Better Days

August 25, 2010
I lay there, feeling the blood pumping in my ears. Where was I? I opened my eyes slowly, and looked around. I was lying on one of the pews in my old church. I smelled the the somewhat musty smell of old hymn books and marveled, as I always did, at the sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows. Who was that sitting beside me? I turned and saw him.

“Daddy!” I shrieked. I threw myself into his arms, feeling the warmth of them closing around me.

“Hello sweet pea, did you miss me?” I looked up at his face, so caring and strong, his voice warming me to the tips of my toes.

“Dad, why do you always have to go? Why can't you ever just stay here and care about us! You hate us! You hate me!” I was amazed at the anger in my voice. No! That wasn't what I wanted to say! Please dad, know I don't mean it. My father looked down at me, his grin slowly fading away. I felt his arms loosen, and although all I wanted was to hold on to him, I felt mine loosening as well. He pulled away from me and stood.
“No! Please, don't leave me! I didn't mean to make you go! Please no! Stay with us!” I heard the broken desperation in my voice, felt it in every inch of my body. He stared at me, and suddenly I realized this was not the man I knew. And he didn't know me either. He turned and walked away from me, as someone would walk away from some one else's hysterical child that they don't know how to comfort.

“I need you, mom needs you! I can't be the strong one anymore! I just can't do it! It's not fair.” He continued to walk away. I tried to run after him, but my legs seemed glued to the pew. My eyes filled with tears as I saw the inevitable. He walked away. He always walked away. “Dad!” I tried one last time, screaming with all the fury, hate, fear, worry and pain that was inside of me.

“Chloe! Chloe, wake up!” I jerked awake, my heart pounding, my entire body shaking and drenched in sweat. I could barely breath, and my throat felt raw.

“Chloe! It's alright. Drink this okay?” I felt a cup lifted to my lips, and willingly drank the cool liquid inside it. I felt my breath slow and my body slowly relaxed. I opened my eyes fully and glanced around me. My mother leaned over me in her robe and pajamas, her face full of worry. Grey light was coming in through my window, and by turning my head I could see by the clock on my bedside table that it was 4:30 in the morning. My mother slipped from the room and then returned shortly with a wet cloth, which she slowly patted my face with. Finally, she folded it and put it on my forehead. I felt myself calm, and now only my throat still ached.

“Were you dreaming about him again?” I nodded, keeping my eyes closed. “He isn't worth it you know.” I heard the pure bitterness in my mom's voice and felt, as I normally did when she used that tone, that she could never truly understand.

“Mom, I know he isn't,” I stopped, at a loss to explain the pain I felt over my father. “Was I screaming?” I knew I had been. I always screamed. I almost felt rather than heard my mom's quiet “yes”. I sighed. “Is Trisha awake?” I prayed my little sister would not have been awakened by my panicked yells. She had enough to deal with already, she didn't need her normally strong older sister going physcho to top it all off.

“I don't think so. She's a sound sleeper. And anyway,” my mom continued quietly, “it would be alright if she knew. She's had nightmares before too you know.” I opened my eyes and looked straight into my mom's tired face.

“No, Trisha has never had nightmares like these before. She doesn't understand, she will never understand! She wasn't there the day Dad came home with that woman!” I felt my voice rise to an almost shrill level.

“Chloe!” My mom stopped me with a look. I felt my face flood with warmth. I had promised myself that I was going to shape up. Be strong for my mom. Stop having these moments of weakness where I felt as if I just screamed loud enough, my dad would hear how angry I was, no matter where in the world he was. And we didn't know where he was.
“I'm sorry, Mom. So sorry. Please,” I sat up trying to summon up a smile that would convince her I was fine, “go back to bed. I'm ok now. And don't worry about tomorrow. I've got it under control, I mean with Trisha and everything.” My mom bit her lip, a sure sign she was worried, but I saw some of the tension ease from her shoulders.

“Ok, if you're sure. Goodnight sweetie.” She leaned forward and kissed my forehead quickly, then after taking one last look at me to make sure I was okay, slipped quietly from the room. I waited as I heard her footsteps going down the hall, then finally heard the quiet thump of her door being closed softly.
I sat up in bed again, tears welling in my eyes. I clenched my fists and half praying, half wishing, I said aloud, "Please, please let there be better days. We need better days."

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MaddieGr This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 11, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Absolutely loved it. Its sort of ridiculous how many people put on masks to assure others they're okay, and be strong for those who need a shoulder to lean on.

Great job :D

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