Hey Lou Writes

The Grey Matters

Lemon Moon {Part II}


By Melinda Williams



August 2010


My mom was angry. Come to think of it, I don’t think there was a time I could remember her smiling, except for maybe a moment or two when she liked the taste of her vodka. I was seven before I realized that not all moms drank that stinky clear liquid that made them act differently. Then I turned nine and had seen enough to know that my life wasn’t as good as some. And on the day, other than still having my little brother around, it wasn’t any better. I’d say… it was worse, actually.

I woke up to a familiar sound: my mom’s snores. There was something missing from the sounds in our house, though. Usually my older sister Tilly was up first, making breakfast. My mom was mad whenever Tilly slept in. I could always hear her humming. She wasn’t all that great with cooking and when she did manage to do something right, the loud clanking of pots and pans, spoons and knives, was the indicator.

“Peter? Wake up… I think we need to make breakfast.” I heard nothing coming from the kitchen.

“Huh?” My little brother, who was now six, opened his eyes and breathed in my face. I almost passed out, his breath was so bad. I coughed, got past it, and pulled on his hand.

“Come on.”

“Where’s Tilly?” He whispered.

“I don’t know.”

Every once in a while Tilly was somewhere else. I wasn’t too worried about her. She was my best friend, a year older than me, but we were okay when we weren’t together. She called me her home base. It didn’t mean she couldn’t go around the other bases now and again, she also said.

I had Peter crack open the eggs, check for pieces of shells (my mom hated getting an egg shell in her breakfast) and stir in the milk and salt. While he did that I toasted bread and buttered it. I set out my mom’s liquor on the counter. I cooked the eggs Peter had stirred up. He and I ate our scrambled eggs and toast with some orange juice and waited in silence for whatever would come next. Tilly never walked in the door. Peter and I were both silent. I tried not to look at him, because seeing his worried face would only make me worried too. Since our world had already been rocked, we both knew there was no telling what might happen in the hours to come. We ate in silence and listened to nothing but sirens outside, passing by our home every now and again. Looking back, there were more than usual. A lot more.

My back stiffened when I heard my mom approach. She was standing right behind us.

“And just what the hell is this?”


“What the hell is this?” She said again, louder.

I said it again quietly, never sure how to deal with her. “Breakfast.”

Tilly was best when it came to dealing with my mom. I could see my brother closing his eyes out of the corner of my own.

“WHERE IS SHE? You turn around right now and tell me where your goddamn sister is.”

I stood up from my stool and faced her. “I don’t know. She wasn’t here when-”

Then she slapped me across the mouth. I didn’t cry; crying was for babies. And it wasn’t the first time she’d been mad enough to do that.

“She best come back. That girl best come back here before I get mad.” Then she wiped her mouth with her hand, patted her bony rib cage and picked up her drink. She took a gulp and then said, “Welp, guess you better get to that laundry I saw still sitting there dirty in the other room. If your sister ran away and left you to do all this shit, I’ll be angry. The hell does she think…” and she walked away, grumbling under her breath.

“What do we do now?” Peter asked me with wide eyes.

“Laundry,” I said with a shrug of my shoulders. So Peter and I spent the day cleaning, watching TV, and trying to keep away from my mom. We never did go outside. I remember hearing my neighbor, an old cat lady, screaming. She screamed and screamed… but I think Peter and I passed it off as something she might do. You never know what an old lady with ten cats would be up to. I got worried when the afternoon got later and later.

“Do you think Tilly is still at Ben’s house?” That was my only guess; her latest boyfriend.

Peter still had wide eyes and he looked at me to shake his head slowly. “Piper?”


“She didn’t sneak out last night to see him. I know it! She-”

“Sh!” I shut him up because I saw my mom shift in her bed through the door. I raised my hand for him to keep talking once my mom settled down again.

Peter’s voice was so soft I could barely hear it. “She was there. I remember seeing her when I went to the bathroom. I woke up in the middle of the night. I don’t think she would have left so early!” He sounded hysterical, though still quiet, and his eyes watered up.

“It’s okay!” But I knew right then and there it wasn’t okay. I ran to Tilly’s room and looked around. Peter stood right next to me and was breathing hard. Her bed wasn’t made. It looked like she had gotten up without moving the covers because they were bunched up around her pillow. An open book had fallen to the floor, bending the middle pages. Tilly would never let a book of hers get disheveled. She took care of the things she bought with her own money, which was almost everything. Another weird thing: the charm she usually held in her hand while falling asleep was lying beside her pillow. Tilly had been given the charm shaped like a ballet dancer when she was really little. I was a toddler and my family was visiting the beach. A tanned gypsy lady gave it to Tilly without making her pay for it. Tilly thought the moment was magical and so every night she tried to have good dreams, holding onto the charm and praying until she fell asleep. It was her deepest secret so only I knew it. The charm was there, and not in her special box sitting on the desk. My heart began to beat faster.

“She could be anywhere…” I said.

“Where?” Peter asked again. The way he said it frightened me, because he said it exactly how I had just been thinking the same. Tilly had never been gone from home this long before. My mom would wake up eventually. I began calculating. I was good at that sort of things. I could figure things out, like when to take the water off the stove right before it began to whistle, how many times I could ride my bike around the block without anyone noticing I was gone, or how many times Peter could drop something before my mom finally yelled at him. I figured that Peter and I could go and look for Tilly before my mom woke up for dinner. We had three hours. We could look around the block and Ben didn’t live too far away.

“Come on, we’re going to go find her.”

“We’re going to leave? What’ll mom think, with us all gone?”

“She won’t ever know,” I assured my little brother. I took his hand and we walked out the front door and into a world we had never seen before.


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