Same_Difference (The Depth of Emotion, #4) - D.D. Lorenzo

October 1998

Laughter drifted through the air, as invisible as dust particles floating in sunlight. Paige’s long, brown hair bounced and swayed in concert as she ran through the house. A lyrical note of giggles glided behind her. Her mother loved the sweet sound of this little one’s laugh.

Three was an odd number, but never more so than in relation to Paige. There was a special term for her—‘three-tween’. She was three going on thirteen. It was a term that Kyla coined to describe her youngest child. She was an effervescent bubble of charm, but this little girl could quickly exhaust her mother’s patience. She behaved as innocently as her years yet was fiercely independent beyond them.

Today, her older brother was the instigator of her happiness. He chased her around the house, inciting her sailing shrieks of excitement as he surprised her by doing goofy brother pranks like peeking around a corner, or plunging in the air as she entered the room unaware. Ricky enjoyed the game. His eyes were as brown as melted chocolate, the small specs of gold accentuating a mischievous sparkle. As a baby, Kyla rocked him gazing into his eyes endlessly. The gold flecks fascinating her. They gently reminded her that her little boy was as priceless as the metal itself.

Kyla was thankful that her children enjoyed a sibling friendship. Her friends assured her that the closeness was rare. Despite their age difference Ricky, or Rick as he preferred to be called now that he was in fourth grade, was extremely protective of his little sister. When Kyla was a little girl she shared a similar bond with her own brother.

“Hi-Yah!”

Ricky yelled as he extended his leg to demonstrate a karate kick. It was an attempt to intimidate his sister. His efforts were in vain. Paige rolled her eyes to prove the point. This wasn’t the first time he tried to impress his little sister. She was neither delighted nor bored with his imitation of a Kung Foo master. His next move made him fall over the arm of the brown, corduroy sofa. Paige barely escaped his projectile limb as it flew through the air.

“Stop it, Ricky!” she giggled.

“Make me, punk!”

Accepting the challenge, she pushed his foot out of her way. Her tiny giggle graduated to laughter when she realized she’d pushed so hard he lost his balance.

Spinning his body in a poorly executed roundhouse kick, his confidence faltered when his foot landed in the hollow of Paige’s collarbone.

Her bottom lip puckered as her eyes filled with tears.

“Why did you do that?”

“I didn’t mean to hurt you.” His shoulders slumped in defeat. “I was just having fun.”

“Mommy!”

Paige ran to the kitchen and gripped her mother’s leg for protection. She watched for her brother.

THUD!

He landed right in front of them. The old kitchen floor rebounded from the unwelcome force. Kyla jumped, as the sound jarred her from her thoughts. All that was left of Paige was a peek of her curls as she ran into the next room. The kids were in full force today! Wiping her hand on a dishtowel, she went after them shouting loud enough for them to hear her.

“I’m warning you! Slow down, or you’re going to go to your room!”

The threat had no effect. They whizzed by her and she grew increasingly more exasperated as they ignored her. She shook her head and returned to the kitchen. All the craziness was stressing her out and short-circuiting her nerves. Right now their only outlet was running around, playing games, and acting like wildlings. She decided to ignore it one last time. While the kids took off in the opposite direction she went back into the kitchen to prepare tonight’s dinner.

Under normal circumstances Paige and Rick would have been outside playing, but a hot and humid Baltimore day threatened thunderstorms. The sky waxed and waned with dark colors since the morning. Adding insult to injury was the putrid smell from the neighborhood garbage. The metal trashcans stood all over the vicinity like stinky sentries. On the radio the announcer said pick-up delays were a result of the weather. The sanitation workers couldn’t come soon enough for her. When she’d walked a bag out to the curb the pungent combination of household waste and sweltering heat made her nauseous.

Summer days were notorious for hot humidity on the East Coast. It was a unique mugginess that drenched you in perspiration as soon as you stepped outside. Today was no exception; in fact, it was one of the hottest