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Holden’s face contorted in agony as the door groaned open.
“Hmm, had a fun time?” his father stated the question as a sarcastic fact.
“Uh, yeah, sorry I’m late. My phone died and I was gonna text you but it was dead, so, yeah.” He advanced quickly toward the stairs, avoiding his father’s stare.
“Ohh no. Come back down here.” His father laughed mirthlessly. “Don’t think that I didn’t pull the same s*** when I was your age.” He shifted his legs in the large recliner.
“Ha ha, yeah I know. I’m not trying to pull anything. My phone just died, and I’m really tired. Can I go to bed?” Holden fought to keep his tone from its usual bite. It took a lot of effort. He was already mocking his father in his head. Did they even have phones when his dad was 17? No way. He pulled way better stunts than his old man.
“Yeah whatever, in a minute. You left with a sweatshirt on. Where’d it go?” His tone and vocal intention were impossible to place. Did he know what was going on? Did he care? Was he just messing with his son?
Holden tried to play dumb. “Uh, I think it’s in the car.” This was a good play. Keep it simple. Say too much and you’re dead. Don’t provide too much detail unless they ask for it. A few lies for that scenario ran through Holden’s head. He decided on ‘it was hot in Sean’s apartment so I tossed it in the car’. Solid.
“Well go get it; c’mon, I wanna go to bed.”
“Ok.” It took all of his willpower to stop himself from saying , ”Yeah? No s***? Me too. It’s three in the morning.” He slowly reopened the front door and closed it carefully, allowing himself a heavy sigh of relief. The night was obviously silent, as all of the suburbanites aside from Holden’s father had been asleep for hours. He was alone with his alibi-fabricating thought process and the sound of pavement under his shoes.
The door of his mom’s black SUV opened with a loud click. What a monster it was. And the mileage? Yikes. Holden’s sweatshirt lay lamely on the passenger seat. He picked it up and sniffed it. It smelled like beer and the unmistakable scent of cigarette smoke. Holden didn’t “smoke” but tonight he’d permitted himself a few cigs. No big deal. The beer wasn’t his because he had to drive and wasn’t an idiot, but good luck explaining that to your dad.
Holden held the over shirt at arms length, looking at it as if he’d just caught it chatting up his girlfriend. He crumpled it into a tight wad and tucked it under his arm in a vain attempt to eliminate the smell. He threw the car door shut and locked it.
“I told you not to leave your stuff in Mom’s car; she’s got work tomorrow. Go to bed.” His father spoke the last word as he got up from his chair, lagging behind Holden on his way up the stairs.
Holden tossed his sweatshirt on top of the assorted clothes pile and fell onto his bed. Yes. He’d done it. No lies either, just a little omission, not that he didn’t have an arsenal of them in the hangers, waiting to be scrambled. Can’t be too prepared, right? Sleep came almost instantly.
Breakfast, the next morning. Holden poked lazily at the few soggy Lucky Charms, eyes sore. No more cigarettes for a while. He’d over done it. It was silent, as his mother had already left, and his father had never been much for conversation.
“You were smoking last night.” His father remarked off-handedly, as if saying ‘Nice out today’.
Holden felt his eyes widen but quickly reigned in this extreme expression and fell back to the usual aloof affect. He was confident his dad had missed the error. But what if he hadn’t? The little lie machine started whirring. Then his father pulled the plug.
“Don’t try to lie either; that just makes it worse. I could smell it on you, c’mon.”
“Now I won’t tell Mom if you promise to stop. It’s not something you want to start; trust me. If I catch you again,” he paused to take a bite of toast. “Well, it won’t be pleasant.” His mouth was full.
Whelp, he’d been found out. Still Holden kept his calm demeanor. Wait a minute, ‘Trust me’ he said. Like a pilot light a small flame ignited the fuel his father had given him. “Well Dad, Sean doesn’t smoke, and we’re both 17. Where’d I get those cigarettes? Mom knows he smoke, doesn’t by the way; he’s been over here like, ten times. Couldn’t have gotten them from you though, you quit. Remember how p***ed off Mom got the last time you even had a cigarette? That’d really suck if she found out you started again. Yikes.”
Holden’s father coughed on the second bite of toast, forgetting to chew. “You’re gonna be late. You’re taking the bus today too. Toss your sweatshirt in the hamper before you go. Hurry up.”
A small grin crossed his face as he climbed the stairs to his room, snatched up the sweatshirt, and threw it in the mesh hamper in one flowing move. He took the stairs fast as he left. “Bye dad!” His voice was full of mocking elation as he shut the door behind him.