By Kevin Bailey
I won’t tell on him, but I won’t speak to him either.
I haven’t said one word to my father in three weeks. I thought it would be hard, but it’s not. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been “Daddy’s girl.” I rode with him when he went quoting (that’s when he tells people how much it’ll cost them for their pool), and raced to sit next to him in church. I was his “sidekick”, he always said.
I used to meet him with kisses and hugs when he got home from building pools and after supper I loved to sit in his lap. We would watch the Yankees play, or listen to CDs or, well, anything! He’d let me read my books to him, and just hold me. I know that you might think I’m too big for those things, but that’s just how I was. Even Emily and Belle like to sit with him sometimes, but not as much as I do–I mean did.
I don’t hate my father, but it’s nothing like it used to be.
The stupid fat guy does think I hate my father. He’s a psychiatrist my parents are making me visit. His eyes got excited, like something really cool had happened, when I talked about my father. What a jerk! Now that’s a guy I hate!
But I don’t hate my father. I still love him; I just don’t like him much anymore. How could he lie about such a big thing? I’m not one to really talk about lying, but even I don’t lie about such big stuff!
Well, until now.
That’s another reason I don’t like him much: it’s like he’s making me lie about this thing. The stupid fat guy (he says to call him “Dr. P” but I never do) has tried to figure out why I hate my father. He’s obsessed, but I won’t tell him.
It’s none of his damn business.
And that’s another thing. I used to not swear. I know it’s not my father’s fault that I say swears, but I never did it before this whole mess. (That’s what I call this thing we’ve gotten ourselves into—this big lie. I call it “The Mess.”)
I don’t think the stupid fat guy has figured anything out yet. He thinks my father hits me. I told him it wasn’t true, but he doesn’t believe me. He thinks he can read my mind.
Trust me, he can’t.
I’m so sick of him I could scream. I tried to tell Mama I don’t want to go back, but she wouldn’t listen. Talking to the stupid fat guy only makes things worse—when I come home from meeting him, these constant headaches I have are worse than when I left the house.
The only one I can talk to is Garrett. He just listens, instead of always trying to figure out what I’m really feeling and all that junk. Talking to Garrett is the only way I keep from going crazy. I’m sitting in his room now, writing in my book—I came here after supper. He’s at football practice, so I’m just waiting for him. He should be here soon. It’s dark now, and he gets home not too long after dark. I really need to talk to him tonight; it’s been a bad day, and my head is pounding.
I hope he gets home soon.
Garrett never came home.
When he didn’t come after an hour, I sat next to the window, between his bed and the wall, watching for him. I was so worried I thought I might throw up, and I did something I haven’t done in a long time.
I begged God to let my big brother be okay. I guess that means I still believe in God, right? I had wondered if I still did or not. As I prayed, I even threatened God. I know a ten-year-old girl threatening God sounds silly (like he’d be scared), but I did: I said I’d kill myself if Garrett wasn’t okay.
I don’t know how I would have done it, but I would have. I couldn’t stand to lose anyone else I love.
I heard my family call for me, but I didn’t respond. I was just so scared of what they would tell me.
They went to Nikki’s house across the way. I play over there sometimes. I saw Nikki’s parents come to help look for me out in the trees. The door to Garrett’s room even opened once. But it was dark, and they didn’t see me. I really didn’t want to know what happened to Garrett. I just knew it was bad news.
Just before midnight, my father found me.
He came in, turned on the lights and opened the closet. He came to the side of the bed and looked out the window. He looked scared.
That’s when he saw me.
“Michal!” His voice came out in a gasp. “Why are you hiding?!?”
He sounded scared, not mad, but I didn’t say anything. I kept staring out the window, not wanting to hear what he was going to tell me.
He yelled to let everyone know he found me, and squeezed down next to the bed with me. I scooted away from him because I was still afraid of what he was going to say. I think he thought it was because of what happened when I heard him on the phone, but I was just scared.
Scared he was going to say Garrett was dead.
Mama came in, and they talked at the door. I saw Mama pat his arm before he walked out. “It’s okay, Jase. I’ll talk to her.”
He looked so sad when he left.
Mama sat on the edge of the bed, her feet in the space where I was curled up. She looked out the window before speaking.
“Why are you hiding, Baby?”
“Is he okay, Mommy?” I haven’t called her “Mommy” since I was small. Like five or something. I felt small again–like back then–and it just came out.
“Is who okay?” She sounded confused.
“Garrett. Is he okay? I prayed hard for him, Mommy! Harder even than—” I stopped. I didn’t want to say it, With the wreck.
Mama knew though.
“You mean… you thought… oh no, Garrett’s okay! He’s staying at Kyle’s tonight. I never thought—”
I threw up then.
The painful pounding in my head mixed up with the knot in my stomach, and I made a big mess next to Garrett’s bed, on my legs and the front of my shirt. Mama didn’t mind my mess, as she wrapped me up in her long arms.
Hearing my father’s name startled me as Mama scooped me up from next to the bed. I must have lost a lot of weight, because she carried me like when you carry a baby. I managed to hold in my second puking until we got to the toilet.
I didn’t know I could hold all that junk in me.
Mama sat Indian-style, holding me as I leaned my head over the rim. I was getting her all messy.
I tried to speak. “Mommy, you don’t—”
“Shhh…” she said, as she rubbed my shoulders and stroked my hair. “It’s okay, Noelle. Mommy’s here.”
My father came then. He had puke on the knees of his jeans, and I knew he’d been cleaning my mess. He didn’t say anything, just closed the door and sat with his legs on both sides of Mama.
“Jason, what about Kayleigh?”
“She’s sleeping with the big girls tonight.”
We sat there for a long time–until my stomach didn’t hurt so much. Once in awhile one of them would say something quiet-like, and Mama put her lips next to my ear and whispered Mama-things some, but mostly we just sat.
Daddy holding Mama, and Mama holding me.
I had something I needed to say.
“Daddy… I’m sorry.”
My last two words were a whisper, but he heard them. His breath caught in his throat, like when you get surprised. It had been a long time since I spoke to him.
“It’s okay, Angel. I’m sorry too.”
He said it real soft, but I heard him. We didn’t say anything else. We didn’t need to.
I could hear the tears in his voice.