Tyrant
Author:T.M. Frazier

We came to a stop in the center of the house. The kitchen, dining room, and living area all shared one open space, with the kitchen at an angle in the far corner. The cabinets were tall and off-white. The countertops a shiny black. “Sit.” Nadine nodded toward one of the high-backed barstools tucked under the raised counter. But I just stood there; the realization of what was really happening finally started to resonate. I’d always wondered what the house I grew up in looked like, and I was finally there. However, I didn’t feel any of the elation I’d imagined I would.

I was still in shock. Angry. Bitter. Confused as all hell.

But elated?

Nope.

Nadine pulled out ingredients from different cabinets and turned on the gas burner. “Sit, girl. I’ll fix you something. You can ask me anything you want. I know how you are with questions.” She grinned and wiped her hands on the apron she’d tied around her waist.

“Well, I guess that hasn’t changed,” I said, finally taking a seat. “I’ve been told I ask too many questions a lot over the last few months.”

Nadine cracked an egg into a bowl. “But you have changed. I can see it.”

“And I guess that’s a bad thing?” I sighed.

“No.” She came over to me and rested her elbows on the other side of the counter. “Actually…I think I kind of like it.”

“How am I different though?” I asked.

Nadine pursed her lips. “I’m not a hundred percent sure yet, but I’ll tell you what, as soon as I do figure it out, I’ll be sure to let you know.” Reaching out, she tweaked the end of my nose. With a wink she turned back around to the burner where she started mixing ingredients together with a wooden spoon.

“It’s not fair.” I said, coming off a lot whinier than I intended. “Everyone knows me, but everyone is a stranger to me. I’m practically a stranger to myself.”

“Child, I hate to break this to you, but did your father somehow give you the impression that he’s the warm and cuddly type?” Nadine pulled a ladle out of a drawer.

“No,” I answered immediately.

“Well, in a way, the two of you have always been strangers. So, in that way, things are exactly as they were before,” she announced with a smile.

I bit my bottom lip. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”

Nadine shrugged.

“And my mother? Who goes to the spa when their missing kid is on the way home?” There was no hiding my bitterness, because I was bitter.

Nadine winced, like she’d been hoping I wouldn’t ask about my mother. She kept her attentions on whatever she was mixing up. “Spa is a code around here. It either means she’s holed up at a hotel somewhere or she’s drying out at a rehab or a desert retreat or whatever it is she does to clean out her abused liver.” She wiped her hand on the towel on her shoulder. “I mean. I just…”

I was already over hearing about my mother so I cut Nadine off when I felt like she was about to make an excuse for her behavior. “What are you making?” I asked, leaning forward on my elbows.

“Your favorite; breakfast for dinner!” My heart sputtered when she scooped up some batter and poured it onto the hot griddle. When she used a spatula to flip the contents of her pan over I saw Preppy, standing in her place, wearing his favorite red lacy apron.

“Pancakes,” I whispered, my heart sputter turning into all out seize. I felt suddenly light headed. Stars danced in front of my eyes. I braced myself on the counter so I wouldn’t fall off the stool.

Nadine came over and set down a plate in front of me with three perfectly circular pancakes in the center, dripping with syrup. A square pad of butter swam around on top before completely melting and falling to the plate. The sweet smell assaulted my senses; dragging out every ounce of hurt and pain I felt the night I watched my friend die.

“You don’t like pancakes anymore?” Nadine asked, misinterpreting my reaction.

I shook my head. “That’s not it,” I said, struggling to make the words come out of my mouth.

“Then what’s the problem, baby girl?” Nadine asked, placing a concerned hand on my shoulder. I didn’t answer.

I couldn’t.

So when she pulled me into her soft chest and cradled my head I didn’t bother resisting her hold. I was so concerned about King in the weeks after Preppy’s death that I never realized I hadn’t properly grieved for my friend. I didn’t realize I was crying until I felt my shoulders shaking. “Why the tears?”

“Because,” I managed to spit out on a short exhale.

“Because, why?”

“Because…pancakes.”





Chapter Three




Doe


Nadine held me until I calmed down. She pushed away the plate as if it really was the pancakes that had been the source of my little episode.

We both agreed that what I needed was a good night’s rest. Nadine led me up the stairs to a door at the end of the hallway.

My room.

Lacey white curtains, soft blue walls, and a poofy pink comforter. A small off white chandelier with electric candles hung above the bed, which was lined with stuffed animals. Looking around, I couldn’t help but think of another small bedroom in another town not too far away. One with a flat mattress, the most comfortable faded blue blanket, and a broken fan blade from when Preppy’s head connected with it after enthusiastically jumping up and down on the bed.

My heart did a little flip.

In this room—my room—a corkboard hung above a simple white desk. Pinned to the board were sketches drawn on pages torn from a notebook. I walked around the room slowly, running my hand over the slightly textured walls, the shiny fabric of the throw pillows of the little window seat, and finally, over the sketches themselves, which were mostly landscapes mixed with a few portraits. I recognized a few as Sammy and another as Tanner. In the center of the board was one of the both of them together, sitting under a tree, smiling straight ahead, presumably at me.

“You love to draw. Your father about had a coronary when you said you wanted to go to art school,” Nadine offered from the doorway. “All of this has got to be hard on you.”

Yes, and for more reasons than you think.

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