In the backyard, outside the screen, rain thunders down at nine just as violently as it did at six. My mother brushes the stray ash from my siblings’ cigarettes off the patio table with a sigh and an absent glance at the ashtray, crystal and overflowing again. I shove it aside; replace it with a coaster for my coffee, and I take my usual chair while the dogs mill about from one bowl of food to another. It’s as if each time they have to make sure there’s no difference before they can each pick a bowl and eat from it.
My mother dips a bag of earl grey tea into her mug. She doesn’t like coffee. I don’t like earl grey. “Not as bad as I thought it would be.”
I focus on the pecan tree as the small nuts are ripped from branches waving wildly in the wind and shot across the yard like bullets, “really?”
Through the open back door I hear a crash in the kitchen, followed by the low sound of a curse word, and I realize that my oldest brother has stumbled out of his bedroom—groggy, hungover or maybe still drunk—and earlier than usual. Then a sharp smack, another curse word, and the distinctly feminine shriek of his fiancée. I realize that my mother isn’t referring to the hurricane outside.
I wrap both hands around the warmth of my cup and breathe in the blend of smooth chocolate, caramel and browned sugar. I close my eyes to savor the first sip; listen to the rain, and pretend not to hear another crash inside the house—glass shattering. Maybe Jacob fumbled and dropped a cup, or a bottle, or maybe Taylor threw it, or maybe he did.
My father emerges through the back door, very calmly, and then slams it behind him. He slumps into a chair at the table on my mother’s other side, rolls his eyes heavenward with a sigh, and I don’t know whether today will be salvageable.
He looks at my mother, and she takes a sip of her tea. I take a gulp of my coffee. What is there to say? He leans down to scratch behind the ears of our only bulldog, with the saddest brown eyes and the happiest demeanor; ever-oblivious to the wind whipping in a frenzy outside the house, and the tense stillness inside.
“Hannah?” my mother asks, and my father shakes his head.
“Asleep, I guess. Door’s shut.” He yawns, rubs a hand over tired green eyes, “didn’t come home ‘til two in the morning.”
They look at me. I know just as much of my older sister as they do, which isn’t much at all.
I finish my coffee and get up from my chair, “do you want a cup, Dad?”
He nods to me, yawns again, and I head inside the house; closing the back door gently.
The kitchen is warmly lit against the rainy gloom outside, but deserted now, and I automatically go to the sink. Shards of a broken tumbler lie discarded at the bottom, and I turn on the faucet to rinse the droplets of blood down the drain. Then I step in something wet and warm between the coffeepot and the fridge; maybe one of the dogs walked in a puddle and then walked in the house.
I refill my mug with coffee for my father and glance around for a spoon to stir in his favorite zero-calorie sweetener. There’s one sticking out of the knife block, and I wonder what happened to the knife.