There was one remaining orange in the breakfast basket. It was untouched because it’s John’s. If anyone else is aware of his absence, they say nothing. The woman with the lavender nightgown wouldn’t even look at it.
John stays quiet on the other side of the wall. The only thing I’ve heard in days is the radio, but even that I can’t make out. Instead, I find myself sitting. It’s not that I haven’t been sitting. I sat when I listened to John talk. I sit in the breakfast nook. I sit at my desk or in front of the television set or if Sue comes to visit. It’s just that I never found myself sitting. I was always lost in thought or conversation. Sometimes you’re up. Sometimes you’re down. What was the point in thinking about it?
But now I look at my hands and they are in my lap. All the time. As if waiting for something to happen when nothing will.
Back when my whole family lived in one house, we always had oranges. “They’re so tasty!” I’d pretend they were corners of caramel as I popped slice after slice into my mouth. Sue was the first to become chubby, but they all would sooner or later. It’s that stage when a child goes from hide and seek to just hiding. Eleven or maybe twelve, and they’re all chubby. It’s as if the baby fat suddenly appears in a rebellion against what’s to come.
“Such a lucky girl you are, Sue.” I said, as if more to myself than her. “The Waterford’s can’t even afford oranges. The children have to eat those cheap sugar molds just to stay fed. They’ll be fat as plumbs by first year of high school.”
The Waterford’s were far richer than us. Their children were little snots. Hair ribbons with handmade stitching and a toy sailboat were bought straight from Bermuda. Despite their fortune, each child had the unspoiled air of slender grace. No matter how spoiled, those children would grow to become far luckier than my daughters could imagine.
“The Waterford’s have chocolate oranges.” Sue had said it so fast, I barely had time to think.
“That’s because they’re piggish twits.” I shouldn’t have said it to Sue’s face. The introduction into a parent’s jealousy and hatred is something no child forgets. Even if the exact moment is lost, the sentiment behind seething is enough to topple the firmest concept of fairness. “You’re better than them,” I added, but I don’t think she cared.
Before walking back to my room, I placed the breakfast orange just below John’s door. If at some point he finds himself standing, he can discover what’s been waiting outside.