Respect or Regret

April 29, 2008
By Rachel Fikslin, Wayne, NJ

“But I need to be there!” screamed Jessica in the direction of her enraged father.

“I want you to stay home!” he replied angrily.

“But everyone is going to be there!” she exclaimed.

“I don’t want to be alone again tomorrow! You’ve been out every night this week!” he said defensively.

Then, in a fit of fury, she yelled, “I shouldn’t have to suffer just because you can’t take being alone ever since Mom died!”

As the tears welled up in his eyes Jessica stomped off. She was so angry, but was she angry at her father, or herself? She slammed her bedroom door shut and turned the lock. With her back against the door, she slid to the floor. Her hands covered her eyes as if to hide her crying. She lay there, tears like rivers down her cheeks. In disbelief of the words that had spilled out of her very own mouth she lay there. The death of her mother made her father so depressed and she was only bringing more difficulty to his life. She tried to set aside her guilt just to forget the pain that filled her heart, if only for a moment. Ring Ring! She heard her cell phone ringing from across the room. She quickly wiped the tears from her cheeks. Then she grabbed her phone from her dresser and flipped open the top.

“Hey Tiff, what’s up?” she said with fake happiness

“Can you come to my party tomorrow?” her friend Tiffany asked.

“My dad said no. I am so pissed! I really wanted to go.”

“Maybe you still can,” she said in a sneaky tone.

“What do you mean?” asked Jessica inquisitively.

“We could just walk to my house right after school. Your dad won’t know where you are and you can make up some excuse when you get home..”

“I don’t know,” Jessica said hesitantly, “My dad will be really worried.”

“So what? He’ll get over it.” Tiff assured.

“Well, I guess you’re right,” Jessica said uncertainly.

“Great! So you’ll come?” Tiffany said, glad that she was right.

“Yeah.” She replied.

“Cool. See you tomorrow!”


The call ended with a click. It was quarter-past midnight. Jessica and Tiffany were among the few fourteen-year-olds who stayed awake as late as midnight. Jessica would fall asleep much later this night, however. She lay on her bed staring at the full-length mirror on the closet door across the room. Her eyeliner ran in black lines down her cheeks due to the tears she had shed. Her hair was no longer pin straight, but fell in a wavy fan across her satin sheets. She just lay there examining herself thoroughly in the mirror. The sight of he distressed girl looking back at her caused more tears to fall.

Many thoughts poured into her head and it began to ache. She was overwhelmed with questions: Questions for God, for her father, for her mother, but most of all, for herself.
Why did I say that to my dad? Should I sneak out tomorrow? Is my dad the one hurting, or is it really me? Who is the real me? These questions flooded her mind and drowned all the thoughts of happiness that were once so bountiful in her existence.

It was about four in the morning when the dreadful thoughts released her from their grasp and she drifted off to a dreamless sleep. What she did not know was that her father was awake in the next room with tears running down his bearded cheeks.

Her alarm clock rang at 6:30 A.M. the next morning and she forced herself to get up out of bed. She put her messy hair into a bun and reapplied her eyeliner. Her father was still sleeping when she left for the bus stop. She was extra careful to shut the door quietly so that he would not be woken up. The wind hit her face and the pain seemed too familiar to her. The air’s bitterness stung her, but she ignored it, for the cold could not compare with the guild and sorrow that she struggled to hide. As she walked up to the school bus stairs she flashed a smile to her friends awaiting her in the back of the bus. No one caught the glimpse of sadness in her eyes.

The school day seemed to go by in a flash. Jessica dazed off in almost every class. Her thoughts made it nearly impossible to concentrate. All day the guilt from the fight between herself and her father simmered within her. She knew she would regret sneaking to Tiffany’s house after school, but she felt she had to.

After the last bell rang, Tiffany came to her locker and the two started their walk to Tiffany’s house. Tiffany would not stop blabbing on about her boyfriends and shopping trips, but Jessica did not mind. She did not wish to talk much anyway. The problems including boyfriends and spilled nail polish were no longer real to her. She said
very little the entire walk. She kept picturing her father sitting at the kitchen table, all alone.

When they entered the unlocked back door Tiffany asked if Jessica wanted a snack but she said declined her offer.

“What’s wrong?” Tiffany asked, “You never turn down food!”

This was Jessica’s chance. She could go home and stop the guilt from piercing her. She couldn’t really tell Tiffany what was wrong so she instantly thought up an excuse.

“I have a really bad headache. That’s why I’ve been so out of it.”

“Ugh. That stinks. Will you be okay for the party?” Tiffany asked caringly.

“Actually I think I need to go home. It’s a migraine.” Jessica said.

“Are you sure? Everyone will miss you?” Tiffany asked.

“Yeah I’m just going to walk. Text me if anything fascinating happens tonight.”

“Sure thing. Feel Better Jess.” Tiffany said as Jessica walked out the back door.

Even though Jessica was disappointed in herself for going to Tiffany’s in the first place, she was somehow proud of herself for going home to her father, even if that meant lying to Tiffany. She was so filled with happiness and pride that she ran straight home.

She ran to the door and entered through the front door.

“Daddy!” she called cheerfully. The guilt that had flooded her was gone and she wore a genuine smile on her face as she looked for her father. She walked into the kitchen looking for him.

Within one instant the smile was wiped off her face and the tears fell again. She had found her father. There he was, lying helpless on the ground. Every wrinkle on his face stood out. His eyes wide open showed no emotion as he lay there lifeless. A picture of her mother lying in a coffin flashed before Jessica’s eyes. In one second Jessica went from cheerful to utterly terrified.

She screamed in horror as the tears ran down her face like rapid waters. She was traumatized by the sight that stood before her. Scurrying in panic she found the phone. She stared at her father in haunting disbelief as she dialed three digits: 9, 1, 1.

Jessica sat in the hospital waiting room. She dreaded hospitals. She thought of them as merely apartments for the soon-to-be-dead. It had been hours since the ambulance had gotten there. She just sat there staring into space still in complete disbelief of the situation. Her eyes were bloodshot from her sobbing that was still continuous. She was scared for her father’s life. She was scared for her life. She was scared that her father would die angry at her. She could not stand the thought that he would die without knowing that she loved him and needed him more than anything in existence.

Then a doctor came from the office. “You’re father had a heart attack., but it was not very severe. He is going to be okay. It is a good thing you called when you did. If you had called any later he probably would not have made it. He is in recovery if you would like to see him,” the doctor told her, as she released a great sigh of relief. Jessica did not know what she wanted, but she was no longer as terrified. She actually felt hopeful and knew that her father was actually going to be all right. She followed the doctor through the hallway of the place that smelled like plastic gloves and syringes and was filled with ill people. She followed the doctor into her father’s room. Again she burst into tears. Whether they were tears of happiness that her father was alive or sadness that he was in a hospital bed she did not know.

“Can I have a moment alone with him?” asked Jessica.

“Yes Of course, I’ll be right outside.” the doctor replied.

She slowly approached the side of the bed. The tears were flowing faster now. She kneeled by her father’s side and held his hand in hers.

“I love you,” she whispered.

As she turned and walked away, eyes filled with tears, she heard a dull but familiar raspy voice.

“I love you too,” whispered her father.

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