The move came as a sort of perfect storm.
Dad received the house and its surrounding properties from an Uncle he had not seen since his teens. It was all paid off, so if Mom and Dad could sell the house, they could actually pay of the mortgage. They waited though, to see if each of them could find a job in the town which we would be moving to. Both asked their bosses and contacted people within the town itself, and through interviewing and resumes both were hired. They decided to wait a little longer, to check the school there, which had an excellent graduation and college acceptance rate, and those who did not graduate enjoyed success at trades or family businesses. Then the house sold after two weeks on the market.
When they no longer had any excuses, they told us to pack.
Alethea complained and grew more excited with every passing second. She detested the idea of moving right before her junior year, when she was very nearly at the peak of high school society, but she enjoyed the idea of “reinventing” herself.
“I hardly think you need to worry about reinventing yourself, Thea,” Mom told her while she helped her pack up another box of clothes.
“Oh, I guess you’re right.” She grinned. “I guess I was thinking of Tempest.”
I left the room when she said that.
Let me explain: I am not ugly. There seems, however, to be qualifications to my becoming beautiful. All I need to do is lose the dumpy “baby” fat that still clings to my frame, maybe grow my hair out a little, and learn to wear a little make up. The older women around me say I just need to bloom, as if it will happen overnight. They say that it happened for Alethea, so it will happen for me. But they are wrong. Alethea has always been a very certain kind of beautiful. She has never had to work at it, and she certainly did not need to “bloom.”
She enjoys making fun of me for it, that everyone thinks she’s the pretty one. And me? I’m the one who sticks to my room, who will probably have lots of cats when she gets older. That is what Alethea thinks, and so everyone else thinks it too.
You would never guess by our personalities that we were family (or that we even remotely liked each other), but you would certainly not guess by our looks that we were actually twins. She has auburn hair, an easy tan, and bright, bright green eyes. I have black hair, that came from somewhere on my dad’s side of the family, I burn more than I tan, and my eyes are murky blue, like polluted water. Apparently, they reminded my mother of a storm, which is why she named me Tempest.
“She doesn’t mean those things,” my mother said, as she stood in my door way and watched me pack my books. She would probably not help me pack, or even carry my things down to the trailer Dad wanted to rent to take some advanced possessions. No, I was not the one who needed help, not ever.
“If she didn’t mean them, she wouldn’t say them with a sick grin on her face,” I told her. “She means them.”
“I won’t try and stop you from believing what you want to believe,” she said. She looked up at my wall of books. “Remind me to get you an e-reader for Christmas. You have too many books.”
“No such thing,” I muttered under my breath as soon as she vacated my doorway. My library had grown with me since I was a young girl, since I learned to read, really. We had run out of shelves in the house to hold all of them, so really they sat in piles against one wall. I wanted to rectify that when I got to the new house, so I had made it very clear to my parents. I did not care if I got the biggest room or the one with a walk in closet, or even a view of the sea. All I wanted for furnishings in my room were a bed, a desk, a book shelf and maybe a new easel if we could be bothered to spend the time looking. Somehow I knew I wasn’t going to get my wish.
When the house was completely packed, we piled personal items into the trailer which would be attached to Dad’s truck, and then larger items, and the rest of the house, into the moving van. Then we were off for the week long, grueling drive to our new home on the west coast. I spent most of the time reading, drawing in my sketch pad and navigating as Mom was hopeless with a map and Alethea would not be bothered to try. It meant I got to sit up front, so I did not mind much.
After the week was finished, I had to admit the town we were driving into was quite charming. It was sandwiched between mountains and the sea, so we went up the side of a mountain, and then down into a valley to get there. The whole place was quite hilly and everywhere you went, there were old paths and steps that took you into places of the town or the mountains which you may never see again. Upon first glance, I figured I could live as a starving artist here quite comfortably for the rest of my life.
“Now girls,” Mom said as we navigated the streets, Dad behind us with the trailer. “I don’t want you sitting around the house all summer, moping about. I realize both of you are in a new city, and you don’t really know anyone, but I’m giving you just one week to unpack your rooms. Then I want you out. I don’t care what you do, so long as it’s not illegal. Walk the town, meet people, try and get a job. You are turning sixteen, soon, so it won’t be that hard.”
We arrived at the house, which sat perched at the top of a hill, in the middle of the day, which was plenty of time for us to unpack the trailer, roll out some sleeping bags and call out for pizza. During which time, I set up a course of action for my days of summer. I knew if I didn’t do something, Mom would force me to tag along with Alethea, which never ended well. So I made plans to find the used book store and an art store in town, and spend my days reading and doing landscapes of my surroundings—there would be plenty of new ones for me to cover.
The truck arrived the next day, and we quickly unpacked the house, though there were still boxes here and there and some that went up into storage. The next day, Mom drove us into town to pick out our rooms. All of the stores which could possibly be needed in doing so were all in the same place, so going from one to the next was easy. I found a bed and a desk easily enough, and even a trunk which was on sale and could hold all of my art supplies. I was at a loss for a shelf large enough to hold all of my books.
The man at the furnishings store scratched his head when I described my dilemma.
“Well,” he said. “You could always make a set. There’s plenty of supplies for that kind of project in the hardware store, and probably a few instruction manuals as well. Not that shelves are a particularly difficult thing to do.”
“Thank you for the advice,” I said. I had to go to the hard ware store anyway to pick out paint, so I might as well look at the wood, and ask how I might put up some shelves.
They were quite helpful, telling me about how much wood I should need for a project like mine, and what kind of fixtures to use to makes sure the shelves staid up. They even had a stain I could apply that would match my bed, trunk and desk. When I called Mom to ask if she would mind me bringing home lumber she replied,
“Oh, sweetie, I didn’t know you would be done so soon. Alethea and I went out to lunch. Listen, call your dad and he should be able to pick you up.” I tried not to clench my phone so tightly in my hand that it exploded, and dialed up my dad. He came right down and approved of my project, helping me load the lumber, paint and everything else I needed into the bed of the truck, and then we drove home.
“Can you keep a secret?” he asked as we pulled up into the drive.
“Sure,” I replied.
“You know how the house is huge?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Well, there’s a sort of shed,” he said. “I think my uncle had it redone so that maybe he could use it as a work room. Anyway, no one’s using it. I thought you might like it for a kind of studio.” I blinked at his kindness.
“Sure, thanks, Dad.” We unloaded the truck and brought all of the lumber into the former work room, and then I took the paint up to my room, dropped some clothes on the hard wood floors and began to paint. When Mom and Alethea finally came home, the first coat was already up and drying. I had taken measurements of the walls and was down in my studio staining boards for when I would cut them up and nail two together so that they would be wide enough that I could put books on them. I did not come out for fear that my mother would finagle me into helping Alethea with her room, and so I would never get mine done.
I kept to myself, working diligently and keeping out of the way of my sister. I finished my room and it had a particularly calm affect to it. The walls were a sea blue, with darker blue spirals and waves flowing out of pockets. The shelves on the walls were a dark mahogany color, and they held my books with room left over for more. But then the week was done.
I still had my plan though. I got up early, showered, ate breakfast, and then wandered out to the art supply store I had taken note of. I bought new pads of paper, pencils, pastels, charcoals and other pieces of supplies, and carried them out in a supply box which I had used for years. Then I meandered down toward the used book store I spotted and browsed the shelves for what felt like hours, though when I got out, I had not passed nearly enough time. So I sat down with my carefully selected bunch of new novels and began to read until a clock in the center of the city began to chime for four o’ clock. Then I started the winding ways back home.
“So what did you girls do today?” Mom asked.
“I met some kids at the local pool. I’m gonna be going to school with them next semester,” she proclaimed, happily. My parents smiled and nodded in approval.
“What did you do, Tempest?” my father asked.
“I just wandered around,” I replied. “Got to know the town.” My parents always thought there might be something wrong with me, because I liked to be alone. I never saw anything wrong with wanting to have my own piece of quiet to think and create it. But they never really got it. There were almost therapists involved a few times, but I passed basic psychological evaluations. There was nothing wrong with me, to their everlasting surprise.