Faithless: Chapter Two
Beware: DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T READ KING *yes, it’s shouty capitals important*
“Forget your key again, sis?” My sister laughs as she lets me into the house. Her tiny mouth is curved in an amused grin, blue eyes sparking with cheer.
“Something like that,” I grumpily mumble, trying to hide my accent. It’s always exhausting to be what I’m not, so it makes me mean and nasty. “Here,” I say, while pulling the Id from my pocket. “You did well on the entrance examine. No Fundamentals of Mathematics for you. I did real good.”
“Sis, you have to try harder,” Fate chastises me. If her voice had held mocking pity I would’ve been even angrier, but she’s just trying to teach me right. “It’s ‘I did really well.’ You start Hillbrook in a few days. You can’t go another year without talking. They will eat you alive, and I won’t be able to protect you. You need to worry about appearances, especially with this scandal.” Her expression pinches when she thinks of what Daddy did to the people of this city. She isn’t sad that he’s in jail, like I am. She’s mad that he made us look bad.
“And here, I thought I was the one always protecting my big sister,” I tease, drawing her away from Daddy’s scandal. Ordinarily it don’t bother me much when she picks on my diction, but Wil’s words hit deep. “You could’ve said thanks,” I grumble- thanks for taking my test, Faith. Thanks for protecting me against the mean-looking boy, Faith. Thanks for living a different life so that momma wouldn’t be mean to me, Faith. Thanks for being the best sister in the world, Faith. But Fate, she is blind to all things Faith-related.
“Thanks,” she bubbly squeaks, not knowing why she’s thanking me. “Hungry?” Fate hops on her heels, her ponytail happily bobbing at the back of her head. She looks and acts my age, but deep inside, I feel older than her. It’s why I have to be the adult when she’s the big sister.
I roll my eyes at her and head towards the kitchen. “You’d die without me. I’ll work on my English if you work on your passive-aggressiveness. Just ask for something if you want it.”
“I’m hungry,” she whines. “Will you feed me, please?” She bats her long, blonde eyelashes and smiles sweetly.
“Worst day of your life so far was when the staff was let go, wasn’t it?” I shake my head in disgust. I fix her a peanut butter and jelly while we chat. Fate isn’t even capable of that.
“It was,” she says, bashfully hiding her face as she sits at the kitchen island.
“Sis, you have to learn how to take care of yourself. Now that you’re broke, you’re going to have to do this stuff yourself. You’re an adult now. Even the state won’t take you in.” I shudder from the thought.
Momma tried to give me to the state when Daddy brought me home. Apparently you don’t bring your dirty little secret home to your wife and expect her to keep it. No one in my parents’ social circles knows that I ain’t momma’s. They compromised. Daddy’s sister, Amelia, took me in, and I only come around when we need to keep up appearances. It would have looked strange if I didn’t go to Hillbrook. I’m starting my sophomore year in a few days. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be home until the night before school started, but Daddy’s arrest trumped everything. Dirty secret’s home and Momma’s pretending we’re a happy family.
“Couldn’t we have something better than pb&j?” Fate complains, smushing her face up in revulsion. She pokes at the bread and peeks between the slices.
“I know your palate is diverse,” I grin at her and she giggles. “How’s that for vocabulary, sis? I ate this for months at a time. You better get used to it. No money, no food.”
“I could go visit Regina, I suppose,” she sighs, a calculating light shines from her eyes- one I loathe. She takes an experimental bite of the sandwich, slowly chews, smiles to herself when she deems it tasty, and then takes a huge bite.
Sometimes I hate my sister. She is the most entitled, self-deluded person I’ve ever met. You can’t help but love her because she is blind to the fact. She ain’t doing it to be mean, she just don’t get it. After the day I’ve had, I feel my temperature rising.
“You shouldn’t use people like that, Fate,” I scold her, when usually I keep my trap shut. “It’s rude.”
“I’m not using her. She’s my best friend. Besides, she gets lonely in that huge house. She isn’t even allowed to eat in the big dining room, can you believe that?”
Blind. Blind. Blind. I repeat this so my hand doesn’t fly out and smack the entitlement from her perfect face.
“Wouldn’t have any idea what that’s like,” I sarcastically say. “No clue. How awful that must be for Regina.”
My daddy doted on me to make up for the life I was born into. He gave me endless attention. He’d spend time with me in West Virginia. He didn’t buy my love, he earned it. I want to resent him for not sticking up for me with Momma, but I can see where he’s coming from. I’d rather live real life with Aunt Amelia than this fake life. Momma and Fate are learning how easy it is to lose money. If you ain’t got a brain in your head, you’ll lie down and die. They’re dying and I’m resuscitating.
When I came home for important events, I was told to keep my mouth shut. Being quiet for Wil will be easy. I’ve went weeks without speaking to anyone but Daddy and Fate. And when my sister makes fun of me, my mouth don’t open for a long while.
I really like Regina. She thinks like me. So I just roll my eyes that Fate is upset that her friend has to eat prime rib in any room except the main dining room. Fate’s too delusional to realize she’s just making excuses to eat fine cuisine. Ironically, Fate failed to see her sister eating in her bedroom. I always ate what the staff ate. Momma had no need for Daddy’s bastard to eat her frilly food.
Only reason I’m roaming free is that Momma won’t leave her room and the staff is gone. Someone needs to do the cooking and cleaning for the blind. I do it because they’re incapable. Making a peanut butter sandwich is as advanced for them as brain surgery is for me.
“I’m going to see Daddy tomorrow. You going with?” I wipe down the kitchen while Fate eats her dinner. I pour her a glass of milk to go with it. I don’t eat. I have my own stuff in my room. Stuff I bought with my own money. I don’t want nothing from Momma, even if it did originate from Daddy.
“Dad doesn’t want to see me,” Fate grumbles while chewing.
“You lie,” I growl. “You’re making excuses. You’re acting just like Momma.”
“That’s because I’m too much like Mom. Dad doesn’t like me like he loves you. You’re his protégée.” She sounds hurt because I’m my daddy’s girl.
“That’s not really a compliment anymore, ya know. It’s like saying I’m destined to become a career criminal. Momma won’t even be in the same room with me. You heard her this morning. She said I was tainted by Daddy and my whore of a mother. She said Aunt Amelia was teaching me to be a con like Daddy. You think I don’t see her looking at me sideways? She thinks I’m up to no good. Like I’m going to steal my own dang silver and pawn it.”
“Mom’s not doing well, you know that. She hasn’t been out of her room for a few days. The problem is that you don’t see what Dad did as wrong. It was, Faith. It was wrong to scam all of those families out of money. He wasn’t being Robin Hood; he was keeping it for himself.”
“You don’t seem to have a problem spending that money, Fate,” I snap. “Your fancy clothes and your fancy schools weren’t free. Those families paid for it.”
“Don’t start this again.” She uses that tone that means I’m being insufferable. It’s the same one her mom uses. I loathe that tone, it sets off my temperature. “I know it bothers you that you grew up differently from me.”
“That’s got nothing to do with this. I don’t want that shit! I don’t care anything about it. I had everything I needed and more. I just want him out of prison, but you and Momma want him there. So yeah, it’s been started now, sister,” I snarl. I fling the dishcloth into the sink, preparing to throw down with my delusional sister.
“It was wrong,” she calmly says. Fate never loses her temper. She just backs down. I used to think it was because she thought she was better than me, now I think she’s too weak to fight back.
“It wrong, huh?” I slap my hand down on the kitchen island to gain her attention, and then I swipe her half-eaten sandwich away. I chuck the sandwich and the plate into the trash. She hungry, she can smear some bread. She thirsty, she can pour her own dang milk. I’m not her servant, I’m her sister, and this house is mine just as much as it is hers or Momma’s. I grab her glass of milk and toss it into the sink. The glass breaks, spraying milk everywhere. I ain’t cleaning it up, either.
“That, sure as shit, didn’t stop Momma from going to spas and taking vacays. You didn’t stop spending money on purses that cost more than Aunt Amelia’s trailer. Daddy may have stolen that money, but he worked hard for it. And you and Momma worked just as hard spending it.”
“There is no sense even talking to you when you get this way,” Fate says, walking away from me.
“Really,” I screech, “Really? You had no problem with me taking your SATs two years ago or your college entrance exams today. That’s was a crime. You making your baby sister a criminal. You making your Daddy a criminal to pay for your elitist bullshit. You just spent it and turned a blind eye to where it came from. And now you have no problem spending the money I worked for.”
“What are we supposed to do, Faith, starve? Our accounts were seized and this house is next. We have weeks, maybe less, until we’re homeless.”
“I don’t expect you to starve, Fate. I expect you to get a damn job or pawn your shit or treat me with some respect. I’m not the hillbilly moron you call me behind my back, and then have the nerve to ask to take your tests.”
“You offered,” Fate lamely replies, no shame in her tone. Her patronizing voice sets me off like a timer on a bomb.
“And you took me up on it,” I scream. I curl my fingers into my palms, curbing the need to pick up the wrought-iron stool Fate was sitting on and smash it into the French doors- anything to get her attention- to impart some dang knowledge in her blank skull.
“I can’t get a job. I have to go to school.” Even heated, she doesn’t raise her voice… and boy, if that don’t make me meaner than cat shit. Her innocent expression ramps up my temper to murderous-violence levels.
“Great. That’s great. I’ve been working for three years, saving for my future. That’s the money you’re spending now. So as you bitch about pb&j, you’re spending a fifteen-year-old’s future. My nineteen-year-old princess of a sister can’t get a job because she has college after she spent an entire year touring Europe and sitting on her ass. Well, no shocker here, but I have to go to HIGH SCHOOL,” I scream bloody murder. “One year ago, I graduated from junior high. You’re the adult!”
“Which is evident by the way you speak, isn’t it?” her haughty attitude dominates her voice. “If you’d go to school, you wouldn’t sound like an idiot.”
I’m stunned speechless at the level of disrespect and blindness. “Wow… just wow… You completely missed the mark on that one, sister. But thanks,” I seethe. “I’m the moron that’s too stupid for school, but smart enough to be used by you. Here, I thought I spoke like this because I was tossed from my home by my momma because she didn’t want me no more. I see this accent as a badge of honor. It means I’m not as ignorant as you. But nope, everyone here thinks it’s from a lack of intelligence. How intelligent are you, with your pretty soft spoken words, sister?”
“You’re upset and using me to vent. I will leave you to it,” Fate calmly says and heads for the front door.
“You need a dose of reality, Fate. Do you really think Daddy and I take care of you and Momma out of love? We do it because you’re weak. It’d be like tossing a dog out in the cold or throwing a baby in a dumpster. I have too much humanity for that. Today, I had to pretend to be you to save you and it goes unthanked. You’re my responsibility now that Daddy can’t take care of you. But you know what, eventually I may cut the dead weight,” I threaten.
“Are you saying you don’t love me?” She whines, her blue eyes glistening with unshed tears. Usually that would have me backing down, but not today.
“Are you saying you love me? Because from where I stand, you only love what I can do for you, same goes for Daddy. He stole, you spent, and you leave him to rot. You and Momma are leeches, sucking us dry.”
“Why are you so nasty? I’ll be at Regina’s,” she cries, heading towards the door.
“Have fun with that. Pretty sure you’ll be leeching off of her next, but maybe she’ll make you work for it. Tell the Whittenhowers I said hi!”
I trudge up to my room, pounding my feet on the stair treads. A lot of good it does me since I only weigh eighty pounds. I don’t make the impact I was hoping for. But it doesn’t matter since I see her leaning on my door and my temperature boils over.
“Don’t get too comfy, Momma. This ain’t your house no more. You always called my mom a whore because she spread her legs for Daddy. Well, what do you call what you do? You’re worthless. You do nothing but bleed Daddy dry and act all uppity about it.”
Momma looks me over for a long while. She looks disgusted that she likes what she sees. Well, I don’t like what I see. I see a dried-up desperate woman. Lara loves plastic surgery. It’s not making her look younger, just funny. I wonder if she’s jealous of Fate and me. Lara with her bleached hair, brown eyes contacted in blue, and her augmented body. Her daughters are what she’s tried to change herself into… and failed.
“Gwen was a blight on the area. Lord knows how many kids that woman has floating around. She sold you back to your father. What kind of mother does that? I haven’t treated you the best, but I never sold you.”
“You woulda if you coulda, though. Ain’t that right, Lara? I ain’t calling you Momma no more. We ain’t kin. You already sold Daddy out to the Feds,” I hiss in disgust.
“You’re all alike.” She deeply sighs, like this conversation is inconveniencing her. “Amelia raised Tom and Tom and Amelia raised you… con-artist, the lot of you. I’d thought Tom had changed, but all he did was get better at it.”
“Like you didn’t know Daddy was a criminal.” I roll my eyes at the absurdity of it. “You love to judge while you turn a blind eye on what you’re doing. You’re worse than he ever thought of being. I want you out of my house. It’s not yours. It’s Daddy’s, so it mine and Fate’s now. We’ll be here until we’re kicked out. I promised I’d take care of Fate, but I never said nothing about you. I don’t care how bad Fate acts, I’ll take care of her. But, you and I, we ain’t blood.”
“Good luck with that,” she evilly purrs, heading towards her room. “You know where to find me.”