Home > Candy Colored Sky

Candy Colored Sky
Author: Ginger Scott





Apparently, last night was homecoming. I probably heard about it in class. The news just didn’t stick in my head and make it to my social calendar, which is as wide open as the Wyoming prairie. The Trombley girls only cover their mint green Volkswagen Beetle in blue and yellow window paint and streamers once a year. That’s how I know. Their tiny car serves as my autumnal equinox. It has for five years. The first two when Morgan Trombley, the oldest of the three daughters, still lived in the two-story house that sits as a dusty blue mirror image to our brown one across the street. These past three years of homecoming reminders have all been the courtesy of middle daughter, Eleanor, who’s a senior like me. One day, it will be Addy’s—the youngest of the Trombley girls—turn to decorate the hand-me-down car and send the young male hermit neighbor—that’s me—the sign that fall is upon us.

The yard across the street is eerily still, a contrast from the evidence that it wasn’t so quiet over there a few hours ago. Someone draped green and yellow streamers through the Trombley trees, and there are red Solo cups sprinkled around the lawn. I must have slept through the party. And I’m guessing from the school spirit scene out my window that the Oak Forest High School Badgers won the football game. I suppose I’m a Badger, too. That whole community spirit thing that others feel with our high school eludes me. I feel more Badger-adjacent than full-fledge Badger.

I turn my attention from the window and glance toward my bed, the blanket neatly folded hotel-style around the pillows. The only evidence that I slept there is the turned-up bottom of the comforter that I must have kicked over my legs to keep them warm. My laptop is still open with my half-finished essay. I fell asleep mid-sentence last night and clearly let it slide off my chest to the corner of my bed. The blinking cursor draws me in, and when I drag the computer closer I notice the battery icon is a glaring red.

Seven percent. Ha. A few more minutes and I might have lost all of last night’s hard work.

I save the draft and close it, moving my computer to my desk to charge it back to full strength. My grandpa’s second coughing fit is happening right now. When he first moved in six months ago, I worried when he had these at five, six, and seven in the morning. He told me if war didn’t kill him a nicotine-induced cough “sure as shit wasn’t about to.” I have my doubts, but for two decades he’s proven all of us family worry-warts wrong. Now they’ve become part of my routine. I don’t really need to set alarms anymore. Sixty-four years of smoking has turned Grandpa Hank into my personal wake-up call device.

“You up, Jonah?”

It doesn’t hurt that he usually follows his 7 a.m. round up with a sturdy pound against our shared wall and this question.

I pound back.


“Time for coffee?” I shout.

He coughs out a laugh, and even though it sounds god-awful, it makes me chuckle. “Don’t you know it!”

I flip the corner of my comforter back over my mattress, the easiest bed-making ever, grab my Chicago Tech sweatshirt from the floor, and poke my head through. I’m tangled in the twisted arms by the time I enter the hallway, and Grandpa Hank puffs out a short laugh before helping me sort things out.

“You’re the only person I know who can solve a quadratic equation but can’t put on a damn shirt,” he muses.

“Quadratic equations actually aren’t very hard. They’re kinda beginner math,” I deadpan.

His lip ticks up, lifting his scraggly beard and mustache along with it.

“You’re a real smart ass, Jonah.”

“I heard smart in all of that, so thank you,” I joke back, patting his chest with my palm as I pass him to head down the stairs.

Grandpa Hank is my favorite person. He always has been. He was around a lot more than my dad, his son, ever was. Not that my dad was an absent parent or anything, at least not by choice. Randy Wydner was incredibly responsible, albeit not enough to get a life insurance policy. My guess is he did the calculations on his age and health and found it wholly unnecessary. Fitting, then, that the same responsibility might be what killed him. My dad literally worked himself to death, putting in seventy-plus hours a week for a decade straight to help his best friend’s tiny start-up company become what it is today—a leader in the future of AI. Not that my dad saw any of the riches from that success. My mom likes to try to sell the both of us on the lie that my dad just passed away before Corbin’s company went public last year and broke out huge. And on the surface, that’s all factual. But Mom and I are still here, and while Corbin is off yachting on the fruits of my dad’s literal labor, his two living dependents are barely staying afloat. If Corbin were a real friend, he would’ve thrown a few scraps our way. That’s how I see it. Grandpa Hank sees it that way, too. He calls him Crooked Corbin in front of Mom. When it’s just me and him, he calls him a Real Son-of-a-Bitch. Both are accurate.

“How about you make the coffee and I scramble us some eggs?” Grandpa asks.

I swallow hard, my back to him and my attention on the coffee pot, and utter out a tepid, “Sure.” My grandpa’s eggs are runny as hell. They’re barely edible. I have to eat them fast in order to choke them down. The unfortunate result of that is that my grandpa thinks I gobble them up because I like them so much. I just don’t have the heart to break it to him. Every time he stands at that stove, he waxes on about his years as a cook in the army. I bet the soldiers slurped those suckers down out of desperation, too. I remind myself each time that I can use the protein. Runny eggs are as close as I get to working out.

Mom’s already gone to work. She started taking on weekend shifts at the garage in Old Town, answering phones and keeping up with the books. I don’t think the owners actually need the help; they aren’t very busy. It’s a charity gig, but it pays the gas and electric bills, so my mom goes dutifully. Thank God for the business of doing taxes. It’s all my mom does in both jobs, and she’s the last person her company will ever let go, or so she says.

“You hear the big ruckus across the street last night?” My grandpa’s question is his way of asking why I don’t go to parties. He thinks I need a social life. He’s right. He’s also caught me staring across the street on more than one occasion. He’s polite enough to not bring up the “pretty blonde girl” this early in the morning; he usually waits for his evening whiskey to kick in to needle me.

I do stare, though most of the time I’m too afraid to actually talk to Eleanor. In fact, we’ve probably only exchanged words a handful of times. All of the Trombley girls are beautiful, but Eleanor, she’s special. Eighteen, hair that falls in waves, and a cheerleading uniform that fits as if she was born to wear it, she’s literally a dream girl. My dream girl.

But it’s more than how pretty she is that has me captivated. I can’t quite pin what it is exactly, but ever since junior high, I have been smitten with her. Like the way awkward superheroes fall for normal humans with no explanation at all. Sadly, I possess no superhuman skills to wow her with or employ to leap into danger to save her. That doesn’t stop my massive crush, though. Maybe it’s her confidence, or maybe the smile she wears like a badge of honor, pushing her cheeks into round cherries. I could pick her laugh out of a crowd in a heartbeat. It’s as though it was created for me to hear, to recognize, and I don’t really know why.

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