The room (novel excerpt)


Elizabeth Morin '22, Co-Editor of Austin Authors

The sign was poorly decorated considering that it was made by two adults and a teenager. The A in my name looked more like an E, and the I was missing its dot. The K was giant like they completely misunderstood the size of the paper. This was going to be awkward.


“Welcome home!” Sorscha jumped up from behind the couch. I saw her through the window as I walked in, but she was happy that I was home. That was enough. Eris and Garcia appeared from behind her, looking less enthusiastic, but smiling nonetheless.


 I had yet to meet Garcia, the man who took in my sister after I left and my parents were no longer fit to take care of them. During my final goodbyes in the courthouse, Sorscha told me that a nice man a few streets down would be taking care of them until they became adults. As long as they were in good hands, that’s all I cared about. Eris, now 14, was only 4 when I left. I don’t know how much she remembers about me before I left, but I’m assuming not much. She looked closed off behind Garcia.


I took in Sorschas’s hug and didn’t say anything. She pushed away, “Wow, this sweater they gave you is super soft. I can’t believe I didn’t get one when I left.” I couldn’t tell if she was joking or not. It was just a dirty old zip-up that I brought with me ten years ago. I was surprised when it still fit me, but I supposed with years of malnutrition and a sweater that was already big as a child, it will still fit. 


“Here,” Sorscha nudged towards the kitchen, “We figured you would be hungry when you got back. Eris made you a cake and these really good cookies, oh my god you have to try..” She droned on, but my eyes went to Eris. She looked scared of me almost. 


There was a feast on the kitchen table, and I had to hold myself back from immediately running over. A massive cake was in the center with two plates of cookies on the sides. There was a giant salmon as well… my favorite food. Before I left we would only have it on my birthday because it was so expensive. They still remembered.


“Where did you guys get the money to buy all these ingredients?” I laughed and looked around. Ten years ago we were living off one meal a day that probably couldn’t have even been a meal.


“Garcia makes bank,” Sorscha piped up again. She was always the center of attention. A big talker.


“She’s lying,” Garcia finally spoke up, “I’m an analyst in the government. It pays nice but it’s not “bank.” Speaking of which, now that I have the chance, my name’s Pietro. But the kids just call me Garcia, it’s my last name.” He stuck out his hand and I grabbed it.




He smiled at me, but something made me shiver slightly. He had the smile of a con artist.


“I’ve heard great things about you, Khai. I’m sure we’ll get to know each other more over time right?”


I didn’t know what he meant. I assumed now that I was back home, that a guardian was no longer needed. I’m 20 now, and Sorscha is 24. I don’t know why he didn’t leave sooner, Sorscha’s been a legal adult for years now. I looked over at her.


“We told Garcia he could keep living with us when I turned 18. He’s been like a dad to us, we couldn’t just dispose of him.” It was like she read my mind.


“Plus,” He chimed in, “Little miss Sora here was deemed not fit to take care of Eris by herself. You have to tell her the full story, no more lies.”


The expression on Sorschas face dropped immediately, “Let’s just eat, shall we? I’ll tell you later.”


I walked over to the table and began eating. I almost cried when I took my first bite of salmon. I haven’t had a solid meal in ten years; in the box, they only gave us these smoothies that didn’t taste anything like a traditional smoothie. I’m pretty sure they just ground up a bunch of vitamins and proteins together and gave them to us.


“I’m not sure what they gave you in there, but I remember they gave me this nasty thing that looked like meat? I figured you’d want some real food.”


I put my hand over my mouth so they wouldn’t see that I’m chewing, “Vitamin blended smoothies. Twice a day.”


Garcia pretended to gag, “That sounds beyond flavorless.”


I nodded, “Yeah, it was. I guess the food they give differs based on your sentence and why you went.”


Sorscha got 2 years in the box when she was 12 for stealing from the farmers market the next town over. When she got back, she didn’t get a cake or salmon. She got her younger sister being sentenced to 10 years.


“So Eris,” I tried to change the conversation off of me, “How are you? You look so much different than when I left.”


“Good,” She looked at her food, “Nothing much is going on in my life.”


“Please,” Garcia scoffed, “Eris here made honor roll last month and made the varsity swim team as a freshman.”


“Oh? I didn’t know you’re a swimmer.”


“Well, I’m not much of a swimmer when I’m a toddler, am I.”


My eyes widened and I looked at Garcia and Sorscha.


“Eris, don’t be snippy. You know it’s not her fault that she had to leave.” Garcia looked at her.


I shook my head, “It’s okay. I get it Eris, you’re fine. Congrats on the swim team.” I picked up one of the cookies from the bowl and stood up.


“Where are you going? We haven’t even had cake yet.” Sorscha stood up with me.


I took a bite of the cookie, “Gotta go see Rhyn. He’ll kill me if I don’t go see him ASAP. Does he still live in the same spot?”


“He should yeah. Told you we should’ve invited him, Garcia,” Sorscha looked at Garcia and scowled. He just shrugged. He probably didn’t know Rhyn, but Sorscha and I were best friends with him as kids.


“Save me a piece okay?” I yelled as I made my way out of the house. Rhyn lived down our street and was my best friend before I left. He was like the brother I never had.


I felt footsteps behind me as I made my way out.


“Khai!” Garcia yelled, “You can’t listen to her, you know. She had a hard time dealing with everything, from you leaving and then your parents.”


I turned around and pretended to pout, “Oh. Life must have been so hard.”


“You aren’t denying your sister’s trauma, are you? She’s the one that found your dad dead, she has every right to feel the way she does.”


I laughed hopelessly, “No, no, I’m not denying that she feels that way. But I also don’t think you understand what I went through in those ten years Garcia. You guys seem to be acting like nothing happened in there and that I had the choice to go.”


He crossed his arms, “I don’t think we’re acting like that at all. We welcomed you back into the home you’ve barely lived in with open arms.”


I rolled my eyes at him. He wouldn’t get it. People can pretend to understand what the box was like, and they can show sympathy, but they will never. Ever. Understand what I went through there.