"You're lying, you have to be lying right now."
The disbelief in Hara's voice is unmistakable. The shrillness in pitch could break glass if she went any higher. Her face is tightly pinched and she is standing - looming, really - over her younger brother.
The rest of the family are sitting in the small living room, three pairs of eyes staring intently at the scrawny man who was slouching so deeply under the disapproving glare of his sister that he was nearly inside the couch cushions.
"I wish I was."
Cody’s voice is weak but steady. He remains stubbornly in the depths of the couch.
"I don't believe you, not even for a second." A third voice, this one also rude with incredulousness, belongs to a man normally plastered to Hara's side. Currently lying on another couch across the cramped room from Cody he speaks directly to his wife. "Tell us Cody is lying, Hara. He's your brother, you should be able to tell."
Cody snorts and begins to extract himself from the couch.
"I wish I knew, baby,” Hara says, her voice still shrill, but less so as she addresses her husband. “I can't tell either. It better not be true though, otherwise you,” she points aggressively at her brother, “are going to have a crap-ton to explain." Her eyes narrow into a pointed glare, which Cody shrinks under. He nearly sinks back into the couch.
"What happened to Karla?" All eyes are now drawn to the older woman in the room, sitting in a rocking chair between the two couches. Her expression is concerned and she regards her youngest child with much less emotion than her daughter..
"We broke up a few weeks ago, Ma. She couldn't handle my work schedule."
"Called it!" The man on the couch lifts his free hand out to Hara for a high-five from her, but a "Shut up, Jackson." shout from Cody and a "Not the time," hiss from Hara at the same time quickly humble the jubilant man.
"So what happened?" The woman in the rocking chair asked, folding her hands into her lap as she flicks her gaze over to her son. "These things don't just happen."
Cody fidgets under her scrutiny and remains quiet for several seconds. He glances nervously at Hara before turning deliberately towards his mother. "Don't get mad-"
From the couch Jackson snorts again, but Cody ignores it and continues speaking.
"-I went to the bar with the boys, you know the one I like, on High Street and Main-"
Hera rolls her eyes so hard that Cody wonders if he might be able to upset her enough to throw her neck out.
"-and we had a good time, I guess, but when I got home I was drunk and then I saw the stuff Karla had left in the apartment, and I got lonely." He pauses to pick at an imaginary piece of fuzz on his jeans.
With his typical flippant attitude, Jackson fills the silence of the room. "So you got on the computer and, what... went shopping? I don't think that was the answer to your problem, buddy. You said that it was an accident. How do you accidentally-"
"I was drunk!" Cody ran his fingers through his hair in frustration, intentionally cutting off his brother-in-law before he could finish the question. If he actually heard the words out loud, it would make everything seem more real. "I was just messing around on a site and I don't even remember doing it until I took a look at my banking history the next week."
"How do you not notice thousands of dollars missing from your account?" Hara screechs in what could only be described as rage. The windows shake at her volume but her pitch still isn’t enough to cause damage. "I know you don't make that much money being a bartender, it had to have been all of your savings. Gone. And you just didn’t notice?"
Cody fidgets under his sister's keen glare. In a small voice he says, "Karla left her coin collection when she booked it out of town. I pawned it all just to get it out of here."
The scrawny man sinks into the couch again under another glare he receives from his sister. Her voice has reached a new level of fury. She draws herself up to her full height and takes what is clearly meant to be a threatening step forward. "That is something we’ll discuss later, Cody. How much of Karla’s money did you ‘accidentally’ steal?”
The room is silent for a moment as Cody glances helplessly back towards his mother. A strangely blank expression is on her face, but the disapproval is more than apparent. He drops his gaze to his hands instead.
"Almost fifty thousand."
Jackson whistles quietly while his wife seemingly chokes on nothing but rage.
"And you spent it all on a-"
"Don't say it, Jackson. Please." Cody pleaded. Jackson snorts.
"A Russian mail-order bride." Hara hisses, now looming over her brother as he attempts to hide himself in the cushions again.
Another palpable silence fills the room while Cody hides his eyes behind his balled up fists. After several moments of this silence he chances a look at the others. Hara is staring fixedly at the ceiling now, her hands clenched into tight fists. Their mother is fidgeting with her fingers in her lap and he looks quickly away from her worried expression. Jackson is probably the safest, as he is not even attempting to hide his humor. He gurraffs loudly when Cody meets his eye.
"Her name is Taisiya and she’s supposed to arrive here… um, today. Any minute now, actually.'' He struggles to pronounce Taisiya and his voice has no strength. He practically whispers the last few words but they still seem to echo in the renewed silence that falls after he finishes speaking.
Anger fills Hara's eyes with Cody's words, but he hurriedly holds up one hand before she explodes. "She's a lone woman in a strange country and coming to a family she won't verbally understand until she learns our language. That could take months… years. The least we could do is be kind while I figure out how to fix this whole mess."
Hara opens her mouth again, but before she can speak there is a knock at the door. They all turn from staring at Cody to stare at the door. Jackson sits up but Cody slouches deeper. His face is bright red, and a horrified look has taken over his face.
They sit in shock long enough that a second knock reverberates through the quiet room.
"Oh, screw this!" Hara throws her up into the air and stomped over to the door. She glares daggers back at her brother as unlocks first the deadbolt, and then the latch. "You can't just leave her waiting out there, I'll open the dang door myself!"
She pauses just for a second before grabbing the handle and throwing the door open.
"Orange Planet Pizza Delivery." A greasy-haired, barely old enough to be driving teenager squeaks from beyond the entryway. "Order for Jackson?"
Jackson jumps up from the couch, pulling his wallet out of his pocket as he does so. Hara, however, doesn’t move aside. Instead she turns to grin at her brother. Her entire posture has changed and she seems to find the arrival of the spotty teen to be amusing.
"You jerk, you had me fooled! I can't believe you got us all to think you were actually stupid enough to buy a stranger off the internet! " Hara looks expectantly around the room, humor lighting her eyes. "Is Karla hiding in the back room? Is she in on this charade too?"
The relief she is feeling bubbles over and she nearly bends in half as she laughs and blocks her husband from the doorway and the pizza delivery.
Cody’s face is not breaking out of its confused expression, and her mother is still looking worried as she looks between her children. Hara’s mirth is abruptly cut off as Jackson holds out a couple of bills for the pizza, which the spotty kid gratefully trades for the pizza in his hands. As the teenager retreats out of the doorway, Hara is shocked to find another person standing behind him.
A woman about Hara’s age, is approaching the open door with three over-the-shoulder bags weighing her steps. Her clothes are wrinkled and travel-worn, as though she had spent hours on a plane and even more in a taxi. Her makeup is smudged and it does nothing to hide the exhaustion the woman is feeling. As Hera watches, the woman straightens her posture and continues to approach the house.
The teenager steps quickly off the path, hurrying towards his beat up car without looking back and Hara is jealous, just for a moment, of his departure.
"Hello." the woman says finally once she makes it to the doorway. Her voice is quiet and she speaks with a heavy Russian accent making it hard to clearly understand her, "My name is Taisiya."