The Glass House
by Matthew R. Black
|part 2 of 3|
Kaye and Alex sat in front of a now roaring fire. There wasn’t much smoke lingering anymore. The flames reflected off of every wall giving the impression of being engulfed in the dancing blaze.
I found a light switch and flicked it on. Several hanging lamps lit up and the windows lost their transparency. The outside went dark and distorted reflections covered the shiny walls.
Slowly the house thawed.
After a simple dinner of pre-made vegetable soup we all curled up by the fire. Kaye and I each read a novel, lit by firelight. We had turned off all the lights, and with the lights the sounds went too. The dull roar and crackle of the fire made the only noise. Alex was listening to music, his head bobbed occasionally as he blankly scanned dark walls of the living room.
Alex sat up. He pulled out his ear buds and his eyes widened at the vague spot he was watching. “Did you see that?”
“See what?” Kaye didn’t look up from her novel.
I watched his eyes as he sharply scanned the faint shadows in the trees. I felt a chill run down my spine. “We do live in the wilderness. Animals are all over.” Saying that didn’t give me any comfort because I had read briefly of the mountain lions and bears that lived in these mountains.
His eyes kept darting. “I saw something watching us.” His voice was shaky and low.
The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I didn’t move anything but my eyes as I struggled to see what Alex had. All I could see were the highly polished black walls and my loopy apparition on them. The flashes and flickering of the flames on the walls made my eyes constantly snap back and forth.
Kaye glanced up at me from her book. “We’re in a glass house. Are you going to freak out every time you look outside?”
Alex’s voice was still low, “I saw something and it looked at me.”
My heartbeat was louder than his voice and beads of sweat formed on my arms and forehead. I tore my eyes off the mirrored wall and focused on my novel. Alex was still watching his spot. The fire made one loud snap and I jumped. I forced myself to stare into the pages of my book.
There was a long silence. I could hear the roaring of the fire become louder and louder in the orange living room.
Kaye spoke up, “It was probably just a deer or something.”
Alex still didn’t take his eyes off the glass wall, “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
After a few minutes I decided to announce “I think I’m going to bed. It’s been a long day.”
Kaye nodded and we left Alex by the fire, fixated on the shadows on the living room walls.
My paranoia didn’t stop me from my sex drive. In bed I immediately began kissing Kate and working on removing my pants. She stopped me and put her hand over my mouth.
“What’s wrong?” I got a chill again. Maybe she saw something.
“I don’t want to do this while my brother is here. I mean it’s all glass and that might freak him out.”
I let my shoulders drop a little. “He can’t see us up on the bed.”
“I just don’t want to do this while he’s around.” She bit her lip.
Damn Alex. He had just ruined my vacation. “Alright, fine.”
The top floor was literally under the stars. Looking straight up I could see clouds moving, covering and uncovering stars as they passed. It reminded me of a camping trip as a kid. My parents had taken me camping one summer and I slept outside. I watched the stars all night in my green sleeping bag.
Kaye was asleep almost immediately. I continued to stare into the sky. I had to keep looking at something but I was afraid to check the forest again. The thought of glancing at the trees and seeing a pair of eyes sent a wave of shivers across my body. I tried counting the shimmering stars until I fell asleep.
I woke up fully under the thick layers of blankets. It took me a few seconds to get my bearings and find the opening. Everything was sweaty and black. When I threw back the heavy covers a whoosh of icy air shocked me fully awake. The light stung my eyes and I squinted and shivered. Kaye was still asleep next to me and she turned over in hearing my gasp from the frosty air.
It was morning and very bright. Orange sunlight bounced and twisted through the clear walls and the house seemed to emulate the sun by glowing a bright orange. It took me several seconds to get adjusted to all the light.
I stepped out of bed and instantly jumped back onto the mattress. The floor was painfully cold, and slippery. A thin layer of snow had covered the entire room. My shoes were at the foot of the bed and I slipped them on. My whole body shook for several minutes while I put on a sweater and my winter jacket. Kaye still slept under the covers.
I made my way over to a window I was sure I had shut last night. It was unlatched and wide open. I swung it closed and firmly locked it, checking to make sure the latch worked. Maybe Kaye had absent-mindedly opened the window in the night.
The wrought-iron staircase creaked and groaned as I made my way down to the kitchen. I made sure not to touch the icy railing, almost losing my footing a few times. On my way down I peered over at Alex’s room. His duffle bag lay on the floor next to the squat bed and his sheets were unmade.
There wasn’t any snow on the lower levels but it was still bitter cold. On the bottom floor I inspected the dark fireplace. It was cold to the touch, but not as cold as the staircase or the floors.
“Morning.” I turned around to see Alex in his ratty ski jacket with a box of Cheerios in one arm. “It’s really cold in here, I was thinking about getting the fire going again.”
“Why did it go out?”
“What?” I saw a sneer, or maybe a smile in his orange beard.
“Why did the fire go out?”
“Because that’s what fireplaces do when you don’t keep stocking it with wood.”
“Why did you stop stocking it?”
“Well, you guys went to bed. Plus that was all the wood we had in the house. We need to get some more from the stack outside.” He pointed to a large stack behind the linen closet.
“There is snow on the top floor.” I closely watched his facial expressions. He made none.
“I saw that.” His tone was harsh, but not menacing.
“Did you open the window last night?”
“Why would I open a window?”
“That’s why I’m asking; why would you open a window?” I crossed my arms.
“What? You think I wanted us to freeze in the morning?” He wildly waved his arms around, spilling a few Cheerios on the floor.
I pointed at him, “You let the fire go out.” I thought homeless people had respect for necessary things like heat.
“The fire went out; I didn’t let it go out. You let it go out while you were screwing my sister.” His cheeks were beat red and he was breathing heavily.
I silently cursed him. He didn’t really care if I was sleeping with his sister. “I can’t believe I let you come with us.”
“You wouldn’t have had a fire.” Alex slunk over to a high-backed chair and sat down.
The staircase groaned again and I looked over to see Kaye slowly descending. She wore thick sweats tucked into her fluffy boots and her parka.
“Morning,” Alex hollered from his chair.
When she reached the bottom she spoke softly, “Why’s there snow upstairs?”
“The window was open. You didn’t do it, did you?” I tried to make my voice as non-threatening as possible.
“No.” She slunk over to a kitchen stool and leaned on it.
“He thinks I did it.” Alex glanced at Kaye.
“He let the fire go out,” I snapped back immediately.
“Fires go out. We probably ran out of wood anyway.” Why was Kaye so determined to defend her screw-up of a brother? I glared at Alex who smirked at me.
“Why don’t I make us some breakfast?” Kaye walked over to the kitchen. She pulled out the coffee pot and held it over the sink to rinse. The faucet dripped. “The pipes are still frozen.”
Damn, I thought. A really hot shower would be nice right now.
“I’ll make another fire,” Alex offered, “we just need the wood.” He and I stared at each other for several seconds.
Alex and I brought in armfuls of wood from the nearby stack. In our last trip Alex made it most of the way to the fireplace and dropped a piece of wood. It crashed harshly on the glass floor. We both watched as silently a crack worked its way under the fireplace and towards the front door.
He stood there holding the other pieces in his arms. “Sorry man.”
Mentally I tried to calculate how much it would cost to fix a glass floor. Because I’ve never had to replace a large pane of glass, nor a floor I ended with the assumption that it was exceedingly expensive. “You cracked my house.”
“I said I’m sorry. That’s what glass does when it’s cold.” He stacked his armful of wood and picked the fallen piece off the ground.
Kaye heard us arguing and ran into the living room. “What happened?”
“Your asshole brother just cracked the floor.”
“It was probably an accident.”
I wanted her to stop defending him. He was a screw-up. “He cracked the house.”
Kaye looked at the crack and followed it to where it disappeared a few feet short of the front door. “Is that dangerous?”
“I don’t know. I mean, I don’t think so. It’s the floor and there’s those steel beams and everything. It’s probably going to cost a lot to replace.”
“I’m sorry.” Alex shrugged. “We’re in a house made of glass.”
I could feel the muscles in my face tightening into a wicked glare.
Copyright © 2010 by Matthew R. Black