Short Stories

Short Stories: The Sisters (part 3)

This is the third installment of the short story, The Sisters. Read Part 1 and Part 2 to catch up on the story.

Image of childrens toes by Elizabeth Rago

Home with a new heart

Leigh drove home from Claire’s thinking non-stop about kicking her boyfriend’s ass. The idea that some guy beat her sister up made Leigh’s blood boil, and she pulled out her phone to talk to the only person who would know more about this situation – Lucy.

Lucy was a regular staple in the Culpepper home, as her parents were often on adventures that would take them overseas. When they couldn’t take Lucy with them, which was quite often, she would stay with Claire, Leigh, and Ivy, and eventually became the fourth sister.

Lucy’s parents died when she was twelve, leaving no one but her 27-year-old uncle to care for her, although he, too, was never around much. Lucy, an independent soul, took on responsibility for herself and the Culpepper’s home became her second place of residence.

Leigh dialed Lucy’s phone number, which immediately went to voicemail. Growling, Leigh left a short message – “I’m back in town, girl. Call me immediately.”

As she steered her minivan back to the suburbs, Leigh felt a pang of guilt wash over her for being away for so many years. She was furious with Claire for not confiding in her about this and now a pregnancy? It stung a bit, that the thousands of miles between them meant they lost that closeness, but that was going to change, Leigh decided.

“I’m here now, and nobody is going to take advantage of Claire again,” Leigh thought, gripping the steering wheel and blasting through the toll booth exit without paying.

A couple of left and right turns later, Leigh pulled into the gravel drive of her little farm and smiled as the children ran out to meet her. She emerged from the car and Caroline and Eben hugged her.

“Your hair is very shiny, mama,” a curly topped Caroline commented, still in her nightgown at 2 in the afternoon.

“Hey, mom, dad hasn’t fed us yet,” said Eben. “Nice hair.”

Leigh returned the hugs with thank yous and squeezes but when she looked up to find little Lola, all she saw was the back of her head, buried in Ted’s shoulder.

“I think she’s afraid of your hair,” Ted whispered.

Leigh gave a pouty lip to Ted and snatched her from his arms, tickling her as she hugged the squirming body. Lola screamed out and took Leigh’s new hair in her small hand and looked into Leigh’s eyes. She puckered and kissed her mama and then said, “down.”

As the family paraded into the house, Leigh told Ted about Claire’s salon and her abusive boyfriend and the baby. Ted shook his head, saying nothing except, “but Claire’s too smart to put up with that.”

“It has nothing to do with being smart, Ted,” Leigh retorted, defending her sister and herself at the same time. “Sometimes abuse comes in many forms.”

Ted stopped loading the dishwasher and looked at Leigh, “And what the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Leigh said nothing as she opened their kitchen medicine cabinet, took out her bottle of Xanax and tossed 2 into her mouth purposefully staring at her husband.

“You’ll need some water with that drama,” Ted said, turning to fill a clean glass with water from the tap.

Caroline sat at the kitchen table watching her parents, then silently closed her eyes and put her fingers in her ears, ready for the fight to ensue.

The first flutter

Claire felt momentarily at ease despite her stressful life. Leigh brought out the hopefulness in her, and reignited the Culpepper spitfire instinct not to let people screw around with them. Before Leigh left the salon, she gave Claire the pep talk of a lifetime. Her words of encouragement planted a seed in her heart that she desperately needed to keep moving forward.

As she washed the morning dishes in the sink, she caught sight of the black and blue bruise on her arm. Her heart sunk with guilt, guilt for allowing someone to hurt her. “Never again,” she thought, and just as her heart rose with a resuscitated energy, Claire felt a strange movement in her stomach. Touching her tiny pot belly, Claire was unsure of what she felt. Alone in the kitchen with only her thoughts and a flick of a hummingbird at her window feeder, it happened again.

A delicate nudge that she wasn’t alone.

“Hello, little baby,” Claire whispered to her belly.

Lucy Lou, how are you?

Lucy felt the vibration of her phone through her purse and fishing her bright yellow mobile device out of her basic black handbag, she smiled as she listened to the familiar voice on the other end of the message while she walked up the concrete steps of the Chicago Field Museum.

Lucy immediately sent a message back to Leigh, with an easy, “What’s up, chickadee?”

A fast half second later, Leigh replied, “I’ll call you in a bit. Fighting with Ted.”

Simultaneously, Lucy got another message, this time from Ivy:

“Was I the only person who didn’t know Leigh was moving back home?”

Lucy sensed the tension through the letters on the screen and rolling her eyes, cut off this bitch session at the pass.

“Isn’t it great! Let’s all get together for dinner tomorrow!”

Lucy waited for a minute for a response, and when none came, she turned off her phone. Turning through the hallways, Lucy felt at home among the silence of the museum, filled with a comforting loneliness that only her profession could give her.

The Sisters will continue next week! Thanks for reading! xoxoxxoxo – Elizabeth





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