It was a bright sunny day the day Alice Winshaw’s mother took her own life. Nobody could have known. Nobody saw it coming. She was a happy woman, who always had a bright smile to light up her face. So when her fourteen year old daughter found her mother hanging from her ceiling fan by a rope, the devastation sent a shock-wave throughout the whole community. Hundreds of people from the close-knit community of Bath, New York came to her funeral. Alice’s step-brothers flew in from Houston where they’d lived with their father, and Alice’s step-father, before he had died of cancer. The whole affair was a huge thing. But nobody stopped to ask Alice how she was handling it.
A month later, Alice was lying in her new room in Houston reading a book about the paranormal and wondering when her oldest step-brother Brody was going to get home from college. He’d left the three bedroom apartment around seven in the morning, before Alice was even awake, and had promised her that he would be home by four in the afternoon. It was four now, and the twenty one year old was nowhere to be found. Austin, the eighteen year old step-brother that also lived in the apartment, had been home since three, when his high school got out. The high school Alice would be attending next week. The thought alone sent a grimace to her face.
“I’m home!” The door opening brought Alice out of her thoughts as Brody’s voice rang through the apartment. She dog eared the page she had been reading, though she hadn’t actually been reading it, and threw the book onto her bed as she exited her room.
“Hey Brody.” She lifted her hand in a wave, following the man into the kitchen where he was rummaging around in the fridge, which had little to no food in it.
“There’s nothing to eat.” He complained, pushing the door closed and turning around to face his step-sister. “Did you eat everything, Alice?” He asked, chuckling as the girl rolled her strikingly green eyes.
“No, you did you big doof.” She replied, pushing his shoulder lightly. “Can we go get dinner and a coffee or something?” She asked, leaning back against the counter and brushing her light blond hair over her shoulder. Brody frowned slightly.
“I don’t think we’ve got enough money kiddo.” Her life had changed drastically since she’d moved in with her step-brothers, her only relatives willing to care for her, and being tight on money was definitely new to her. Her mother had never been tight on money. But the entire inheritance had gone to her real brother, a twenty two year old with loose morals and no real source of income. He didn’t speak to Alice, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. The two of them had a rocky relationship. It had been that way ever since Jacob had become a dirt-bag who manipulated people into giving him money to fuel his drinking and gambling habits.
“That’s fine. I can just have that left-over chicken.” She replied, sending Brody a bright smile and moving towards the fridge. Brody reached out as she passed him, ruffling her hair affectionately. He couldn’t believe how well she as adjusting to everything. She was such a trooper, and he couldn’t be more grateful that she didn’t seem to despise his tight money situation.
“Sorry Alice, I already ate that.” Austin suddenly appeared, pushing his shoulder-length black hair out of his bright blue eyes with a hesitant smile. “I didn’t know it was yours.” Alice fought to keep her smile on her face as she raised her hand in a gesture of peace.
“It’s fine! There’s some cereal in the pantry.” She beamed before turning back around and rummaging around for the cereal. Brody and Austin glanced at each other frowning. The two hated that they couldn’t give Alice what she needed, but Brody had a part time job at Target and Austin worked for Game Stop. Not exactly career material, and certainly not enough to support three people.
“No, it’s okay, we can go out.” Brody suddenly stated, grabbing Alice’s wrist as she went to pour the milk into her bowl of cereal.
“But I was really looking forward to enjoying this cereal though.” She replied. Brody shared a look with Austin. Both knew that she was lying for their sake and didn’t actually want cereal.
“That’s not a good source of protein, kiddo. Get your shoes on.” Brody responded, taking the bowl of cereal away from her. Alice frowned but complied anyway. She wasn’t about to deny real food, anyway.
After yanking her worn canvas shoes onto her feet she quickly tied them and grabbed her cell phone, not that she’d be needing it. The only two people she ever talked to were standing in the kitchen. She hadn’t had any really good friends in New York. Maybe one or two that she’d get together with after school, but nobody that she was missing horribly.
“Come on Alice, we don’t have all day!” Austin hollered, suddenly appearing in her bedroom door. “It doesn’t take that long to put on shoes!” Alice stuck her tongue out at the boy and followed him through the apartment to the front door.
“You guys have got to clean this place.” she stated, observing the trash and empty soda cans scattered around the living room.
“Shut up.” Brody snorted, pushing her out the door. “Now go!” The three siblings moved to the elevator.
“I’ll meet you guys down there.” Alice gestured to the door labeled ‘Stairs’. Austin and Brody glanced at each other before following her to the stairs.
“How come you hate elevators, Alice?” Austin asked curiously as they exited onto the street, narrowing their eyes against the bright setting sun. At least it wasn’t a hundred degrees, Alice observed.
“They’re just scary. Big metal boxes that lug people up and down all day. They’re sketchy.” Brody and Austin shared a chuckle at Alice’s explanation.
“Whatever you say, dude.” Austin replied, shrugging his shoulders at his step-sister’s weird fear.