Then he started showing up the afternoons he was on call. His car would be in the driveway when we got home from school, and he'd be in the kitchen with his beeper on the table next to him. He fixed medical equipment, and Sydney worked at the Memorial Hospital, which was how they had met. I could see why he asked her out: She was stick thin and had this straight black hair to her waist and these huge boobs that Kaitlyn swore were fake. And I could see why she had said yes to him, too: He was built, and he wore tight T-shirts to show off his arms and his tattoos, but he had the kind of eyelashes you only expected to see on girls or babies.
"How'd everything go today, Daphne?" he'd say. He pronounced my name "Deaf Knee."
"Fine," I'd say back. I was the hurdle. Done, cleared, and out of the way, he could casually work on getting Kaitlyn alone.
Soon after Kaitlyn started disappearing with him upstairs, I asked my guidance counselor to register me for an after-school activity. She was thrilled. "This will look great on your transcript, Daphne!" she said. She was new; you could tell because she was enthusiastic about everything. "Schools are really interested in girls who excel in science. You keep working hard and your mother can stop worrying about college tuition." I told her Sydney didn't think that far in advance.
Wildlife Exploration had a spot open and met five days a week, so I signed on.
Still, I wondered what the neighbors thought, seeing Phil's car there when Sydney's wasn't. "Someone's finally looking after those Dumais girls," probably. Phil might've even seemed like some kind of father figure. I had hoped for that when Sydney first brought him home. I knew he had two boys of his own, and I pictured them combining us, a la Greg, Bobby, Marcia and Jan.
"Phil comes in my mouth," Kaitlyn told me one night as we were falling asleep, and that pretty much shot the whole notion down.
The first time
I actually heard Kaitlyn having sex, I thought there was a bird trapped in the house, probably because I had just sat through a club presentation on mourning doves by the local Bird and Nature Society. The birds were all over the power lines that year -- their chests milky pink and shimmery like a puddle of oil or the inside of a shell -- singing cooah, coo, coo, coo over and over until you wished you could get a slingshot and blast them off like soda cans.
I didn't think Kaitlyn was home. I didn't think anyone was home: Phil's car wasn't in the driveway and the place was dark. I had narrowed the noise down to the room next to the kitchen -- my mother's room -- and had my hand on the doorknob when I heard Sydney come through the front door.
I ran out to meet her. The cooing stopped, and grunting started up in its place. I wasn't stupid; I figured out what was going on.
"Where's your sister?" Sydney asked.
"I don't know," I said.
"What do you mean you don't know? Is she upstairs? Did she come home from school? These aren't difficult questions, Daphne."
It didn't take her very long to find them. Only it wasn't Phil with Kaitlyn. This time, it was her boyfriend, Trevor. He was in my grade. Kaitlyn had been dating seniors since she was 13; now that she was old enough to graduate, she had to dip backwards. I had biology with him. He was polite to me, but we weren't exactly lab partners. We didn't even sit near each other, and he didn't look at me unless I was called on, and then everybody looked at me because I would say, "I don't know," and the teacher would put his fingertips on his desk and say, "C'mon, Daphne, you do know."
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