Nora continued spreading the cream cheese topping, the butter knife skating across the surface as though she was trying to create perfect waves on a frothy sea. She could take a fountain pen, a few dabs of watercolor and, with those acrobatic fingers, create a masterpiece. But studying art at the university had soured her on the art world and so she’d taken her degree in mathematics. “They don’t care about beauty. All they care about making a statement,” she’d said which Brandy agreed was true.
Nora now lived with Chevy in a Victorian a few blocks from the river. He was younger than her by about five years but had already scheduled his retirement from the union. Construction work paid well, he’d told Brandy, but he couldn’t stand to see all those wasted spaces. Considering that he’d spent his entire life in a dollhouse crammed with antiques, Brandy agreed. Modern day casinos and hotels had far too many wasted spaces.
After several minutes of perfecting the icing on her triple layer brownies, Nora finally spoke. “The Riverside is no longer a hotel. There’s an organic cafe in the lobby and they’ve changed all of the guest rooms into artist studios.”
“Listen, I didn’t mean to imply that ⏤”
“You never did like Reno but I was born here and so was Chevy.”
“Chevy seems like a nice guy.”
Brandy waited for an affirmation … oh yes, I’m so glad I’m with him … but it hung in the stagnant air and never landed. Instead Nora began slicing the brownies into equally proportioned squares, this time with a carving knife. “I suppose you’ll be going back to California soon,” she said as if there was no reason for even saying goodbye.
On a day about a year before, Brandy remembered that Chad had been repulsed, not overtly but it had reeked from his body like vomit-soaked sweat. After freeing himself, he’d sat down beside her and put his head between his knees. “It’s the sun,” he’d claimed.
The flirt, finally noting Brandy and the baby stroller, had merely shrugged her shoulders and walked away. Overhead the roller coaster screamed as bodies were corkscrewed, shaken upside down, and then hurled into space and back again.
It had been hot, Brandy remembered, and the air had been sticky sweet and everywhere babies had wailed and children had cried.
Chad had finally moved out of the dark house down on the river and into a trailer parked on a piece of property up near Boca Dam. The question of what he did for a living was moot as there was no running water or electricity and the land was owned by the family. He only came into town once a week and showered at the homeless center. He’d only agreed to accompany them to Six Flags because Katie Girl’d begged and pleaded.
She remembered how they’d sat in their bubble waiting for Nora and the older children to tire of the rides. He was going to make it. She could feel it. Finally out of the dark house. He has a chance. He does. He does.
Were we both dead, Brandy thought, but I came back and you didn’t? Is that why Nora hates me?