Layla, in the kitchen, busies herself by cutting up vegetables that were not meant for any particular meal. It is mid morning and the Whitechapel apartment is flooded with a bronze bath from the brilliant summer sun. An old grandfather clock ticks, tocks, ticks, and tocks in the far corner of the living room where Richard, a man in his late fifties but looking more like he was in his early forties, sits anxiously on the loveseat staring at a blank television screen and bouncing his right leg repetitively. Besides the clock, ticking and tocking, you could hear a pin drop throughout the entire apartment.
Suddenly, Layla stops chopping and Richard takes instant notice.
"What is it, honey?" He asks from the other room. Layla stares blankly out the window above the counter and watches the cars below at the intersection.
"I'm just so nervous." She says, gently putting down the knife and wringing her hands nervously. "It's just
I've only meet him once and now he's coming back after being gone for so long, and I'm sure it's awfully stressful
"The best thing we can do is be supportive and act like he was never gone." Says Richard reassuringly.
"But you have so much experience with these things, you work with these kinds of people every day, and he's you're son. I'm just a stepmum, it's different."
"Believe me, my being a psychologist gives me absolutely no advantage here, at the very least it impairs me." Layla holds her breath when she sees a white Volvo pull into the drive. Still wringing her hands, she walks out of the kitchen and takes a seat beside her husband. Richard puts his arm around her and pulls her hands down from her chest into her lap and she stops wringing them.
Suddenly, there is a loud creek from downstairs followed by the bang of the front door hitting the wall. Richard stands and heads downstairs to greet his son who has been in a behavioral health center for the past month. Layla stays on the loveseat and picks at the skin around her fingernails.
Downstairs, a short blue-haired woman around twenty-three, Delilah, with bright green eyes and whose entire wardrobe reminded one of people like Joan Jet and Lita Ford, is hauling in a small duffel bag while a tall man, also about twenty-three, walks behind her carrying an even larger duffel bag. The man, Liam, is slender and pale, blue eyes that are almost gray, and chestnut hair that stands up and goes in every direction, while one or two strands hang down in his face. His attire is very unfit for the warm season; a navy blue peacoat, lavender button-up shirt, skinny black trousers, and black, well polished, loafers on his feet. The look in his eye is distant, always, and his silhouette is something that when seen in the dead of night one might mistake for a ghost, a very ill ghost.
His father embraces him without saying anything and Liam half-heartedly returns the embrace. Richard holds him at arms length and looks him over.
"So," he starts, looking Liam directly in the eye. "How was the food there?"
"Please, you know it's all utter shit." Richard laughs in that low, familiar chuckle, giving his son a firm whack on the shoulder and letting him past. Everyone heads upstairs to the living room where Liam and Delilah both sit down the duffel bags in the same corner as the grandfather clock. Richard sat with Layla who doesn't say a word or even look up from her lap while Liam takes a seat on the couch with Delilah opposite them.
The apartment itself is a testament to the forties, decorated by Richard's late wife. Layla sticks out of the group, brightly dressed and preppy. She's not even comfortable around Delilah they have been living in the same house together since she and Liam returned to the states for Liam to be committed. Liam is the picture of casualty, while everyone else sits on pins and needles. He is the first to break the silence.
"Where's Jack?" He asks.
"He's at school." Replies Richard in a soothing tone, mostly for Layla.
Tick, tock, tick, tock.
"Uhm, how's Millwall?" Asks Liam.
"I really haven't been keeping track."
Tock, tock, tick, tock.
"You pop out any other bastards while I was in the loony bin?" Asks Liam. Layla burst into tears and ran up to the third floor master bedroom. Shortly after, Richard goes after her.
Delilah looks over at Liam with disapproval and punches him in the shoulder.
"Really?" she says. "Really? You just had to?"
"I my mind, It went down totally different."
"What did you think would happen then?" Liam bites his bottom lip.
"Maybe they would have had another kid. Layla is scared to death of me and Richard only ever talked about treatments on the phone."
"You could have asked me." Liam looks down.
Later that night when Liam and Richard are asleep in their separate rooms, Layla and Delilah are awake and sitting together at the small round breakfast table in the kitchen sipping Chai.
"I'm sorry 'bout earlier, it's just
" Layla trails off.
"No. It's not your fault. Liam is just
blunt." Delilah reassures her. Layla and Delilah are not too far in age, Layla being only in her early forties. Delilah has more of a motherly air about her than Layla has ever had. Layla changes the subject.
"So, the states. You're southern, I've heard." She says.
"Yesum, Louisiana born and raised. You ever been?"
"Oh no no, I would like to though. I've heard such great things about New Orleans."
"I lived in Nolens. It's great as long as you stay in the city."
"I'm just not used to being around people like Liam." Layla abruptly blurts out.
"Ha, uhm, what do you mean 'like Liam'?" Delilah is awestruck.
people with disabilities." Delilah slams down her Chai and it splashes all over the tablecloth, staining its pristine white cotton.
"It is not a disability." She says harshly. The tension is palpable and the hot summer air hangs thick throughout the apartment. Layla sets her cup down and looks off to the side, holding a clenched fist up ho her lip. Delilah waits for a response.
"I-I'm sorry." Layla whispers. Her words are caught by the humidity and made quite sick sounding to Delilah.
"Don't be sorry." Delilah says, "and if you keep treating people like monsters, than that's just what they'll become."
After a moment, Delilah loosens-up. She looks over to the grandfather clock in the living room. "It's three AM." She says.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Layla asks.
"It means it's the Witching Hour."
"Can I ask you something?"
"No, he's nothing."
"So he's not with the church then, the Catholic church?"
The next day is Saturday and Jack comes home early. Liam waits for him in the downstairs front parlor, bouncing his leg and sitting in a green floral parlor chair, staring up at the ceiling. Richard was eating breakfast while Layla and Delilah were still asleep. There is a ring at the door and Liam answers it; unlocking the door and throwing it open in one swift move. There, standing on the stoop outside, was his half-brother, Jack, with the same messy chestnut hair as Liam's, but the dark brown eyes of Layla that made Liam want to vomit.
Jack smiled and hugged his brother, and Liam wholeheartedly returned the embrace. Liam picks up Jack and carries him up the stairs on his shoulder.
"Da, I'm home!" Jack shouts. Richard sits down his mug of coffee and steps over to the stairwell. From the third floor, Layla is pulling on her robe to come down and see her son. Liam sits Jack down and he runs to Richard, then Liam goes down to the guest bedroom to see if Delilah is awake, leaving Layla and her family to do whatever.
In the guest bedroom, Delilah is still getting dressed. She hears a knock on the door.
"It's me." Liam calls through the door.
Inside, Delilah's clothes are scattered about the bed and she's just snapping the back of her bra when Liam enters.
"Toss me that shirt over there, the white one." She was wearing black and white striped shorts, brown boots, and once Liam handed her what she asked for, an off-white button down ruffled vintage blouse with rolled up sleeves.
She stared intently at Liam.
"You okay?" She asked.
"I heard everything last night." He said. Delilah's eyes shifted downward. "Layla's a narrow-minded bitch."
"Well I never said that."
"It's true. I know you can't stand it and neither can I." Delilah stepped over to him slowly and wrapped her arms around his waist. Liam ran his slander fingers through her violently dyed hair.
"Are you going to be okay here, really?"
"Je peux vivre." He said. "I can live."
"Are you sure? It's fine if you want to stay, but I thought it would be fun for the whole family to go." Asks Richard while Layla and Jack wait for him in the Bentley.
"Yeah, I just want to stay here and sleep."
"Alright, call me if you need anything."
"Sure." And Liam shut the door. Layla, Jack, and Richard were all going out to lunch then to a movie. Liam was staying home with Delilah. Once he is back upstairs in the living room, he plops down on the couch and Delilah lies down with him. He slung his arm around her waist and she clicked on the television. On the TV is a classic episode of an old sitcom called "Upstairs Downstairs" that they both pretend to pay attention too. Liam breaks the silence.
"You wanna have sex?" He asks. Delilah laughs.
"You are blunt, just really, really, blunt, aren't you?"
"I don't know how not to be blunt. Tiptoeing around a question doesn't make it a different question, now do you want to have filthy sex on this couch?"
"No, I am not." Liam snuggles her closer to his chest.
"Don't make me say please." He says. Delilah sighs something dramatic.
"Yes. Let's have filthy sex on this couch." Liam smiles and hugs her tight.
"I love you." Delilah stands up and starts to un-buttons her blouse.
"Shut up and take your pants off before I change my mind."
Once they are both fully nude, they stand in front of the couch and stare at each other. "Well?" says Delilah.
"What?" Liam asks. Delilah points to the couch.
"Again, what? I'm not on bottom, that's your job."
"OH, it's my JOB?" Delilah puts her hands on hips.
"Well I'm not on bottom."
"You're always on bottom. I'm on top."
"No, I was only on bottom once because I was tired." Delilah's hips jut out and she's the picture of attitude. "Please? I'll do it next time."
"Oh boy they ain't gonna be no 'next time' if you don't get down on that couch right now." She is stone and Liam is gelatin for her.
"Fine, but I'm gonna pretend not to like it."
"This was you're idea in the first place."
"Okay, I'll like it."