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Every time I see a little girl with her father it always makes me think of one thing. Whether I see them walking hand in hand in the city or sharing an ice cream cone on the beach I always feel the same way. I want to tell them, “You’re not always going to be this happy.” but I don’t, they deserve to enjoy being blissfully ignorant just like I used to be. I used to be daddy’s little girl, I even had a t shirt that said so. Though these memories have grown foggy with age they are some of the fondest memories I have. There is one in particular that I think about every night before I go to sleep. I remember my new pink mountain bike. I remember my purple helmet and kneepads, but most of all I remember being happy. I was six and it was the first time I was riding without training wheels, without my dad holding on to me, guiding me.
“You’ll be okay pumpkin I swear.” He assured me giving my helmet a pat. I believed him and started to peddle. I smiled, I was doing it. I was so excited that I didn’t notice the large rock in the middle of the sidewalk. I went straight into it and my bike’s back wheels went up in the air. I went with them and would have flown straight over my handle bars if my dad hadn’t caught me. He held me to his chest and when I looked up he smiled at me. “You didn’t think I would let you fall did you?” He asked with a laugh.
“Promise you’ll always be there to stop me from falling daddy?”
He pushed my hair out of my face and said, “Of course pumpkin.” Nine years later I was freefalling down an endless black void and daddy was no where to stop me. In fact, he was the reason I was falling in the first place.
I had been hanging on the edge for awhile now. The night of my fifteenth birthday was when I completely fell off it. My kitchen table has five chairs around it, but that night only four where filled. We had my favorite meal untouched in the middle of the table- chicken parmesan with spaghetti. My mother kept smiling though, but I could tell it was only for my sake. “I’m sure he’s just running late.” My mother said. “He’ll be here.” I only nodded. Seated next to me was my older sister Allison was biting her nails, a bad habit that my mother has tried to get her to quit for years. She always does it when angry. Then there’s my little sister Jill on the other side of me who has been humming â€˜When the Saints Go Marching In’ ever since we sat down to eat twenty minutes ago.
“Can we just start eating?” I ask.
“Molly this is your birthday dinner we are going to eat as a family!” My mother said firmly.
Allison slammed her fist down on the table and Jill stopped humming abruptly. “Damnit mom!” Allison shrieked. “He’s not coming! Can’t you get that through your head!” With that Allison started serving herself spaghetti and my mom said nothing. Within five minutes we were all eating, but the silence was deafening.
It was Jill who broke it, “Where is daddy?” No one answered her though. “Okay guys what’s going on?” I don’t think anyone even looked up to meet her eyes.
“Well happy birthday Molly! Let’s toast.” My mother raised her wine glass in the air. “Happy fifteenth birthday. I know this is going to be a great year for you.” Alison and I raised our cokes and Jill put her orange juice in the air. As we clinked glasses we heard the door unlock.
“Daddy’s home!” Jill said joyously. Allison and I exchanged nervous glances and my mom clapped her hands together.
“Oh good!” she said. “Now we can have desert!” I heard his footsteps in the hallway. He was coming. As soon as he stepped into the dining room I knew it was bad. His face was all red and his eyes were glassy.
“Happy birthday pumpkin.” He slurred giving me a bakery box. I didn't meet his eyes. I just tugged the red and white string off the box. It was a pie. “It’s pumpkin. Just like you.” He laughed and started walking to his seat. It was so quiet I could hear my mom’s heavy breathing. As he was walking to his chair he tripped and fell on the ground. I heard him moan. Jill grabbed my hand.
“Daddy sit down.” She commanded, but he just stayed on the floor moaning. My mother’s eyes were wide with concern.
“Why don’t you girls go upstairs.” She had said. “We’ll have desert later.” We all ran up the stairs as fast as we could. Jill and I went into the room we shared and Allison who was usually begging for privacy and alone time came in as well.
“I know some things wrong with daddy and I want you to tell me!” Jill demanded. She looked startled. My dad had had his â€˜problem’ as my mom liked to call it for about four years now ,but he had never been drunk enough around Jill for her to notice. Jill is nine. She is usually in bed before dad comes home wasted and at school when he wakes up hung over. I think she’s always suspected something was a little off about him, but she’s never witnessed it as bad as the rest of us have. Until tonight that is.
“Jilly you can’t tell anyone this alright?” Allison says putting Jill in her lap.
“Not even Beth?” She asked referring to her big mouthed best friend.
“Especially not Beth!” Allison says. “I need you to pinky promise me.” She held out her pinky and Jill linked her own smaller finger with it. I checked her other hand and her feet for crosses, but there were none. “Okay Jill. Dad is an alcoholic…do you know what that is?”
Jill’s eyes got very wide. “Beth’s mom said all alcoholics should go to prison!” I’m pretty sure she might have just known that an alcoholic was a bad thing, but the actual meaning of it.
“Jill an alcoholic is a person who drinks a lot of alcohol, like beer. It’s really bad.” I told her and she nodded her head vigorously.
“And you know beer makes you drunk right?” Allison said.
Jill nodded. “Beth’s mom said that drunk people are disgusting pigs, but daddy’s not. Right?” Allison and I exchange glances again.
Allison changed the topic. “The point is that sometimes daddy is going to be scary when he comes home. He’s going to be acting stupid, but if you get worried just come to me or Molly okay?” I’m glad she spoke, because if she hadn’t I wouldn’t have known what to say because my father is a disgusting pig. He is not a good person. Good people don’t get drunk all the time when they have families at home worrying about them.
“But I thought drunk people couldn’t drive. How did daddy get home?” Jill asked. I bit my lip. Jill can't know he drives drunk. It's illegal.
“He walked.” Allison said. “That’s why he was late for dinner too. It took him a long time to walk home from the bakery.” Jill nodded.
“But why can’t I tell anyone?” She asked. I million reasons rushed into my head at once. People would treat us differently. Dad could go to jail. Everyone at school would know.
“Just don’t. You promised remember.” I said. Jill looked down at her lap and nodded. “Pinky promised,” I reminded her. “and you can never break a pinky promise.”
“I know I know.” She said. I could hear Dad walking up the stairs. I held my breath until I heard his bedroom door shut.
“Oh look at that!” Allison said. “It’s ten o’clock. I guess we lost track of time. It’s past you’re bedtime Jilly.”
“I’m not tired!” Jill said with a yawn. We laughed. After she got into her pajamas and brushed her teeth we tucked her into bed. We heard dad let out a loud moan in the next room.
We both climbed into Jill’s double bed. Allison and I were on the sides with Jill sandwiched in the middle. When the moaning continued Jill let out a whimper. Allison stroked her hair and started to sing Jill’s song. Allison plays guitar and wrote a song for Jill at her last birthday. “Always smiling, never sad…” She began. I looked over at Allison. Though she can be impulsive and has a horrible temper she really is a great sister to Jill. Around her she is always so calm and understanding, she always seems to know what to say. Jill was asleep by the time Allison sang the last line of the song, “She never forgets about the hope inside, she knows it will always be alright.” She smiled at me. “Goodnight Molly.”
“Night Allison.” And we all fell asleep.
I woke up in the middle of the night like I usually do. My stomach growled. I was only half way done with dinner when dad came home so I didn’t get to finish it. I got out of bed and walked to the kitchen. I opened the refrigerator and saw the pumpkin pie. Suddenly I heard his voice in my head, â€˜you didn’t think I’d let you fall did you?’ And then I heard his laugh. It kept repeating in my head, taunting me. I dug my hand into the pumpkin pie and stuffed it into my mouth. I felt so empty, I needed to be full. I ate the whole thing and then drank a glass of coke. I felt like a monster. I threw the bakery box into the garbage and wiped my hands. On the way upstairs I stopped at the bathroom. I felt gross I had some pumpkin smeared on my face. I could hear dad saying it again and again, â€˜come on pumpkin.’ I didn’t want to be pumpkin anymore. I went to the toilet and stuck my finger down my throat until all the pumpkin was gone. When I was done there was no more pumpkin inside of me. I brushed my teeth and then looked in the mirror. I actually felt better, a lot better. I crept back into my room. When I was getting in bed Jill woke up.
“You okay Molly?” She asked sleepily.
“Yeah Jill.” I answered patting her on the head. “Go back to bed.” The truth was I felt the best I had in a very long time.