Home > The Theory Of Second Best (Cake #2)(4)

The Theory Of Second Best (Cake #2)(4)
Author: J. Bengtsson

Once this group cleared out, the room would fill up once more with our crew, who would devour the buffet like starving tomcats. Jake was usually gone by then, slipping out and retreating to the quiet of the tour bus. Sometimes I stayed and hung with the guys, but more often than not I took my exit when Jake took his. My place was, and always would be, beside my brother.






Kenzie: My Mother’s Daughter



Rain! Always rain.

My hand swiped over the foggy glass, heavy condensation trapped inside its panes, as I attempted to get a better idea of what I was dealing with… a steady spattering of rain or a torrential downpour? Did it really matter anyway? It wasn’t like a ray of sunshine would be poking out from behind those dark clouds anytime soon. I wrinkled my nose at the offending smell radiating off the windowsill. Mildew was growing around the corners of the window, eating away at the wooden frame. The moist environment in which I lived was a breeding ground for the fungus. No matter how diligently I scrubbed and bleached, the black, moldy dots were always lurking, just waiting for the minute I turned my back so they could creep back into their cozy spot by the window.

“Sunny California, my ass,” I complained.

Growing up in the shade of the Coastal Redwood Forest, my tiny town in Northern California saw three times the rainfall that other parts of the state did. It felt like I’d been damp and cold the vast majority of my life. And although I lived a few miles from the ocean, there were no beach days for me. Even if the sun occasionally made an appearance out from behind the gray, heavy fog, not only was the seawater freezing cold but the waves and riptides were unruly and dangerous. It always brought a knowing smile to my face every time a Hollywood movie made California out to be one big sunny beach resort. That wasn’t the place where I lived. Not even close.

I stubbornly strapped on my big-city stilettos. I’d already been forced to change my planned outfit, the yellow sundress – it was summer, after all – to accommodate the downpour, but I wasn’t budging on the shoes. My slim, straight khaki pants and flowing white top needed something to dress it up, and rubber boots just weren’t going to cut it. I couldn’t help but worry that my pointy toed pumps, although a fairly modest four inches, were way too ambitious for a girl like me. I was more the jeans and t-shirt type of woman, who preferred the comfort of flats to the sexy of stilettos. Maybe if I had someone to dress nice for… but as it was now, I could wear a burlap sack with Birkenstocks and no one would care.

Leaving the gloomy window behind, I plopped myself back down at my vanity and evaluated myself in the mirror. My naturally straight hair was now styled in big, bouncy curls that flowed down my back, and my makeup was spot-on after I’d taken the extra step of going online and studying the trends before applying. I nodded my approval as I went through my mental list. Hair? Check. Make-up? Check. Outfit? Meh. Kick-ass female? Check. Yep, I was sufficiently impressed with myself today, and that didn’t happen too often. Normally I kept my preening in front of the mirror to a minimum because, really, on a day-to-day basis, there wasn’t much to admire; but today – damn, I was feeling good. Maybe there would be a single guy out there who’d want to buy a little of what I was selling. Hold up! That didn’t sound right, did it? I needed to cool it with the self-important inner chatter. Besides, a guy now would not be good timing, what with me leaving in a month. That’s funny, Kenzie. I actually laughed at the mirror. As if I’d be finding me a man any time soon. Suddenly I wasn’t feeling so full of myself. I stuck my tongue out at my reflection and then got up and grabbed my purse.

My heels made an annoying clicking sound through the kitchen, signaling to all in the house that I was indeed moving through it. My father, who’d been sitting at the table on his computer, looked up from his screen and stared.

“Mackenzie?” he asked in surprise, as if my beauty transformation was so stunning he no longer recognized me.

“Who else would I be?” I replied, slightly offended.

“I’m just… wow, you look so pretty,” he said, appearing genuinely gobsmacked.

Again irritation spread through me. Sure, I didn’t dress up often, but he didn’t have to act like I’d started out as a warthog. Looking ‘pretty’ was my little sister Caroline’s job. Mine was forty hours a week managing a rental business with untold amounts of unpaid overtime, followed by household chores and helping my younger siblings with all their insignificant teenage problems.

“Are you sure you want to wear those shoes? It’s raining outside.”

“I’m aware, Dad, but I can’t wear rain boots to a television interview,” I snapped. I didn’t know why I was being so testy with him, but certainly the last person I wanted fashion advice from was a guy who’d worn the same basic outfit of Levis and plaid shirts for the last twenty years.

My dad put his hands up and made the face he always gave me when he thought I was being unreasonable.

“And besides, if you’d allowed them to come here to the house to interview me, I wouldn’t have to go out in the rain.”

“Look around, Mackenzie. Would you really want them coming here?”

Even though I didn’t need to, I still took that look around and my resolve faded. No, I definitely didn’t want the cameras in here. This was a house that was bought and furnished by a man… and not by just any man, but by a man with no style. Nothing in our home matched; everything had once been broken and then repaired back to an even shabbier replica of its prior dingy self. The carpet had not been replaced in all the time we’d lived here, and if I had to guess, it had probably graced these floors for longer than I’d been alive. None of us were certain what color it had actually started out as, but now it was decidedly a chocolate brown shade. And worse still, my dad’s idea of home décor was displaying his children’s school artwork on the walls with a single thumbtack. Over the years the flimsy paper had folded inward, and the original masterpiece could only be seen by smoothing it out against the wall.

“Hey,” he said, interrupting my thoughts. “Relax. Everything will be okay.”

He knew me well. I was scared. My shoulders drooped. Being the center of attention had never been my thing, and the idea of having someone interview me about my life sent shock waves of fear blasting through me. Granted, only viewers of our local county news station would see the interview, but still, for me, it was a huge deal. What was I going to say? I led the world’s most boring life. In fact, that’s how I’d made it onto Marooned in the first place: I sent in a video of myself basically documenting my dull, small town girl existence and somehow that caught their eye. I was convinced that the fact that I’d never ventured further than three hundred miles in any direction from my hometown in all my life was what sealed the deal. I would be their token ‘fish out of water’ contestant.

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