A Conversation With Lona

If Lona wanted to avoid him on the last day of his visit, then so be it. They had already spent the week ignoring each other in the hope of preventing another “one-sided discussion.” For the sake of his sister, however, he would at least make an attempt at a goodbye.

David pushed open the door without knocking. Her room was dark, exactly as David expected. The walls were painted black and plastered with posters of white-faced Goth musicians. Spray-painted epithets–“Love the Night” and “No Rules”–ran in red rivulets down an uncovered space near the window. On the bed, sable satin sheets were pushed into a pile to make room for a mound of wrinkled clothes. A subtle aroma of incense and sweat hung in the air. Lona was a typical teenage slob.

The window shade was pulled down and stapled to the sill, ensuring the gloomy atmosphere. The only source of light came from a pulsating Salem’s Lot screensaver on a computer in the corner; it cut a dim swatch through the room like a crimson beacon. Had Lona been there, he would have told her, not for the first time, to get a life.

He flipped on the light switch and the shadows fled. Abruptly, the room appeared very different. The deep black walls faded into shades of gray. The screensaver no longer sliced into the room, but splashed it in subtle strokes of rose. Even the harsh graffiti looked smoother, less sharp.

But what surprised David the most were the little details that had previously lain hidden from view. Leaning against the computer were three fencing foils tipped with yellow plastic nubs. Next to them, a mesh mask rested on a neatly folded white jacket. In the opposite corner an easel proudly supported a half-finished watercolor, its soft pastels promising a new perspective on an ordinary bowl of plastic fruit. She certainly showed talent. Under the window were a violin case, weathered and worn, and a music stand displaying Paganini’s Sonata Concertata in A major. How long had she been playing the violin? Over the bed, a sagging shelf was smothered in paperbacks. Salem’s Lot was there, of course, and The Shining. To Kill a Mockingbird sat atop The Catcher in the Rye and Peter Pan. God, did Atticus understand people. Amazingly, a worn copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets snuggled up against Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Winnie the Pooh threatened to push Huckleberry Finn, David’s all-time favorite story, over the edge.

Beside the bed was a nightstand littered with photographs: Lona and her mother sunning themselves on the beach; Ruffles lying on his back with a bone clamped in his mouth, four paws jutting in the air; her father sitting in the cockpit of his F-105 just before his final flight; and a much younger David, grinning broadly, holding his newborn niece in his arms. He remembered that day. She was such a squirmy little baby. He could still smell the fresh, clean smell of her.

David flipped off the light and shut the door. There was one other place she might be. He ran down the stairs, through the kitchen, and out into the backyard. And he found her, sitting on the deck with her eyes closed and her headphones on, bouncing her fists on her knees.

He had three hours until his flight home.

Just enough time for a conversation.

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