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Girl House | Julianna Kasper

When I brave the cold of the tile and go downstairs, the room is empty. I see a pink hairbrush, its bristles loose and wrapped with curly brown strands laying on the table. There’s also a purple toothbrush rolling in the sink, and a gaping tube of toothpaste next to the dish soap. I know Sister has left for the day. She wakes up late when Mother has an early shift and can’t drive her to school. I make her take the bus, like how I did. How everyone does. I gather both items, circling around the counter and imagine her rushing to get ready. I spin around, smiling as I picture her trying to finish her hair as she brushes her teeth. But then I realize that I have an audience. Dog paws under me, unsure of what I am doing. I know she’s hungry, even though Mother always feeds her before she leaves. But I look at those big brown eyes and just can’t resist. I put the items in my robe pocket and pour her a cup of food, the dry kibbles clattering as they reach the metal bowl. I tell her to enjoy, and then run upstairs without making anything for myself. Because, I now realize, I am running late too.


Sister loves to leave her dirty clothes in the bathroom. After her burning hot shower, she kicks them to the side as she grabs for a towel. Usually, a pink one. The green is reserved for me. The white for Mother. She insists that she has naturally curly hair, but I see her dump coconut-scented product all over her scalp. The consistency is thick and white, and it festers like an apple turning brown. I usually take a shower second, even though I’m the oldest. Did you use all the hot water? I ask. No, she lies. But I fall for it every time.


Mother doesn’t like to cook. She bows to the shrine of take-out, and greasy leftovers litter our crowded fridge. But something that was delicious in the moment usually isn’t as good the next day, so Mother can be found sloshing mushy day-old food into the garbage can, unwanted and useless in its existence. I see a meatball roll onto the ground. I don’t pick it up, because I can already hear Dog running for it, salivating at a change in diet. We break bread in front of the TV, spread out on the couch with containers of burgers or tin foil wrapped burritos. Dog is the Messiah, standing in the middle and overseeing our supper, again, waiting for one of us to drop some sort of morsel. A crumb. Anything. Sister doesn’t feed her. Mother doesn’t feed her. But I do.


Dog usually sleeps with me. She likes to burrow under the weighted blanket, curling in the crook of my legs. But then I get scared that she can’t breathe, so I pull one of the corners up so air can filter in. Dog hates this. I know she likes the warmth and safety. But I still always do it. Sister and Dog don’t get along. She takes her toys and pretends to throw them. I yell at her for this, and cringe when I see Dog perk up, running towards the plushie that was never thrown. Her look of realization is always harrowing, and I find myself avoiding her stare after.


Girl House wasn’t always Girl House. Before, when Mother and Father bought our home over a decade ago, they decided to lay carpet onto the wooden stairs. The fabric is gritty, and the soles of my feet tickle as I pad up and down the steps. Dog is 9 now but manages the climb. Only when she must. When a load of laundry is ready Sister likes to omit the hamper and throw them all down the stairs. Her shirts and jeans and dresses heap into a mound, and Dog sniffs around. Use a basket! Mother yells. What’s wrong with you? I yell. But she keeps throwing, bras and mismatched socks floating in the air.


Father told Sister and I he was marrying Stepmother around Halloween. I remember because Mother had already bought fun-sized candy, and the thick bags were stacked on top of each other near the head chair. Father said he loved Stepmother and that we would be happy, and everything will all be okay. I reminded everyone that Stepmother is ten years younger than Father and of all the horrible things Stepmother says about Mother. But I am met with yelling and end up crying. Dog follows me as I run up to my room, crawling with me under the covers. And despite my sadness and pain in my chest, I still make sure I lift the blanket, so I know that she can breathe.


Described: Lavender walls, a large bookcase, its bottom shelf slumping like the letter U under the weight of masses and masses of bound paper with words. A three-tier rolling cart, with intended use of storage, but instead a second haven for the surplus of books. A nail polish remover ruined white vanity, covered in more books. A matching nightstand, riddled with tangled chargers and loose scrunchies, bordering an unmade bed and two flat pillows. Floor is wooden, with slight damages akin to tap shoe scuffs and minor cracks from wear and tear. Can be heard when Dog jumps off bed, or when I need a glass of water in the middle of the night.


We are getting ready to leave for a party. Mother sprays perfume, twirling around as the fruity scent obnoxiously coats her skin. Sister follows. No thanks, I say. My head pangs from the artificial odor, and I grab my sunglasses to shield me from light. Will roll down window once we get into car. Won’t care if Sister complains about the wind ruining her hair.


This architectural outline was crafted by the narrator in an effort to understand her place of living and the people that dwell in the same lodging as her. House may be for sale in two years’ time, depending on decision of Mother.


But for now, we stay here. Kitchen is bare, the tile cool and cracked and fridge filled with leftover food and Diet Coke. Bathroom is full, the counter covered with makeup and towels thrown over the door. Living Room is aglow from the TV, Dog always waiting for food to drop and Sister doing homework on the couch. Bedroom is dark, a suspicious lump similar to Dog who hides from Sister moves under my blanket. Staircase is littered with wireless bras and multiple pairs of restrictive skinny jeans, thanks to Sister. Dining Room houses the ghost of an imperfect marriage. Bedroom is still dark, but photos litter the walls, and even if we can’t see them, we know they are there. And Foyer still stands in the front, its staircase winding and door the gate to Girl House.


I am Girl House. We are Girl House. Girl House is forever

 

Julianna Kasper is an undergraduate student pursuing a BFA in Creative Writing and Literature at Stony Brook University. Her work can be found in the Sandpiper Review.

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