Bad Day

In the evening I slip out the front door, run down the hill from my house, put my head down and watch my feet through stinging eyes: black combat boots crunching down oak leaves, the smell of autumn rain.


I walk for an hour, pacing to the music running through my head. "Please don't take a picture;/It's been a bad day./Please." Fingers clutching my phone tightly to my chest, I wait for the inevitable text. Someone will notice I'm not in the house; almost certainly my dad will be forced to get in the car and go looking for me. He'll locate me, pull over, and glower until I get into the car. "Broadcast me a joyful noise into the times, lord." I shove my hands deeper into my pockets. Try to ignore the passing strangers."Save my own ass;/Screw these guys."


When my mom finally texts me, I'm at my aunt's front door. I knock; she lets me in with enthusiasm and no questions. I could stay hereforever. Nonetheless, I take out my phone. Text back ("i'm at teresa's"). Eat vanilla bean ice cream with strawberries and wait to be picked up. All too soon I'm riding in the front seat while my mom drives in silence. She turns the radio down to volume two and we listen to muffled pop music in the dark. "We're sick of being jerked around./We all fall down."


She pulls over and turns the key; the radio falters and dies and the lights dim. "Halle." She pauses. "Never do this again."


I slouch, muttering "I'm fine, I'm fine."


She's still grimacing. "You scared me. And your brother. He keptasking where you were."


I cringe at that. "He's so sweet." Hesitating: "Did Daddy worry?"


She abruptly turns to look at me, sighs softly. "You want me to choose you over him, but I married your dad and I will be living with him when we're both old. He's always going to be your dad." I can hear her choking on her words. "I know you only see his faults, but at least you have a dad."


I remember what little she's told me about her own dad and about her step-father, my grandfather. "Did you love Zayda?" I ask.


"No." Her words spill out quickly. "And I didn't like my mother for marrying him, and for not sticking up for me. He was always so unfair to me." She stops, looking me squarely in the eye."But it wasn't anybody's fault. Your bubi married him because she thought that would be best for everybody. It wasn't anybody's fault my dad died when I was eight, but all I knew was that there was a man who I thought was the greatest man in the world, and suddenly he was gone, and I had to blame someone. It's something you will never understand because you didn't lose your dad."


I want to dismiss her words as some cliché – "life isn't fair". "Don't know what you got 'til it's gone." I can't; I'm crying.


She turns the key and the car growls as it starts up again. Headlights illuminate the road.


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hkcountryman
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