If you had asked me six months ago to voice my deepest darkest fear, I would have said without hesitation that it would be to never know what had happened to my mother. Heavy, I know. But at the time the only thing I could imagine that might be worse than never seeing her again would be to wonder why for the rest of my life.
Actually, that would have been my answer if you’d asked me six hours ago.
But now, crouching in the dark bathroom hiding from the strangers who are searching my house, I’m ready to revise my answer. Clearly my imagination wasn’t - isn’t - depraved enough.
Let me back up.
I started this evening still under the delusion that the worst had already happened. Four hours ago, I was tucked away at a grief camp in Las Cruces, New Mexico where I’ve been for the past two weeks ever since my dad dropped me off despite my irrational threats. And I’d be there still, with another mind-numbing week to go, if I hadn’t had a slight mental breakdown after ‘Transition Talks’ this afternoon. By far the worst session of them all, “Transition Talks” is a two hour moan-fest led by the perkiest puffball of a counselor that you can possibly imagine.
Though to be fair, I actually have her to thank for my early freedom. It was her heartfelt suggestion that we let the ‘rainbow cloud lift the pain away’ that was the absolute last straw. She had closed her eyes, plastered a ridiculously placid smile on her face and started to sway to a tune that only she could hear. The zombies, which is what I have been affectionately calling the other poor souls stuck in this place with me, all followed suit.
I mean, really.
I honestly snapped. I'm not usually a rule breaker, but something came over me and I just got up and walked out. My contraband cell phone was burning a hole in my pocket and my fingers were itching to search for the nearest bus station. Which I did as soon as I locked myself into the nearest bathroom.
Come on, the fact that the station was less than a half a mile away and the last bus left a full hour after lights out seemed like a sign from heaven.
A sign that there wasn’t anything left to do except bide my time and then break out in the middle of the night without telling anyone.
And technically I didn’t have to do any breaking. I just waited until lights out, counted to five hundred and climbed out of bed. And since I’d never unpacked (some might call that premeditation) I just grabbed my stuff and waltzed out.
I wasn’t even subtle about it.
In the interest of not breaking an ankle I was waving my souvenir flashlight, around all air-traffic-controller-style as I sashayed out the main gate, which proudly displayed the message ""HOPE HAVEN - WHERE HEARTS COME TO HEAL".
And the award for Most Asinine Grief Camp Slogan goes to...
And even though I've spent the last six weeks binge watching Vampire Diaries episodes as my method of choice for avoidance, I managed not to die from fright on the road. And when I got to the bus station, not only did the hairy guy selling tickets not try to bite me, he never even showed his teeth.
The next three and a half hours were spent rattling down the road in a seat that smelled like stale smoke and other sour left-behinds, scanning for too-beautiful people, because there's no such thing as an ugly vampire.
I had tried to call Kyle to let him know what I'd done so he could tell me how totally justified and epic it was and also to ask him to pick me up from the bus station, but my cell phone was dead by then.
Gah, technology. It's like I actually repel it.
So the bus driver called me a cab, which dropped me off at the end of my street and charged an arm and a leg and at least half a butt cheek, and twenty minutes ago that had seemed like the biggest of my immediate concerns. Well, other than the fact that I wasn't looking forward to facing my dad.
Obviously there would be a lot of yelling and I would lose my temper and end up shouting that he should go check into Hope Haven and see if his heart did any healing because, wait for it...
He's the one who actually thinks she's dead.
I know that's low, but it's true. I don't accept it. On whether that’s pathetic or brave the jury is still out.
But I really wanted to catch a few hours of sleep before we got into all of that, and my dad is a ridiculously light sleeper, so I had sucked in all my breath, pleaded with my thighs to become concave and squeezed through our notoriously squeaky door. I had decided to risk a little faucet action to remedy the fuzzy teeth situation before bed, and had tiptoed to the bathroom in a remarkably quiet fashion. I had left the light off and was fumbling in the dark for the hot water when I first heard it.
And even though I hadn’t heard that sound for years, I knew exactly what it was.
The creak of the warped floorboards between my parents’ room and mine.
No one in my family would step on those boards. We've been hop scotching down the hallway to avoid them since we bought this house almost six years ago. Even Kyle does it and he doesn't live here. It's muscle memory.
Suddenly another long drawn out creak sounds in the silence.
So, now you’re all caught up. Just in time for the big cliffhanger.
I hear the creak a third time and a forth followed by a small pause as the person tries to avoid a fifth. The strap of my bag is still digging into my shoulder and my throat is working silently to force my breath to slow down.
For several heartbeats all I hear is the quiet pulsing of the house.
And then…“We missed him?”
Heavy sigh. “Yeah. Looks like it.”
“Where's the daughter again?”
Heart, meet ribs.
“I dunno. Some camp somewhere.”
Heart, meet esophagus.
A click and a beep and my dad announces that we aren't here but that we would be happy to call you back.
“Hey Eric, its Miles, from the other day... I…I really need to talk to you. I'm sorry about before. I think I gave you the wrong idea. Look, I know what you said, but I really want to help you. I know where to find her. Please call me back. Number's on the card I gave you. Just... please call me back. I can help.”
I don't recognize the voice or the name and not just because I'm about to whiz myself in terror.
A grunt. “Yeah. That's not good.”
“Do you think he went?”
“Ahhhh, probably. But maybe not. I was pretty convincing last time.” His chuckle zips down my spinal cord.
Several more clicks and a whirring noise and then footsteps cross the kitchen floor, passing less than three feet from where I'm trying to become the wall.
I hear the door open and close and then silence. My eyes bug into the blackness, waiting for a face to pop around the corner and yell GOTCHA! But when that doesn’t happen after several breaths I set the bag and the keys down softly and lean against the sink.
Eventually I begin to think about leaving the bathroom. A while after that I poke my nose out the door. The big window over the sink floods the room with the pale glow of a bright moon.
Everything seems suddenly sinister. The silver glint of the knives on the wall above the stove, the dark wavering reflected images in the face of the microwave, the icy tile seeping through my thin flip-flops.
The strangers have left behind a miasma, which I know, thanks to Mrs. Yoder's relentless vocab lists in American Lit. last year, means an unwholesome and oppressive atmosphere.
Unwholesome. Check. Oppressive. Check.
I think suddenly that maybe my dad is hiding too. That would be the best case scenario in this worst case scenario.
I poke a toe out of the bathroom, eyes flicking to the answering machine and turn down the hallway, my feet weaving silently around the boards, heading to my dad's room to see for myself.
The bed is made and empty. He’s not flattened underneath it or hiding in the closet or scrunched behind the door.
I blink a few times and let the realization that he’s not here settle in. It doesn’t go easy. I mean, he's not a late-night kind of guy. He’s a finish your Christmas shopping by July kind of guy. He’s a fire extinguisher in every room kind of guy. Unpredictable is not his middle name. He should be here - have been here - to run those guys off or hit them with a book or something.
Should I call the police? Probably. There were just intruders in my home and apparently my dad is missing. But, technically, I’m not supposed to be here. And, I'm still a minor. For another six months. Can they arrest me or fine me or confiscate me for leaving the camp without my parent's permission?
Yeah. I'm not calling them.
Maybe the camp noticed I was missing and called my dad and he's driving there as we speak. That would be good, but also not good. The only thing that would make him more clenched than my little escape would be if he wasted gas driving all the way up there only to find out I was back home alone.
But where else would he be?
"Looks like we missed him. You were pretty convincing last time."
I remember what the scary guys said and hear a high pitched wheezing noise and then realize it’s coming from me.
Thank god he wasn't here. The thought digs in deep against my ribs and I hunch over it involuntarily. This is the part where I amend my previous statement. The worst possible case scenario of having both of my parents go missing without a trace, is now glaringly obvious.
Like I said, my imagination clearly isn’t able to keep up with the depraved realities of my actual life.
I turn around and head back to the kitchen to check the spot. It’s a long shot, but it’s the only shot I’ve got.
Years ago my mom found a random puzzle piece on a trip to the beach. It had a giant eyeball on it. She created this game where we hid the puzzle piece in random places and whoever found it had to hide it for someone else. We found that eyeball in some pretty funny places over the years; peering up from under coffee cups in restaurants, glaring out from the dark middle shelf of the linen closet, winking through the plastic of my sandwich baggie.
We always joked that my dad’s spots never had any imagination, which he did not appreciate. One day he froze the eyeball in an ice cube tray. Mom plopped it in her glass of tea and didn’t notice that her ice was staring at her until it sailed past her lips. She sprayed everything in a ten foot radius, including me, in the process of horking it back up. We laughed, dad felt vindicated and somehow that morphed into us leaving important things in the freezer, which then morphed into us leaving notes there for each other whenever we left the house. I know it's weird, but it pretty much sums up my family.
It's one thing that didn't disappear with her. Sunday morning pileups in the living room with blankets and books and meals around actual tables became distant memories. So did eye contact and casual conversation. But mom always said that it was just common courtesy to let someone know where you're going, and somehow that stuck.
I pull open the freezer door and stare at the note with my name on it, which is ridiculous on many levels. Despite the numbness in my fingers, I can tell it is completely frozen to the bag of tater tots behind it. It's been there for much longer than the few hours he would have been gone had he just motored off to track me down.
I rip the note out of the ice, switching to autopilot. I hurry back to the bathroom to dig my phone and charger out of my bag and grab the keys. Pocketing everything I spend a few moments peering out the kitchen door window. I breathe in and out for a long time, psyching myself up for the 150 yard journey to Kyle's house, and sort of not thinking about what the note will say or Vampire Diaries or loitering thugs.
At the last minute I dig a giant grilling fork out of the drawer closest to me. I could never actually stab someone, so the threat of it better be enough. One last deep breath, the fork pointed downward for safety, and I slide silently back out into the night.
A hairy freak out is breathing down my neck as I half-walk, half-skip down the sidewalk. I really want to run, but running has always been hazardous to my health. And, well, I am carrying a four-inch tool of impalement.
I make it to Kyle's back door unscathed by strangers or forks and use my key to let myself in. No need for silence here. Kyle's dad, Mike, has allergies and sleeps with a CPAP machine. If you caught sight of him with it on you might think he went to bed expecting an imminent gassing by a foreign power. Kyle’s mom Lisa wears ear plugs so she can sleep less than two feet away from the whirring and whooshing. I could probably make a smoothie in the hallway and the Greens wouldn't even roll over.
I flick the locks and duck into the bathroom off the hallway to take care of business. Washing my hands I catch sight of my face in the mirror and wince.
My eyes are buggy black pools of fear with dark shadows splashed underneath. Usually one of my best features, deep brown and nicely spaced with lashes that require no mascara, right now the terror in them makes me look away.
The sprinkle of freckles that has haunted me for my entire life dot the whitish-blue of the skin stretched over the bones of my nose and cheeks. My lips are pale, trembling and stretched thin now. They are out of practice for my too-wide smile.
Cue mental ghost mom reminding me how long it took her and my dad to pay off the braces that toned down my childhood toothiness.
"You are beautiful. Never forget it."
Maybe she couldn’t stay around to finish raising me, but at least I got straight teeth out of the bargain.
I suck in a breath and the messy bun on top of my head wobbles like a demented wedding cake. I spend some time trying to rescue the rubber band holding it all together. At the end of the battle, I am down a few hairs but have triumphed over the hair accessory.
I shake my fingers through the curly red tangles letting them tumble down my back. Although it often requires heavy duty product placement to look respectable, my long hair is another thing I've always had going for me. It's the right kind of red, not orange at all, with lots of brown and gold highlights and just the right amount of curl. In eighth grade I overheard Melanie Trowbridge tell one of her friends that she would ‘kill’ for my hair. Since then I’ve privately and idiotically thought of it as my secret weapon.
Fat lot of good it has done me.
Rage and sarcasm feel so much better than panic and terror. Some of my best one-liners have been born from a sense of injustice. Which is something that, until about six months ago, my life did not have a lot of.
Now people are breaking into my house and looking for my dad. He's getting strange phone calls from a person I've never heard of and has gone AWOL in the middle of the night.
"I know where to find her."
Find who? My mom?
I was under the impression that no one was looking anymore.
The last six months have been a practice in shoving down the thought that I'll start senior year this fall without her. Every day is a question with no answer. I've lost my smile and forgotten that there's a bright side. I've spent days tangled in blankets that smell like tears, vacillating wildly between thoughts of my bleak future and an unfounded conviction in the idea that everything will work out somehow.
I flick the light off and head towards Kyle's room, the pneumatic pumping growing fainter behind me. I pull back his curtains to let the moonlight in. Shadows dust his curly blond hair, his long eyelashes rest on his perfect freckle-less cheekbones. His shirt is off, the blanket dragged down to just past his navel. One arm is across his chest, the other flung out and resting on his nightstand.
Kyle is the kind of guy that makes girls do stupid stuff. His eyes are hazel and he has dimples. Big ones. Which is enough. But he's also tall, lean, and muscular with nice broad shoulders. He usually has a killer tan by the first day of summer break and it stays with him until around December when it dwindles to a great tan.
I, on the other hand, usually have a painful and unattractive burn by Memorial Day, and a steady peeling problem from there on out.
I plop down on the bed next to him.
He doesn't move.
The frozen note burns in my pocket so I dig it out and stare at it. I reach into the other pocket and pull out my phone and charger and plug them in. I’m sure there will be a message from my dad. There has to be.
I unfold the icy paper and lean into the moonlight.
Lucy, If you're reading this...there’s nothing I can say. She’s alive and I’ve gone to try to bring her back, for both of us. Maybe everything will work out and we will both be back here waiting for you. If not… please forgive me.
Inside my closet, all the way in the back there is a stack of shoe boxes. Underneath the shoe boxes is a square of loose carpet. Peel it back and open the door in the floor. Take the envelope you find in there and use the ticket to get to the island. Don't wait around for me. Don't stay at home alone. Be good. I'm sorry. I love you.
The air has been sucked out of the room. The words she’s alive beat a rhythm in the silence. Get to the island. Don't stay home alone. Explosions of rage fire from my synapses and terrible tasting words burst on my tongue.
I snatch up my phone and dial his number with shaking hands. He never leaves the house without making sure his phone is fully charged. We called him our boy scout, because he was. I have to talk to him. There has to be a rational explanation for this. A tear hits the keypad as I punch in the number. It goes straight to voice mail. The rational explanation theory fizzles out impressively.
Optimism takes a hit.
The idea that my dad's been harboring a secret plan to 'find her', without telling me that it was even a possibility pretty much makes me want to puke.
I flop down next to Kyle and curl into his side.
A hand comes up and cups my bum.
“HEY!” I jerk up to sitting and glare down at his confused blinking expression.
“Wha... Lucy?” He squints up at me, yanking his hand back.
“Jeez, who were you expecting?” I give him a shove as he comes up on two elbows.
“What the hell, Foxe? Aren't you supposed to be at that camp?” He drags a hand down his face and blinks at me some more, not looking nearly as annoyed as I am.
“I snuck out, which is the least of what I have to tell you, but for god's sake, I wasn't aware you were that used to girls crawling into your bed in the middle of the night.”
“Sorry. I was having a Lira dream.” He chuckles and flops back down onto the bed.
Lira was an exchange student last year from Turkey who looked like she stepped out of the display case of Victoria's Secret to catch the bus. She attached herself to Kyle upon taking her bearings and the two of them became familiar.
“Just. Ew.” I dust off the seat of my shorts.
Kyle flips one arm behind his head and looks up at me, completely unfazed by my agitation. “So you pulled a big escape, eh?”
I blink at him for a moment and then some ugly seal sobs burst out without warning. Kyle sits up quickly, putting his hand on my shoulder and squeezing.
“Ahhh, Red. I knew you'd hate it.”
I swallow a few times. And then I tell him about the rainbow clouds and the bad food. He pats my back and nods sympathetically.
I tell him about the sad zombies and the stupid motto. He chuckles.
I tell him about the bus and sneaking in to my house. He gives me the raised eyebrow nod.
I tell him about the floorboards and hiding in the bathroom while thugs searched the place. His eyes bug out and his mouth pops open.
I tell him about what they said and what the answering machine message said and what the note said and how apparently my dad has been gone for a while.
He’s frozen in the bug-eyed, fish-mouthed stage.
He stays that way for a few beats and I lean forward to make sure he’s still breathing.
Suddenly he pulls me in, squeezing me tight enough to hurt. After a moment he lets go and reaches over to flip on his light. He takes the note from my hand without saying anything. My brain replays the words in the silence as he reads.
“What. The. Hell.” He sits staring at the note.
I let him process, hoping he has more luck at it then I have so far.
Finally he folds the note back up again.
“My parents will adopt you.”
I know he's right. The Greens have been my second family ever since we moved here from the island six years ago.
“I'm going to go. I have to go.”
“Well, I'm going with you.”
I knew he would say that and I'm glad.
“What about Lisa?” I ask.
He scoffs. “Please.”
But I have my doubts. Kyle’s mom and I might be the only females in existence who don’t fall for Kyle’s charm when he’s laying it on. Even Mrs. Moberg, the ancient school secretary, who sets the definition for the word ‘stickler’ has overlooked more of Kyle’s tardies than there are hairs on my head.
We sit in silence for a while before Kyle comes to a decision. “Well we might as well go get this envelope.”
I avert my eyes as he flips back the covers and steps into the jeans and shirt lying rumpled on the floor. He walks around the bed and holds his hand out to me.
As we pass the bathroom, I pull back and duck in, snagging the fork off the bathroom counter.
He takes a step back, hands up. Over the years Kyle has developed lightning reflexes and is nearly always able to catch me when I trip, which is often. When I'm not with him I'm a walking hazard sign. I can understand why he wouldn't want to be in my general vicinity when I'm wielding a silver death wand.
I glare at him and hand over the fork. He gives me a ‘good girl’ look.
We make the trip back to my house in silence. I scan the street for thugs, but its thug free.
Kyle pauses outside the door. “You don't think they would have come back, do you?”
I shrug and move behind him as he brandishes the fork and opens the door ninja-style. He charges in and I jump into the bushes. After a moment he pokes his head out and raises an eyebrow.
“All clear, chicken.”
I follow him in without shame, locking the door behind us as he puts the fork back in the drawer.
“Hot chocolate.” He gives me a look.
Kyle and I have rules about our middle of the night interventions. There are always snacks and whoever calls is responsible. I snatch the tea kettle off the stove and stick it under the faucet then clang it onto the burner. I turn the gas on high, root around in the cabinet for a couple of packets of hot chocolate which I rip open and shake more or less into two mugs. I dig a sticky bag of marshmallows out of the pantry and toss them on the counter before plucking two pairs of chopsticks out of the dish drainer. They clink into the mugs with a puff of powder.
I give him a look. “I’ll get the envelope.”
He smiles. “I'll hit the head.”
I roll my eyes down the hallway.
The closet door is wide open. The normal mess that would be littering the floor if my mom were still sharing this space is absent.
The shoe boxes are stacked, just as the note said they would be, against the back wall. I drop to my knees and move them to uncover a piece of carpet that's clearly removable. A cut-out square in the naked wood underneath has been drilled with a finger-sized hole and after wrestling it out I jam my hand inside and pull out a thick accordion-style envelope wrapped tightly with string.
And sigh at it.
Rage is replacing the terror I felt when I was alone. I glare at the envelope and think about tossing it into the trash. I could emancipate myself and finally get that dog I’ve always wanted. I could eat in bed and order all the cable channels and spend their bank accounts on QVC. I've never been a big partier, but the fact that I am now the only occupant of a pretty swanky parent-free crash pad could work wonders on my social life.
Gee, mom and dad. You shouldn’t have.
I think of how long he must have been planning this. The man takes ten minutes to back out of the driveway - every single time repositioning the seat and the mirrors and performing a safety check that would raise the eyebrows of a commercial airline pilot before releasing the parking brake engaged on a completely flat surface.
I get one measly paragraph as explanation for why I am now an orphan.
The kettle whistle starts quietly, quickly becoming shrill in the silence. I close my eyes, hot tears tracking down the side of my face. The whistling dies down sharply. Either Kyle is taking care of things in the kitchen or the thugs have broken back in and plan to relax us with a hot beverage before the real fun starts.
I tuck the envelope under my arm and peek around the corner. Kyle’s cheeks are puffed out, a smear of white on his lower lip. There are no thugs in sight.
I walk over and wrap my hands around my mug, chopsticks bobbing in a puddle of goo, and head toward the sliding glass door.
Some things are better discussed outside under the moon.
Everything is better discussed with a side of sugar.
Kyle slides the screen door closed as I settle onto our creaky porch swing. The air is balmy, sky clear. The soft sounds of crickets that has been the soundtrack to many happy nights spent right here are in their full glory. I run my finger around the lip of my mug, another tear sliding down my nose.
Kyle's chopsticks do a brisk business ferrying marshmallows to his mouth.
“What the frack did I do to deserve this?” My broken voice breaks the silence.
He snorts and reaches over to take my brimming mug out of my hands. He begins hoovering up my marshmallows, shaking his head. It’s his life mission to catch me swearing, but I never do. I think it makes people sound tacky and I prefer my own creative alternatives.
“I mean, what the hello? She's alive?!? Really?!?" I stare at him and he just stares back.
"GAH!" I fling my body backwards, rocking the swing violently in my agitation.
Kyle juggles the mug so it doesn't slosh on him, but recovers quickly and snags the last marshmallow as he settles into the rocking. He chews and swallows, staring off into the night for a moment.
“You don't deserve this, Luce.”
"Why wouldn’t he tell me this? Didn’t he see what this was doing to me? Didn’t he think I had a right to know? And why send me to that stupid camp if he ‘knew she was alive’?” I throw up the floating question marks.
I glance over at Kyle, catching him in mid gulp, but he gives me a sympathetic look with the top half of his face.
I slowly unwind the string on the envelope. It is one of those accordion-style envelopes with several pockets and the first pocket is full of green. I count out five one hundred dollar bills and two shiny new credit cards.
“Whoa.” Kyle breathes chocolate breath all over my neck. He knows how weird this is.
My family doesn’t have a flat screen because the old TV hasn’t worn out yet, and even though our toaster only has one working slot, we still stand in line soup-kitchen style every morning for toast because my parents can’t face contributing to the landfill or spending money that could be saved. I mean, we still have an answering machine for god’s sake. My parents buy prepaid phones and won’t waste minutes listening to messages they could get for free at home. If I had a quarter for every time they explained that to me I could have bought myself a dozen iPhones.
“What else is in there?”
There is also an open dated plane ticket to the island, I notice it’s one way, and behind that my birth certificate. I flip past the rest of the papers without looking because I don't want to know. But the contents of the last pocket reach up and choke me.
My fingers brush cool metal and I draw out a light silver chain which tinkles familiarly. A cluster of delicate and differently colored metal leaves dangles from the end.
The crickets enjoy their solo.
Every memory I have of her is a memory in which she is wearing this necklace. She wore it in the shower, in the pool, when she slept. The only time I remember her taking it off was when she had a minor surgery when I was ten. She had to stay in the hospital overnight and she put it around my neck before she left, and it had made me feel better.
The chain feels cool and impossibly light in my hands now and I think how easily she slipped away from me. As if our bond was as flimsy as these tiny silver links.
“What does that mean?” Kyle’s sounds far away.
“It means she left it behind.” The ripples from that realization are slowly but exponentially multiplying in my brain.
My mother left me and knew she wasn’t coming back…
How long has my dad known?
My voice comes out as a whisper as I try to speak past the huge lump of shock and horror suddenly present in my throat. “She left it just like she left my dad and me. Just like my dad left me too.” The words squeeze out of my throat and fall between us like smoldering rocks, the process of forcing them out painful on many levels.
My brain is threatening shut down, I keep thinking of the last six months, all the terror I’ve felt, the horrible scenarios I’ve concocted, and thinking that all along she was fine…off someplace because she chose to go…it’s so unreal I can’t even go there.
I hold the necklace up and place my fingers behind the delicate leaves, each made from a different type of metal; silver for my mom, white gold for my dad, copper for me and one extra leaf of iron that she would only smile about when asked.
I blink in the dim light and spread the leaves with my fingers. Two are missing. There used to be four, and now there is only silver and gold.
Did she take my tiny metal leaf in order to remember me by? Did it get lost? I shuffle through the envelope and dump everything inside onto my lap, but it’s not in there.
It’s just gone.
Like my parents.
Like life as I knew it.
My fingers tighten on the two remaining leaves and I want to rip them off the chain and fling them into the night. There is so much anger inside me I can feel my skin burning with the need to let it out. I need to break or ruin something.
I feel broken and ruined myself.
My mom used to say that each of the leaves was made of an ancient metal, used through the ages. She said that they had certain properties that forged a link through time and space, connecting us in times of need.
Yes, she seriously said that.
And if she were here now I would scream at her that she is the most selfish person I have ever known and that I will never forgive her. That I don't feel connected to anything anymore and have spent the last six months wondering if I ever was. That she is the worst thing that has ever happened to me.
That right in this moment I hate her.
Kyle’s arms come around me when my breath catches and he doesn't say anything.
After a time his hand appears in front of my face with a wad of tissue, which he seems to always have lately. I take the wad, dropping it on my dad's meticulously manicured lawn when it reaches full saturation.
I don’t know what is happening or why my dad hid this stuff from me. I don’t know why my mom left us as if we meant nothing at all to her or what he thinks he can do about it. I don’t know what will happen next or how to keep myself safe.
What I do know is that the two most important people in my life have turned out to be irresponsible butt heads. And someone should do something about that. I have this irrational urge to ignore my dad’s directions on principal and take matters into my own hands, but I don’t have any better ideas. I could stay at Kyle’s and try to forget that my parents ever existed, at least until I’m able to forgive them, assuming that’s possible, but staying here doesn’t feel right.
I fasten the chain around my neck and place my hand where it rests on my skin and take a deep breath.
I can hear Kyle smiling beside me. “Well, Foxe. When do we leave?”