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“So this is it, Mom, you're leaving?” I rolled some cookie dough into a ball and placed it on the non-stick sheet. “You're not going to wait for Dad to get back from her house? You're not going to confront him?”
“Grab my extra pack of cigarettes from the junk drawer, will you Stacie, I've got to run back upstairs. I forgot my wrinkle cream.” Mom set two suitcases down near the front door.
I shoved the tray of cookie balls into the preheated oven. She'd go to a hotel, hide in some dingy room for a few days, and then she'd come home. She always did. A few I'm sorrys from Dad and she'd come running back to him.
“It's for good this time! I mean it!” Mom shoved her wrinkle cream into the bulging pocket of the smaller suitcase. “If Robert thinks he can get me back with a dozen flowers and a couple of George Jones songs, tell him to go to hell!”
“Sure.” I tossed her the packet of cigarettes. She said this every time.
“I think I'll move to Toronto! That's it!” Mom fumbled with her bags, hanging her purse over her arm and taking one suitcase in each hand. She clutched her car keys between two fingers. “I'll rent myself a nice little loft, and buy a new computer. I'll finally get back to work on my novel!”
I set the timer on the oven. Maybe it was different this time; maybe she was really walking out. “When you get settled, I’ll bring the grandchildren down for a visit.”
The keys slipped from Mom's hand and she laughed. “Maybe, maybe, but don't bring your father. Maybe—” She swept up her keys and clattered her way out the door.
I ran some dish water. By the time I turned off the faucet, the driveway was empty.
Dad came home at five-fifteen, an innocent, happy expression on his face. The giveaway, that he'd been with her, Kelsey, was the bag of bakery doughnuts that Mom loved.
He dropped his laptop bag on the kitchen island. “Where's your mom?” Dad asked me as my boys, Jason and Ronny ran out to meet him. “She gone out for milk?”
“She's moved to Toronto.” I put a steaming dish of pasta down on the table and gave the tomato sauce a stir.
Dad put his coat back on. “I suppose I'll find her at the Super 8 motel?”
“How's Kelsey today?”
He slapped me across the cheek. It stung, but I kept my composure. Perhaps I should have been more subtle. “Jason, Ronny, dinner!”
My boys hurried to their seats, eyeing Dad like he was Frankenstein's monster.
“Like your mother, you're always making inferences!” Dad took his seat at the head of the table. “Always, you were making inferences against your own, poor husband.”
“I divorced him because he was a cheater and a crook!”
“You hated him because he wasn't a conformist!” Dad started scooping pasta on to his plate, without saying a prayer, as Mom always insisted we did.
“Ryan disappeared to Vegas for a weekend with my little sister! He stole my wallet and used my money to gamble!”
“And now your sister, Casey, has married him. They make a fine couple, last time I saw—”
“Is that what you're planning to do? You're going to marry Kelsey?”
Dad dug into his food. “You're too vulnerable! I love your mom!”
At nine that evening, he was climbing into a rented limousine with a bouquet of wine-coloured roses in his hand. I prayed that she wasn't there, in her usual room. I prayed that if he found her, she'd be strong and not submit to his lies. I hoped she'd stare at him, making him feel her disdain and then lock him out. Love, after all was a conditional thing. When one party got tired, they either moved aside, or ran for their life. Mom wasn't in love anymore, I hoped.
I played Boggle with my boys, made them popcorn and tried to teach them chess. When the car came into the drive and Dad came into the house alone and cussing, I took my boys upstairs without a word.
I pulled their little traveling cases from the closet and told them they could each bring two toys. Maybe we'd get to come back for the rest, and maybe we wouldn't, but I didn't tell them that. I packed my own case, grabbing my extra cigarettes from the drawer of my dresser.