Kayla squatted on the edge of the bank, washing her hands in the cold lake water while allowing the serenity of colors from the view to paint her soul. A trick of the lighting cast the mountains into a shade of blue that captured her current melancholy and broadcast it for God and the world to peruse. I can’t believe Dad would cheat on Mom like that and just leave us. With a girl only two years older than me, for Christ’s sake. That’s just creepy.
Ragged breathing, tinged with a slight wheeze, announced an intruder who broke into her reverie, leaving her canvas a half-formed jumble of conflicting shades. Kayla sighed and forced her lithe runner’s frame to rise. Inventive invectives muttered from behind lifted a corner of her mouth in true humor. “You know, if I’m what you said then you are as well, seeing as how we share the same mother and all.”
She turned to stare at a portly young man, three years younger than her twenty. “And wouldn’t it be ‘daughter’ for that? I mean, you are her only son, Chubba-Bubba.”
Henry Pleasant II, Hank to the public, Deuce to his friends, and often Deuce-stain to his sister, glared at Kayla. One of the hands clutching the knees of his pants raised up, rigid middle digit extended. “My, my,” Kayla said. “So articulate.”
Hank snorted and shrugged out of the hiking pack digging into his shoulders. The lifted weight allowed him to straighten his back for the first time in hours, and he moaned in relief. He strode to the edge of the lake, brushing past his sister, and knelt. Taking water in his cupped hands, he buried his face in them to scrub away the day’s worth of sweat and grime that marred him.
Kayla sat tailor-style next to him, projecting a façade of calm. “You know, fish poop in that water.”
Hank paused for a moment. “Still makes it cleaner than your room.” He eyed the water for a second, said “Screw it,” and leaned back to sprawl on the bank. “Why did you want to come out here?”
Kayla’s finger submitted itself for chewing to her mouth. Hank’s eyes narrowed as he recognized the nervous habit she’d held ever since toddler-hood. “Spit it out, Kay.”
“I’m going to go look for Dad,” she breathed out in a rush. Her neck twisted, hiding her face in the deepening gloom.
Quiet reigned, broken only by the soft rustles and chirps of Nature. Kayla brushed back a lock of her bottled-blonde hair to peek at Hank. To her surprise, he just laid there, hands behind his head and watching the stars shimmer into existence. “Hank?”
“I heard you. Why?” He struggled into a sitting position. “Why go after him, Kay? Mom already has investigators out searching for him.”
“Because I need to know why. Why he cheated on Mom. Why he hid all of his money from her, leaving her in such a mess. I need to know…” Her voice trailed off as tears escaped the carefully-constructed trap she’d set for them.
“You need to know why he hates us so much.” Hank scooted over next to his big sister and eased an arm around her shoulders. She sank into his offering, allowing the poison of the last couple of months to drain onto his shirt.
When the sobbing dissipated into sniffling, Hank said, “I’m coming with you.”
Kayla jerked up, eyes wide. “You can’t! You have school and Mom needs you, and…”
Hank chuckled. “And you need me to cover for you, right?” He gave Kayla a playful shove. “This isn’t you sneaking out to some party, doof. You need me.” He puffed out his chest and thumped it. “After all, I am smarter than you. All the tests said so.”
Kayla rolled her eyes, but thought about his proposal. Hank saved or invested almost every dime he’d earned or been given, amassing quite the fortune over the years. Her face flushed as she thought of all the money she’d blown on parties and shopping, always assuming there would be more whenever she needed it.
She reached over and mussed his dark brown hair. “All right, ‘genius,’ you can come with.”
He grinned, transforming him back into the boy she once thought she knew. “Great. Can we set up and eat something now? I’m starving.”
“You mean ‘Kayla, dear sister, will you do all the work while I sit and watch helplessly, completely unable to do anything that doesn’t involve calling on servants.'”
She laughed and walked to the tree-line as his hands sank into his fleshy sides in mock indignation.
My contribution for Cognitive Reflection’s Picture Writing Challenge #23 and another entry in the saga of the Pleasant family. To see the previous two installments click here for part 1 and here for part 2. Hope you enjoy!
Head on over to and join in the fun. The only “rule” is to use the photo in creating your story or poem.
Happy Reading and Writing!