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The Family Picture
“None of this should have happened.” I muttered to myself.
The bright light blinded my eyes. It felt like I was trapped and suffocating in this sterile, stark room. Low consecutive breaths and small beeps from the heart-monitor filled the room’s silence. My father lied in front of me on the hospital bed. White tape wrapped around his head like an Egyptian mummy. His eyes were shut tight. Holding his cold hand, I could feel heart slowly pulse through my warm body. This hospital room was a funeral home.
Our precious, perfect picture laid in my lap. It looked like a photo from the Brady Bunch. Six bright, warm faces stared back at me. The glass was cracked through the middle with missing pieces and parts of the frame were chipped off, but regardless, it was still a beautiful image. It was taken outside on a windy, autumn day. Dad stood in the background with his hand tightly around mom and the other trying to block sun. His goofy personality showed through his squinted eyes and wide grin. Mom, on the other hand didn’t know the picture was being taken. She was looking at dad with her beautiful smile and sparkling eyes. My younger twin brothers, Adam and Nathan, sat in the middle wrestling each other. Danny, my oldest brother and I stood at each of their sides holding pumpkins. Danny stood proudly with his back up straight and tall. While, I stood off to the side. My long, black hair covered most of my face, but a slight gleam twinkled in my eyes.
The gleam was now gone and replaced with puffy eyes and a trail of tears. “None of this should have happened.”
It all started after the car accident. Mom, along with the twins, had been rushing to see Danny’s last football game. They were so excited, that mom ran a stoplight at a four-way intersection. Mom, Nathan, and Adam died that day. My happy family picture was now shattered to pieces. Our family was never whole again. We all changed that day, but dad….. my goofy, loving dad transformed into a raging monster. He began to drink endlessly, finishing five bottles of beer in one night. His light-hearted and funny personality was replaced with a serious and angry personality. Dad would become irritated over the tiniest things. His grieving and temper overtook him. He would yell at Danny constantly calling him a monster and using him as a scapegoat for their deaths, but that was nothing compared to his beatings. On nights, when he was overly intoxicated, dad would explode and start punching and kicking my brother. Danny, believing every word dad said, willingly took his blows.
Although, dad would beat on Danny, he never laid a finger on me or even yell at me; Danny claimed it was because I looked exactly like mom and was “daddy’s little girl”. Maybe that was the reason.
“What do you guys want for dinner?” I yelled, ransacking through the cabinets for food.
Danny slid down the stairs. “Something edible at least.”
“Ha-ha. Very funny,” I said whipping out my Weeknights with Giada cookbook.
Since he was planning to move out soon, Danny traded in his quarter back position and his football jersey for Geek Squad name tag and a blue Best Buy shirt. Although he complained about his job, he secretly loved it. He pulled out the new iPhone that he bought with his employee discount.
“Oh, I think I’ll make chicken stir-fry,” I said cheerfully, poking my head in the refrigerator.
“Man. My phone’s dying. Where did I put the darn charger?” Danny mumbled as he flipped open the drawers. “Whatever. I’ll be home around 6:00 tonight.” Within split second, he was gone.
Humming to myself, I marinated the chicken and began to chop the vegetables. The door flew open and dad walked.
“Hey Amy,” he said holding a six pack of beer in his arms.
Uh-oh. This wasn’t good. Play it cool, Amy. “Hi dad. What have you got there?”
“Oh, just a special pain reliever I got from the convince store.” He winked. “Thought it would help me relax for the night.”
Oh and start beating on Danny again? What? You want to give him a broken arm or a black eye like last time? “You know dad,” I faked a smile as I chopped the carrots dangerously. “Drinking isn’t good for you. It can give cancer.”
“I know,” My dad said softly. “But it’s the only way I can deal with tonight.”
The thought slipped my mind like a thief in the night. Tonight was mom and my brothers’ memorial. It had been five years since they left this world and our lives had changed forever. I looked up at my dad whose eyes were fixed the family picture that hung from the kitchen wall. It was that picture taken of our whole family on that crisp, cold fall day.
“Fine.” I wasn’t going to stand here and watch my dad get miserably drunk. Suddenly, the thought of writing my English story sounded much more appealing. “I’m going to write my English story. Don’t bother me.” I warned.
In my room, I cracked open my Dell laptop. It’s going to take days to load. With nothing else to do, I cleaned my room. Mountains of dirty laundry obstructed my way. Crumpled pieces of paper surrounded my trash can. My Sherlock Holmes collection filled the brink of my already overstuffed bookcase. I give up. I collapsed onto my bed. Oh! That’s right. I have to call Danny to warn him about dad. I unlocked my new Samsung Galaxy phone that I bought from working endless hours at the library. Ring. Ring. Ring. I waited impatiently as I caught his message machine for the third time. Man, why aren’t you picking up? Sighing, I left a message on the answering machine.
Beeeeeeep. “Hey Danny, it’s me Amy. Listen, dad’s not feeling so well, if you know what I mean. Try to crash at a friend’s place or something tonight. Call me back when you get this.” Click. Positioning myself under my covers, I shut my eyes. Hopefully, he’ll get the message.
Ding! What time was it? My phone beeped to let me know it was time to get dinner started. I dragged myself out of bed knowing that I probably was going to end up pulling up an all-nighter writing my stupid English story.
I skipped down the stairs, but stopped dead in my tracks. In front of me were six empty bottles of beer scattered all over the living room. Dad had finished off the whole pack.
The dim kitchen’s lights were on. Uh-oh. I ran in. Dad already had Danny cornered. Danny gazed at me with his new purple, bruised eye from across the kitchen island. Thin cuts marked his forehead and drips of blood trickled down from his temples, falling onto the cold tile floor. As if sensing my presence, dad spun around dizzily. He looked like the same father who would eat midnight snacks with me but his eyes told a different story.
“Hey Amy.” Dad said wasted. “You’re sixteen and have license. Why don’t you take my Lexus out for a spin? Your brother and I need to have a little talk.”
I pursed my lips. “No thanks dad, I think I’ll stick around tonight.”
A dangerous flame ignited in his eye. “Fine.” He said sarcastically. “Whatever floats your boat.”
Wham! Dad had turned around and punched Danny like a punching bag. Danny slid right to the floor, but dad picked him right back up and pinned him to the wall, saying in slurry voice,
“You know it’s your fault that your mother, Nathan, and Adam died, right? Thanks to you, half the family is dead! Maybe if they hadn’t tried to make it to your stupid little football game, they would have been alive! The twins would’ve been freshmen in high school this year! Your mom would’ve been cooking dinner tonight, instead of Amy! You sick little monster.” His voice and his fist shook with rage and his eyes burned with fire. “Maybe if you hadn’t been born, they would’ve been alive right now.”
Dad was out of control. He was saying things never said before, stepping out of boundaries. Danny’s eyes filled with tears that I’ve never seen before, not even at the funeral.
‘‘Dad, stop!” Grabbing his shoulders, I desperately tried to pull him off of Danny. “Can’t you see what you’re doing? Look, you’re hurting him.”
For a split second, it was as if something he was human again. He let go of Danny, and stared at his hands in complete confusion. But just like that split second, the monster returned to him. The alcohol pulsed through his veins and his trembling fist flew straight into Danny’s stomach.
Danny let out a low painful breath. If this kept on going, Danny would end up dead. Mom and the twins were gone. I couldn’t lose my only brother left.
Before I knew it, I grabbed closest thing to me: the family picture. It felt like nothing in my hand. Looking at my dad, I desperately tried to find any sign of human in his eyes, but all that was left was a monster. I held the picture with its glass frame back and whammed it right into my dad’s head. Just like the picture, he dropped right to the floor.
“Amy? Amy? Are you alright, honey?” I groggily woke up to the bright light and beeping of the hospital room. What? Dad looked at me, shaking me to wake up. He was awake!
“Oh my God, dad” I squeezed him like a teddy bear. ‘I’m so sorry, dad. I’m really sorry that I hit you!”
My dad hugged me back tightly. “It’s alright, Amy. You did nothing wrong. If there’s anyone to blame, it should be me.”
“But why dad, why did you do it? Don’t you know how Danny must have felt?” Tears fell down my face like a heavy rainstorm.
“You know how much I loved your mother and the twins. I couldn’t…. I couldn’t……” A teardrop sprung free from his eye. “I didn’t who to blame….. But why did you ever tell anyone or say anything, Amy?”
“Because….” I gulped. “I couldn’t break up the family. Well I mean, I know our family is already broken, but I couldn’t destroy it even more. I know hurt Danny, dad, but, you’re still my father. You’re the man who would tuck me into bed every night, the one who would read me bedtime stories, and person who would take me out for ice cream when I was upset. I love you, dad, I really do…” Niagara Falls burst from my eyes. “Except when you were so drunk. You would turn into the monster. You wouldn't stop hitting Danny and just kept on blaming him for everything. I desperately tried to wipe my eyes. “I couldn’t take it anymore.”
“I know and I’m truly sorry,” my dad said sincerely.
“It shouldn’t be me. That you’re apologizing to…”I mumbled.
A get-well soon balloon flew into the room. Danny appeared in the doorway all patched-up, carrying a bouquet of flowers and huge teddy bear.