A collective gasp filled the room following the sound of shattered porcelain. Jenna didn't even register the broken dish. She couldn't think of anything beyond the words she had just heard from her father.
"We're moving?" she whispered.
Her father redirected his attention from the mess on the floor and flinched as if surprised Jenna had spoken. His eyes softened with pity for just a moment before returning to their bored stare. "Your mother and I decided years ago we would sell the house one day. We don't need all this now that all you kids are adults."
Jenna shook her head, mouth open in shock that they seem to be overlooking one important fact. "But, I live here."
His shoulders lifted with a familiar heavy sigh he reserved only for Jenna. "We will most likely find a place with more than one bedroom."
Her brain stuttered at the phrase "most likely" and her lungs were having trouble remembering their purpose.
"There is another option, sweetheart," her mother countered near her feet where she was wiping up the remnants of the side dish. "We could help you look for a place. Would you like that?"
Her mother spoke to her in the same voice since she was five, like she was coaxing a scared animal out of a hiding place. It constantly reminded Jenna that when they did bother to see her, she was parted out from her siblings.
Jenna slid into her seat at the table and forced back tears that would only add to her embarrassment.
Her oldest sister Macy rolled her eyes at the entire scene. She had never had patience for Jenna. Things worked they way Macy demanded they work in her world and Jenna never fell into line. She shifted her infant in her arms and spooned more peas onto her toddler's plate. Not a hair out of place on any of them and she made it look easy.
Her other sister, Angela, watched Jenna's anxiety with the same careful pity their mother constantly exuded.
"You could stay with me if you wanted," Angela offered while patting Jenna's hand.
Encouraging mummers filtered around the table. None of them could imagine that Angela's offer was nothing but generous when in fact it was the definition of everything that terrified Jenna. An apartment in the city, surrounded by countless strange faces and constant offensive noises. Jenna minded her manners and forced a tight smile and a non committal shrug hoping the suggestion would pass without further discussion.
Her wish was granted as her father redirected conversation to Macy and whatever fantastic new promotion her overachieving husband had recently obtained. Jenna faded into the background, just another piece of nondescript furniture in the room.
She filled her silent roll expertly and avoided any further attention other than the occasional glance from her mother or Angela. She knew they only meant good intentions, but she was tired of their intentions. They only further exploited the fact that she wasn't an overachieving perfectionist like Macy or an artistic prodigy like Angela.
Thankfully, she never felt compared to her brother Drake who proved from the time he could walk that he was destined to be a spectacular athlete. Maybe because Drake ignored all his sisters equally. Jenna wondered if he could even tell them apart for as much attention he spent on any of them.
Drake had stunned all of them when junior year of college he announced he dropping out and going into construction. Their lawyer father didn't see any sense to throwing away a college education on such a lowly profession. Drake had only shrugged and said he was tired of people waiting for him to fail on the field and just wanted to build things. That was when Jenna decided Drake was her favorite sibling.
Jenna excelled at being the family freak. She rarely made friends, and even then they were hardly more than acquaintances. She had difficulty keeping up conversations because her responses were never what people considered normal. She was too quiet to be quirky, too plain to be mysterious.
The rest of the meal passed uneventfully and Jenna raced up to the sanctuary of her bedroom while her parents helped Macy pack up her kids to go home.
She loathed Sunday family dinner. Her parents let her be most of the remainder of the week. Her mom stopped asking her if she was seeing anyone or going out with friends. They both knew that it was only out of courtesy she even asked to begin with.
Jenna knew it wasn't normal to live at home at the age of twenty four with no plans to venture on her own. She was comfortable in this space compared to the rest of the world that felt so abrasive. She finished high school and went to community college just so her parents couldn't complain she didn't at least try. She worked at a nearby bookstore where people only wanted to talk to her about books. She could manage that conversation, and once in a while was enthusiastic about a particular novel or subject.
Books had been her constant. They never demanded anything from her and conversations were fairly one sided. Every lunch period during her school years was spent hiding around a building and reading. The only time she conflicted with her parents was when her light was on too late at night because she was forever asking to stay up for just one more chapter.
Then one birthday they gave her a telescope.
She didn't need a lamp to scan the stars and she slept even less.
Jenna knew every inch of sky she could see from her bedroom window. Moving meant losing that piece of the sky. If it was too bright, she might never see some of her favorite stars again.
The fear that had sat in her chest through dinner slowly warmed to a burning anger. It wasn't fair that Jenna's flaws were the only ones that were looked down on. Angela was flaky and forgetful, but no one harped on her because she was artistic and it was part of who she was. Macy seemed perfect, but the pill bottles Jenna had spotted once in her purse suggested otherwise.
There was a soft knock on her bedroom door before it slowly opened. Drake leaned against the door frame, but didn't step inside her space.
"I was thinking, my place is only like five minutes from here. It's only a two bedroom I got real cheap because I'm doing a lot of the remodeling myself, but you can crash in the extra room if you want."
He glanced at her swollen bookcase overrun with a miniature library.
"I just added new built-ins to the living room and they look kinda sad and empty. Your books won't be falling all over the floor or stuffed up in your closet." He shifted his weight and knocked on the door frame. "No big deal. Whatever you want to do. I'm not going anywhere anytime soon."
He flashed his Drake smile at her that always got him out of detention and made girls giggle. "Oh, and the last owners must have had kids or something. They have this massive tree house out back that I bet your telescope would fit in. Later, Jenna."
He didn't wait around to pressure her for any kind of answer. Just left his offer at her door for her to pick up or discard.
Tears filled her eyes and spilled before she could stop them, but she couldn't prevent the smile that came with them this time. Gratitude warmed through her body and relief lifted the rock off her chest.
Someone didn't pretend she was invisible. One person didn't see her as broken or wrong or bothersome.
She was just Jenna to Drake.
It was all she ever wanted to be to anyone.
And here is the link to Denise's story using the same prompt.
See you next week!
See you next week!