This time the ball hits me on the forehead. I wince. Throwing this dumb, red rubber ball at the ceiling is numbly entertaining. The walls of my room are a chalky white and have smudges from the ball’s dirt. My pink bed sheets still amazingly have the faint scent of vanilla from the last time Mom washed them. While Uncle is busy eating dinner with Obby, I’m left to my own devices. Figures. The only punishment he could think of is sending me to my room with no dinner, as if I don’t have snacks under my bed.
I can hear Obby’s shrill laughter, and Uncle’s reprimanding him through the walls. If I hadn’t said what I said, I would be laughing with him. Usually every dinner, I tell an inappropriate joke that makes shy Obby’s eyes wide and his mouth a perfect ‘o’ until he begs me to explain it. Uncle would frown but shake his head amusedly. It’s ironic I got sent to my room for telling the truth and not another dirty joke.
I throw the ball again, imagining my uncle’s face, his weathered brown skin, skinny frame, intricate shapes shaved into the side of his hair, a style meant for a much younger man, and slightly crooked nose from a fight in his youth. I suppose he looks like my dad despite being my mom’s brother. In my mind, the ball hits the saggy space between his eye and cheek.
Obsidian “Obby” is my little brother. The shorty is like a cake, soft on the inside and outside. Obby is chubby with plump fingers apt for getting into my stuff or making shadow puppets. Obsidian rocks can form the sharpest blades in the world, so I always wondered how Mom thought that name fit Obby. He has an oddly dark name for such a sunshiny brat. It’s not fair, but I have to be angry enough for both of us. Obby’s too small to understand the full situation.
Mom and Dad, forever travelers, dumped us off on Uncle until they get back from some country in Europe. Cool. Fine, we’re used to being left behind on trips except it’s been four years since Mom and Dad acted like they give a care. Their phone numbers are disconnected and none of their social media has been updated. They’re either living it up childfree or dead. I don’t care to find out which one, and I sure ain’t going on some life-changing journey to find them. I deserve better.
I hear knocks start softly until they hit with more confidence. Sighing, I creak open my bedroom door. Chinese takeout and soy sauce packets have congregated into one bowl. Obby looks up at me, smiling. No trace of his tears from the beginning of dinner.
“What, kid?” I say impatiently as if I was doing something more important than putting dents in my walls. I readjust my headband, pushing my twists further back.
He only smiles a bit wider. It looks like he has lost a few more teeth.
“Amour! I gotchu something!” His brown, gumball-like eyes dart across the hallway. He pushes on my door, asking for entrance.
I let him inside with a soft slap on the back of his head. Some of the rice spills from the bowl from the recoil. Obby tries to pick up the rice bits, but I wave him off.
He whines. “Ugh, Amourrrrr, you always messing with me! You gotta be nicer since I brought you food.”
“Thanks, Obby,” I say, taking the bowl from his hands. He gifts me with a smile only a seven-year-old can, one with all his love. I don’t usually let him in my room so he can contaminate everything, but tonight I need someone. Someone who cares.
“You’re welcome! You’re welcome!” he cheers, doing a little dance on my pink carpet. Uncle had it put in last week, the four-year anniversary of our parents saying deuces and him graciously putting up with us. I know I shouldn’t have lashed out at Uncle, who is doing all he can as a cranky-fifty-year-old man, or made Obby cry tonight.
“STOP LYING TO OBBY, OLD MAN! You know good and well that you don’t know squat! Those deadbeats ain’t coming back. They left me and Obby, and they left you too with two brats you don’t even like! You don’t have to pretend anymore.”
“Amour? Say something! You can cry if you wanna. It makes you feel better.” Obby pats my free hand. I’m glad he broke me out of my instant replay of tonight’s dinner. Well, right before dinner.
“Nah, I’m all right, Obs.” The fried rice wraps a delicious scent around my head, and I breathe it in deeply.
“My name’s not Obs,” he pouts.
I correct him while biting into an egg roll. “Ashually, it’sh Obsidian.”
“Ob-sa-dee-what? I can’t even say that!” He cries to no avail. “And I’m gonna tell on you! Don’t eat with your mouth open, Unca’ says so.”
I laugh. “Whatever.”
“I love you, Amour.” He hugs me, resting his head on my thigh. “I love Mommy and Daddy too even though they gave us these hard names and keep missing our birthdays. They’re okay. Just forgetful like Unca’ said.”
I stroke Obby’s round head before pressing a kiss to his forehead. Our parents don’t know what they’re missing, seeing him grow up from a booger to a decent kid. I’m his big sister, so I’m going to rough him up so that when or if our parents come back, he’s strong enough to say no.
Uncle peeks his head through the door, inadvertently shooing Obby out. Maybe he’s here to talk about my scene at tonight’s dinner. I know for a fact we’re at least a financial burden because Obby eats like a garbage truck. Still, Uncle’s warm smile reminds me on some level he likes us. He hasn’t tried to ship us off to another relative yet.
Uncle sits next to me on my bed, not saying anything. I don’t say anything either. I hate apologizing. Instead, I lean my head on his shoulder. He brings his hand on top of my head. By Uncle’s foot, I pick up the rubber ball I had been throwing earlier. This time when it ricochets off the ceiling, Uncle catches it.
I know some people may think I’m starved for love, but I’m not. I know who loves me: Obby, Uncle, and myself. I don’t have time for anyone else. Amour Jenkins is perfectly content spending her days with Uncle and Obby. This is just another day Mom and Dad miss out on us, my new family.
*featured in Santa Fe College's Zephyr Literary Magazine Fall 2019 - Spring 2020 issue*