered and stepped into the kitchen.

“Margaret, Ma wants you to hang the wash. It’s downstairs and– Margaret Louise Dawson, your feet!”

Her eyes joined in with her sister’s and she looked at her toes and the dirt embedded beneath the nails.

“Yeah?”

“You act like you don’t own shoes,” She exclaimed “And you’re trackin’ dirt all over!”

“I don’t see nothin’.”

“Anything.”

“Huh?”

“You don’t see anything, not nothin’. Good Lord, Margaret.” She huffed, walking to the sink and grabbing a wet rag.

Her older sister gently guided her back through the door before wiping up the faint dirt footprints Margaret had trailed into the house. Her arm was vigorous and stern as it moved up and down on the faded linoleum. The focus she gave this task was intense but much of what she did burned with the same intensity, the same force, and she herself never even knew it.

“I’ll bring you your shoes.”

“Okay.”

Re-appearing with her right arm outstretched and her head tilted back, pain consumed her expression. In her hand she delicately held a tattered pair of  tennis shoes, dangling by the laces.

“When are you gonna stop wearin’ these ratty things?”

“I like ’em… an’ Ma can’t afford new ones.”

Her sister let out a disdainful sound “Here, take ’em.”

After the shoes were on and loosely laced she re-entered the kitchen.

“What did you want?”

“I told you, Ma wants you to hang the wash out back.”

“Right now?” Margaret asked, rolling her eyes and pulling open the refrigerator door.

“Yes, now. You know how she gets. I’d do it but the flies eat me up when I leave the house, you know.”

Margaret shook a bottle of orange juice and listened to what little was left, swish and swash inside. Removing the thick, gold-colored cap she placed the brim to her lips and began chugging.

“You’ve been out there all day, the least you can do is– Margaret!”

Now empty, her mouth pulled away from the bottle.

“It’s like you were raised in a barn! You never heard of a cup?”

“There was two drops left.”

“You’re just like a boy sometimes, I swear.” She pulled her hair behind her ears and the small, red feather earrings she always wore caught Margaret’s eye.

“I’ve always loved your earrings. I wish dad bought me a pair.”

“Margaret, just hang the clothes.”

The sound of knuckles on a window screen rattled into the kitchen and the young women briefly fell silent as they exchanged expressions of curiosity.

“You expectin’ company?”

Her sister shook her head before breaking eye contact and walking towards the hallway leading to the front door. Margaret remained in the kitchen and was silent as she listened, leaning against one of the counter tops and placing the bottle down. The sound of the latch on the screen door lifting and squeaking could be heard. It made the same stridulous noise  every time it was opened.

“Oh, Bobby. Hi there.” Her sister said, a new softness to her speech.

“Hey, how are you?” Bobby gushed.

“I’m just swell. I was thinkin’ about you earlier.”

“Were ya’?”

“Mhm,” she giggled quietly “I was readin’ Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff…sorta reminds me of you.”

“Wuthering Heights?”

“Mhm. It’s a love–” She paused “Well…it’s a story about two people who can’t be together and wh–..”

“Well…go on.”

There was an awkward air to her laughter “Well, his description…the way he looks. Tanned skin, dark hair, intense eyes, all brutish and manly…I just thought of you, that’s all.”

“Aw, shucks. Ain’t you so sweet you make sugar taste salty. I thought about you too. Think about ya’ lots.”

“Bobby,” a smile lit in her voice “Stop it.”

“Listen. You think you can get away tonight?”

“Oh…oh, Bobby, I can’t.”

“Why not? You hardly ever come out with me. I jus’ wanna take ya’ dancin’. The tavern got a new juke box and everything. Plus, who else can I ask. You’re the most beautiful girl in town.”

“You’re just sayin’ that.”

“Cross my heart. Come on…please. 10 o’clock. I’ll come pick ya’ up.”

“Well,” She hesitated “Alright. Just make sure you stay down the road…I’ll meet you. You know how my–”

The familiar sound of old, worn tires swerving over gravel and dirt. That meant Ma was home. Margaret listened carefully but the close of the conversation was marked by heavy feet quickly moving across wooden floorboards on the front porch. Grabbing the empty beverage container she pushed it out of sight before walking into the entry way.

Upon entering, her sister violently turned her head and frosty blue eyes stunned Margaret, mid-step. She knew that look. It was precisely replicated from the thousands of stares, side-eyes, and glances their mother had frightened them with.

“Margaret, did you hang the clothes like–”

A honking horn.

“Girls, come out here! You ‘spect me to carry alla these here grocery bags my damn self?”

Again the two sisters quietly looked at one another, thoughts reaching, grasping, unsure.

“I said come on!”

Cupboards opened and closed alongside the sound of jars sliding across metallic refrigerator shelves. Words became foreign when Ma was around and quietude was worshipped by the two sisters like a deity. With conversation came accusation.

“I saw Bobby Mitchell,” Ma said, closing one of the cupboard doors but not looking at either daughter “What’d he want?”

“Nothin’.”

“Hm…don’t no boy pay so much attention without wantin’ somethin’.”

Neither of the girls said anything as they continued storing away what was left of the groceries.

“Heh, you,” Ma said, shaking her head “You think you’re somethin’ else.”

Margaret closed the refrigerator door before saying “All the cold stuff’s put away… I was thinkin’ that for–”

“Maggie, hush up, I’m talkin’ to your sister. Now, lil’ girl, I’ma ask you again. What was Bobby Mitchell doin’ here?”

“I told you,” she fumbled with a box of crackers “Nothin’.”

“Mhmm,” Ma said as her body slid back against the counter “You just too womanish, that’s what it is.”

Ma’s worn out fingers reached into the pocket of her stained blouse to retrieve a half smoked cigarette. She motioned for Margaret and like a dog with a trick ingrained in its mind, her hands took it upon themselves to grab the pack of matches from the wobbly wooden table and strike one. Lighting the cigarette she blew the match out and took a few steps back.

After inhaling on the butt deeply, smoke swirled from her coral lips and wafted through the air. She watched her oldest daughter twist her head away in a failed attempt to avoid the smoke, her nose crinkling and eyes squinting. Looking around the kitchen she spotted a book on the same kitchen table her matches were.

“And what’s this?” She quizzed, sauntering towards the new discovery, lifting it with her free hand “Wuth..Wwwuth-er-ring. Heg..Damnit, what does–”

“Wuthering Heights.” Was nearly unheard as it left the lips of her eldest child.

“Hm. Wutherin’ Heights…so, what? You, you pretending to read it? Tryin’ to be all studious.”

The book was dropped carelessly on the table and Ma turned to look at her as she finished putting away the last of the food.

“I’m talkin’ to you!”

“I am reading it. I’m half way done.”

“I bet. You really think mighty high’a yourself,” She took a drag “All the boys just lo—ve you, huh? And I bet all the men can’t wait till you’re finally 18, I bet this next month is just eatin’ ‘way at ’em!” A cackle arose from the pit of her belly.

“It’s a classic novel,” Her eyes fell to the floor ” It’s written beautifully and the themes and motifs are–”

“Mo-tif? Oh, so now you’re smarter than me?”

“She didn’t say that mama, she–”

“Maggie!…I’m talkin’ to Miss Beauty Queen o’er here,” she crept across the linoleum “So…you think you’re better lookin’ than me and now, now you’re smarter than me too, right?”

Margaret’s sister was stoic. Not a muscle in her body moved. No gesticulations pulled at her face and not a tremble carried through her limbs. Her head raised to meet her fast approaching mother and she remained still like prey hoping that it’s predator could not spot it.

“I used to be beautiful, ya’ know. Till I ruined my life an’ had you. God damnit, did I ruin my life! Haha!”

The kitchen was again silent of everything but two hearts beating at a rapid pace and the scent of resentment seeping from a 34 year old woman puffing on a hand rolled cigarette.

“Lemme’ tell you somethin’, my dear,” the tip of Ma’s nose pressed against her daughter’s “You better use them looks while they last because if you think for a second that any’a them schools up North’s gonna accept you, you got another thing comin’. And if you think you gonna run up there and become a famous starlet, ha! You’re a lot dumber than ya’ look.”

Her sister remained poised. Every time Ma reprimanded her it was as if she were protected by an invisible shield. She remained calm but not quite acquiescent. This is what urged their mother to become cruel. She wanted to see her broken but the young woman wouldn’t yield.

“If you’re half as smart as you think you are you’d stop bein’ so damn fast and marry one’a them Milton boys that’s been chasin’ you. Oh, yeah. I know they been chasin’ you. You’d be smart to spread your legs to the highest bidder..hmph.”

The moments seeped into one another and moved so slowly that time seemed to become complacent. Margaret knew what was true and what was not. Her sister was very popular with the boys and the men did want her too, but it wasn’t because she was fast like Ma often accused her of being. It was because she really was stunning. Margaret found herself to be relatively pretty and was filling out better than most of the other girls in her ninth grade class. But her sister was of another caliber. Once, when they were all in town to buy new school dresses, a man crashed his Lincoln staring at her.

Her sister had eyes like the clear mid-summer sky, the blackest, wavy hair , and skin the color of fresh cream. There was natural pout to her lips and a constant intensity in her face gave her this otherworldly essence. Her body was something most grown women envied and she was only seventeen. She had what the tailor’s called an hourglass figure and Margaret hoped that when she was seventeen she’d benefit from their parents the same way.

Aesthetic appeal was only a portion of who she was. The quirks and inquisitive nature masked by her girlish giggle, ethereal charm that rarely surfaced, and high-strung demeanor were far more interesting. Ever since Margaret could remember, her sister always carried books with her. She was smarter than all of the boys in her class, even at math and science and she never scored a grade lower than an A minus all her life. She had never seen her sister act but she knew of her being a part of  their school drama club.

“Ma, if she does as good this year as she’s been doin’, she’s up for valedictorian. She’d have a full scholarship to–”

“She ain’t valedictorian material, Maggie,” She said, glaring at her oldest daughter, their faces inches apart “Now you go on outside and play.”

“But ma, I–”

“I said go!”

The eyes of two girls in on one secret, locked. There was a dwindling spirit flickering in the eyes of the older daughter and the youngest could see it. Years ago it sparkled but as days drifted and years faded so did the glimmer. Margaret wanted to stay or at least leave a piece of herself there but what good would that do?

Shame overcame her as she slinked by and walked through the back door. “So you’re grown now, huh? You’re a woman now, right?” she heard Ma patronize as the door closed behind her. She twisted her neck to peer through the window and into her sister’s eyes. Margaret let out a gasp and she clutched her mouth with both hands. The flicker dissipated.

She wandered aimlessly for a while until she tired of walking. Scoping her surroundings she didn’t see much but open fields and brown trees. Tilting her head and gazing at the sky she watched clouds that looked like frayed cotton, sail by. The thought of angels crossed her mind and just as quickly, melted away.

Trotting through the wide, open space, she spent a good deal of time doing cartwheels and somersaults and when she grew bored with that, started picking flowers. She gathered a bunch, mostly made of milkweeds and her favorite, spotted horsemint, before noticing a marsh rabbit.

Imagining she was a silver wolf, she stealthily edged nearer, stalking the oblivious creature until she stumbled over an unnoticed rock and sent it dashing towards the wetlands. She knew better than to wander towards the swamps and her stomach started speaking to her so after gathering the bouquet she decided to head home.

Days were long this time of year so the sun still beamed brightly overhead when she returned. The wet clothes she had been told to hang were draped over clothes lines and a feeling of guilt bubbled from her stomach and rose into her chest. Why hadn’t she taken care of them when she was asked?

She could see her sister through the kitchen window, preparing dinner. It was almost like looking at a stranger but Margaret couldn’t quite put her finger on why. Deciding she didn’t want to cause any other altercations she took her shoes off and spent a good deal of time wiping the soles of her feet off with saliva and her palms before going inside.

Movements of her body were slow and subtle as she crept through the door. She looked to her sister who hadn’t looked up from cutting vegetables. There was an eerie calm within the home that was not there when Margaret left and this estranged serenity made her uneasy. Glancing around the kitchen she didn’t notice anything out of place.

“I picked some flowers.”

Silence. They were placed on the table before she turned around. Her empty juice bottle was still on the counter and she walked over to it.

Approaching the garbage bin she lifted the lid and dropped the bottle but there was a hesitancy that paralyzed her. She thought she had seen something out of place and lifted the lid once more.

Her stare fixated on the sheen of a familiar pink fabric before she realized the sight before her. Amidst chicken fat, vegetable peelings, cigarette ashes and empty food boxes was a doll. A doll that Margaret had grown accustomed to, the only toy she had ever seen her sister play with. In their trash was the debutante Ginny Doll that their father had given her  older sister years ago. The clothes were torn, tattered and off of her body while the right side of her face had been smashed.

“What…happened to Lady Dubois?”

Nothing. There was no response, no acknowledgment, just the chop, chop, chop, chop of blade against wooden cutting board.

“Why is she broken up and in the trash?”

Her sister looked over at her and Margaret could tell that her face had been coated in tears not very long ago. The puffiness around her eyes, glow of her waxen skin, and sorrow that escaped her face reminded Margaret of the cherubs she had read about in the bible. She imagined that they had to have looked just like her sister. A part of her wished that her sister could become an angel so that she could be at peace forever. So she didn’t have to be so strong, so closed off.

“Just leave it be, Margaret.”

The lid closed and she stood there. Her sister went back to cutting and seconds later there was that familiar tapping sound again.

“You expectin’ someone?” Margaret quizzed.

“…I’m expecting anyone.”

Her sister continued with what she was doing but Margaret looked down the hall and towards the entry way. Her mother stumbled from the living room into the view of the doorway and was unsubtle in the attempt to regain her composure. Her clumsy demeanor while lowering the top half of the split screen door was evidence enough that she had already been in the bottle.

Most of Margaret’s view was being blocked by the inebriated woman but she could see a tall man looming in the doorway. Lifting herself on the tips of her toes she was trying to make out what his face looked like and once she did, her stomach was stricken with a splitting ache and she stumbled into the table, accidentally pushing it into the wall.

The cutting instantly stopped.

“Margaret. Margaret, what is wrong with you?”

The erratic thud within her chest echoed in her ears and she stood erect, her line of vision not once leaving the stranger on their front porch. Warm palms slipped around her arms and shook her lightly but still she could not look away. Something about the arch of this man’s eyebrows, the contour of his cheeks, the unusual point of his ears, and the ease of his smile nearly moved her to tears wrung from terror.

“Margaret?”

“… Huh?”

“What’s the matter with you?”

“…That man. That man reminds me of–”

“Man?”

Her sister retracted her fingers then took delicate steps towards the hallway, her full attention on her mother at the front door. Ma’s laughter trailed down the hall and as she bridged the distance between herself and the doorway she and the stranger made eye contact. He stopped speaking, her feet ceased moving. A grin told her to come closer and so she did and as she approached, Ma turned to look at her.

“And who is this young woman?” He asked.

“…This girl is my daughter.”

“Pretty must run in the family.”

A high pitched giggle fluttered from Ma as she placed her boney fingers on her chest and swayed back and forth.

“I’m Nicholas. But my friends call me Old Nick.”

“…You don’t look old.”

“I don’t look like a lot of things, young lady.” He responded to the older daughter.

“What d’you want?” Margaret asked walking into the entry way.

“Maggie, mind your manners!” Ma said, running her finger through her hair and smiling at Old Nick “This is my youngest daughter, Nick.”

Margaret remained focused on him. He was tall in stature and had very broad shoulders. His build was stocky but it suited him well and he didn’t look podgy, but rather, quite strong. Many women would consider him to be handsome, she was aware, yet the uncomfortable feeling that tightened around her gut while she looked at him eclipsed all of this.

She noticed a reddish sunburnt tint to his skin and what seemed to be black, leather gloves on his hands.

“Ain’t you hot?” She asked, quirking a brow and poking out her bottom lip.

“Oh no, I love the heat. I was just telling your mother how much I enjoy the summer’s down south.”

“Nick is a door to door salesman. He’s from New York City.” Ma said, her statement dripping with enthusiasm.

“New York City?” Margaret’s sister echoed.

He nodded.

“What’s it like?”

“Why, like nothing you have ever seen. Like heaven.” He responded, winking at her.

Ma had missed it but Margaret didn’t. She folded her arms.

“Ain’t you gonna try an’ sell us somethin’, Old Nick? Like Bibles or somethin’.”

“No, young lady, never,” He said with a light-hearted laugh “I was gonna try to sell something else.”

“Tupperware?”

“…Yes, tupperware. And I’m pretty sure you all could use it because I can tell your sister here… is a master chef.”

She watched her sister bashfully look away, clasping her hands together and could sense Ma’s annoyance begin to fester.

“I taught her everything she knows.” Ma intervened with a forced chuckle.

“I bet.” Was his response, his eyes still intent on Ma’s eldest.

In his right, gloved hand he held a very thin suitcase the color of apples when they were their ripest. Margaret doubted there was any tupperware fitting inside of it and wanted so badly to close and lock the door.

“I must say, your daughter has awfully pretty eyes. She reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor.”

Ma winced at the flattery. Squinting, she peered over at the object of Old Nick’s attention only to see her flushed cheeks and coy demeanor. Her youngest daughter could tell that she was fighting the urge of anger and smelled the Whiskey she had been drinking, seeping through her pores. She seized the opportunity to get this stranger away from their home and said “Well, Old Nick, don’t look like you have anythin’ to sell in that little briefcase and we were jus’ gettin’ ready to eat dinner and watch some television…so…”

“Is that so?” He asked.

“Yeah, it’s the truth.” Ma said matter-of-factly, now bored with the attention of this new male as she had lost it to her daughter.

He looked away from the young woman he had seemed fixated on and into the bloodshot eyes of Ma.

“Oh, very well. Maybe I can sell you something some other time. I should probably get going. Gotta head to New York City tomorrow.”

Margaret’s sister smiled at the sound of New York and the flicker in her eye re-ignited.

“You could do really swell up there, you know. Some of the biggest models and actresses aren’t half as pretty as you.”

Her eyes widened “Really?” she asked, dangling on edge of his comment.

“I don’t lie about such things.”

“Alright,” Ma interjected “It was nice meetin’ ya’.”

He winked at her again “Yes, ma’am, thank you for your time. If you’re interested in what I’m selling I’ll be at the Red Lake motel closer to the city, room 7. Be there till tomorrow,” He finished, tipping his fedora “You ladies have a lovely evening. And may God keep you on the right path.”

The long day had drawn to an end and a black sky was upon them. Ma had finished half a pint of Whiskey and was slouched over in front of the television, snoring lightly. In the bedroom she and her sister shared, Margaret was lying in her twin sized bed, eyes closed. She could hear the sound of fumbling in the dark and as her sister tip-toed out of the room she listened to her go into the bathroom. Opening her eyes, Margaret could see the bathroom light slipping underneath the closed door and she watched her sister’s outline sway within the light, delicately, as she primped herself in the mirror.

Her sister had rarely snuck out but Margaret knew where she was going after overhearing her conversation with Bobby Mitchell that afternoon. She slowly let her lids meet once more and pictured them and their father as they were, years ago. The images of him surprising her sister with a brand new Ginny doll were fuzzy but Margaret held tight to her 11th birthday and the red, feather earrings she had been given. The earrings that evoked a new emotion that day, what Margaret learned to be envy. The earrings that lit the blaze in her sister’s eyes which radiated with such fervor. It was so different from the dwindling flicker that had vanished earlier that night then re-appeared when they were speaking to that strange salesman, Old Nick.

She released control of her mind and allowed it to drift wherever it decided. It wandered and conjured up moments floating  in yesteryear. The ones she thought about when rage was all that flooded their home.

Father’s white teeth dimples laughter sister’s blue eyes running in a field blowing out birthday candles rocking horse piggy-back rides ponytails pigtails door creek yellow breaking black her sister standing over her? “I’ll come back for you..” warm sensation on the forehead losing teeth nickel under pillow bedtime stories fifth grade principals office funeral tears tears tears tears yelling grey black Whiskey Gin hands pain blame guilt fear terror silence Old Nick red black teeth black hands pain scream stars silence.

Margaret gasped for air as she tore from her bed. Sunlight was kept at bay because the thin, faded beige curtains were drawn. Taking a deep breath she swept her hair behind her ears and exhaled.

“Just a dream…just a nightmare.”

Stretching and wiggling her fingers she turned her neck to face her sister’s side of the room. She wasn’t there and her bed was still made. Squinting, Margaret glanced around and inhaled. There was no breakfast in the air. Climbing out of bed and creeping into the hallway a gentle prick shocked her sole and she looked down. Red screamed against a taupe colored carpet. A feather earring was on the floor.

Making her way downstairs she peeked into the living room only to see Ma on the worn down sofa in front of the television, slouched in a deep sleep. After turning the T.V. off she walked through out the house in search of her sister but she wasn’t there. Everything was in the exact same place as it was the day before.

Her nerves grew weary and she ran to the telephone in a haste.

“Yeah, mornin’ ma’am. Could I be connected to Mitchell 1315, please?”

Bobby’s mother picked up. Margaret apologized for calling so early in the morning but asked if she could speak to him.

“Bobby?”

He yawned “Yup, who’s this?”

“It’s Maggie. I’m–”

“Oh, hey Maggie.”

“Hi. I wasn’t evesdroppin’ or nothin’ but yesterday afternoon I heard you and my sister make plans to go to Joe’s Tavern. I was wonderin’ if–”

“Yeah. I waited for her at the end of the road in my pick up jus’ like she said. She never came so I figured ya’lls mama caught her tryin’ to sneak out.”

“…She never went to Joe’s?”

“Nah. At least, she wasn’t there when I got there an’ I was there till pretty late. Why? Is somethin’ a matter?”

Feeling slipped from her legs and arms as she hung up the phone.

“Maaa….Maaaa!” She called.

Her mother alerted the local authorities and they had begun their search for the missing girl a few hours later. They assured her that the girl had probably been caught up in some teenage shenanigans because this was always the case with teens around her age, in their town. That Tuesday was the longest day in Margaret’s life.

Wednesday finally came and still, she had not heard from or seen her. Margaret called all of her sister’s friends that she knew of, inquiring if they knew her whereabouts but none had claimed to have seen or spoken to her. By Thursday she wondered if perhaps her friends were lying. Maybe her sister was staying with one of them because Ma had grown too intolerable.

Aimlessly wandering around their bedroom she looked at pictures of them and little trinkets they had collected over the years. She stood in front of the old, chipped vanity her sister had and pulled her hair from her face as she stared at herself. She looked more like their mother. Dirty blonde locks, deep brown eyes, thin lips, round nose, sun-kissed complexion.

Looking down at the make-up her sister kept she noticed a folded piece of paper. Her fingertips glided over it and she debated whether or not looking at it was a bad idea. It could be a love letter from a boy; her sister received those frequently. Margaret wanted it to be a letter from her sister. A piece of assurance to ease her twisting nerves. Opening it up she immediately noticed it was a letter from one of the Milton boys and set it back down.

Back downstairs she heard her mother in the kitchen, rummaging through the cabinets and mumbling to herself. Margaret knew her mother was looking for more alcohol. Since her sister left, the drinking and smoking had been heavier than normal and she hadn’t gotten much rest.

“God damnit!”

The howl went ignored and Margaret wondered if Ma was going to prepare dinner as she turned the television on. Plopping onto the couch she noticed the clock read 3:22.

“Ughh, the news.” She rolled her eyes.

“And the store will be opening this coming fall.” The male anchor stated.

“Maggie! D, did anyone… c, call ’bout your sister?” Was slurred leaving her mother’s mouth.

“No, Ma! I woulda told ya’.”

Empty bottles clinked and clanked and soon the only sound was that of the television. Ma had found her temporary fulfillment inside of her now full glass.

“Wonderful, Mary Lou,” The same male anchor ‘s face then shifted, hardened, as he straightened the papers he held ” In more unsettling news, the bound body of an unidentified young woman was found along the Indian River Lagoon earlier this afternoon by a group of young boys who were fishing.”

As if possessed, Margaret felt something pull her body upward and straighten itself.

“Police have no details on the young woman, but she is described as being between the ages of 18 and 21, 5’5″, with dark hair. If you have any information please call your local police station.”

Glass shattering cut through Margaret’s shock. Startled, she turned to see Ma standing in the doorway with a face void of expression, fingers outstretched, palm exposed. Shards of the broken cup were sprawled out across the floor and a brown puddle seeped over the floorboards towards the center of the room.

“Now to Charlie with the weekend weather forecast.”

“Thank you, John. We can say goodbye to the cool breezes and hello to a heat wave that’s headed our way .”

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