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Percy watched rain collect on the car window in tiny flecks, clouding his view of the passing world outside, in which twilight had just fallen. “Now remember,” his father, a portly man wearing a collared tan sweatshirt, said from the car seat beside him, “Grandma might not be the same as you remember her. She’s getting old, but be nice to her.”
Percy rolled his hazel eyes, tinged with gray, barely visible beneath long bangs. He opened his mouth to speak, to remind his father that he had already said that three times in the last hour, but shut it again. Silence again flooded the royal blue car, save the rain and windshield wipers rotating back and forth.
“We’re here,” his father announced, as though Percey had not been there a hundred times before, as though he was deaf to the turn signal ticking. Slamming the car door shut behind him, Percy rushed to the front door -- a strange shade of purple -- and shivered while he waited for his father, who strolled along the sidewalk as though it were a sunny afternoon in the heart of July. He ruffled through his jeans pockets and retrieved a silver key. Jamming it into the slot on the door, he cursed when jiggling it around a few times proved unsuccessful.
After a few minutes, his father had at last managed to open the door. Percy wished he had worn his striped hoodie, especially when seeing his slick hair, turned black by rain, in the full-frame mirror positioned against the white walls of the living room entrance. In his black shirt and jeans, he looked vaguely like a burnt marshmallow, especially since the rain somehow accentuated his paleness. The one exception to this was his unnatural thinness; his jeans rode on his hips, clavicles protruding from between shoulder and neck.
“She’s upstairs.” His father stared at Percy’s reflection in the mirror when he said this. “I’ll see how she is, and then you can go up and say hello.” With this, his father ascended the gloomily lit stairwell, leaving Percy momentarily by himself to carefully examine the old photographs mixed with newer ones framed atop the rusty dresser beside the mirror.
With mild interest, but careful attention to its age as evidenced in its dusty edges, he delicately picked up an older frame prominently displayed in the center of the dresser and identified immediately the two figures displayed: it was of his father and grandmother. A young boy with flaxen hair, Percy’s father smiled with his mouth open, revealing a missing front tooth. They sat, heads pressed together, on a bale of hay in a field. Although it was in gray, the picture was clearly taken under a golden sun. With only a few lines from her careless laugh, and no gray hair to speak of, Percy’s grandmother looked like an entirely different woman.
“You can go on up.” Percy jumped, and the picture frame dropped from his hands, thudding heavily against the dresser. He had not heard his father descend the stairwell, but the haunted look on his face was enough to make Percy wary.
At first glance, Percy thought the bedroom to be empty. But what he mistook for a pillow he now realized to be his grandmother, curled into a ball, white hair sprawled out on the pillow itself.
As rooms go, the bedroom was unnaturally void of furniture. It was lit only by the darkening blue of the sky; the tiny lamp on the bedside, in which his grandmother faced, was turned off, while the phone resting on a wicker table in the dusty corner was unplugged. Were it not for the sad figure on its surface, the bed, with its bright green floral pattern, may have seemed somewhat cheery.
“Hi, Grandma.” Silence. He stepped closer, reaching the bed’s edge, waiting for even the slightest movement on the bed. If anything, Percy felt relieved when he decided her to be asleep, and as he backed slowly away and turned around, there was a slight rustle of bedcovers.
“What are you doing in my bedroom?” demanded a voice that Percy, who now felt his knees shaking like a thousand earthquakes, recognized vaguely to be his grandmother.
Turning slowly, he almost fell backwards at the sight of his grandmother. Although he did not consider himself observant, it didn’t escape Percy’s attention how thin and frail his grandmother had become. Arms streaked with heavy blue veins, face covered in blotchy liver spots, what made Percy stutter out an apology was the way her gray eyes stared, demanding, alight with anger. It was the only way Percy could tell she was still alive, those frightening gray eyes.
If his grandmother heard his apology, she did not show any recognition in her now-vacant stare. “Who are you?” she asked curiously, in the voice of a young child, staring in the same manner as they do: pointedly and without embarrassment.
“You sure do look like Earl. Have you seen my Earlie? He said he would be back soon from the store. Yup, any minute now, I expect. Hey, do you want to play checkers until he gets here? I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. Hey - wait!” she said as Percy bolted from the room. “Come back! Wait!”