By Lori Cramer
Andrea stomps upstairs to the bedroom and slams the door. Downstairs, Ollie cranks the TV volume up so loud that the floor beneath Andrea vibrates. Grabbing her phone, she jams in earbuds and paces the room. How could Ollie be so obtuse?
The afternoon sun dims. Andrea’s stomach growls. No way is she going downstairs. Deciding she’ll nap, she curls up on the bed. When she closes her eyes, she sees Ollie’s face flushed with fury. Ollie’s always been an avoider, not an arguer. But this time, she pushed him too far. Forced him to confront the fact that his brother had conned him yet again. Told him she couldn’t bear watching his brother treat him like a fool—and if he wasn’t going to do something about it, she would.
“I’m ordering pizza,” he calls up the stairs.
Pizza’s exactly what Andrea’s been craving. She doesn’t tell Ollie that—or that he should ask for extra cheese. Reaching for the novel on her nightstand, she hopes the words in the book can distract her from the not-so-nice ones in her head.
When the doorbell rings, she jumps up and stands by the bedroom door.
The doorbell rings again.
He’s the one who ordered the pizza. If he thinks she’s going to—
Footsteps pound below.
Andrea waits for the front door to bang shut, then tiptoes down the stairs. Entering the kitchen, she breathes in the aroma of Italian spices. The box is on the table, a stack of paper plates beside it. Ollie’s rooting around in the refrigerator, so Andrea goes to the cabinet for a glass. Out of habit, she grabs two. She sets one down at Ollie’s seat and takes the other to hers.
Ollie approaches the table, a soda bottle in each hand. Without making eye contact, he places one in front of her. He puts down the other one, grabs a plate, and slaps two pieces onto it.
Andrea reaches for a slice, examining it before taking a bite. Extra cheese! He remembered. She smiles and looks across the table at Ollie. He’s staring down at his plate. They eat in silence.
Once the food’s finished, Ollie rinses his glass and puts it in the dishwasher. He stashes the empty box next to the garbage container, tosses his soda bottle into the recycling bin, and exits the kitchen. The TV snaps back on.
Though Andrea would love to sit beside Ollie and watch TV, she knows she won’t be able to stay quiet about his brother’s duplicity. She heads back upstairs.
When she finishes reading her book, she changes into PJ bottoms and one of Ollie’s old Pirates T’s and crawls under the covers. She tries to turn off her thoughts, but the argument monopolizes her mind. Andrea knows she’s right: Ollie should stand up to his brother. But maybe Ollie’s right too: How he chooses to deal with his brother is his decision. She considers going downstairs to try to talk things out with him, then decides it’d be better to wait until tomorrow. As she’s drifting off to sleep, Ollie whispers, “I’m sorry.”