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Reaching Out

by wakingDown 05/29/13

+++ Part two is already in progress. All characters are over eighteen. On the subject of sociophobia, I have taken some liberties in how it works for the story. This is a work of fiction, after all. +++

James parked his car and sat a moment, looking at the old house. The rain was heavy and nearly falling sideways in the heavy winds. The window on the living room was bright and warm, and he could see his father and mother walking about. He smiled a bit and tried to cover himself as best he could with his coat before opening the car door.


It was Dana who opened the front door for him. They both smiled wide and hugged.

"Uck, you're all wet." Dana said, pulling back.

"Yeah, sorry. It's really coming down out there." He said, hanging his coat on the hook.

They went into the living room and he said his hellos. He had been gone for almost a year. The last time he had been able to visit was just before he had gotten his job. He only lived two towns over, but he felt like it was much farther. He had not seen his mom in almost a month and hadn't seen his dad or sister since his last visit. He had missed them terribly and was more than happy to be home again.

He had ten days off from work and planned on spending all of it with his family. They all sat around the table for some catching up and a light dinner. Dad had been busy with his real estate ventures, and was doing well with it. His mother was finally making real headway with her leather working business, enough so that Dana was now working for her in the shop part time.

After dinner and a long, happy conversation, they talked about sleeping arrangements.

"The thing is, your old room kind of got turned into my office. So, there's no bed or anything in there." His dad said.

"No problem, I can crash on the couch. I kind of figured you guys would have used it for something else." James said with a smile.

"That couch is kinda lumpy." Dana said, her voice quiet. She was a terribly shy girl. She would only speak close to openly with her brother, and somewhat openly with her mom. When talking to her dad, it was as short of answers as she could get away with, not making eye contact at all.

"Nah, it'll be fine." James said. He knew it was a little uncomfortable but he thought it wouldn't be too bad.


James woke around three thirty. His lower back felt like it was tied in a horrible knot and his shoulders were stiff to the point that he had a hard time sitting up. His neck was stiff as well, and cracked loudly as he rolled it from side to side. He twisted at the waist carefully and his spine sounded like a bag of popcorn in the microwave. He sat for a while, wondering if it was worth it to try to lie back down. He really did not want to wake again feeling like a pretzel, but he had no idea what he would do for a few hours until someone woke up. He went to the bathroom while he thought. He came out and went back to the living room and found Dana sitting on the couch. He could see her fairly well in the low light that came in from the street light outside the house. She was wearing sweat pants and an old t-shirt.

"What are you doing up?" James asked, sitting next to her.

"I have insomnia. I'm always up around this time." She answered, looking down at her hands.

"How long has this been going on? I don't remember hearing about it."

"A few years now, I think. I just kind of started waking up earlier and earlier. Now I wake up around three thirty or four every morning." She said. She wouldn't look at him, but that was normal for Dana.

"Have you told mom? " James asked, concerned.

"She knows I wake up early, but not how early. I don't want her to worry and make me go to a doctor. I don't feel tired or anything, I just don't sleep much." She said. She was twisting and wringing her hands in her lap. Something she did when she was talking more than she wanted to. James thought this might be the longest conversation he had had with her in years.

"Dana, even if you're not tired, you might need to see a doctor. Something could be wrong that needs to be checked out." James said.

"OK. If it goes on for too much longer, I'll tell mom, ok?" She said, finally glancing up to him.

"Ok." He answered, knowing this was probably the best he was going to get out of her. "So what do you do with all the time until mom and dad get up?" He asked.

"I used to do homework or just study. Now that I'm out of school, I've decided to learn how to draw." She said.

"Really? So you just sit and draw for a few hours, practicing?" He asked.

"Yes. It's why I came down here. I wanted to draw your face." She said, nearly whispering as she pointed to the small sketchpad and pencil resting between her feet.

"No kidding? Why didn't you just ask me to sit for you to draw me?" He asked, smiling. He felt rather flattered that she wanted to draw his face.

She just shrugged in answer and stood up, gathering her pad and pencil and walking out of the room swiftly. James watched her go, surprised she had stuck around and talked as long as she did. James thought for a while about what she had said, trying to imagine her sitting in her room for a few hours every morning, just sketching and drawing, practicing shapes and forms and shading and whatever. He had a hard time doing it. He thought he would go mad trying to do something like that.


The sun was just coming up when his mom came down the stairs. She was dressed, but not for work. She chatted with James over coffee at the small kitchen table.

"James I wanted to talk to you about something." She said, frowning a little.

"What's up?"

"I'm worried about your sister. You know how shy she is. She doesn't have any friends, she doesn't talk to any boys. I don't want to watch her grow up to be some kind of hermit, locking herself away from the world. She looks up to you quite a bit. When I can get her talking a bit about it she talks about you like you're her hero. So I was wondering if you could talk to her about coming out of her shell a little. Trying to meet people, you know?" She looked frustrated and worried in equal measure.

"Well, I can try, but I don't know how much good it would do. If a person doesn't like talking to people, they don't like talking to people. I don't think it's something you can just change with a couple of conversations." James said. He agreed that Dana should be more social but he didn't think that trying to force the issue would do any good. In fact he thought it could make the problem worse if he wasn't careful about how he did it.

"Ok, but don't be forceful about it, please. Just try to talk about it like it's just something to consider is all. Know what I mean?" She asked, feeling like she couldn't quite word it right. James understood what she meant nonetheless.

"Yeah, I get it. I'll try. I can't promise anything, but I'll try." James answered.

They turned the conversation to lighter topics after that, mostly how his job was going, how hers was going, and current events, waiting for dad and Dana to come down.


James, Dana, and mom spent the day at home; dad had a few showings he had to take care of and would be gone most of the day. Mom tried to get Dana to talk with them a fair bit throughout the morning, but gave it up after a while. Dana seemed content to simply sit back and listen to the conversation. James tried to gauge how Dana had reacted to their mom trying to get her to talk and thought that Dana had been close to leaving when mom had finally relented.


James woke up just before four. He was sore and stiff again. He saw Dana getting up from where she was seated on the floor and starting to leave.

"Dana, wait." He said, trying to clear the sleep from his head. She hesitated a moment, but left. She went up the stairs down the hall silently. He stretched and let his joints and back crackle before following her. He started up the stairs, wincing at the seemingly deafening creaks and groans of each step. He began to wonder how Dana had trotted up the stairs without a sound when they appeared to be made out of rusty nails and chalkboards to his feet. He wondered how often she crept through the house without a sound while their parents slept. It was a little spooky.

He creaked his way to her door. Hers was the first in the hall. The next was his dad's office, then the bathroom, then his parents' room. To the left was just the railing that looked down on the living room, running the length of the hall. He saw a dim light coming from under Dana's door. He tapped on the door softly, his head held close to the wood. When she didn't answer he opened the door and looked in. She was sitting on her bed, her legs crossed under her, the sketch pad in her lap. Her hands were folded, resting on it, the mechanical pencil jutting out from her laced fingers. She was looking down at her hands, and in the low light of the single lamp sitting on her desk he could see that she was blushing madly.

James stepped inside and closed the door as quietly as he could behind him. He saw that the walls were covered in drawings. They were all evenly spaced and aligned, with an even gap running between all of them, making the walls look like a grid of tiles, each tile with its own illustration. He was amazed at the quality and the quantity. The pictures of people and objects almost looked like black and white photographs, and the abstract ones and the fractals were stunning in the complexity and clarity.

James looked again to Dana. She had not moved. She sat there, looking like little girl waiting to be punished for something. James walked over to the bed and sat next to her. She turned her head a little, looking at his chest, but that was about it. He could see the drawing she was working on under her hands. It was just a basic sketch, but the few areas where she began to create actual details were looking very good. He had a hard time believing that his quiet, shy sister was capable of such amazing work.

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