That Day

December 20, 2009
“Tori, set the table.” My gray haired father told me as he finished cooking the soup. My brother was already sitting down. I opened the cabinet, reaching in I grabbed four dishes. Crumpling my face I closed my eyes, realizing I only needed three plates. My mom did not need a spot at the dinner table anymore. I remembered I had always set the table, even five years ago when we still needed four plates. I had to climb on top of the counter to reach the dishes. For that moment I could see everything.
The sun streamed in from between the blinds of my room. I ran and jumped onto my parent’s bed. My dad lay there reading a book. His face was rough with stubble. His eyes were barely open looking like he had not slept. He did not have that clean look about him that he always had. I lay down next to him where my mom was supposed to be. Staring out the window I understood nothing. I thought “mom must have gone to work early, on a Sunday.” Two things she had never done.
“Dad can you make me breakfast?” I asked wishing he would get up and we would cook pancakes as we typically did on Sunday mornings. I would usually lug over the large containers of ingredients and my dad would hastily mix everything together to form what would be a scrumptious meal. My dad always put raisons in the shape of a smiley face on mine, just the way I liked it. He would make sure that side was facing upward when he put it on my plate. If he didn’t, I would ask him to flip it over. I would watch dumbfounded as he’d take the plate fling the pancake into the air and it would land smiley side up.
“Why don’t you get yourself some cereal?” He responded. Slightly confused I slid off the bed and trudged down the long hallway leaving my dad by himself as I went out to the kitchen.
My mom walked in the door as I poured a bowl of cereal. “Where were you?”
She flinched, a bit pained from what she was about to tell me. “I slept out in the guest house.” she answered, waiting for my response.
A smile spread across my face. “Really? Cool!” I went into the guest house and saw the sleeping bag on the pull-out couch. I was jealous; I wanted to have a sleepover in the guest house too. Why didn’t she invite me?
My dad carried my brother into the kitchen and set him down in his chair. “Dad” Colin complained, “Why did you have to wake me up?”
“Mom and I need to talk to you.” Dad answered.
From my dad’s tone I knew this was serious. I tried to think of what it could be. Shoot, I didn’t do the dishes last night; a pile was still stacked on the counter with a mountain of food on top That had to be it. Waiting for the responsibility speech from my dad I was surprised to hear my mom start talking.
“Kids, your father and I haven’t been getting along very well.”
I looked over at my eight year old brother who still looked confused. My dad looked down at the table and my mom, now staring up at the ceiling continued to talk. Her lips began to move, but I couldn’t hear any of it. My head was pounding, thoughts whizzing through my head.
I understood everything. Why my mom slept outside, why my father had sleepless bags under his eyes. I looked up, her lips had stopped moving. My dad started eating his cereal and soon my brother and my mom did too. I ate a spoonful of cornflakes which had now turned to mush. The gray tasteless sludge scratched down my throat. I kept eating, suddenly acutely aware of the silence which was now unbearable. Only the occasional clink of a spoon against a bowl was heard. It was like a line had been drawn, splitting each end of the table into my mom’s side and my dad’s side. My brother and I sat in the middle, not sure which side we wanted to be on. I felt like I was caught between two countries at war but had nothing to do with it, I felt like I had to pick a side. My head pounded like it was about to explode. How could my mom do this? Wasn’t she the one who had promised me and my brother when we were young that this would never happen? How could she leave us? Then I thought of it from the other side of the table. What did my dad do to make my mom want to leave? Now angry at both parents I was caught in the middle not one way being better than the other.
I stood up, marched over to the counter each step filled with anger and placed my bowl on top on the piles of others, no longer caring that I still had to wash the dishes. I silently, walked out of the room. I went down to my bedroom and shut my door realizing nothing was going to be the same.
I walked over to the table and set three spots. I thought about how today I will sleep in my room and say goodnight to my dad, but tomorrow I will live somewhere else. I will pack a suitcase of anything I need for the next week and after driving for about five minutes I will unpack and settle into a new room and set three dishes at a different table, never really belonging at one place or the other.

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