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Can You Hear Me Now?
I never fully understood the way people’s minds worked. When I was eight and tried to say something completely serious, everyone around me laughed and congratulated my mom on having such a cute little girl. When I was fourteen, my mom would just roll her eyes and tell me that I shouldn’t be such a drama queen. And now look where we are. Now all I’m able to do is watch and keep my mouth shut while my mother repeatedly asks, “Why?” I’d tell her why, but even now, I don’t think she’d listen.
“Hey kiddo! Want some cereal?”
I didn’t look up from my The Tipping Point book. I had an objective test on it today. I thought that was a pretty legitimate excuse to ignore him this morning.
I could still hear the squealing of the pipes, meaning my mother was still taking her shower. This made me nervous.
He was standing by the refrigerator, a robe snugly stretched over his large shoulders, the tie loosely knotted at his waist. I wish he’d stop using mine and just put some clothes on.
The clock told me that it was only 6:15. If I left now, I would get to school about 6:25. The doors still wouldn’t be open. I felt helpless and trapped in my own home. From previous experience, staying silent and not drawling and attention to yourself was always the best bet. Maybe I would get off easy this morning. Maybe I wouldn’t have to spend another Friday in the counselor’s office trying to convince her that everything in my life was shiny and perfect. It wasn’t, but she didn’t need to know that. Even though she insisted otherwise, she didn’t need to know anything about my life.
Half of the words on page 76 smeared as he slammed his cup of coffee down on the table and splashed some onto my book. His face got very close to mine. He needed to shave and his breath smelt bad. I could still smell some alcohol. “I said, do you want some cereal?” He said lowly.
“No thank you.” I didn’t meet his eyes. My counselor, Mrs. Patovick, always told me to make eye contact with those who were older than me. Her general advice that she gives to all of the “troubled kids” doesn’t really apply in these kinds of situations.
At first he didn’t move, and I was afraid of what he might do. Finally he exhaled; splashing alcohol tainted air all over my face, and stood up straight. “I don’t like your attitude, kid.”
Again I didn’t meet his eyes. I tried to wipe some of the coffee off of my book but it had already been absorbed into the pages. This was the school’s copy. I don’t think they’ll take this excuse again. This will be the third soiled book I’ll have handed in just this year.
I could still hear the pipes protesting from too much use. My mother always tended to take long showers.
I stood up and collected my things as quietly as I could. I’d take standing outside of the front doors to the school in the snow than sticking around here. “I should get to school.” I mumbled quietly as I threw my backpack over my shoulder and quickly headed towards the door.
“Hold on,” he threw his arm in my way. “It’s a little early don’t you think? Your school doesn’t start until seven.”
I glanced at the kitchen clock, which just so happened to be the one clock in the house that wasn’t set five or more minutes fast.
Thanks a lot clock.
His hand was on my waist now, his coffee now sitting on the counter. “I need to go in early; I have some questions about a quiz for my teacher.”
“You went in early yesterday.”
He was getting closer to me.
“That—that was for English. I’m going in for math today.” I stuttered, trying to back away. His arm tightened around me so I couldn’t move.
“If I remember right, you were never one for questions.”He grinned his yellow toothed smile.
“And you’ll never be the right guy for my mom. Now if you’ll excuse me.”
I could tell by the look on his face that I would pay for that later, but for now I just rushed to my car, thankful that today was a school day.
It was lunchtime. I was perched on one top of one of the many desks in the classroom, my peanut butter and jelly sandwich sitting on my brown paper bag in front of me. My friends had given up on me months ago. They were tired of me being quiet and never telling them what was going on or what was wrong with me. I didn’t mind not having any friends anymore. I was tired of them asking. It wasn’t exactly something I wanted some of the cattiest girls in school to know. In the popular crowd, personal gossip like that circulated so fast it could make your head spin. Break up and hook up news might be okay for that, but not this.
“You got eighty-nine percent on your test.” Mr. Daniels, Blaine, spoke around the bite of turkey sandwich in his mouth. “You’re really turning your grades around. I’m very impressed Sam. I don’t think you need these catch up sessions anymore.”
I looked down at my half eaten sandwich in front of me. As strange as it seemed, I liked being “forced” to have lunch in his classroom, talking about math. I didn’t have anywhere else to go.
“Oh.” Was all I said.
I could feel him staring at me so I pretended to be very interested in the square designs in the carpet. Unfortunately, they all looked the same, so no matter how many times you followed the little green stitched lines with your eyes, you either ended up in the same spot you started, or you moved on to an identical square. I began feeling a little dizzy.
“Is everything okay, Sam?”
I still didn’t look up. I almost smiled when I thought about Mrs. Patovick again. I never did anything she said. “Of course.”
“Okay, well if you need to talk or anything I’m sure Mrs. Patovick’s door is always open. Her room’s just down the hall, I can give you the room number if you want.”He turned and started rummaging through his desk for a pen.
“That’s alright Mr. Daniels.”
“Are you sure? A lot of students find talking to her very helpful, so I’ve heard.” He half smiled.
“No I mean, I don’t need her room number. I’m very familiar with her room’s location. But thanks.” I said dully, thinking of her plastic covered chairs and cinnamon scented candles. I hated cinnamon. It smelt like him. Mr. Daniels room was much more comforting. His room wasn’t covered in plastic. He didn’t have a bottle of hand sanitizer on every hard surface. He didn’t try and hand you a box of tissues every time you looked at the floor. He didn’t talk as though he was gasping for air. And he defiantly didn’t pretend like everything he said was from God himself.
And best of all, he didn’t smell like cinnamon.
Every time you walked into his room you got a burst of vanilla. I never knew if there was a girl he had in one of his classes that just wore too much perfume, or if he purposely tried to make it smell like that. Personally, I love the smell of vanilla.
“Well my door’s always open too.” He smiled and then opened and closed his mouth like a fish. “You know, if she’s on a lunch break or something and you needed someone to talk to.”
I forced a smile. “Bye Mr. Daniels.”
It’s funny how one person can screw so much up. It’s funny how they can manipulate the way you see new things, old things, and things that you knew all your life. It’s funny how they can change everything. For better….or for much, much worse.
“He’s coming over to eat dinner with us tonight.” My mother said as she began to set the table. I knew who she was talking about.
I glared at the cinnamon scented candle that my mother had burning in the middle of the dining room table. She bought five of them because she knew they were his favorites.
“Will he be leaving after dinner?” I asked quietly.
She just gave me a look and continued slicing foods to go in the salad.
“You know mom, I actually wanted to talk to you about him.”
“I hope you’re not going to start spouting out those lies about him again, Sam. I know you don’t always approve of everyone I date but he makes me happy. And someday you’re just going to have to grow up, stop being so selfish, and just deal with it.” She rinsed her knife off in the sink. I found myself staring at the shimmering blade, mesmerized. “Sam?” She asked after I didn’t respond.
“We’re not having this conversation again, are we?”
I stared at her face for a second. The face I looked up in when I was a baby. The face I used to grin at when she took me trick or treating on Halloween, when she gave me a Barbie for my birthday, when we used to watch movies together and laugh all of the time. I stared into the face of the woman before me. It looked just like the one the mother I once knew had. But it wasn’t the same. She didn’t have the same gleam in her eyes like I was the one thing in the world that she cared most about. It wasn’t her anymore.
“Of course not.”
“Now go get ready for dinner, he’ll be here any minute.”
Sometimes things are too horrible. Sometimes it’s so bad that you can’t take it. So instead you live in denial and try and convince yourself that it’s all in your head. Right there in that one second I feel the walls of denial I’d spend forever building crumble. I wanted to cry. I wanted to have the mother I knew so well standing before me so I could hug her. I wanted my dad. I looked into the eyes of the woman standing before me one more time. There was nothing comforting in what I was looking at.
“Okay.” I couldn’t find it in me to stand there one more second.
It’s funny when you look back at the decisions you made years ago. Those little decisions you couldn’t have imagined back then that you’d still remember years later. I wonder if I’d waited five years or so, if I’d still agree with my decisions. I wonder if things would look different. I wonder if I’d wish I could do things differently.