Heartache and Joy

January 7, 2008
By Andrea Horne, Clarkston, MI

She walks through the high school hallways observing the chaos and not stopping to talk. It is her senior year, yet she feels as if she will never be set free. She is the average height, normal weight, a good student, with a close group of friends. She is the kind of person to try to stay out of trouble and drama free. Her home life holds her back from having the normal teenage experiences, but sooner or later those teenage years will catch up to her.

Alli Kay grew up in an average sized town. She was neither spoiled nor poor. It was just her, her mom, and her little brother. No one seemed to question where her father was, or why they moved to this town, it was just one of those things no one asked. Alli did not like the subdivision they lived in. She complained that the houses were too close together, as if everyone was on top of everyone else’s business. The fact that they were not a normal family did not allow them to be in a circle of friendly neighbors. Other people’s opinions were not on Alli’s priority list but what was, was the certainty of her family’s future and hers.

It was midway through the school year when Marie came to Alli’s school. She walked into Alli’s first hour with a grin on her face and a soft spoken voice. Marie began walking toward the row of seats that Alli was in. While all this time, Alli is hoping that the “new girl” will not sit next to her. Alli was not in the mood for conversations, explanation or questions. Marie kept her eyes on the floor as she made her way to the seat right behind Alli. While Alli sits and waits for the moment. From behind, Alli hears “hi” in an unsure yet expectant way.
Alli glances up not sure how she should respond. She turns with a convincing smile and says “hi” back.
During that one second of time she catches every detail about Marie. The way her hair and make-up are done perfectly, she must have wanted to make a good impression, and how her outfit was perfectly coordinated down to the headband in her hair and the diamonds dangling from her ears. Alli turns back around and wonders about what she just saw. The teacher rambles on, but nothing is registering for Alli. She keeps thinking about who Marie really is. She realized that she is interested in Marie; her past, family, everything. Alli knew nothing about her, and even better Marie knew nothing about Alli. The bell rings and the weight of depression lifts from the class room. Something hit Alli and without thinking words came out of her mouth.

Alli muttered “You wanna do something after school?”
Marie was surprised and relieved. “Umm…sure. What did you have in mind?”

“Do you like coffee?” Alli wondered to herself why she just suggested coffee.

“Yeah. Can’t wait,” Marie looked pleased
Alli finally walks up the sidewalk to her house. Coming home from her coffee meeting with Marie, she realized that becoming friends with her was a fresh new slate. She inserts her key into the lock, anticipating what is on the other side. No one seems to be home, yet she knows that they are. She hesitates to turn the lock. Her shoulders feel heavy and weighed down as she realizes the stress that comes from behind the door. Alli takes a few steps in and puts down her bag in a careless matter. She knows where everyone is; they are in the same places at the same time everyday. Alli’s younger brother is off in his room, while her mother is passed out on the couch from a long day of drinking. It is nothing unusual to Alli. The empty bottles are on the coffee table, the floor and the couch. Alli ignores the mess for now. She knows what she has to do to keep her family together and nothing will stop her. She checks on her little brother, asking how his school day went. Cleaning up the house is something she is use to, knowing every handy secret for stains on cloths is a skill she acquired. Dinner is on the stove as her mother comes to.
“How was school?” Ms. Kay pushes out of her mouth as she stumbles to get water.
“Fine,” Keeping it short and sweet allowed Alli to keep her true thoughts inside. “Dinner is done. I’m going to my room; I have a lot of work to do.”
Without waiting for a response, Alli left the room and headed to tell her brother to go and eat before it got cold. He was sitting on his bed, reading a book given to him by his school. His baby face and soft voice add to his true innocence. Alli protects him at all costs. She had lost her child years and would not let that happen to him.

Alli knew that something had happened to make her father leave but was too young to realize, what had happened. She remembers him. The day he was not there was one of those strange gloomy days in the fall. When the sky was gray and the leaves from the trees highlighted the skyline. The feeling in the air was mysterious, one that haunts her in her sleep. Alli was six. She adored her father. She awoke in the morning and crept downstairs. Thinking no one would be awake, she sneaked into the kitchen. Then she heard the rustling in the garage. The car was running, yet over the humming motor, her mother’s voice sent chills down her spine. Her voice was shaking and pleading for something. Then the garage door began to shut. Once he was gone, it seemed as though the outside world entered into Alli’s little life and never left. Her world as she knew it was gone and reality set in. Her mother fell apart, and her little brother was too young to know any different. People say that children can sense the feelings of people around them, yet her brother never seemed to buckle in the changing household. Finding out what happened would be a challenge on its own and by the way things were looking, it seemed as though Alli would never find the truth.

The next few weeks went by. The blur of Alli’s life never changed. At school, teachers would ask the students what they would be doing after their senior year. Alli felt lost. She would want nothing more than to leave this town and to escape, but she could not. So when it came to Alli’s turn to share her future, she said what the majority of the other kids said, college. Alli knew that her future was unclear. Anything could happen that year, that month, or even that day could change her life forever. She had gotten to know Marie very well by now. They were together almost constantly at school. Something about Marie allowed Alli to trust her enough to ask if Marie would want to spend the night sometime. For spending the night was something girls loved. Having sleepovers and girl times away from any and everything else. Alli had been to a few sleepovers but never had anyone at her house. It was not that she was embarrassed, but did not want to put anyone in the chaos of her house. What would people think of her after they knew the truth of her unstable life? Alli did not worry about what Marie thought. Something told her it would all work out.

They walked to Alli’s house at the end of the week. Gossiping and kicking every pebble as they went. As they grew closer to the house, Alli’s nerves kicked in. Wondering to herself if she should warn Marie about what will or could happen, how things are, and how they got that way. All at once her mind was scrambling. Words started blurting out of Alli’s mouth without control. Alli started from when her dad left the family and ended with her mother’s problem changing who she would grow up to be. Alli’s nerves made her stutter, her hands flailing through the air with intensity, and her heart was going to jump out of her chest from the anxiety of what Marie’s response would be. The awkward silence occurred and Alli just looked at the ground. Marie’s soft spoken voice comforted Alli. Marie was understanding and grateful. She gave Alli reassurance and hope, something Alli did not receive very often.

“You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to,” Alli offered even though she knew what Marie’s answer would be.

“Oh come on! Let’s go,” Marie was anxious and excited.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Alli says with a hint of sarcasm.
They walked through the door as Alli held her breath. Something seemed different but it is not obvious as to what it is. Alli yells through the house calling for anyone. Her brother comes down the hallway with a letter in his hand. Alli is confused by the depressed look on her brother’s face. The letter reads:

Dear Kids,
I have tried so hard to make your lives the best they could be.
I wanted to give you everything I never had. I know that I have put a strain on you, Alli, these past couple of years and you do not deserve that. I am sorry to tell you in such short notice that I have left to get help for myself. I have to change, not only for my own health but for yours too. Since I hate good-byes, this was the best way for me to avoid the torture of leaving you. It was a last minute decision and realization, so I haven’t had the chance to make arrangements for someone to look over you. I love you and will contact you as soon as I can.
Alli I trust you in every way. Here is your father’s number if there is an absolute emergency; (891)789-0424 I trust you will take care of your brother and the house. You are more a woman then I ever could be. I love you.

Alli was astounded, to say the least. Tears were rolling down her face. All emotions were talking part of the tears. Worriment, gladdened, yet confused about so many things. She looked around the room and was unsure about everything. The world as she knew it was crashing. Her mind was racing with question that could not be answered by her alone. Why today? Why wouldn’t she have given any warning? Why of all people would she give me my father’s number when I do not know who he is? Had my mother been in contact with him all these years? Alli was not sure what her next move would be, but she did know that it would change her life for good. During this time, Marie felt out of place. Not knowing what to say or do, she did not move a muscle in the stiff environment. She let Alli think on the moment that just past.
“What do I do? My brother? How will I?” Alli’s heart began to race and her mind was scrambling to get all of her open ended questions blurted out, but Marie knew exactly what she meant. Once Alli was collected she knew what she had to do, but was hesitant on doing it. She had to call her father. The man that ruined their family so many years ago and the man who had never came back. Alli wondered if he knew, or if he would even care.
“Alli, you will never know unless you try. You can not take care of your brother alone, plus you do not know how long she will be gone.” Marie was good at times like these. She thought before speaking and acting. It was all so much, so fast. Alli was ready. She picks up the phone, her eyes are moving back and forth from the number her mom left her and back to the phone again. Her stomach was in one huge knot, twisting tighter as every second passed.

Marie knew to be patient but the anxiety was eating at her as well.

“Would you like me to dial it?” Marie was hesitant to push but that was who she was.
“I don’t know,” Alli’s voice was different. It was depressed. Marie gently took the phone from Alli’s hand, keeping an eye on Alli’s facial expressions as she was doing this. Marie began to dial the phone number left by Alli’s mom. The phone rang. A part of Alli wanted it to keep ringing, but mostly she wanted nothing more than to hear a voice on the other line. Then it happened.
The next morning he would be coming back to the house he had left all those years ago. He knew Alli was going to call but did not know how Alli would react to his presence. Alli did not even know that. Alli felt so helpless. For once there was one thing that she could not do on her own. Alli wanted to trust him and to be happy that he would be back in her life but for how long? Would he leave after Ms. Kay got home?
The doorbell rang. It startled Alli as she waited diligently on the couch. Marie had left earlier that morning. It was a hard decision but Alli had to do this on her own. Alli’s brother was in the kitchen when the doorbell rang. He turned the corner and their eyes meet. Alli could not move her body from the couch until the doorbell rang for a second time. She stood in front of the door for a second or two, adjusted her hair and shirt, took in a breath just to let it back out. She opened the door to see a tall, sturdy man. Alli noticed how she looked just like him. The same nose, hair color and stance. His appearance was that of an upper-class man. Tan slacks and a short sleeve blue shirt were casual yet nice. Alli took everything in about him within a few seconds. Alli allowed him into her house. He looked around and started telling both Alli and her brother what he knew. How their mother had kept in touch with him all these years, and how he left to pursue his dreams. He had a calm, sturdy voice making all this sudden information easier to hear. He had finally said that he did not know how long their mother would be, that he would be there from now on. Alli was confused but after hearing what he had to say, that confusion didn’t matter. All that mattered was that this was the beginning of a new life and the end of the one that she knew. Alli knew that nothing would be the same. Her daddy was there and there to stay, with hopes of her mom’s quick return.

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