The crunch of the leaves reminded Rob of the brittle sound of breaking glass. The last sound he’d heard as he left the house, slamming the back door behind him, he wasn’t sure if it was part of the door itself that shattered or the glass his sister had thrown at him as he stormed out.
Fall seemed a dead time to him; he’d never liked the way the wind swirled up around his ankles, blowing dust and dead leaves into miniature twisters that came and went like ghosts. He didn’t like the chill nip in the air, either, or the way it grew dark late in the afternoon, the night threatening the day’s end, rather than easing it slowly down into sleep.
A raven called from somewhere above him. He glanced up, spotting it. One of his Corvus friends, he liked the ravens. Smart, loyal birds that could speak, sharp-eyed and quick. Smiling, he called to it, enjoying the raven’s harsh answer. Unlike his sister’s unwelcome nagging.
Why couldn’t she understand? No matter how hard he tried to explain, she just wouldn’t listen to him. How could he help her ease their mother’s pain? It was the only thing keeping her alive, keeping her with them. No amount of playing cards, reading, or penciling answers to crosswords she never cared about before she was sick was going to stop her from dying, her spine crumbling from cancer like the leaves he stomped underfoot, marching in a parade to nowhere.
Where could he go? Nowhere. Every place he thought of was full of adults who tried too hard and friends who didn’t try enough. Except for school, he hadn’t been out of the house for weeks, trying to pretend everything was normal as he turned the wash pink and scratched the tile keeping up with the chores his mom could no longer do. That was the reason for the glass Anne chucked at him. So he’d promised to do the dishes? It couldn’t wait till after another takeout dinner Dad brought home, tasting of the foil pans it came in?