Not Once, But Twice

I told Mom to drop me off a block away. She told me not to be ashamed of the car and pulled out front. The rusted, chipped, and dented appearance made that impossible. The kids at school would care. So I cared.

Bentley Harris snickered and threw an empty milk carton at me. I dodged the container and ducked through the front door as cries of laughter spread like wildfire. I hoped Mom hadn’t seen. I avoided Bentley the entire morning. I swore this was the last time I would miss the bus as I ate my lunch in the library.

I blamed him for leaving us, again.

Our head librarian Mrs. Rhodes asked me about my classes as I was leaving. I pretended they got better and left to catch the bus home. Mom was staying late at work tonight. I desperately wished that I were like everybody else, with their rich clothes and fancy gadgets and promises of Mustangs for their sixteenth birthdays.

I’ll probably get a job on my sixteenth birthday. I could blame him for that too.

Mom brought home pizza for dinner. She never does that. I figured there was a special occasion, but she ignored it. Mom always goes to bed at ten, so at ten-thirty I opened her purse from the closet and starting rifling through it. There was nothing unusual until I found the envelope. It was marked for her.

I opened it.

I hated what I found.

That night I dreamt I was swimming freely, eyes snapped wide apart, inhaling the layers of blue and black that encircled my underwater world. It didn’t sting the way I usually expect opening my eyes underwater to. If my body required breathing it couldn’t remember. Propelling deeper I found a crescent, a silver-shape wedged beneath the sand. The moon? No matter how hard I pushed down to reach for it, I couldn’t get close enough. My hands passed through the empty water countless times, hardly registering the liquid weight as it began to press down harder. The moon sat only inches away, but I couldn’t have saved my life had I needed it.

The next day our principal Mr. Cartwright called me to his office. He asked me how I was handling myself; I told him I was fine.

Mrs. Rhodes offered me a cookie during lunch. She asked if I wanted to talk about him. I guess somehow the whole school heard what happened. Even Bentley Harris told me he was sorry that afternoon.

It was weird to be home alone. Suddenly everything felt empty. I pulled out the old photo albums. A smile crept to my face at his picture. I felt guilty for feeling happy and snapped the album shut.

Mom said I should be grateful he left such a large portion of his will to me, that now I might go to college. I decided not to tell her that I felt like I lost my dad all over again. Not even fourteen years old and already he had left me not once, but twice. He hadn’t even called to tell us he was sick.

That hurt a lot worse than being broke.