The mattress was damp and she could not be sure why. The dog, maybe, or possibly her brother. He was a teenager, after all. All angst, bad skin and secretions. Should she let it air dry or try to use a towel to soak up the moisture? She hated this housekeeping drama, but nobody else was home and she didn’t want the mattress to stink any worse than it already did. She went to grab a towel and heard the back door open. Probably just Evan getting back from visiting his manic friend, José.
She patted at the spot and then pressed down hard on it, to no avail. Evan popped his head in the door and squeaked at her: “Spunk! Spooge!” Delilah recoiled and then he laughed and said it definitely wasn’t his because he only jerked in the shower. This didn’t make her feel any better.

She shuddered to consider it might be her father’s doing. It was just the spare bedroom, but someone had to be responsible for it and it was starting to make her a bit anxious not knowing the truth. She stepped back and paused. She’d let it air dry and just move on to some other task.

It was important that she keep busy or her mind would race and the net result was an overwhelming sensation that she feared was a panic attack. So housework was acceptable when the alternative was upsetting everyone else with her agitated ramblings. Delilah knew they were fed up with her inability to compose herself. They’d never say it, but the pained look on her father’s face gave it away. He wasn’t big on talking, but his face was a clear map of his feelings. Too clear for her taste, so she tried to be a ghost, which was a completely unreasonable thing to do and humiliating in the end.

She shouldn’t have to pretend around people who knew her for her entire life, but family dynamics rarely make sense and her feelings were nearly always the last to be considered, if at all. She turned on the vacuum and let her mind wander to something approaching pleasure: imagining how she’d decorate her own apartment. A place just for her where she could breathe and relax. A true home.

© 2022 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.

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