Unaware of it, Tara gloated when Brooke staggered home only forty minutes later. The back door slammed off the wall. She was upstairs watching a documentary about a boy who videotaped his truly embarrassing parents. Their house was rickety but Brooke was slamming into one thing after another.
So that while the kid on TV told his bickering parents, “You guys are golden,” Tara visualized Brooke crashing into furniture. Now she was tromping upstairs. She stalked around noisily in Tara’s vicinity before falling into a stuffed chair. Her face was wet and streaked with dirt and her long sleek hair was one huge tangle. She expelled breath toward the ceiling and tugged her purple T-shirt, twisting the loose material into her fists.
“So did anybody call while I was gone?”
“Well,” Brooke was up now and pacing, “did anybody stop by? Ring the doorbell? Was there a message for me?”
“The movie star stood you up, huh?”
“Stood…me…up.” Brooke hiccupped between the words and sat on the floor. “Yep. He did. Stand me up.”
Tara stopped watching TV to watch Brooke whose hiccups and tears came fast and hard. So it wasn’t funny anymore. “That’s too bad, Brooke. But it’s one night. One thing. I mean, calm down.”
Curled on the carpet, she stared at her marching fingers. “How am I gonna make it through a whole night?”
“Um, you know what? I’ve got some whiskey. Stole it from Pop.” Their father worked in a bar forty miles away. Brooke didn’t see him anymore since he’d started smacking her silly. But he liked Tara and every once in awhile, Tara liked seeing him. Brooke was still on the floor, hiccupping and sobbing. She rocked on her spine—until Tara grabbed her elbow. “Get a grip. Jeez, Brooke. You’re such a baby.”
She brought the bottle of Maker’s Mark from her bedroom, expecting Brooke to take a sip and settle down and watch TV with her. But Brooke gulped down a lot. She swung her legs in front of her and stood up, no more hiccups. “Okay if I take this to bed with me, Tara?”
It didn’t occur to Tara to say no. Hours later, just before Tara was ready to go to bed, Brooke stumbled into the living room, stinking of vomit. She said, “I can’t walk, Tara,” except she couldn’t exactly talk either.
“Shit,” Tara said. “You’re shit-faced.”
Brooke dropped onto the couch, unconscious. Tara knew, in part from her Pop, that when someone was this drunk, you were supposed to shove them into a cold shower. But it wasn’t easy. She had to get in the shower with Brooke and shampoo her stinking hair and soap her smelly body.
Tara took care of the whole horrible mess: Got Brooke showered; dried; and back to bed—except it was Tara’s bed. Brooke’s sheets needed washing. She stuffed Brooke’s clothes in the washing machine and cleaned her room. Afraid all the while she would puke too—from the smell—she wiped up the puddle on the bathroom floor.
She even washed the towels and ran the dryer. Finally, she took a shower herself and burned incense, which their mother used for meditating. That’s where their mother was now, meditating all night with her jewelry-making group.
In four hours Tara and Brooke would be getting ready for high school and Brooke would pretend she didn’t know Tara, because she was a year and a half older, two years ahead in school and infinitely cooler.
Now, however, Brooke loomed in Tara’s face, shaking her awake, where she’d fallen asleep watching TV. “I’m really sorry, Tara. And really, thank you. I mean for everything. ’Cause getting drunk like that helped. I wouldn’t have made it without you.”
Yawning, Tara stretched her arms. “Did you have sex with him or something?”
“Nothing like that. I was just shocked that he would leave me hanging like that. I thought he liked me.”
“You do know people do that all the time, right? Men especially.”
“For no reason?” Brooke asked.
“I think he was scared of me. Like, I’d ruin his reputation.”
“Brooke, please. He did it because he wanted to—everybody’s reason for everything.”
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