Nothing. I’ve done all my regular inspirational quirks and still, nothing. I throw my head back in frustration and scan my desk. A mug of coffee sits steaming beside my keyboard and bucket of pencils. The brown liquid reflects slightly the morning light making it appear more majestic than it deserves. My earbuds hang dejectedly over the side of my desk; connected to my phone that harbors all my epic music. And then there’s my lucky old computer humming beside my leg happily – or sadly, I’ve never been able to tell if that humming is a sort of distress call from the computer or a sign of healthy bodily motion. I compare it to the noises you hear from your stomach when you’re trying to sleep. Cause for concern or healthy motion?
I have everything, all that I should need to write a decent ending to my novel, but yet nothing is coming to me. I pick up one of the pencils from the bucket and lay my head on my desk. I roll the pencil back and forth, hoping inspiration will lazily float to my mind. I once again go through the last few chapters of my book, remembering every twist and aspect of the plot, looking for a hole or a link that can help me end my story. But like all the other times, nothing.
There’s a knock at my door. “Nora?”
I groan. “Nooo.”
My mother fidgets at the handle. “Nora, open the door.”
“I can’t, I’m sick with writer’s block. Stay away or you might catch my uselessness.” My voice is slightly muffled as I bury my face in the sleeves of my sweater.
“Still? Nora-” She fidgets with the handle one more time before walking off in a muffled huff behind my door.
Three minutes later she opens the door to my room with a screwdriver in her hand and my brother rubbing his head behind her. His sandy-colored curly hair is messy and his eyes tired I assume, because he just woke up.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to touch your father’s tools?” My mom asks scolding him. I think I know why he’s rubbing his head now.
“I was going to put it back. Can I go back to sleep now?” he asks yawning.
“I think you’ve slept enough for the rest of the year.”
She’s right, since the summer started Jean’s been doing nothing but sleep.
“Get dressed, you’re going with Nora to your sister’s house,” Mom says and turns to look at me.
“Nooo!” we both groan in unison.
“Nora seriously. You’ve sat at your computer doing nothing for days. Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to stay away from it for a while.”
“That won’t help. I tried staying away from it yesterday, remember?” I ask.
My mom gives me a knowing look. “You went for a walk around the neighborhood for an hour. That doesn’t count.”
“Going to my sister’s fancy ranch for a week doesn’t sound like it’s going to be much more exciting than walking my neighborhood.”
“Yea, and Chelsea’s husband’s sort of a loser,” Jean says behind Mom.
Mom scowls at him. “You wouldn’t want your siblings saying that about your spouse so don’t say that about him. Even if it may be true. Go get dressed or I’ll make it two weeks.”
With that my brother disappears from behind Mom and I hear a door shut in the hall.
I bite my lip. Mom smiles and cocks her head at me. “I’ve almost finished my book, Mom. I’ve already got someone to publish it for me, I just must finish it and I’m so close. I need a little bit more time to think and I know I won’t be able to do that around my nieces, nephews and Chelsea’s… eccentric husband.”
“Nora, how many times have I asked you to do something since you graduated?”
I thought for a moment. Was this a trick question?
“I’ve wanted you to do many things, but I haven’t asked you to do anything you didn’t want to. Whether it was getting a job, going to college or going out with that handsome dentist,” I smile and laugh. She continues. “I haven’t asked you to do anything. I’ve always just let you write.” She gestures to my desk. “But right now, your sister and her husband are having difficulties and she needs some family support. You know I can’t be there as much as I want to right now, so I need you to go and help your sister.”
I sigh and avert my eyes from hers. She can make me do anything when I initiate the staring contest with her.
“Alright, I’ll go,” I say getting up.
Mom smiles at me sweetly filling my heart with a warmth and gladness that I’ve accepted to go if only for that approving smile. I don’t know how mothers possess such power through their expressions.
“One more thing,” she says. “Can you please stop by an electronics store and replace your computer for a laptop or something? It’s making your room insufferably hot.”
“No way Mom! Johnson stays forever!”
I stand with Jean at our driveway one hour later waiting for Daddy to get home so we can take his car. I’m trying hard to push my story out of my mind like Mom told me but it stubbornly keeps invading my thoughts and making me want to be at my computer. It’s the middle of the summer in Ohio but I’m dressed in jeans, a leather jacket and even a scarf. A storm blew through our area two days ago and left behind the equivalent of a fall day and a strong wind that furiously pulls at my dark hair. My brother doesn’t seem to notice the difference in the weather though. He’s dressed in his normal cargo pants and slightly wrinkled – and most likely previously worn – tee.
I also have two suitcases with me filled with my three writing notebooks, four borrowed books, various beauty products, etc. while Jean, however, only has his backpack, and I’m pretty certain it still has his school supplies in it.
Daddy’s gray car drives up and we move forward to greet him. I notice his car is shinier than normal which means he must have just gotten it cleaned which means also, that the two of us better be extra careful with it.
“Hi Daddy,” I say shoving my hands into my pockets and smiling.
“Hey,” he replies and hugs me. He pulls away and drops his car keys into my hand. “I just cleaned the car so you two better be careful with it and not mess it up like the last time.” He raises an eyebrow at me and I know he’s talking about two weeks ago when I scratched the paint off on the driver’s seat door because I parked too close to someone else or maybe he’s talking about the time half a year ago when I backed up too much and hit a street sign.
“Also,” he says leaning in to whisper to me. ”Watch your brother closely, he just got his permit and I don’t want him driving without you in the car.”
“Oh, did he now?” I say smiling at Jean who’s suddenly aware we’re talking about him and narrows his eyes.
“We’ll be fine, Daddy.”
“Alright, I’ll see ya’ll Wednesday,” he says and walks toward the house stopping once to pat Jean lightly on the back.
When our dad enters the house, I turn to Jean and toss him the car keys. He looks to me questioningly.
“You can drive now, can’t you?” I ask.
“Yea, but I thought you’d want to. Sibling rights or something.”
“Nah, you need the practice and this way, if anything happens to the car, I can blame it on you, the driver.”
He thinks this over for a moment as we both climb into the car. “Ya know, I’m glad I can count on you to watch my back.”
“Likewise, Little Bro.”
Chelsea’s house is a good two-hour drive from my parents’ house. Most of that drive is going through the Cincinnati area which I always find miserable because there’s a lot of stop-and-go traffic that makes me nauseous.
The traffic is slow, as it usually is in the afternoon and Jean decided now was a good time to play his heavy metal music from his phone.
“You know that this stuff kills your brain cells, right?” I say grumpily, my head resting on the car door.
“Who says that?”
“Scientists. Scientists say that smart people grow up listening to Beethoven and stupid people grow up listening to this.” I gesture to his phone. Of course I was totally making it up. I heard once that Beethoven helps your brain develop better, but not that heavy metal does anything to you. Good thing because I’d be in for it too. I just have an irritation for all things in the world right now due to my battle with nausea and need to be entertained.
Jean just shrugs his shoulders.
“Girls don’t like heavy metal, either.” I pressed further.
“Ah, not true. Sophie does,” he says lifting his finger up and smiling.
“Who’s Sophie?” I say surprised.
“Someone I met at work. She loves my music.”
I had so many questions suddenly. Had my brother found a girl? I was also upset that he hadn’t told me about it sooner. “What does she look like?”
“She’s a chicken,” he says and laughs. My mouth drops open and he laughs again.
“Yea, I found her outside the store. She hangs out there every once in awhile.”
I start to smack him on the back and he laughs again. I do too. Maybe this trip won’t be so –
My head whips to the side toward my brother as something hard slams into our car. My mind races for half a second about what might be happening, what might be hitting us before I realize the car is flipping over. I see my brother’s sandy hair and feel a sensation of flight, when suddenly, it hits me. The end to my story. I have the ending! I know what to do! A brief feeling of happiness and my eyes widening takes hold of me for a quarter of a second before it’s brutally torn from me and replaced by pain and blackness.
How long was I out? That’s my first thought when my eyes open. The first thing I see is blue glass reflecting sunlight. Glass, next to my eyes. ‘That’s pretty’, is my second thought. ‘That’s also dangerous’, is my third. I want to laugh, and I want to cry at the same time. My ribs hurt.
A pair of black leather boots walk along my vision. Whose boots are those? Are they friendly? My ribs hurt so much. All I can think about is the pain and the boots. They stomp on the glass breaking it into many little pieces.