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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: November 30, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: November 30, 2017

A A A

A A A


The city is slowly awakening, lights flickering on as people quickly bustle home to get to their families. They shoot furtive glances at the graveyard, glancing at the unlucky few that go there everyday to mourn their loved ones. Secretly, they hope that they never become one of those people. I know, because once, I was one of them too.

 

The evening breeze ruffles my neatly pinned hair, pulling a few strands loose. I kneel, setting a fresh set of blood red roses down on the grave before me, their scent wafting up and carrying through the air. I place my hands on the smooth granite, wishing I could just fold myself into her warm embrace one more time. See her smile one more time. Hear her warm heart filled laugh one more time. A traitorous tear escapes, my shaky hands hastily wipe it away, for fear someone would see. I don’t like to look weak, I don’t like to feel weak. Yet here I am, kneeling on my mother’s grave, speaking to her as if she could hear me. As if she were still alive.

 

Weak.

 

My mouth moves mindlessly, forming silent words. Pleading. Mom, I miss you. It’s not the same without you. I love you. A drop of water falls on my head, I look up as more follow. I stay a little longer, enjoying the peace and quiet. I ignore the brewing storm, savouring the moments of life that I used to take for granted. The soft chuckle as I made a fool of myself in the living room, the raucous laughter following when I continued, and the chorus of our giggles as she’d joined in on my foolish endeavor. Dancing, we’d both always been horrible at it.

 

It’s pouring now, my blouse sticking to the swell of my chest and the soft planes of my stomach. I’d forgotten to bring an umbrella. Rivulets of rain slide down my cheek, soaking into my skin, shaking me from my trance. I look around and notice the sky had faded into black, with only a few stars illuminating it. The cold sets in, and I feel a shiver up my spine. A chill permeates the air, so unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. Perhaps it’s just the loss of something that I had gotten so accustomed to. I suddenly long for the warmth of home, of a place that used to exist, but is now long gone. I sigh, and stand on shaky legs, walking to my car.

 

It’s funny, how life can change so drastically in just a few seconds. I can remember the faint chiming of the doorbell, Frank had been busy with dinner, so I had gone to the door. My footsteps echoed in the hall, the slapping of my bare feet on the floor. I had been oblivious, still smiling at some joke Frank had made. Mom’s lateness hadn’t fazed us, punctuality was never her strong suit anyways. I’d opened the door to two officers standing on my porch, their grim faces staring back at my smiling one. My grin faded, as my stomach filled with dread, my heart stopping in my chest. I knew before they told me, you always know. You try to deny it, tell yourself you’re being paranoid. But in the end, you’re always right. Their voices were muffled in my mind, as my thoughts had raced, she’d been hit by a drunk driver, there’s nothing we could do, she was dead on arrival to the hospital. Frank had come to the door, he’d burst into tears over the woman he’d loved, gone. Yet I didn’t cry. Not a single tear except for the one today had escaped ever since the news was broken to me. I’d left Frank at the door, and locked myself in my room. I didn’t come out again for two weeks.

 

I’d overturned every photo in the house. I couldn’t bare to look at her. It was easier that way, to not see her face everyday. Sometimes, I tried to forget her, anything to make the pain go away.

 

A photo I spot out of the corner of my eye catches my attention. I pick it up, my heart constricting at the memory that surfaces. It was taken years ago. Me, mom, and dad at the beach. It’s the epitome of happiness, my mother’s long blonde streaked hair flying in the wind, carrying me in her arms as I gave the camera a toothy grin, and dad, looking at us as if he were the luckiest man in the world. Yet he’d left us, those many years ago. I slam the photo down, the glass of the picture frame shattering into a million pieces. I stand there, frozen, staring in disbelief at what I’d done. That was mom’s favourite photo, but then I realise I don’t care. A small part of mom had still gone on to love my dad, even after everything he’d done, but me? I taught myself to forget him long ago.

 

The sound of a car pulling into the driveway signalled Frank’s return. I quickly clean up the glass shards, sweeping the sharp pieces in the bin, but before I have the chance to hide the photo, the doorbell rings. Frank must’ve forgotten his keys again. I don’t even check to see who’s at the door, I’m so sure that it’s Frank, even if he’d told me he wouldn’t be home until late tonight. Really, I had it coming.

His bright eyes, almost smiling back at me, his salt and pepper hair, laugh lines and creases and all. Exactly as I’d remembered him. I blink, once, twice, scared he’s just a figment of my imagination. It can’t be him, it can’t possibly be him. I grip the door handle hard for support, as I take in the sight before me. He shouldn’t be here. I close the door behind me. I don’t want him to see my new life, the life I started without him. He doesn’t have the right. My legs are shaking, I’m terrified that they’ll collapse under me. He smiles, the same smile he would flash every day, a smile so full of promise and love. So much had changed between us, yet my father himself hadn’t changed a single bit.

 

“Mila, look how much you’ve grown!” I’m rooted to the spot, at a loss for words. What are you supposed to say to a man who had abandoned you years ago? “Is anyone else home? Can I come in? Please, let me explain,” My vocal chords refuse to work, his closeness invading my thoughts, his cologne bringing back so many childhood memories I had tried so hard to hide away. I never told mom, or anyone, but when he left, it killed me. I can only watch as his bright smile fades into a frown. He stands, uncertain, but then he begins to speak.

 

“I’m so sorry about your mom, I would’ve come sooner, but there was work and-” He stops suddenly, and runs his hand through his hair, seeming to have realized his mistake. A bitter thought manifested, I didn’t even know where he worked. He never tried to contact us again after he left. He plasters on a big smile, this time not quite reaching his eyes as they become distant, recalling a memory. “Remember when I took you to get ice cream after you learned to ride your bike?” It was one of the memories I could never forget, no matter how hard I’d tried. I’d treasured it with all my heart, a small part of me refusing to let go of it.

 

When he first took me to ride a bike, I didn’t get training wheels. We’d gone up a small hill, my dad wheeling the bike while I trailed after him, whining and complaining about having to climb the hill for no apparent reason. He said that if I could ride the bike down the hill and back up without falling, I’d get ice cream and a toy of my choice. I’d taken on this challenge eagerly, I loved ice cream. I got right on the bike, and fell. It took hours, but I never quit. Finally, I rode up and down the hill without falling. He’d been so proud, ecstatic, gathering me up in his arms and twirling me. We’d laughed, and laughed. I don’t even remember what we were laughing about, but it had been the best day of my life.

 

He chuckles at the memory now, at how stupid he was. “It was so dangerous, but you’d insisted on no training wheels,” I had. I didn’t want to have to rely on something, only for it to be taken away again. Ironic, isn’t it? I’d been so afraid of losing training wheels, but in the end I’d lost the one thing I’d held close to my heart. My father. His tone turns somber, “Mila, the day I’d left, I've been regretting it ever since. I want, need, to make it up to you.”

 

The day he’d left, it was the worst day of my life. I’d come home from school to find my mother sobbing on the couch. All she could say was, “He’s gone Mila. He’s gone,” I’d understood, but I kept denying it. 1 month passed, mom stayed locked in her room upstairs, drinking. I’d sat in front of the door everyday, jumping at the noise of a car engine, hoping it was my father. It never was. 6 months passed, we got our first eviction notice. I begged and begged mom to go back to work, but she’d looked at me, her eyes glazed and empty, and said, “Mila, I was fired 3 months ago.” She downed 2 more beers before passing out. 7 months, we got our second eviction notice. 8 months, child services took me.

 

It was two years after my father had left when my mom showed up at the orphanage to get me. I should’ve been mad for her to have taken so long to come, but I ran right into her arms. She introduced me to Frank, and after that I gave up on my father.

 

“Please, forgive me. I want to get to know you again,” he pleads, begs, extending his hand. My eyes flick between his desperate eyes and his trembling hand, considering. He had been a good father, the best dad a young girl could’ve asked for. I’d loved him so much, idolised him, even. He would always make me laugh, smile, even when I was in a bad mood. He was caring, loving, kind. But he left, without even a goodbye. The days following his absence flit through my mind, the emptiness of the house, save for my mothers sobbing. The feeling that something was missing, that something wasn’t quite right. It was like the house itself had known he was gone, and with him went the vibrancy and warmth of the place. It was the only home I’d ever known, yet once he left it no longer felt like it.

 

He can see it in my eyes once I make my decision, the expression on his face almost breaking my resolve, but I won’t let him hurt me again.

 

His face shrouds in disappointment. The anger is sudden, coursing through my veins as I remembered all the pain and heartbreak he had put us through, me through. “When the police had come to my door telling me my mom was dead, where were you? When I locked myself up in my room for weeks, thinking about ways to make all the pain just stop, starving myself, where were you? When our life fell to pieces after you’d left, where were you?” I say, my volume increasing as angry tears stream down my face. A single tear escapes and rolls down his cheek, “Mila, I-I never meant to hurt you, I’m-”

“Sorry? Sorry doesn’t cut it anymore. I’ve managed 5 years without you, what makes you think I need you now?” I step back over the threshold into my home. “It’s almost rush hour, If you want to beat traffic I suggest you leave now.” I slam the door, collapsing back against it, sobs tearing through my body. The tears fall freely, for everything I’ve lost. My mom, my dad, my family.

 

I hear the engine start, and the sound tugs at my heart. Memories flash, of him laughing as I’d failed to blow out the 8 candles on my birthday cake, him throwing me up in the air as I’d screamed in excitement, again! Again! My father may be an idiot, but he’s the most honourable man I know. Am I really ready to let him go? I miss him. It’s something I’ve been denying for the past 5 years. Every time I thought of him, all I could see was my mother, sobbing on the couch. The stench of alcohol as I’d entered her room, to find her passed out in a sea of empty wine bottles and beer cans. Her look of absolute hopelessness as she’d told me she’d been fired.

 

But it’s different now, he’s the only family, real family, I have left. I’m halfway down the driveway before I realise what I’m doing. The brake lights flash bright red as the car screeches to a stop. He’s out of the car in seconds. I stop myself from jumping into his arms like I used to do when I was a little girl, instead offering my hand as a sign of peace. His eyes fill with hope, as he grasps it, holding tight, refusing to let me go again. The tears are streaming down my cheeks as he tugs me into his warm embrace. And suddenly, I’m not a hollow shell anymore.

 

I’m home.

 


© Copyright 2018 Janine Young. All rights reserved.

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