I did feel guilty for ratting Penny out, but not as guilty as I knew I’d have felt if I hadn’t. I went to the house across the street the next day and washed off the porch for the lady that lived there.
She caught me in the middle of it, and I did my best to explain everything to her without giving away that the mess was my sister’s fault. I didn’t want to cause the people in our neighborhood to hold grudges against my sister. I still had faith that she would grow out of this phase and become a better person in the end and I didn’t want to make her future difficult.
My actions at least put a smile on the lady’s face, though I got the impression that she believed I may have been involved in whatever had transpired. In part, I felt that way. If I had told on Penny sooner, then maybe she wouldn’t have gone as far. That made me an enabler.
I didn’t stop at her house, because I knew Penny hadn’t either. I spent the rest of that day going around our neighborhood, cleaning everyone’s porches and yards. Toilet paper is absolutely disgusting when used for anything but it’s purpose, and I believe it will forever more be my new worst enemy…
My body ached by the time I got to the last house, but I knew it would be worth it for the people I was helping.
I didn’t mean to be noisy, but the floorboards on the porch were so old I might as well have been attempting to break out of prison.
I was so noisy myself that I didn’t hear the owner of the house come out.
“Hello? Is someone out here?”
I jumped up, and my eyes latched on to hers. She was blind. “My apologies, ma’am. I was just…Someone threw eggs at your porch, I didn’t see who…I just wanted to clean up for you.”
“You sound familiar, who are you?”
“Lucy Black, from just around the corner.” I didn’t recognize her, but that didn’t mean we hadn’t met before.
“One of Christopher’s girls?” So she knew my dad. Awesome. I rather hoped that I wouldn’t get caught in the middle of anything, and if she started talking to him, well…
“He was such a sweet boy…You seem just like him.” I gave her the best grin I could, then I remembered that she couldn’t see it. “I know who was throwing eggs at my house.” I was glad she couldn’t see the shock on my face.
“Who was it?”
“Your sister. You know too.”
“H-how do you know that?” She gave me a wink.
“My daughter told me. Said the girl ran away before she could do anything, but she was positive of who it was. I told her to leave your sister alone. We all have our wild streaks, and its best to get it out while we’re still young, you know?”
“I don’t think it works like that with Penny,” I found myself saying. “She’s always been rebellious.”
“I don’t think she’ll ever change…”
“Oh, is that what you really think?” she asked me, and I could hear a bit of knowing in her voice.
“She doesn’t want to change.”
“She might not seem that way now, but things change…Penny Black, isn’t that right? Dating the Symphosia boy?”
“Does everyone know about that!”
“It was on the news the other night. I don’t know why I bother listening these days. It’s all just a bunch of gossip. Sometimes I feel like I know more about them than I do my own family.” Well that was just lovely. With my mom working on the music for Avalon Symphosia’s newest movie, it would only be a matter of time before the paparazzi was heckling me and my other sisters too. “Let me share a little secret with you.”
“People will do what they feel they have to, no matter if it’s right or wrong. In the case of acting out like this, it’s usually hiding a very insecure young lady trying to find her place, but she’s sought it out in the wrong places.”
“Once they realize that, they need someone to turn to, someone they trust and hold dear. Someone they aren’t ashamed to turn to because they know they won’t be judged for the rest of their lives because of their mistakes.”
“When they’re good and ready, they’ll learn. You just have to be there for her when she does, because I can probably guess that she won’t have a lot of support outside the family.”
She didn’t have to say it, I knew from the way she spoke. She was a kindred spirit, with a loved one lost out there in the world.
Since it was a bit chilly, she invited me in for hot cocoa, and we had a lovely long chat in her living room. I knew I’d made a friend I could count on here.
I found myself visiting her often after school, and I can honestly say I learned far more from her. She’d lived the last seventy years, she wasn’t a textbook. “What about the Sunset Valley riots?” Our teacher had hinted that we’d be discussing those soon, and since Mom hadn’t grown up around here, she didn’t know anything about them. Dad said he’d been a baby, and they hadn’t hit on it in his school lessons because it was so recent, so he just knew that it had been bad and then it had ended and life had gone on.
“Hmm…Ohh, you mean that. We called it something else, back when it was happening. Hell. Let’s see, I don’t suppose you’d know about the Goth family, but they were quite prominent up until about ten or so years ago. Well, they owned basically everything, and the head of the family then was a bit ruthless, using his power to get taxes raised as he wanted them among other things. Well, of course no one was happy about that, but this one gang took it into their own hands.”
“My brother was one of their newest recruits…” She took a moment. “They were rather dark times, it wasn’t safe to go out to town square. In some neighborhoods, it wasn’t even safe to be home. I remember my mother let a family stay here, to get away from the gang.”
“I was only six, so I didn’t know any better.”
“It was like one grand sleepover for me.”
She cleared her throat and got back to the actual riots. “I’m sure you’ve seen town square, since the school is on it now. It didn’t used to be. The building my brother went to school in caught fire. I never set foot in it, they’d had the whole thing completely demolished and gone by the time I was in high school. It’s about where Doo Peas Tower is now, I believe. My memory of it is a bit hazy.”
“The whole thing ended at town hall. The gang holed up in there, thinking they were taking it hostage, but since no one was inside when they took hold of it, the police just surrounded the place and kept them trapped in there until they surrendered. A sorry way for them to go, really. Still, even though they went to jail, they did achieve their goals. The politicians finally stood up to Mr. Goth. We never had such problems with Gunther…Oh, my apologies. Gunther was his son. A good man. I heard he was close to your mother once upon a time.”
“Hah, I’d believe that. Mom seems to know everyone.” I glanced at her, and tried not to shake the feelings I had gotten from her story. “You have a brother?”
“Yes…” The one word she spoke was forlorn, lost and sad.
It hurt me to see her like that, so I tried to change the subject instantly. “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean…Uhm, say, have you ah, read that book? The Warlock of Palladia?”
“Oh yes, a very long time ago. I always meant to read it again, but, well, I’m not reading much these days.” Her strained chuckle told me I’d picked the wrong subject.
“I’m so sorry, I really didn’t mean to…I’m just really bad at conversations today, aren’t I? I’m so sorry…” We sat in a bit of awkward silence for a few moments, when an idea slowly formed in my head. “You said…that you like listening to the news, right?”
“Uhm…Well, I could read you the book. And others, if you’d like.”
“Come now dear, you have school to focus on. No time to bother with an old bat like me.”
“That’s not true at all! Besides…”
“I love reading. It’s what gets me through when I’m having a rough day, it’s what picks me up when I’m feeling down…It helps me escape, and live even. ”
“I…I can’t imagine ever…being unable to read, but I can’t imagine I’d like it very much.”
“It would be my honor to read to you.”
“Alright Lucy. Let’s read a book then.”
It was absolutely amazing to know that not only was I helping my friend, but I also had a kindred spirit. Someone who understood and loved books as much as I did, and didn’t criticize me and tell me to go outside and play.
We probably went through a book a week, and had a great many laughs along the way.
It took our minds off of our siblings, at the very least.