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My far from perfect life
I was only thirteen when my mother left. She and I were close then, too. We would go to the mall, or see movies together, and we would talk, we were closer than most of my friends were with their mom’s. But then Henry came along. Henry was a little younger than Dad, but still older than Mom (my parents were together then, if you were wondering). Henry just started showing up more and more while Dad was at work, and one day I was home alone with him.
“Hey, Penny.” He smelled like beer and cigarettes, and I inched away from him. He followed me, lingering in the doorway of my bedroom. I did something then that I would regret for a long time. I snapped a photo on my camera phone. The drunken Henry didn’t see any harm in this, but I knew the power I had now. I could show it to dad, and I did.
Dad and I had a long talk about the photo, and he was enraged by the time Mom bustled in from wherever she had been. She knew the second my Dad and she connected at the eyes. I heard a lot of yelling that night. Lots of curse words were exchanged, and I sat rocking back and forth on my bed. I was curled up in a little ball, literally shaking.
The next day I came downstairs for breakfast, and I spotted two full suitcases next to the front door. Mom was all dressed, and leaning against the kitchen counter. When she saw me, there were tears in her eyes.
“I love you, Baby Penny.” Mom had always called me that, Baby Penny. It was how I could always tell it was her addressing me. This time though, I could hear a catch in her voice when she said it. Everything was clear at that moment. My Mom was choosing Henry over Dad and me.
“Why do you have to go? Don’t you want to be with Daddy and me?” Mom said the last thing I expected.
“Do well in school, Baby Penny. I’ll visit, if you’re worried about that, or something.” She gave me a casual hug, and then grabbed the suitcases, and left.
After that, I never saw her again. That happened three years ago, and to this day, I still hate her to the core.
I dropped all of my honors classes in school, soon after. I stopped going to school altogether, for days at a time. I graduated each year by a thread, not really caring. Dad started working 16 hour days, sometimes just staying at work overnight. I would get a weekly email from him, sent from his work email. It always said things like, “Be back next week.” Or, “go to the grocery store.”
I started dating anyone who paid attention to me, and they weren’t the nicest guys. Some would just want, you know, or they would get sick of my being nonresponsive half of the time. I started dating one really great guy, Trevor Harris. He was the first person I told about my Mom, or Brenda, as I now called her.
“Its okay, Penny. My dad left when I was nine.” He said to me. I never expected anyone to understand my past, but I was relieved to have Trevor. With his support, I rejoined all honors classes, and I had a smile most of the time.
But it didn’t last long. Trevor did the one thing that could still crush me. He cheated on me…with my old best friend. It was like déjÃ vu in the next couple of months. I stopped going to school, only I went the first day to drop my classes. I got my GED this time around, so I would never have to go back.
Mostly I walked around the house like a zombie, only acting human when neighbors came over to check if I had killed myself yet. But this wasn’t the worst part, of course not. It was the phone calls. They were all from Trevor and Jenny, my old best friend, now number one on my black list. Trevor was number two, followed by Brenda and Henry.
I got a phone call, one day while I was in an oddly good mood. I actually considered getting dressed, until the phone rang.
I picked it up, figuring I would just have to tell Trevor and/or Jenny to go to hell. It was neither, but after I had hung up I wished it had been.
“Baby Penny? Is that you, sweetheart? I’ve missed you so much!” I literally dropped the phone, but I could still hear her voice from the floor. I wish I couldn’t, though.
“Honey, Henry and I are flying in from California tonight. We wanted to pay you a long overdue visit. We’ll be there around seven.” The line disconnected, and so did I, in a way. I felt like I was in the room, but my body was just sitting there, crumpled on the floor, like a forgotten toy. I hate her, I thought. I hate myself, for not being good enough for Brenda, Trevor, or even Dad. Sure, I still got cash from Dad to pay for the house, but I stayed in it alone. Dad loved work more than me. Mom loved Henry more than me. Trevor loved Jenny more than me.
I decided that it was time to take a stand, and get away from the madness that surrounded my life. I called Dad, to ask for money. Guilt ridden for never being home, he gave me a credit card with a direct connection to his huge bank account. I packed a suitcase of my clothes, books, and laptop. I packed my purse with my iPod, cell phone, and wallet. I got in my car, a birthday present from Dad, and drove away from all my troubles, or so I thought.
A couple of weeks later, I got a call on my cell phone. It was from Brenda, and she was upset.
“Why is the house being sold? Where are you and where is Peter?” Peter is my Dad. I honestly couldn’t believe she remembered his name.
“What do you want?” my voice was sharp and heartless, but I didn’t care. She had no right to be mad, I had every right.
“Don’t you use that tone with me, Penny. I wanted to see you. Where are you, anyway?” I told her where I was, which was a motel off of a highway. I had been driving a long time.
“A motel? Why aren’t you in school?” I rolled my eyes. I had completely forgotten about school, and I was glad I didn’t need to go back.
“I got my GED. I don’t need to go to school. I have to go.” She started to protest but I hung up first. I was done with her. I was done with everything.
I drove again the next day, and after a few more days, I ended up in Washington. I had started at my house, in Arizona.
The next few weeks were hectic. I bought an apartment, got a job at a sub shop, and got settled. I met a nice guy, that also worked there. I forgot about Brenda and Trevor, but not Dad. One night, I gave him a call. He picked up, surprisingly.
“Hey Kiddo, where are you?” He sounded exhausted, as he often did. He was probably pulling an all-nighter, at his office.
“I’m in Washington, Dad.” I could hear him straighten up in his chair, I swear. He sounded alert.
“Washington, really? I thought you were still in Arizona. I sold the house, by the way.” I took it all in before answering.
“I like it here, Dad. I think you should consider transferring. It’s really nice here, green.” I looked out my window at a nig, very green tree. I did like it here.
“I don’t know, Penny. I’ll think about it.” We chatted a few minutes, and then hung up. I knew that my life was far, far from perfect, but it was going uphill. I climbed out of two big black holes, and came out with minimal wounds. A part of my heart will always ache for Trevor, and part will ache for Brenda. But the rest of my heart was singing, because I made it out.