Finally. Some new material. Gosh, I was scared 😛

Enjoy!

—~

 

‘Oh, excuse me,’ Buddy almost shouted over his shoulder. ‘Did you see what that asshole just did? He just ran into me and didn’t even look! Goddamn people and their goddamn cell phones…’ He was a large person, and unlike his sister, with her fishlike darting movements, found it difficult to maneuver in the mall.

Lydia made no reply, except to walk even faster, her two-inch heels clacking on the floor like hobnailed boots.

Buddy kept on talking. ‘I fucking hate malls, I always did, I don’t get why we have to be here.’ Buddy’s old boots that were falling apart; the soles flapped and slapped against the fake-marble floor in time with his babbling. ‘This is so fucking stupid, there’s too many goddamn people. This is all your fault, if it wasn’t for you I’d be–‘

‘You’d be what? Lying on my couch drinking my beer? What else is new?’ Lydia was practically running now, the wind in her fashionably cropped hair obscuring her vision of the storefronts that whizzed by. This was counterproductive, she thought, and managed to slow to a brisk trot.

‘Look, why don’t we just get him, like, a coffee mug or something like we did last year, huh?’ Buddy began to pant as he tried to catch up to his sister. As hard as it was to navigate, the faint odor Buddy gave off, coupled with his wild-looking beard and dreadlocks meant people gave them a relatively wide berth. ‘He liked that coffee mug. Easy. Problem solved. Let’s get him a coffee mug like last year.’

‘Oh, you mean like the one I bought him?’ Lydia couldn’t resist snapping.

‘Right, yeah, yeah, I think he still uses it, why don’t we get him one of–‘

‘You mean why don’t get him another one of those stupid mugs? No, he doesn’t still use it, you haven’t been home since last year, you fuck, and no, I won’t buy him the same goddamn shitty mug. It broke within the week and spilled hot coffee everywhere. I had to buy him a new sweater and a new pair of sneakers just to keep him happy. In fact, the only reason I bought the goddamn mug was because you said you had something else planned. Stupid me.’

It took Buddy five whole seconds to recover from that.

‘Alright, I’m sorry my end fell through, alright, it wasn’t my fault, if only the Nicks had won the game and Paulie woulda won his bet, and I woulda had enough money to get the, the…the…’

‘Yeah, the, the, the. The nothing. The slip. Ha!’ Lydia swerved viciously into a store. Buddy took almost four more paces, and, marveling at Lydia’s ability to multitask,  backtracked, and looked up at the storefront sign before dubiously ducking in after her. Mabel & Morely’s Custom Socks, Inc.

The interior of the store was not large, nor very well lit, and the walls were of dark wood with saccharine shutters painted at odd intervals. The designers probably hoped to create a cozy, homey atmosphere. Lydia was already rifling through the socks on the walls, flipping them, rubbing them, and throwing them back on the shelf. There were socks of every color and style, woolen, cotton, nylon, synthetic fur.

Buddy picked up one particularly ugly gray woolen pair and held it up with a thumb and forefinger before dropping it from eyeball height. ‘Jesus, Lyd,’ he said, loudy.

‘It’s Lydia,’ she muttered sharply.

‘Where the hell are we?’ he intoned as if he hadn’t heard her. ‘I mean, is Dad actually gonna like any of these socks? Hell, does he even need socks? I mean, who the fuck even gets socks as a birthday gift?’

Lydia had made it almost to the other end of the store, perusing socks at an alarming rate. Her eyes were focused with a laser-like intensity on the merchandise, but she was well aware of the fact that the aged cashier had just looked up from her desk with a look like she had just smelled Buddy’s socks.

‘Yo Lyd, watch this,’ Buddy laughed, and knowing nothing good could possibly follow those words, Lydia was at Buddy’s side and snatching the rainbow-printed sock away before he even had time to shove his large fist into it. In the same motion she grabbed his shirt sleeve and was dragging him (she thought she was dragging him; she couldn’t have because he was three times her size; he was pretending to lag) away from the children’s section. When they reached a front corner of the store, farthest away from the cashier, Lydia turned on him sharply.

‘Look, I know you’re going to make me pay for everything and make me think of everything and make me do everything,’ she seethed in a savage whisper. ‘But you don’t have to cause any more trouble than you already do by making yourself a menace. You already smell bad enough that you don’t have to go cussing loudly in a tiny store with nobody in it. Shit, you look like you just came from the projects. You probably did. And it was mom’s idea that we both go shopping today, not mine, so you can shut the fuck up trying to blame this on me, Brendan.’

Buddy, who at first had been trying to get a word in edgewise, and then had given up and was now impatiently staring at the walls over Lydia’s shoulders, now looked his sister dead in the eye and said, ‘ ‘Ey. It’s Buddy.’

The cashier was craning her neck.

‘Your name is fucking Brendan and my name is fucking Ly-di-a. Now stop acting like a child and let’s get this done so we can both go home.’

‘Couldn’t have said it better myself,’ Buddy drawled as Lydia turned on her two-inch heel. She snatched another pair of the ugly gray woolen socks from the wall with athletic agility, and slammed them down on the desk where the cashier quickly busied herself poking her register computer.

‘Twenty three dollars and sixty one cents,’ she whined eventually.

‘Jesus,’ Buddy cried from the middle of the store, where he was wandering aimlessly. ‘For a pair of ugly-ass socks.’

Lydia dug into her purse to find her wallet and paid without a word, arranging her face in what she hoped was an apologetic sort of smile. The credit card took an agonizing twenty seconds; when it was finished she snatched the little plastic bag and blew out of the store past Buddy, heels barking like a pair of insults.

Buddy caught up with her at a light jog, boots slapping contrarily to the heels, maneuvering around the mall crowds like a pair of fish going upstream. ‘Hey, Ly-di-a, this wasn’t my idea either,’ he flared softly into her ear, ‘so you can just shut the hell up and stop acting like this is all my fault, and buy our old man all of his little birthday presents, like the good little girl you are, and don’t worry, he’ll know that they all come from you, ’cause you’re his little favorite, little college grad, designer CEO person, star of the fashion world’–Lydia had fished her sunglasses out of her purse and put them on–‘queen of her corner office, in New York fucking City–I’ll tell you one thing, the old man sure as hell knows they didn’t come from me, his stupid worthless fuckup son–‘

‘Shit, Brendan!’ Lydia cried, coming to a stop suddenly with a stomp of patent leather. ‘What do you want from me?’ She waited for Buddy to backtrack, once again having been surprised by his sister’s abrupt change in direction. ‘What do you want from me? You want my money? Fine, I’ll buy you shit. You want my couch? It’s yours, I’m single as a damn nun. You want my booze? Fine, get yourself sloshed every night and then come home and piss on my bathroom floor. But don’t you dare patronize me because I went to college, and can actually afford to buy our father a little something for his birthday–‘

‘Patronizing? Because you went to college? Ha!’ They were both yelling now; even Lydia had forgotten to check if people were staring. ‘I don’t patronize you because you went to college, I patronize you because you never did anything right!’

‘Oh, and you did?’

‘You never did anything that wasn’t for your old man,’ he exploded, ‘or your old woman, you never did anything just…just for you, to make yourself happy, I mean what the fuck do you do all day? Draw shoes? Yell at secretaries? Well good, your old man’s proud of you,’ Buddy spat at her.

‘Oh, and living for yourself worked so well for you, didn’t it,’ Lydia retorted. ‘What’s it going to be this time? Did you get a DUI? Or just a new tattoo? How much money do you need this time? Are you going to stay a whole week? Are you going to flake on his birthday party like you did last–‘

‘Oh, the birthday party, I forgot!’ Buddy gushed in mock regret. ‘Can’t miss the birthday party, got to see and be seen, got to see who’s wearing what color dress, and whose ass looks like the mayor’s face this year–‘

‘Fine!’ Lydia screamed. ‘Fine! Skip the damn birthday party! Don’t even pretend you’ll come! Why don’t you leave a day early? In fact, why don’t you just leave now! Just go! Get out of here! We don’t need you any more. We’re used to you being gone. You’re dead to me. So just leave! And don’t come back this time.’

‘Maybe I will!’ Buddy hollered back at her. ‘Maybe I will!’

Lydia shoved her sunglasses back firmly up her nose and snorted. ‘Jesus,’ she sighed, ‘why do we do this every single time.’

‘Do what?’ Buddy wasn’t done shouting.

But Lydia was. ‘You come back home. I pretend to hate you. Mom and Dad dote on you. You sleep on my couch and piss on my bathroom. You leave again. I cry for days. I forget about you, my life starts looking up, you come back. Well this time I’m not going to fucking cry!’ she finished weakly.

It took Buddy a whole thirty seconds to come up with something to say.

‘Take off your sunglasses.’

‘What? No.’

‘Take off your sunglasses, look me in the eye.’

‘Why?’

‘This time’ll be different, look–‘

‘Oh, God, don’t give me that bullshit, Brendan–‘

‘Look at me! Just take off your sunglasses.’

Lydia angrily swiped them off, and to no one’s surprise her eyes were red and her cheeks were wet. She looked immediately to the floor.

‘Look, Lyd, I don’t know if this time’ll be different, you know, I don’t belong here. You know I don’t. But you should probably know that I miss you too sometimes. You might be a stupid shitty CEO person thing who goes to stupid shitty parties to see what peoples’ asses look like, but you’re my sister, and I miss you. That’s what your family is, no matter how lame it is, you still miss it, and they still miss you, no matter what a fuckup you are. And–for what that’s worth, there it is. I don’t think I can give you any more than that.’

Lydia nodded at the ground. ‘Yeah,’ she sighed.

But maybe it was enough. Somewhere, in some sense, Lydia knew that for once her brother wasn’t exaggerating, and in fact probably meant more than what he admitted. Hearing Buddy admit that he wasn’t completely the wild, cruelly thoughtless deserter of the family she had let herself believe he was might make it just a tiny bit easier to take; when he left this time, and she would be thinking of him for those terrible lonely days, it might comfort her to know that somewhere in that vast city, her brother was out there, thinking of her.

‘Love you, Bud,’ she managed.

As Buddy gave her an awkward, warm, vaguely smelly hug, Lydia squeezed herself together, saving the tears for another time, and sagged against the years.

She remembered the mall after she had grown old. ‘We should keep shopping,’ she mumbled.

‘Yeah,’ Buddy declared, clearing his throat and breaking away. ‘Probs. Where to, captain?’

‘I don’t fuckin’ know.’

‘Okay.’

And they continued navigating the mall like two fish swimming upstream, heels and soles clicking and flapping in a complicated tattoo that went unheard in the noise of the mall.

 

 

 

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