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Right Now

Ain't It Funny How Life Changes

I exit out of the game I'm playing, setting my phone off to the side as I grab my laptop that is suddenly playing the Skype video-calling ringtone. A wide grin spreads across my face when I see the name on the screen. Hurriedly clicking Accept with Video, I bite at my nails and wait for it to connect.

"Oh, hallelujah, your face is such a beautiful, amazing, welcome sight after seeing these freaks for the past three weeks!"

I laugh at the way my best friend slumps with her face within inches of the camera. "Thanks, Bri. How's the recording going? How are you? How is everyone?"

"Everyone is doing really well," she announces, sitting upright and crossing her legs. "They're finishing up what is quickly becoming my favourite right now. How about your gorgeous self? Tell, tell, tell!"

"Well, let's see. Still living with my parents because college is hella expensive. Still working at Cara Mia's even though it's probably the shittiest job I've ever had because I need to start paying off my student loans, which in combination with the terrible waitressing gig, is making it damn near impossible to save up for my own place." I shrug, pick at a hangnail. "Good thing is, Dad finally finished renovating the basement, so I've basically got my own little apartment down here. Well, minus the kitchen. Hey, speaking of. Mom wants to know when you're coming to visit. She misses actually having more than three people to cook for."

"Three? Where's your dad?"

"You know him - always working to make the world a better place. Tell me about the recording process! You know I'm not lucky like you, I've never been around that stuff."

Brianna had moved away from our cozy hometown in the backwoods of Tennessee, all the way across the seas to central London. She'd been accepted into a pretty high-ranking college here in the States, but she said she wanted more than that, so she chose to backpack across Europe on the money she inherited after her grandfather's death. The beauty of her travels (and a group of new friends that she stumbled across in a dark pub in some country she never specified) had enticed her into staying. From there, she built herself a new life. It's been almost a year since she left, but we manage to Skype every few days. However, due to work and classes, I haven't had much time for anything other than sleep.

"Trust me, it gets pretty boring, to be honest. All I really get to do is sit around or go walk around the city. Although the latter is getting kind of dangerous lately."

"What? Why?"

"What, you haven't heard? Figured the psycho-razzi would have spread the gossip by now. Huh... P-Hilt has it all."

I give her a questioning look but obediently bring up a web browser window. It doesn't take too much scrolling through perezhilton.com before I see what she's talking about. I gasp, and her laughter rings through the speakers.

Louis Tomlinson: Is Mystery Girl "The One"?!
As all Directioners know, 22-year-old heartthrob Louis Tomlinson has been spotted quite often with a pretty sexy blonde/brunette bombshell - for being a normal girl with no work done, that is! But... who is she? No one seems to know! The boyband and associates have all remained steadfastly tight-lipped! Ugh! All we want are answers!

I can say, though: Lately, there seems to be a new addition to MG's finger. Is it an engagement ring?? We may never know…

I switch back to the Skype window. "Is it? An engagement ring, I mean."

"Oh, Hell no. Louis didn't even buy it for me, I saw it and got it for myself." Her devious smirk reminds me of growing up with her, all the trouble we got into. "I just love paparazzi. They twist everything up, don't they? And don't even get me started on the so-called fans. Since that article ran, my Twitter feed has blown up with death threats and accusations that I'm nothing but a gold-digging ho."

"You're awful," I laugh, twisting my hair around my finger, and she shrugs nonchalantly.

"I know. So, since you've asked about when I am coming to visit, when are you coming to visit me? There's plenty of room in the house, and best of all, you get to see me every day."

"I can't do anything until the end of the semester, and even then, I'm probably going to end up picking up any and all shifts possible to prevent myself from getting too much further into this wonderful thing called crippling debt."

She sighs and rolls her eyes, but her lips quirk up on one side. "Okay, fine. Kill my buzz. Oh! The boys are back. Love ya!"

"Love ya, too."

Her face disappears from my screen, and I close my laptop. The basement seems to be even quieter than it was before she'd Skyped me. Exhaling heavily, I rise to my feet, make my way up the stairs. My mother stands at the kitchen sink, staring out the window over the backyard. I raise a brow; she looks older than the forty-six she is, her shoulders slumped and face heavy with lines. I watch her for a long minute.

"What's up, Mama?"

She starts, whirling on her heel to glare at me. "Nothing. And what have I told you about scaring me like that?"

"Sorry," I mutter. "Didn't mean to. Daddy still working?"

"Yeah, he had a surgery that ran long."

"Oh. Okay."

I grab a package of Ramen noodles from the wire rack and push against the side to snap the block of dried noodles into pieces. An indignant protest from my mother stops me, and I gape when she rips the packet from my hands and tosses it back onto the shelving. I decide to not argue when she shoos me from the kitchen. It isn't worth risking upsetting her just because I'm hungry. My little sister doesn't look up from her book when I push open her door.

"People really need to learn this awesome ritual that most civilised societies do. It's called knocking."

"Deal with it, shrimp. What'cha up to?"

"Trying to study for my finals. Ya know, those things that happen at the end of semesters that determine whether or not I pass the class, thus determining whether or not I graduate from high school?" Anna turns the page and reaches for a highlighter. "They're kinda important."

"Don't have to be a sarcastic asshole about it. Besides, you'll do fine. You're fuckin' brilliant."

She smiles slightly, tossing me a piece of candy from the bag on her desk - her reward system would never work for me, but it certainly benefits me sometimes. "You really should go visit Bri, ya know."

"Tell you what, I'll start knocking when you stop eavesdropping."

I close the door, pop the pink Starburst into my mouth, and head down to my bedroom. My attention is shot; no matter how hard I try, I can't concentrate on reading about Aziraphale and Crowley and all the other eclectic characters. I toss the book onto the mattress next to me and stare at the ceiling. I told Brianna the truth - I really can't afford any kind of trip, especially one overseas. I can barely afford to put gas in my car every other week. But... I miss my best friend. It hasn't been the same since she took off. I can't just drive five minutes and be at her front door.

My phone lets out a rapid beepbeepbeep. I stare at the device for a couple minutes, debating whether or not to answer Brianna's text.

From: Briannnaaa Please come visit. It'd be so much fun. Plus! You'll get to meet the guys and see them recording!!

To: Briannnaaa I can't afford it :(

From: Briannnaaa Maybe you could ask your dad?
From: Briannnaaa I know your pride is all nooooo don't ask for help but you know your dad will do anything for you

To: Briannnaaa That leaves Mama alone with Anna then, and even she's going off to college as soon as high school is over.

From: Briannnaaa And they'll be fine. What are you gonna do when you move out, visit so much that you might as well still live there?

She has me there, and we both know it. I sigh, typing out Of course not. I dunno, I'll think about it.

From: Briannnaaa Pleeeeeeaaaase?

To: Briannnaaa Maybe. Now stop asking before it becomes an automatic NO.

Since my attention span is basically nonexistent, I grab the remote to my TV and press the power button. Nothing catches my eye as I scroll through the channels; I stop on reruns of some old Western, mute the television, and settle in to spend hours watching shows I really don't care about. The familiar crunch of gravel under tires sounds half an hour later, followed by the heavy thud of a car door slamming shut. Footsteps creaked above my head, and I followed my father's path with my eyes. My brows furrow when I don't hear him saying anything to my mom; there's never been a day that they haven't greeted each other after he came home from work. I tiptoe up the stairs and press my ear to the door that leads to the kitchen. Their voices are muffled, and my confusion grows as I strain to hear.

"When, Rob?"

"Just a little longer," my dad sighs, and the clatter of silverware in the sink drowns out anything else he says.

Even without seeing her, I know my mother is frowning, the lines around her mouth deepening, and her hand is on her hip when she says, "There's really no reason to delay this any longer."

"Damn it, Missy. Stop, okay? I promise, it'll be done soon."

I sit down hard on the top step, listen to their footsteps fading as they leave the kitchen. What the Hell are they talking about? What would be "done soon"? I chew on my fingernail as my thoughts swirl around, chasing after each other with no sense of connection. I feel just like I had when I was seven, when my parents would whisper to relatives and family friends in the months before Grammy died. I'd not known then what was happening because they'd kept it from me until they couldn't put off telling the truth any longer - and the hushed conversation I just overheard does nothing but compound that similarity.

I push the door open a crack, check to see if the kitchen is empty, then hurry down the hallway to Anna's room. She is still studying, not appearing to have heard our parents. The words are on the tip of my tongue, ready to burst from me, but I can't push them out. She's busy, focused on her future, and besides, I don't even know if what my parents were talking about is a bad thing. They could have been preparing a surprise for either of us. No matter how much I doubt that, I can't do anything to upset Anna. So instead, I tap lightly at her doorframe, smiling when she finally looks up, and tell her our dad was home.

"Daddy!" she shrieks, rushing to her feet and barreling past me.

Mama is ladling chili into bowls by the time I reach the kitchen. The sight of the turquoise bowls with brightly-coloured flowers is a startling cause for concern. We rarely use that dishware set. I open my mouth to ask then decide against it, instead grabbing the pitcher of sweet tea from the refrigerator while Anna pulls down four glasses from the cupboard. Once the food is on the table and we're all seated, I let my mom and sister link their hands with mine and bow my head as Dad says grace to bless the meal. A twinge of guilt jerks in my gut when I say "Amen" with the others. Though I've gone to church every Wednesday and twice on Sunday since I was old enough to walk, I lost my faith long ago. Now, I do it to keep up appearances; the conversations that would occur if my parents found out are talks I willingly avoid.

The thick silence that hangs over the dining room makes it almost impossible to enjoy the meal. My mind races the entire time, and horrible scenarios play out in my head. Is my father really my father? Is Mama really my mother? Is one of them wanted by the FBI for some sort of crime? Are they - and Anna and I, by extension - part of the Witness Protection Program? Oh, my god, I think suddenly, as memories burst forth, maybe the cops found out about that night…

"DJ? Are you all right?"

I snap to reality with a small squeak. My mom is staring at me, her brown eyes concerned, and it dawns on me that she's not the only one watching me closely. I slowly lower my spoon from its stationary position in front of my mouth where it's been slowly and steadily dripping chili into a small puddle on the table. Clearing my throat, I shift uncomfortably in my chair.

"Yeah, I'm, uh, fine. Sorry."

............


The car engine clicks quietly as it cools, and I close my eyes, letting my head fall back against the headrest. It's been three long days since that night at dinner, and I've come no closer to figuring out what the conversation had been about. Work has been ridiculously busy, which has helped keep my mind off of it, but it still leaves a lot of time to wonder when I'm not occupied with my job. Sighing, I grab my work apron, push open my door, and step out of the car. The silhouette of two vehicles in the garage catches my eyes; I stop and cup my hand to the glass in the door, frowning at the sight of my father's Audi next to my mom's Impala. Why is he home? I press the lock button on my key-fob over my shoulder and head up the sidewalk and into the house, remembering at the last second to take off my shoes by the door. The heels clack together when I scoop them up to place them on the shoe-rack.

"DJ, is that you?"

No, absolutely not, it's the Boogyman. "Yeah, Mama, it's me."

"Can you come in here please?"

I sigh, stare longingly at the basement door; my work uniform smells like garlic and pasta sauce, and I just want to head to bed. Unfortunately, my mother's tone wasn't exactly asking me to do what she wants. It was her "I'm demanding you to do something but phrasing it like a question so you feel like you have a choice" voice. I hook the strap of my purse over my shoulder, turning on my heel, and make my way to the archway to the living room. Anna is curled up in the armchair, and my parents are sitting on the couch. The distance between Mama and Dad sets off an alarm bell in my brain. I realise suddenly it's too quiet and look over at the television. The screen is black. Signs two and three that something is wrong, a voice in my head whispers. It's almost six o'clock on a Friday night. Anna should be studying - our parents have always pushed education and never interrupted our studies for anything less than a world catastrophe. And Mama rarely missed the news. My stomach clenches as I sit down in the rocking chair I inherited from Grammy.

"What's going on?" I ask, and my parents glance at each other while Anna shrugs.

"Girls," our dad starts before he exhales heavily, leaning forward with his hands clasped together. "Girls, you know your mama and I love you, so much. That's never, ever been anything but the truth. You both are the greatest blessings that's come from our marriage, and... we're so proud of you. But, well... your mother and I have, have been talking a lot lately, and we decided that it's best for us if..."

The screaming in my head grows louder with each word he says, and I can see Anna's eyes, wide and so blue, as she stares at our parents. The glare from the lamp next to her illuminates the tears that well up. My throat tightens, my eyes fall shut when my mother finishes my father's sentence.

"We're getting divorced."

The silence that settles over us suffocates me. Even my thoughts have gone mute. I can't think properly. I open my mouth to say something, anything, to make everything okay again, but what comes out startles even me.

"What the fuck for?"
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title credit life changes by thomas rhett