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Coming Home Ch. 05

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5. CONFESSION

After getting dressed, Kerri padded downstairs quietly, wishing she could stay with her father all night. Now that they were no longer alone, the long nights they’d spent together the previous summer seemed like even more of an indulgence. Their chances of getting any more such moments this trip were slim at best. Silently, she resigned herself to taking what she could get.

The house had only one spare bedroom — the other had been changed into a makeshift storage space years ago — and so Kerri knew that she and Kim would be bunking together, just as they used to when they were both younger. Even though road fatigue and the after-effects of adrenaline had left her light-headed and weary, she ducked into the bathroom for a quick shower. Kim might be a tad oblivious, but diving into bed next to her smelling of sex was not a chance she was willing to take.

She stripped off her clothes and showered, not bothering to wet her hair, and dried herself. When she returned, naked, to the bedroom, she found Kim curled up on the side of the bed that had traditionally been hers, knees drawn up against her chest, arms protruding off the side of the bed in the odd sleepy abandon that was Kim’s trademark. Kerri slipped into the cool sheets on her own side, briefly wondering if sleeping in the nude next to her sister would be considered strange, then deciding she didn’t care.

Kerri gazed out the window, still euphoric from their encounter upstairs. It was only going to get more difficult from here to find time with her dad. Even once had been risky, and she was uncertain she could even talk him into it a second time. She began to nod off, vague fantasies of locking Kim in a closet for a few hours running through her head.

“What were you two doing?”

Kim’s voice instantly startled her back to wakefulness. “What?” she said, a little more nervously than she’d intended, and sat up.

Kim rolled over, her eyes half-open, and regarded her with a sleepy glare. “I heard a bunch of noise upstairs.”

Kerri’s throat closed. “You did?”

“I heard something thump.”

Kerri thought of her knees hitting the hardwood floor as her father had pushed her down in front of him. Surely it couldn’t have been that loud. Could it?

“You were just dreaming,” she said, trying to keep her voice from quavering — she felt like her heart had sprung up through her chest into her throat. “Go back to sleep.”

Kim mumbled something incoherent and rolled onto her side again, then rolled back. “Are you naked?” she asked.

Kerri sighed. “Yes, I am.”

“Weirdo,” Kim said, and rolled away again. Within moments, her breath evened out into sleep again.

It was a long time before Kerri could doze off again.

# # #

By the time Kerri woke up the next day, sunlight was streaming through the window directly into her face. She sat up and found the bed empty apart from herself. She put on some clothes — a blue tank top and jeans — and ventured out of the bedroom.

She emerged into an empty house. The television and lights were off, and the living room was unoccupied. “Hello?” she called out, and met only with silence. Finding no one downstairs, she padded upstairs to the master bedroom, fearing for the briefest instant that Kim had unraveled the mystery and decided it was time to try to outdo Kerri, just like she did with everything else, that she would somehow find the two of them together, naked —

But no. The bed, and the bedroom, were empty. She was alone.

She walked back downstairs and peered out the kitchen window into the driveway. The truck was gone, the tire tracks it had left behind already filling up with falling snow.

So they’d gone without her. Without even telling her. A knot of resentment and anger formed in her stomach, and she decided to make herself breakfast to take her mind off the sudden feeling of abandonment.

Two hours later, as Kerri sat in front of the television, she heard the truck amble up the driveway. A few moments later, Kim and her father bustled into the house, carrying bags, both of them talking and laughing.

“Hey sis,” Kim chirped.

She turned, trying not to glare. “Hey,” she said. “Where were you two?”

“In town,” Steve said, as if it were self-explanatory. “I had to make a parts run.”

“To the hardware store?” Kerri asked. “Why didn’t anybody tell me?”

Steve looked at her quizzically. “I told Kim to leave a note. Didn’t you?”

Kim made a show of puzzlement so complete and detailed that Kerri instantly knew it was fake. “I thought I did,” she said, scanning the empty kitchen counter as she shrugged off her coat. “Oh, wait a minute. I put it in my coat pocket by accident. I’m sorry.” She gave Kerri a sympathetic look. An Oscar-winning performance all around.

“And yet, society trusts her enough to vote for the leader of our nation,” Steve said.

Kim scoffed indignantly. “Shut up, dad!” she said, and gave him a playful push as he emptied the bags. Kerri saw that they’d hit poker oyna the grocery store as well.

“No big deal,” she said with a smile, then turned back to the television. She listened to Kim and her dad chatter happily until she couldn’t take it anymore, and turned up the volume to drown them out.

# # #

The snow began falling in earnest, and Steve bundled up again and ventured outside to plow the driveway. Kerri tuned the television to some brain-dead movie, and tried not to pay attention as Kim wandered around the house.

After awhile, Kim disappeared into the upstairs, and Kerri did her best to try to stifle her own resentment. She was being silly. So the two of them had gotten a little alone time. Was that so unreasonable? Why did she feel so jealous about something as stupid as a trip to the hardware store? Why did she think of that store as somehow her territory, territory that Kim was blithely horning in on?

The whole thing was stupid and petty — exactly the kind of feelings her younger sister seemed so capable of inspiring in her, often without even trying. Kerri tried to lose herself in the movie and forget about it.

After awhile, Kim flopped down next to Kerri on the couch, carrying an armful of books. Kerri glanced over and saw that they were the old family photo albums — Kim had dug them out from their father’s room upstairs.

“Do you want to look at these with me?” Kim asked, brushing her blonde hair out of her eyes. She drew her legs up underneath her and sat cross-legged, the first of the albums open on her lap.

“No thanks,” Kerri said.

Kim shrugged and began leafing through the pages, making the occasional comment as she went. “Oh wow. Junior year. Look at you. You were so gorgeous. What happened?”

“Bite me,” Kerri said.

“It’s all that college binge drinking. Dries you out and makes you all leathery and haggard-“

“I can’t help it, I have to drink to forget living under the same roof with you for sixteen years.”

“Shut up,” Kim said, not unkindly. “Oh my God, remember this? The Halloween I was into Sailor Jupiter? I looked awesome.” She tilted the album so Kerri could see. Kerri gave it a passing glance.

“You looked like a pedo-bait microskank,” she declared.

“You’re so mean!” Kim said, slamming the album shut and picking up the next one. “Oh, that reminds me. We ran into Dad’s friend Rich while we are at the hardware store. Remember him?”

“A little,” Kerri lied, remembering the possibly-knowing glance Rich had given her after her encounter with her father in the store’s back room that summer. She was pretty sure she could never set foot in the place again.

“He got me by myself and I swear, he totally made a pass at me. Like, started asking me all these questions about how long I planned to stay, and if I was enjoying hanging out with my dad, and how I’d grown and shit, while he stared right at my chest. It was weird.”

“He totally wanted you,” Kerri said idly.

“Probably,” Kim laughed, leafing through the new album. “He’s actually not that bad for an older guy, though.”

Kerri gave her an incredulous look. “Rich?” she asked.

“Yeah. He’s got the gray hair and those big rough hands. And he’s not that old. I’d do him.”

Kerri shifted uncomfortably on the couch. Out of nowhere, the question of whether or not she and her sister thought alike had presented itself, unwelcome as a drunken houseguest. “He’s the same age as Dad,” she said, looking sideways to gauge Kim’s reaction, even as a quiet voice in her mind asked her what the hell she was doing by guiding the conversation in this direction.

Kim smiled a little and continued leafing through the photo album, then shrugged her shoulders. “That doesn’t bother me. I bet he likes that anyway. He’s probably an old pervert and wants me to call him Daddy.”

A hysterical laugh escaped from Kerri before she realized it was coming, and she clapped her hand over her mouth for a moment. “Oh my God,” she said.

“What?” Kim looked over at her, somewhat intently. “Does that freak you out or something?”

Oh, Kim, Kerri thought. You can’t imagine how much and how little that freaks me out at the same time.

“No,” she said out loud. “You should totally go for it. Maybe you can find that old Sailor Jupiter costume and pay him a visit.”

Kim giggled. “Okay, now you’re just being gross.” She flipped a page as she pondered. “Although I’ll bet it still fits.”

“Now who’s the pervert?” Kerri asked, attempting it as a bit of a dig, but her heart wasn’t in it.

“Guilty, I guess,” Kim said, not rising to the bait. Kerri looked over at her sister. Kim was staring down at an old photograph of their dad, wearing that same flannel shirt he still wore, his hair a little fuller, his frame a little leaner — but still not that different.

Kim smiled. “Do you remember when I was younger and I wanted to marry Dad when I grew up? And I even told him about it?”

Kerri massaged a temple with her fingertips. A headache canlı poker oyna had suddenly developed. “I really don’t,” she said, lying again.

“I don’t remember exactly what he said,” Kim said. “I remember he laughed about it and thought it was sweet. I remember how disappointed I was when I finally figured out that I couldn’t marry my own dad. I’m so glad I didn’t blather that to someone at school or something. It’s so embarrassing.”

“Yeah,” Kerri said. “Pretty embarrassing.”

Kim fell silent for a moment, the crackle of the turning pages and the distant rumble of the snowplow the only sound in the room. “Dad was a hot guy, though,” she said at last.

Kerri blinked. The surreal turn of the conversation snapped something in her. “What are you talking about?” she said, more harshly than she’d intended.

Kim shrugged. “I’m just saying, he was an attractive guy. Still is, really. He’s got that rugged sort of–“

“You shouldn’t be thinking that way about him,” Kerri blurted, even as alarm bells went off in her own head. She willed herself to shut up while she still could. “Are you nuts?”

Kim looked over at her quizzically. “What’s wrong with you?”

“I’m just saying, that’s… inappropriate.”

“What’s the big deal? I’m just talking. You’re acting like–“

“Well, do me a favor,” Kerri interrupted. “Don’t talk about it, okay? Just don’t.” She got up from the couch and rushed from the room.

“Kerri!” Kim’s voice called after her, bewildered and hurt. Kerri shut herself in the bathroom and blocked the door with her body, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that she’d just royally screwed up.

# # #

After a long time, Kerri slipped out of the bathroom and into their shared bedroom, hoping Kim wouldn’t be there. She wasn’t, and Kerri threw herself onto the bed, covering her eyes with her hands. She stayed that way for the better part of an hour, contemplating ways out of the verbal maze she’d just blundered into. Why had she been so stupid as to overreact like that? Why was she reacting like a jealous lover?

That, of course, was the exact answer. If Kim had similar feelings for Dad — if she even hinted at it, even as a joke or an idle fancy — she suddenly became a rival. Something for the two of them to fight about. But that entire thought was ridiculous. It simply wasn’t possible that Kim felt the same way. Was it?

Her mind began to concoct wild scenarios, imagining Kim going through the same agonized thought process that she had gone through herself: admitting her feelings, wrestling with the shame and doubt, putting those feelings away, bringing them out again, finally deciding to take the plunge and confront them, maybe during a moment alone with her Dad when she knew no one was watching…

It seemed ridiculous, yet at the same time utterly plausible.

Even worse was the idea that Kim felt the exact opposite, and that Kerri had somehow tipped her hand by so wildly overreacting to what her sister had said. She liked to make fun of Kim as being dumb, but she really wasn’t, and even if she was unlikely to figure out what was going on from such thin evidence, it wasn’t inconceivable. And if she did figure it out — it could tear all three of them apart.

Kerri tried to control her sudden, panicky breaths, willing herself to calm down, until her dad knocked on the door and summoned her to the dinner table.

Dinner was only slightly awkward. Kim and her dad chatted as amiably as always, talking about the trip into town, what had changed, what hadn’t changed, the weather, the snowplow, the novelty of satellite television in the house. Kerri ate quietly and chimed in when she had an opportunity, which was not often — the two of them talked almost non-stop, and if Kim anything, Kim seemed to have forgotten what had happened earlier.

But, of course, Kerri knew that she hadn’t.

# # #

The three of them watched television until around ten, and then Steve begged off, citing weariness from a day of plowing the snow. He hugged them both and gave them both kisses on the cheek, and Kerri found herself ashamed that a part of her mind laboriously timed each kiss, measuring them against one another. Some sibling rivalries never ended, it seemed — but her own kiss was slightly longer, so she was satisfied.

Kerri retired to the bedroom and stripped off her clothes while Kim showered. She drew the sheets up around her and lay on her side, listening to the running water and watching the snow fall outside. She found herself wishing she hadn’t even come up here. She chastised herself for endangering the secret she’d sworn to her father she’d keep. She hoped that Kim would just fall into bed and go to sleep without trying to start a discussion.

When the shower stopped, she closed her eyes and lay still. She pretended to be asleep as Kim came into the bedroom and sat down on the side of the bed. She heard the whisper of Kim brushing her hair.

“You’re not sleeping,” Kim said at last.

Kerri pursed her lips. internet casino “How do you know?”

“I didn’t. I do now.”

Kerri opened her eyes and rolled onto her back. Kim perched on the end of the bed in a white bathrobe, brushing her wet hair.

“So,” Kim said. “What’s going on with you?”

“What are you talking about?”

Kim put down the brush with a disgusted look. “Please, let’s not do this. You’re obviously pissed at me about something. I’d just like to know what I did so I can apologize for it.”

Kerri winced and sat up, drawing her knees up against her chest. The covers fell off her, leaving her half-nude in front of Kim, but she didn’t care.

“You didn’t do anything,” Kerri said. “You have nothing to apologize for.”

“Then what?” Kim asked, turning to face her. Her bathrobe slipped open a bit, the neckline suddenly plunging to her navel. “Why are you being so weird?”

Kerri shrugged. “I guess I’m just a little jealous,” she said.

“Of what?”

“Of you and Dad. How you talk all the time. How well you get along.”

Kim snorted. “Are you crazy? Dad wouldn’t stop talking about you the whole time we drove into town. How much fun you’d had that summer, how great it was that you were performing well in school, and how proud he is of you and on and on.”

Kerri rubbed the back of her neck. “He did?”

“He totally did,” Kim said. “So, if anyone’s jealous, it should be me. You’re the favorite in the house right now. The only reason he’s talking to me at all is because I’ve been gone for longer.”

Kerri grimaced. “That’s not true.”

“How do you know?” Kim said.

Kerri only shrugged.

“Okay, then,” Kim said. “So, will you please stop acting like the jealous older sister? I’m not going to take Dad’s love away from you.”

Kerri laughed, then suddenly felt herself on the verge of tears. She clapped a hand over her mouth, desperately searching for a cover. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I was so mean to you.”

“Aw,” Kim said, and scooted over to hug her. Her bathrobe fell open even further, and for a moment, their bare flesh met before Kim drew back self-consciously. “God, don’t cry about it.”

“Sorry,” Kerri said, and managed a smile. She met Kim’s gaze and found her sister staring back at her intently.

“What?”

Kim bit her lip. “Is there something else going on?”

Kerri’s heart thumped. “What do you mean?”

“I’m just… you just got really upset when I talked about how… about Dad.”

“Yeah.” Kerri swallowed hard.

“What was that all about?” Kim asked. “Did I freak you out or something?”

Kerri took a deep breath and gave a small, nervous laugh. “Yeah, maybe a little,” she said, hoping that would let her off the hook.

Kim looked away, frowning. “Do you think it was… wrong of me to say?” She gazed at the wall, a faraway look in her eyes.

Oh, shit, Kerri thought. “Kim, you don’t have to–“

“Because sometimes,” Kim interrupted, “I still think about it.” She looked at Kerri, her expression so vulnerable that Kerri truly felt for her. She knew that expression. She saw the same doubt and anguish that she’d experienced herself.

“You have?” Kerri ventured quietly.

Kim nodded. “Yeah. I think the worst part was when I was with my first boyfriend, earlier this year, when we…” She made a vague gesture with her hands. “Can I tell you a secret?”

No, Kerri thought. Please god no. “Yes,” she said out loud.

“Do you promise not to tell anyone?”

Please just don’t tell me, Kerri thought. “I promise.”

Kim took a deep breath and braced herself. “When I had my first time with my boyfriend, I… I thought about him. I thought about Dad.”

“Oh god,” Kerri said, and put her hand over her mouth. Kim winced, no doubt taking her sister’s shocked expression entirely the wrong way.

“I felt so bad about it afterward,” Kim said. “I didn’t tell my boyfriend, but we ended up fighting a lot after that, and I… didn’t have sex with him again. We just broke up eventually. And then we had break-up sex once, before he moved away, and I thought about Dad again. I couldn’t help it. And I liked it. I liked it a lot. And I felt so guilty about it…”

Kerri sat frozen, eyes wide.

Kim ran her hands through her hair. “And I thought that I wouldn’t think about it at all when I came up here. I would just compartmentalize it, put it out of my mind and just chalk it up to… to hormones or something. I don’t know. But then when we were sitting together on the couch… I started…”

Kim stopped and looked over at her sister. Kerri’s hand was still over her mouth.

“Oh my god,” Kim said. “You think I’m a total freak.”

“I don’t,” Kerri said.

“I am, though. It’s completely sick.”

“It isn’t.”

“How can you say that?” Kim asked. “It’s… he’s my dad!” She looked as though she was about to cry. “You think I’m totally disgusting, don’t you?”

Kerri closed her eyes. The decision in front of her was plain: confess or lie. Neither path was easy. If she told her sister what she’d done, it could truly tear them both apart. But she couldn’t let Kim suffer the same self-doubt that had gnawed at her for months and years.

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