Better than Starbucks
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It’s happening. I get the message when mom calls us downstairs. Just when I thought life couldn’t get any worse. First, mom and dad separate, then we have to move, and now my sister, brother, and I have to go visit my mom’s sister, whom we have never met before. From what I’ve heard, she is crazy. You know mentally crazy. Apparently, she was put in a mental hospital when her and my mom were teens. Great, now we have to stay with Miss Crazy for two weeks. Who knows what she will do. She is unstable and unpredictable.
To think my mom of all people, who is extremely overprotective and worries a lot, would let us go stay with her whacko sister. She must really need some time alone from us. To get things straight, when I say “us” I am referring to my five year old sister, Luna, my ten year old brother, Luke, and I of course. Luna is too young to understand the meaning of anything. She just plays with her dollies and cries when she doesn’t get her way. You know the typical childhood behavior. Luke, on the other hand, is oblivious to anything that goes on around him. He doesn’t listen, nor care about what mom and I have to say. He just ignores us and plays his video games. You know the typical ten year old boy behavior, I guess.
Mom finally finishes her candid speech about her sister and how much fun we are going to have. Ignoring her deceitful tongue, I leave the room. Mom calls for me, but I don’t budge. As I walk away, I can hear Luna jumping up and down, laughing excitedly to go see her aunt. Rolling my eyes, I try to think up a scenario of ways to somehow get out of this mess, but I’ve got nothing.
Mom continues to holler for me as I gradually pack my luggage, trying to delay the trip. From the corner of my eye, I see Luke walk into my room. “You know mom’s going to have your head if you don’t hurry up.” “So!” I shout back hoping to persuade him to leave me alone. “So…hurry up slow poke. It doesn’t take that long to pack.” “Just get out!” I shout once more, but he doesn’t budge. “What’s your problem?” “I don’t want to go, o.k. Mom’s sister is crazy.” “How do you know? We have never met her before.” “From what mom has told me, I just know she is,” I say with confidence. “Whatever Layla. Just hurry up please.”
By the way, I forgot to mention my name is Layla and I’m seventeen years old. If you haven’t already noticed, my parents really like names that start with L. I’m not really sure why, but I never cared to ask. I figured they had a reason.
After hours and hours of being on the road, we finally arrive at Aunt Cecilia’s home. Oh, by the way, my crazy aunt is named Cecilia.
She walks out of the small house wearing a pink fuzzy robe with matching pink fuzzy slippers and rollers in her hair. I can’t seem to take my eyes off her face. Her black eye makeup is dripping down her pale cheeks and her red lipstick is smeared all over her mouth. I can’t help but chuckle as mom turns the car off. Mom gives me “the look” in the rearview mirror. You know “the look” that all moms give when they are extremely upset with you and want you to shut your mouth. Well, I got “the look.”
Mom wraps her arms around her sister whom she hasn’t seen in ages. Aunt Cecilia returns the favor. Luna smiles and jumps up and down ready to give Aunt Cecilia a giant hug. Luke stares down at his phone, swiping his fingers across the screen as he plays his games. I roll my eyes in disgust dreading the hug I am about to receive from Miss Crazy.
I can feel Aunt Cecilia’s long claw like nails dig into my back as she forces me into a tight embrace. She leaves a red lipstick smudge on my cheek as she kisses me. I cry a little inside wanting to break free of her clutch.
We help mom unload our luggage from the trunk as Aunt Cecilia stands by and watches. She pulls out a cigarette and lighter from her pocket. She begins to smoke. Mom sees and doesn’t say a word. Before I can say anything, mom covers my mouth and whispers, “Layla don’t say a word about her smoking. She gets really angry. Got it?” I nod my head in agreement.
Mom kisses us goodbye and gives us one last hug before she leaves to go back home. Gosh I wish I could go with her.
Aunt Cecilia invites us into her small messy two bedroom home. Luna and Luke walk in, completely oblivious to Miss Crazy’s outfit and smoking habits. I can’t stand the stench of cigarettes, so I plug my nose hoping not to inhale the murderous fumes as I take a dreadful step into her godawful house. She shows us the bedroom that the three of us will be sharing for the next two weeks. Great, not only do I have to stay with Miss Crazy, I have to share a bedroom with my siblings. What could be worse?
Night time arrives. Aunt Cecilia turns off the lights and closes our bedroom door behind her as she leaves our presence. There is a reflection of bright light from my phone as I turn it on. I try to get relief from this painful trip by checking my social media accounts. Out of the blue, Aunt Cecilia comes barging in. She flips on the lights. “What was that?” Aunt Cecilia shouts with fear in her voice. “That was just my phone,” I say confused. “Turn that damn thing off.” “Why?” “Once I turn out the lights, it’s time to go to bed. No devices. Period,” she yells with pure anger in her voice. She grabs my phone from my hand. “Hey!” I shout. “Where is your device boy?” she asks Luke. Luke hands her his phone, fearful of what might happen if he doesn’t. She leaves our room with our cell phones. The door shakes as she slams the door behind her.
The smell of bacon and eggs fills the air. Luke and Luna spring out of bed excited for a decent morning breakfast. Luna tugs on my arm to get me out of bed. Giving in to her tugging, I decide to get out of bed. We walk into the kitchen, seeing Aunt Cecilia spreading butter on a few pieces of toast. “Hi lovelies. Breakfast is served. I hope you can forgive me for the little incident last night. I don’t know what came over me,” she says kindly. “It’s okay Aunt Cecilia. We forgive you,” Luke answers. “Oh bless your heart,” she says sweetly. “Can we get our phones back?” Luke asks nicely. “No! Don’t ask again! You don’t get them back until the end of your stay,” she says with a livid tone. We stare at her puzzled. She stares at us right back in a state of trance. “Sit and eat,” she says in a kind but forceful way.
We spend the night playing old board games, because that’s all that Miss Crazy has in her house. No television just board games. I swear she still thinks this is the early 1900’s. We decide to go to bed to relieve the boredom.
Barely awake at 3 a.m. in the morning, I hear scratching noises just down the hall. I try to ignore what I am hearing, but then the scratching noises begin to get louder. I throw myself out of bed and open our door as quietly as I can, hoping not to wake Miss Crazy. I creep my way down the hall and I peer into Aunt Cecilia’s room. She is scratching at her wardrobe door like a cat. Immediately I go to help her, but within seconds she scratches my arm, leaving four deep scratches. I head for the nearest bathroom, hoping to make sense of the situation. But I’ve got nothing. I knew she was crazy, but not this crazy.
Our alarm goes off. Eyes barely awake, I glance and the alarm reads 6:00 a.m. What the hell? I don’t remember setting it for this time. “Luke did you set the alarm for 6 a.m.?” I ask barely being able to get the words out. “No,” he responds half asleep. Aunt Cecilia comes barging in. “Get up, get up kiddies. It’s time to plant some flowers with me,” she says as she jumps on my bed like a little kid. “Aunt Cecilia, what are you doing? Get off my bed!” I shout angrily. “No! Make me!” she says sticking her tongue out immaturely. I jump out of bed, hoping to make her get off my bed. She jumps off my bed and lands on the hard wooden floor. She touches my shoulder. “Tag, you’re it,” she says running out of our room down the hallway, hoping I will chase her. “What was that about?” Luke asks astonished. “I have no idea,” I say shocked.
Aunt Cecilia lets us know that she is going to be out for a while. Convinced that I might be able to find our phones while she is gone, I begin to look around the house, but I have no luck. Where in the heck are our phones?
Once again I awake and it’s 3 a.m. I swear this is becoming a nightly occurrence with this lunatic. I can hear that something is going on in the kitchen. Who knows what Miss Crazy is up to at this late hour? Oh well screw it. I don’t want to get scratched again, so I will just go back to sleep and pretend like nothing is going on.
Luke and I wake up around 10 a.m. hoping to grab breakfast without Aunt Cecilia annoying the shit out of us. We slowly creep our way into the kitchen. She is nowhere to be found. We look in the fridge. Nothing in the fridge but stale milk, a jar of tapioca pudding, and a jar of pickles. We look in the pantry. Nothing in the pantry, but bags of old chips and an old box of cereal. I swear there was just food in here a week ago when she made us breakfast. Oh well, we better make a run to the nearest grocery store, if there is one in this godforsaken town. Mom gave me fifty dollars of emergency money. I definitely think that this is an emergency.
Aunt Cecilia notices the bags of groceries on the kitchen counter. “What’s all this?” she asks bewildered. “We are hungry. There is nothing to eat in the fridge or the pantry so we did a little shopping. I hope you don’t mind.” “Yes I do mind. Who gave you permission to leave this house? Huh?” she says livid. “Well…uh no one. But I thought…” she cuts me off before I can finish the rest of my sentence. “You thought nothing. You stupid, stupid girl.” “Excuse me?” I shout. Luna and Luke stare at me fearful of what Miss Crazy might do for disobeying her. She slaps me across the face hard enough to leave a bright red mark on my cheek. Luna covers her eyes. Luke stands there in astonishment. “All of you go to your room now!” she screams at the top of her lungs. She shoves us into our bedroom just down the hall. “Don’t come out until I say so or else!” She shouts as she slams the door behind her.
The next day, Aunt Cecilia opens our door. She looks at us as we sit up in our beds. “I’m so sorry my darlings. That was totally out of character for me. You can come out of your room now. I made some toast and jam. Come, come into the kitchen for some breakfast,” she says trying to be all sweet. We stare at one another, angry at what Miss Crazy has done. Forcing us to stay in our room. “No thanks we are not hungry,” Luke answers angrily. “Excuse me boy?” Aunt Cecilia says with fury. “We don’t want any,” I say agitated. She enters our room forcing each one of us to get up out of our beds. She pushes us into the kitchen. “Sit down, now! You little brats. I want to see all your plates’ empty,” she shouts.
That evening in the middle of the night, Luke and I hear screaming and yelling just down the hall. We decide to check out what Miss Crazy is up to this time. We sneak our way down the dark murky hallway trying to follow the noise. It leads us to the living room where Aunt Cecilia is looking up at the ceiling yelling at someone or something. We don’t see anything, but apparently she does. She continues to chant, “Kill the boy! Kill the boy!” Luke and I glare at each other, horrified. “What the hell is she saying and doing?” Luke tries to whisper, but Aunt Cecilia hears him. She turns her head and looks straight at Luke. She darts right for him, with her hands out right in front of her hoping to grab him. I stand in front of him, hoping to protect him. She wraps her hands around my neck with her grip getting tighter and tighter. I can barely breathe. From the corner of my eye, I see Luke. He jumps on top of Aunt Cecilia’s back. She instantly lets go of my neck. She tries to push Luke off, but he won’t budge.
Finally I am able to catch my breath and then I push Aunt Cecilia, which forces her to fall to the ground. I grab Luke’s arm. We head back to our room shutting the door behind us. Within seconds, she bursts into our room. Luna and Luke sit next to me on the bed as Aunt Cecilia comes right for us. “Don’t come any closer! Step away!” I shout. Aunt Cecilia lunges right for me. I urge Luna and Luke to get out. As she wraps her hands around my neck once more, I punch her right in the neck, forcing her to release me. I escape with Luke and Luna. We head to the closest house. We knock on the door. A woman answers the door. She invites us in, locking the door behind her.
The next morning, there is a knock at the door. It’s mom. She throws her arms around us with streams of tears running down her eyes. From the corner of my eye, I see Miss Crazy being escorted to a police car in handcuffs. I chuckle once again, but this time it’s for a good cause.
Alexa Findlay is a student at the University of California, Riverside. She has been published in El Camino College’s Creative Arts Journal and See Beyond Magazine.
For those who can't make it to the mecca that is Kelly Writers House, we gather once per month, in a traveling show sort of migration around South Florida to enjoy the companionship, the intellectual stimulation and the pure exhaustion of the mental challenge of a live close read!