She Plays the Violin- Part 5

“Maybe I could go to a show with you, some time?” Lina says. “If you want.” They’re slogging through homework with sheets wrapped around their thighs, like the cotton might protect them from the boredom of busywork. Lina puts her AP European History textbook down on the floor between their beds.

Everything is different now but it also isn’t. They made a routine a long time ago of climbing into their matching twin beds after school and doing homework from nests of pillows, but these aren’t the beds Violet is used to. They belong to Uncle Thomas, who they’ve been living with for the last few months. After their father was released – no prison sentence, no charges brought, even, but still a terrible, terrible thing, Uncle Thomas had told them – Violet and Lina started sleeping in Uncle Thomas’s guestroom. They still haven’t gone back. It’s better for your father to take some time for himself right now, Aunt Alicia had said, the day they lugged their suitcases up the stairs to the guestroom. Merle and Gus went with Uncle Elijah and Aunt Melissa just a few blocks away, who don’t have any kids and so don’t mind having two of them bed down in their living room. That’s what they say, anyway.

“I’ve been thinking about it,” Lina presses. “What you get out of live shows, I mean. You’ve been going to so many recently.”

“I didn’t think you were even interested,” Violet says, glancing up from the laptop balanced on her knees.

“I wasn’t. Until you started going. I can ask Maria if she wants to come, and we could head to Richmond one Saturday…” She raises one eyebrow.

Violet’s instinct is to say, I want that time for myself. She’s come to think of her weekends, which she now spends underneath the overheated lights of this or that music club, as the only time she can be alone. At first she liked moving in with family, especially Maria and fourteen-year-old Toby. But Maria dropped piano lessons for lacrosse practice and dates with guys on the football team when she and Violet started high school, and Toby speaks more through his headset to the people he games with than anyone else in the house. Violet feels like Alice in Wonderland, both too big and too small for the house, belonging nowhere. Even when Lina’s not in the room they share and Violet has the space (which holds two of everything: two beds, two lamps, two framed photographs of their mother which Lina insisted on bringing with them) to herself, Violet’s skin prickles. Her body knows she isn’t home.

“I’ll look around for something you might like,” Violet says instead. But her mind is already shying away from the idea.

Lately, even Lina’s been talking to her with the same forced gentleness in her voice, as if at any moment Violet might crack open like an egg. Violet wants to take her sister by the shoulder and say, You’re being too good. In the three months since their mother’s disappearance, Lina’s been the one who visits Gus and Merle at Uncle Elijah’s most often. She calls their father and tells him to make sure the pipes at home haven’t frozen up, and she washes the sheets on their beds so that Aunt Alicia doesn’t have to do extra laundry. Their father is now spending so much time in his research lab that Violet isn’t sure he still qualifies as a resident of Avett’s Landing. She’d like to ask him what he thinks this will solve, and does he understand what his insistence on being alone is doing to all of them, but instead Violet wrings out her confusion and bitterness into the miasma of the music.

“Thanks,” Lina says. She pauses. “I really want to go, you know. I’m not just asking…because.”

“I know that,” Violet tells her.

They never do go to a show together.

Read Part 6