Eviction

Amateur

She didn’t want to say anything. It wasn’t that bad, really. It wasn’t home, but it was clean and dry. Small. But clean.

“Jesus,” he said.

“It’s not that bad, Tommy,” she said, trying to believe it as she said it. She looked up into his tired eyes and smiled at him.

“I’m so sorry, Mel.” His voice was thin and weary. Dry leaves over the sidewalk. That’s what she thought of. That thin rasping. He’d been working non-stop to put what little they had left into a storage unit. 48 hours of packing and carrying. She didn’t know how to drive a manual shift so he had to do that too. They’d managed to fit everything into one giant truck. She tried to help, but all she could do was try to make sure he had something to eat as he worked.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t help more, Tommy,” she said as he walked in the little room. She shut the door behind them and looked around the little room.

“Don’t worry about it, he said wearily. He dropped down to the bed, slumping down and just staring out to the wall.

“Um…Oh, they have air conditioning. That’s nice.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you… Why don’t you go get cleaned up. You’ll feel better.”

“Right,” he said, rubbing his hands over his face. “I’m so sorry, Mel.” He sounded so stretched. So thin. He just stared out at the pale walls. She sat down next to him and took his hand, feeling the warm flesh.

“Stop saying that,” she said softly. “You did what you could do.”

“It was just too much. I can’t make that much.”

“Mom and dad didn’t leave you much to work with.”

“I should have been able to do something.” She wrapped her arms around him, and pressed her face to his shoulder. “Jesus…”

“We’ll be alright. Let’s just forget about the house. It’s not ours now, so let’s not waste our thoughts worrying about it.”

“For Christ’s sake, we’re…” He just shook his head, letting his arm drape over her shoulders as she held him. His free hand wiped down his dirty face.

“We’ve got enough to stay two nights. I get my check Saturday. You get yours on Monday. We’ll be fine.”

“If I’d known things were that bad, I’d have gotten a real job,” he said. “I didn’t know.”

“Tommy, you have to put this all behind us. I can refund my summer tuition. Full refunds go all the way to next Wednesday. We’ll think of something.”

“I don’t want you to cancel your classes. Mom and dad wouldn’t want that.”

“Well, they wouldn’t want us out on the street either.”

“We’re living in a fucking motel, Melanie.”

“And we’re fine. Mom and Dad put the house in hock, not us.”

“I tried, Mel, I really did. I went to everyone I could think of for a loan. There’s no one can float us that much.”

“Tommy, go get a bath. You’ll feel better.”

“I don’t want a bath.”

“It’ll make the aches go away. Take a shower, then fill the tub and just slide under the water. I’ll set this all up.”

“How you feeling?”

“I’m fine.”

“You feel warm.” The backs of his fingers laid against her ear, then her forehead.

“I’m just tired.”

“You take all your pills? I didn’t even check,” he said angrily. “I’m sorry.” He jumped up and threw his bag on the bed, nearly ransacking the contents.

“Tommy, I’ve got them in my little black zipper,” she said, digging through her duffel and pulling the little nylon case out.

“Oh. I’m sorry. I’m just tired.”

“I’m sure. I don’t know how you did it.”

“I’m going to take a shower,” he said, standing up with a grunt. He limped on his foot. He was a wreck. She watched her brother, someone she always saw as a kind of giant, walk with effort through the little room into the bathroom.

She looked around, looking repeatedly at the cheap curtains and thinking of the soft, shimmering weave curtains she had in her bedroom. But she didn’t have a bedroom anymore. She didn’t have a kitchen, or a dining room, or anything. She had a little room that cost more than they had to spend, and it wasn’t anywhere she wanted to sleep.

She waited until she heard the shower curtain roll along before she cried. It had been hard enough to lose her mom and dad. But they were just starting to get their lives back together when they lost the house. Tommy had been trying to save it, but it was too far in debt. The bank owned it, and that was that. It wasn’t the bank’s fault. She understood that. It was just something that happened.

There wasn’t enough life insurance left over to pay for anything more than a few meals and the rental truck. Her house, the place she lived, and played as a child, and the place where she had her first goodnight kiss from a boy, the place she first…it wasn’t hers anymore.

She wiped her eyes and let out a long breath, putting her hands in her jacket pockets. She felt the crumpled up eviction order. It felt so normal. Just a piece of paper. But it was like a big knife in her gut.

She had saved it, pulling it from the trash after Tommy had finished talking to the deputy sheriff. He was a nice old man. He’d come by to make sure they understood what was going beyliikdüzü escort to happen. Tommy had talked him into stalling long enough to let him move their stuff out. They didn’t want strangers coming in and dumping everything on the front lawn.

He understood. He had told Tommy that he would come by and check on them every few hours. As long as they were making progress and they weren’t just stalling to try and give themselves time to find something else, he’d keep the crew from coming out.

Tommy had crumpled up the eviction order and tossed it in the trash. She’d pulled it free. She looked at it for almost an hour that night. It seemed incredibly simple for something that had the power to take their home and put them on the street.

In the motel room, listening to the water run, she took a calming breath and smoothed the eviction order out, pressing her little fingers along the paper as she laid it on her lap. She folded it neat and set it in a small pocket on her duffel. She pulled out a rumpled dollar she found in her jacket pocket. Every dollar mattered.

The room was 45 dollars a night. It was tiny, and it was all they could get. Everyone else wanted credit cards and they didn’t have any that weren’t stretched to the limit.

Melanie sighed in resignation and set about making the room as presentable as she could. It was clean enough, but it wasn’t home.

* * * *

Tom slid under the water, having to bend his legs up to fit, but sighing as he felt the hot water relax his aching body. Two days. He’d done nothing but carry boxes and furniture for two days straight. Lift as much as you want, he thought, two day of that, and you’re fucking wiped. His fingers hurt to the point of not being able to make a fist.

He’d never been that tired. Melanie had diligently kept an eye on his meals. She seemed to know just when he needed on the most. Never too heavy. She cleared a space in the mess at night and made a bed of blankets and the pillow she’d saved out.

He only slept an hour, but it was glorious. He woke to her fingers brushing his hair from his face as she smiled down at him. She’d packed the entire living room in that time, and looked more than a little flushed.

It was the last thing he let her do.

“Tommy?” Her voice was faint behind the door.

“Hmm?”

“Can I come in? I have to pee.” He slid the curtain across.

“Yeah.” He heard the door open and then shut.

“You feel better?” she asked him.

“Clean.”

“Um,” she said, lifting the seat cover on the toilet. “Could you…” He used his foot to turn on the water, letting her use the toilet without him hearing.

“Okay,” she said, flushing. He cranked it back to normal and slid down, letting the water splash and cover his tight shoulders and neck.

“Tommy?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m sorry you have to take care of me.”

“Don’t say that, Mel,” he said, sliding down to his chin. His knees were high as he lowered himself, pressing his feet tight to the far edge.

“It’s just…if it wasn’t for me, you could have stayed with friends or something. I don’t know.”

“I don’t have any friends,” he said. “Not around here, anyway.”

“Oh.”

“Just don’t say that anymore, okay?”

“Okay.” Such a small voice. It fit her. She was tiny. Pretty like his mom was. Not stunning, but worth a glance. She had that same tussled blonde hair their mother had.

He ran his hands through his hair, slicking it thick with the hot water.

“How’s your back?” He could almost see her sitting with her hands clasped together, resting on her little knees. She’d done it since she was a little kid.

“Fine,” he said. “Bath was a good idea.”

“You mind if I sit in here?”

“No.”

“Okay.”

“Mel?”

“Yeah?”

“If there was a chance I could buy the house back…”

“No, Tommy. We don’t need to go into debt like that.” She paused a moment. His eyes drooped shut. “You think you could?”

“What?” He forced his eyes open again. The room stretched back into focus.

“The house. You…you think there’s a chance you could get it back?”

“I don’t know. Might be able to.”

“No, don’t do it. We’ll find something. We wouldn’t have lived there forever anyway.”

“This isn’t what I wanted for you, Melanie.”

“You’re my brother, Tommy. Not my dad.”

“I’m just sorry as hell, that’s all.”

“Me too.”

“Jesus, we’re homeless.” He looked to the ceiling and let out a long breath. “I mean, that’s not something that actually happens to you.”

“It happened.”

“I should have just taken the money we had and gotten us an apartment.”

“We both decided this was right. It was our home. We had to try to save it.”

“I fucked it up,” he said, closing his eyes and sitting up. He rested his arms along the edge of the tub.

“Uhh…”

“Mel?”

“I don’t feel so good,” she said weakly.

“What’s wrong?” he asked shoving the curtain aside. She sat perched on the closed toilet and had her bodrum escort hand to her chest. She looked pale.

“Mel!” He jumped out, catching her before she fell. He lifted her little body and carried her quickly to the bed. Her skin looked like milk. Her lips moved as she tried to breath. He snatched her little pack up and nearly broke the zipper as he opened it. His big stupid fingers had trouble with the little pill bottle. When he finally got it undone, he frantically pulled loose a little yellow pill half the size of a Tic Tac.

“Come on, honey, you have to swallow this. Shit,” he said. He ran to the bathroom and ripped open the plastic wrap on a cup and filled it with water. He ran back, trying not to spill too much of it and saw her stiffening up and then relaxing. She was stiff again as he bent over her. Water dripped from his hair to her shirt.

“Okay, Mel, just take this and we’ll be fine, okay?” He pushed the pill into her mouth and carefully lifted her head as he tipped the cup to her lips. He started breathing again when he saw her throat slowly move, swallowing the pill and the water. Not too much, just enough to get it down her throat.

She wheezed and went deathly still for nearly a minute until she started to breath again. Her eyes fluttered and she looked around, blinking, and crying.

“It’s okay, Mel,” he said, softly. “You’re fine.”

“My chest hurts,” she cried softly.

“I know. It’ll go away,” he said, smoothing her hair back. “Promise.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I think I forgot to take a pill, or…”

“Or, you’ve been up for two days and your little body just can’t do that.”

“Maybe,” she said, wiping at her eyes. He waited until she drifted asleep before going in to dry off.

“Tommy?” She looked around as he rushed up to the bed.

“Yeah, Mel. I’m right here. You want to take a shower?”

“Uh-uh. I just want to sleep.” He helped her sit up as she pulled off her shirt. He looked away as he held out one of his T-shirts for her.

“You don’t have to look away,” she laughed. “You’ve seen me naked.

“It’s different when you’re unconscious,” he said with a grin. “How’s your chest feel?”

“Better.”

“We’re not off to a great new start, are we?”

“Not really. Okay,” she said. He looked to her as she pulled the T-shirt down over her hips. He pulled her to her feet, watching her wobble a bit and blink hard and fast.

“Head?”

“It’s pounding like someone just hit me with a bat,” she said, holding herself steady on his arm. He held her softly as she leaned into him. She put her hand to her head, holding them tight and gritting her teeth. Tom rubbed his hand down her back, speaking softly into her ear.

Finally, letting out a long breath, and looking as tired as she’d ever looked, she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tight. The top of her head barely came to his rib cage.

“Get some sleep,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do for the next few days, so we can sleep all day if we need to.”

“Okay,” she said. She lifted the shirt to get to her jeans. She let them drop and held his arms as she stepped out of the pool of denim. She started to bend over to take off her socks when she suddenly grabbed at his hand.

“Careful,” he said, sitting her on the edge of the bed. Her little hand came up to her head as she closed her eyes.

“I’m getting worse, Tommy,” she said. It sounded like a confession. Her eyes had big dark circles under them.

“You’re doing fine,” he said, looking at her. He smiled and knelt down in front of her, taking her foot in his hand. He carefully slid her sock off and tossed it to the floor. He did the same to the other and lifted her feet to the mattress as she laid back.

“Are you going to sleep?” she asked in her small voice.

“Yeah. In just a few minutes.”

“Okay,” she said closing her eyes. He pulled the sheet over her, lifting it to her shoulders. Her long hair spilled around her, the dark blonde of her curly locks contrasting with the normally pale peach of her face.

He checked the door, pulling the chain across and turning off the main light. He adjusted the waist of his boxers and looked around the room.

“Mother fucker,” he said, rubbing his hand over the back of his neck.

* * * *

Melanie woke in the middle of the morning. The sun tried to shove it’s way around the thick curtains. She felt her stomach trying to turn itself inside out. Her hair dropped in front of her face. She rolled, trying to get out of the sheet without waking Tommy. His big body was on its side and she watched the even rise and fall of his thick chest.

She stumbled as her feet hit the floor. She moved fast, feeling her way along as she wove through the room and into the bathroom. Her heart was beating so fast. It was a feeling that scared her. It made her jumpy and sluggish all at once. She made it to the toilet, flipping the lid up just in time to lose her stomach. There wasn’t much. She’d barely eaten in the last two days. Her appetite was miniscule bolu escort to begin with, but she’d noticed that she only ate because she had to anymore. Hunger was a remembered thing, not a thing of fact for her.

She held her hair aside with one hand and put her other to her belly as it heaved.

She coughed, feeling tears slide down her face. Her head was killing her. It felt like water was being pumped into her skull, filling harder and harder. Her vision started to darken, and she felt a curious and almost peaceful absence of balance and gravity. Then it swirled back to right, leaving her with only the throbbing pain to which she was so accustomed.

She stood up, stumbling back into the wall and held her head.

All she could think was how she was a drag on her big brother. His life wasn’t his because of her. They were homeless because of her. She couldn’t do anything. She couldn’t walk up too many stairs without having to sit down and try to not have a heart attack, or puke.

Melanie reached forward, still holding a hand over her racing heart and flushed the toilet. She made her way to the little sink and counter outside the bathroom. She found the half used bottle of mouthwash she’d put out when Tommy was having his shower. The taste was bitter, and she almost gagged again as she tried to gargle quietly.

She stood, leaning over the sink as she tried to get herself to calm down. Her heart… It just kept going. She went on shaky legs back to bed and sat down on the mattress, her feet dangling just off the floor.

“Mel?” His big hand was over her shoulder, squeezing as she looked back.

“I had to pee.”

“You okay?”

“Fine.”

“What time is it?” She looked over to the cheap little clock by her pillow.

“Just a little after 10.”

“Jesus, I feel like I just went to sleep.”

“Sleep some more. You need it.”

“What about you?”

“I’m not tired.”

“Mel, are you okay?”

“Fine,” she said, smiling at him.

“You hungry?”

“Not really. You can eat, though. I’m sure you’re hungry.” She closed her eyes and pushed down the urge to puke again.

“I can wait.” He made a noise of pain as he sat up.

“What’s wrong?”

“Just sore,” he said. “Whole body.”

“You worked really hard.”

“Yeah,” he said flatly.

“How about some sun?” she asked, looking over her shoulder. He was rubbing at his thick shoulder and carefully rotating his arm.

“Sun?”

“It rained the last two days. I thought you might like a little sun.”

“Sure,” he laughed. She took a second to steady herself, not wanting him to see how bad she was. Her fingers closed around the thick weave of the curtain and pulled it aside, letting the sun fall suddenly into the room.

“Christ,” Tommy said.

“What?”

“My damn toes hurt. I don’t think there’s anything that doesn’t.”

“What are we going to do, Tommy?” It wasn’t a question asked in desperation. It was just a curious statement.

“Well, with your check, and my check, that’s about five hundred. And I think you’re right. We’ll refund your tuition. I’ll make sure you go back next semester. I promise. So, there’s almost a thousand. We can probably get a little apartment. I mean, we owe on my credit cards, but we’re not behind, so that’s probably good.” He grunted as he stood up and moved his normally powerful frame with deliberate thought and great effort.

“You think we can get a decent place?”

“Don’t know. I can sell my truck. Buy a decent car and there’s a little more cash.”

“It won’t be so bad,” she said, walking to the bed. His shirt drifted around her like a robe. “I’m sure I can get my own place soon. I’ll take on a full week at work.”

“The hell you will,” he said, picking up his duffel bag. “You scare the hell out of me with the 20 hours you work now.”

“But I hardly make anything. I have to do something.”

“You’ll go to school. You’ll get a good job that won’t…wear you out. That’s the end of it.” She heard the quick anger in his voice.

“Tommy, I feel so useless,” she said quietly.

“I’m sorry, Mel. I’m just a little stressed. I shouldn’t have… I’m sorry.”

“What are you looking for?” He was digging through his duffel bag, pushing aside the clothes.

“I had a list of apartments we could look at. I thought I put it in my bag.”

“Oh, I put that in mine.”

“Let me see it,” he said, sitting at the small table by the window. She pulled it from her bag and tossed the folded newspaper section to him.

“Um, I hate to bring this up, but what about…um, my pills and all that.” She looked at her small feet as they scrunched along the flat, red and green patterned carpet.

“Yeah, I know,” he said, nodding. “We’ll figure it all in.”

“It’s just… I was on mom’s insurance from work, and it runs out next month.”

“We’ll just have to pay for it.”

“Thing is, without insurance, it’s…it’s really expensive.”

“Mel, we’ll figure it out. You can’t go without them.”

“No, I know, but…”

“Mel. We’ll figure it all out.”

“Yeah,” she said, looking down into her hands. She pressed the shirt into the well of her crossed legs. He could make it without her. All she brought was hardship to the whole thing.

“We’ll find something,” he said, looking down the paper.

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