Below is an excerpt from The End of Feeling. All you have to do is read it and then answer the question asked in the post about it to be entered to win.
“I’m home,” I call, stepping through the front door. I drop my backpack by the door, then remember my aunt’s obsession with order and pick it up again. I can hear the TV playing in the family room at the back of the house. I look around the strange entryway, allowing myself one moments longing for my grandma and her home where we lived until her death a month ago.
I walk into the family room and see my mom, sitting on the couch, watching Barney. I dig my nails into my palms. Man, I hate that stupid, annoying, dense, purple dinosaur. “Hi, Mom,” I say.
Mom jumps at the sound of my voice. She’d been too intent on Barney to hear my earlier greeting. She turns my way, a wide smile splitting her face. I smile back. Her eyes crinkle with joy as she jumps up from the couch, stray, wiry gray hairs escaping her messy ponytail. I grit my teeth at my aunt’s lack of care of her.
“Charlie!” my mom yells brightly, running to me and throwing her arms around my neck, kissing my cheek noisily. I hug her tightly, cringing at the slightly sour smell.
“Mom, did you take a bath today?”
“Mimi says I don’t have to bath today.”
“Mom, we talked about this, remember? You need to bathe every day.”
She shakes her head, mouth drooping. She refuses to shower, has ever since the incident. So we compromise with a bath, followed by a lotion rubdown. If she could manage to go a night without wetting her adult diapers, she could skip a bath. In all the time I can remember, she’s been able to skip only a handful.
“Should we go take a bath now?” I ask.
“Barney’s on,” she whines.
“Yes, and if you take a bath, you can play with your Barney toy. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”
As fast as her mouth drooped, it now is replaced by a big smile. She claps happily and skips to the bathroom. I follow and run the water while she undresses, singing the annoying theme from the TV show. I pull the rubber band from her hair and dump water over her head. She blows bubbles as I do so. I get her washed as she happily plays with the big purple dinosaur and I then have to convince her to get out of the tub. Convincing her to get out is as difficult as getting her in.
Once she’s dried and dressed, she sits back in front of the TV to watch cartoons, Barney long since forgotten, while I start dinner. I’m angry that my aunt is still not home. I wonder how long my mom sat here alone, unsupervised, until I arrived.
She comes in when I’m just about done with the spaghetti, acting like nothing is wrong.
“Hi, Charlotte,” Naomi says. I bristle at the name. It’s not that I dislike the name; my grandma chose it for me because it was her own mother’s name. It’s because my aunt refuses to call me Charlie like everyone else does simply because it’s the nickname my mom gave me.
“Where were you?” I ask.
She stops in the act of setting her purse down to stare at me. “That’s none of your business.”
“It is when you leave my mom home alone,” I retort. “She can’t be left on her own.”
“I was gone maybe ten minutes before you got home from school. What can happen in ten minutes?”
A lot, I think. I refrain from telling her though, knowing our living here is precarious and based on staying in her good graces.
“I have a life, Charlotte. Allowing you two to move in didn’t include the requirement that I give up all my freedom.”
“I understand that,” I say, biting my tongue from telling her how selfish she is. “I’m coming home directly after school. I haven’t signed up for any extracurricular activities or anything. I’ll even get up early to bathe her if that’s too much to ask of you. All I do ask is that you watch her while I’m gone.”
Naomi sighs. “We need to talk.”
“It’s time to eat,” I say. I have a feeling I know what she’s going to say. I move past her to call my mom when she places a hand on my arm.
“Not all homes are bad places,” she begins, and fury consumes me.
“I will not place my mother in a home,” I spit.
“You shouldn’t have to give up normal teen things to take ca—”
“I don’t care!” I’m shaking with anger. “I don’t care about any of that. I’ll drop out of school if I have to. I’m not putting her in a home!”
Naomi sighs again and I’m tempted to punch her. What does she know of taking care of my mom? She abandoned ship as soon as she graduated high school to get away from the embarrassment of having my mom for a sister. Plus, she knows what happened when my grandma did buckle under pressure—from Naomi, no less—and put her in a home. How could she possibly subject her to that again?
“I know it’s not ideal—”
I spin away from her, refusing to listen to another word. I walk into the living room where my mom sits, curled up on the couch, a blanket pulled up to her ear in one hand, sucking on the thumb of her other. My shoulders sink in dismay as I walk over to her. Her eyes are glued to the TV, but I know she’s not watching it.
“Mom,” I say softly, sitting down and placing a hand on her arm. Her wide, innocent eyes turn to me.
“Does Mimi hate you?” she whispers, voice trembling. Mimi is her nickname for Naomi.
“No, Mom, she doesn’t. Were we talking too loud?”
She shakes her head. “You were yelling.” Gotta love Mom’s honesty.
“I’m sorry, Mom. We were just having a disagreement. I love Mimi, and she loves me.” Blatant lie. “Everything’s fine now. I’m sorry we scared you. You want to come have some spaghetti now?”
She nods and takes my proffered hand, rising from the couch. When we enter the kitchen, Naomi is outside, pacing, smoking a cigarette. I bite the inside of my cheek. I hate that she smokes, but at least she no longer smokes in the house with my mom and me. I suppose I can give her a few points for that.
I sit my mom at the table and fix a plate for her before taking the time to check my blood sugar. I prick my finger at the counter with my back turned because it tends to freak my mom out. She thinks I’m hurting myself. A few minutes later, Naomi comes in. My mom brightens.
“Hi, Mimi,” she says happily.
“Hi, Cora.” Naomi gives her a tight smile then fixes herself a plate. “I’m going to eat in my room,” she says. At the doorway she pauses, and without looking back says, “Thanks for dinner.”
If my mom weren’t sitting here, I’d probably scream. Instead, I smile and play a word game with her while we eat.
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