Jennifer Jackson stepped out of the front door of the Jackson house and stood on the porch, gazing out at the world around her. An oriole burst into song from somewhere in the leafy depths of the gigantic elm tree on the front lawn and in the distance she could could hear the faint echo of the Petersons’ dog barking urgently at some almost certainly imagined threat. A breeze rustled through the leaves of the elm tree and a flash of orange darted across the sky as the oriole disappeared over the roof of the house and into the trees. The sun shone determinedly from a clear blue sky, as if trying to convince itself and anyone else who cared to take notice, that summer had indeed arrived, and that the snow that had fallen less than a week ago was just a bad dream meant to be forgotten.
Jennifer stepped down from the porch and walked slowly toward the lounger that sat on the grass just outside of the shade cast by the elm. She was about to sit down when a disembodied voice called out from somewhere nearby.
“You want a beer?”
Jennifer turned towards the house trailer that stood, largely hidden behind the tall lilac hedge at the south side of the lawn.
“What kind of a question is that Brady?” she called back. “What do you have?”
“I’ll bring you a Grasshopper,” came the reply. Jennifer seated herself comfortably on the lounger, rolling the legs of her khaki shorts up a little to let the sun at a little more of her winter-white skin. She heard the door of the trailer slam and a moment later Brady ambled around the corner of the building and across the grass towards her. He handed her a cold bottle and plopped himself down in the Adirondack chair beside her. He extended the hand with his bottle in it, and Jennifer did the same. The bottles met with a satisfactory clink.
“Cheers,” they said in unison.
They sat for a minute without speaking, revelling in the warmth and the stillness.
“Helluva day,” said Brady.
“Doesn’t get any better than this,” said Jennifer. “Where’s Amanda?”
“She went to the city to see her mom,” said Brady. “Where’s Randy?”
“Took the family to see Grandma and Grandpa,” said Jennifer. “How come you didn’t go with Amanda?”
“I had important things to do here,” said Brady.
“Such as?” said Jennifer.
Brady gave a little smirk. “Such as having a beer with my little sister,” he said. “When’s the last time I did that?”
“Never,” said Jennifer. “Not just the two of us.”
“Exactly,” said Brady. He gestured towards Jennifer’s drink. “That beer,” he said, “is meant to make up for all the horrible things I did to you when we were children.”
Jennifer laughed. “Consider us even,” she said. “You never did anything that horrible. And anyway, I always got you back.”
“Did you?” said Brady. “What about the time I pulled the head off of your favourite Barbie and held it over the toilet while I flushed, and then you punched me and I accidentally dropped the head and you watched it disappear down the whirling porcelain vortex of doom. You never got me back for that.”
“That’s what you think,” said Jennifer.
Brady leaned back in his chair and looked at Jennifer. It took a second but then the realization dawned. “You’re kidding,” he said.
Jennifer just smiled.
“You took my Limited Edition Spiderman action figure?” Brady was aghast. “What did you do with it?”
“I hid it behind the cold air vent in my room,” said Jennifer. “I was going to give it back to you but I kept forgetting and then after awhile I couldn’t because it would have just been awkward.” She took a sip of her beer. “You can have it back now if you want,” she said casually.
Brady was speechless. He stared at his sister as if he had never seen her before. “Seriously?” he said. “You’re the worst sister ever.”
Jennifer laughed again. “Or the best,” she said. “If I hadn’t kept it you would have lost it long ago. And now you’ve turned into a sweet guy, who brings me beer on a hot summer day so you deserve to have it back. And by the way, I looked it up online. It’s worth somewhere around $250 if it’s in immaculate condition. Which it is since it’s never been played with.” She paused. “You’re welcome,” she added.
Brady shook his head slowly. “You’re horrible,” he said. “But I love you.”
Jennifer grinned. “Love you too,” she said. “And thanks for the beer.”