The Glass House
by Matthew R. Black
Alex had a roaring fire going soon enough.
Kaye talked me into going snowshoeing with her. I decided in order to not upset her I should get away from Alex. It took me over an hour to coordinate my feet in the massive mesh slippers.
In the distance I could see the house glistening and twinkling like a local star on the hillside. The wind whipped and whistled but there were clear blue skies. If my cheeks hadn’t been burning and my fingertips hadn’t hurt, it would be a very nice day outside.
The sun was high in the frigid air by the time we made it back to the house. I took off my goggles and had to shield my eyes while I removed my snowshoes. I decided to put the goggles back on when I went inside. It was very warm inside.
Alex was writing in a grubby-looking journal in one of the chairs. He wore goofy looking sunglasses that reminded me of the Blues Brothers. “Damn bright in here.”
Kaye shielded her eyes and hurried to her purse on the dining table for her sunglasses. “I think we need to do something about curtains or shades.”
We spent most of the day raiding the large linen closet and finding ways to fasten the blankets on the walls and ceiling. Eventually we all resorted to a thick roll of duct tape Alex had in his duffel bag. We hung several large blankets over most of the walls on the main floor and laid most of the remaining blankets on the upper floors to block some of the intense light coming from the transparent roof. We hadn’t figured out a good rig for the bedroom on the top floor so we decided not to go up there.
After finishing with the heavy blankets we sat down for lunch at the mahogany dining table. The dim blue light made the house seem much more like one of those chain restaurants with the large booths and soft classic rock playing.
I watched Kaye looking at her hands. They looked a little red. She stood up and headed to the bathroom.
Alex and I didn’t speak to each other.
Kaye let out a piercing shriek and both of us ran to the bathroom. She held her hands out in front of her. Tears were forming in here eyes and her mouth hung open.
Her hands were dark red and her face was a shiny maroon.
“Oh my God, I’m sunburned,” she wailed.
My eyes darted to my own hands where the clean light of the bathroom revealed dark burns. My knuckles were badly cracked and thick ooze was slowly seeping out. I gingerly touched a finger to my face and sharp bolts of pain shot through my head.
Alex had the darkest burn on his face. His scraggly red beard had turned a very soft yellow and the skin on his face was purple. There was a thin white band where his sunglasses had been.
Kaye spent the rest of the day crying in the bathroom while after a few attempts to comfort her Alex and I sat in the chairs near the crackling fire in the dim light. Once in a while I would jump up if she became too quiet or shrieked again.
Just before I went to bed I lifted up the bearskin rug and tracked the sharp crack. It now stretched from the dining room, under the fireplace, and all the way to a spot a foot to the right of the front door. The steel beam had halted further progress.
In the middle of the night there was a loud crash that shocked me into consciousness. I dove off of the bed onto the blankets on the floor. Kaye climbed down next to me.
“What was that?” Her voice was just above a whisper.
I pulled up the blankets around me and peered down to the second floor. The faint blue glow of the house lit up the floors slightly. The glass blurred my view but I could see slow movement by the stairs. I held my breath and pointed out the apparition to Kaye. Suddenly the lights flashed on and I stuffed the blankets back over my peephole.
The stairs groaned as Kaye and I sat on the floor frozen in fear. I listened as the groans became louder until I saw a head peering up at me. I jumped back.
In a whisper I heard, “Did you guys hear that?” It was Alex. He scampered up the rest of the stairs and kneeled next to Kate and me.
“What happened?” I tried to keep my voice low but it squeaked at the beginning of ‘happened?’
“I don’t know. It sounded like someone drove a truck through the front door.”
We slowly made our way down to the bottom floor. It was darker than the upper floors. The stairs were stinging cold on my bare feet. At the bottom floor we waited for a few minutes in silence. The wind was howling and whistling and icy air blew into my face making me flinch. Alex switched on a light.
There was broken glass all over the living room. The front wall had shattered. The steel frame stood rigid but only fragmented shards still clung. The door was still distinguishable, lying in three large pieces where the doorway should have been.
I thought about the crack. It must have somehow ruined the integrity of the walls. “Dammit, Alex.”
“What? You think I did this?” He shot a sad look at Kaye.
I pointed to the faintly shimmering ground. “You cracked the floor.”
Kaye spoke up, “You’re the one who decided to buy a building with glass floors and walls. What did you think was going to happen?” I looked long and hard at her. She blamed me for this disaster. She blamed me for Alex’s clumsiness and the fact that she was sunburned.
I found some more duct tape and Alex and I rigged up several of the blankets to make a flimsy wall.
The next morning I went downstairs to find Alex finishing his packing. I chuckled to myself thinking that he had probably just started packing since he had very little.
Alex watched me coming down the stairs. He pulled on his pink jacket in a huff. “I’m leaving. This house is ridiculous and you are a dick.”
I couldn’t help but smile.
Kaye ran down the staircase. She ran to her brother and grabbed his hands. “Alex, calm down.”
He wriggled one hand free to point at me. “Your boyfriend clearly doesn’t want me here, and I’m tired, and my face is burned.”
Kaye gently brushed the back of her fingers on his beard. He flinched and pulled her hand away.
“Good,” I said. “Leave. Just remember you still owe me a glass floor. And the front wall.” I forced myself to stop smiling.
Alex sneered at me, “I don’t owe you anything. Kaye, can I get a ride to that town we passed on the way here?” He slung his duffel bag over his shoulder and gingerly walked over the shattered glass. He ducked under the flimsy blanket and disappeared.
“Sure.” She grabbed her purse off of the dining table and I handed her the keys from the kitchen counter.
I looked at her. She refused to make eye contact with me. Kaye put on her heavy jacket and stepped around the class shards. I held the blanket as she made her way over to the car.
I closed the blanket most of the way. I watched them talking as they climbed into my SUV. The smile crept back onto my face. I had vanquished Alex. Then I caught a glance at how she looked at Alex. Her face was still dark red and the wrinkles of her face made her look like an old lady but there was pity in her eyes. She looked over at me and instinctively I ducked behind the blanket.
I decided to run out and stop them. I raced over to my boots, shoveled my feet in and grabbed my jacket. I flung the blanket out of the way and waved wildly at Kaye, who was backing the SUV out of the driveway. “Hey wait a minute.”
The car stopped and she rolled down the passenger window. I ran up to the window. Alex folded his arms as I spoke over him to Kaye.
Kaye looked at Alex, then at me. She opened the driver door.
I hopped in the driver seat. “You know what? This whole thing was a bad idea. It’s my fault. I’m sorry. Why don’t we get all of our stuff and just go home.”
I felt the look of relief on Kaye’s face in the pit of my stomach. She smiled a weak and clearly painful smile and nodded to Alex. They both got out of the car and headed inside.
I put the SUV into reverse and leaned over to shut the open passenger door. Kaye’s and Alex’s screaming faded out almost immediately.
Copyright © 2010 by Matthew R. Black