The sense of security that had draped over me like a blanket as Hunter walked me home vanished as soon as I closed the front door. Keys jingling in hand, I fumbled for the light panel next to the door and heard the buzz of electricity as it began to flow through the dark house. "Hello?" I called out, tossing my keys down on the couch as I walked into the living room. "I'm home. Is anyone here?"
I already knew the answer of course; it was Friday night, which meant that he was probably slumped in some bar somewhere, hitting on a pretty lady at the counter next to him and chatting up the barista with slurred words. I rolled my eyes and made my way into the kitchen, flipping on lights as I went. The smell of cigarette smoke was thick in the air and I noticed with disgust that he'd left one crumbling on the counter. I stubbed it out in the tray and washed my hands of the ash.
Somewhere in the back room the TV was blaring; he'd left it on and the nighttime news anchor read her teleprompted stories to the empty room. I hit the power button on the remote and took the two empty beer bottles out to the trash.
This was what I did on Friday night. Every Friday night. The same old story. Take out his disgusting trash, clean up his messes, and hope he didn't burn the house down in his carelessness before I could get home.
"This," I said darkly as I carefully tossed another needle in the trash, "is why I don't have friends over."
This was the reason Hunter only ever got as far as the front door before I had to shut him out. Because of the drunken mess that I had the misfortune to call a father.
After checking all the rooms to make sure I hadn't missed anything, and spraying the house with Febreze to mask the smell of cigarettes and joints, I collapsed onto the couch with a plate of nachos and a book. It was Tolstoy, one of my favorites, but I just couldn't pay attention. The words kept blurring together and making a mess of my mind. Eventually I turned the light out and trudged upstairs to bed, Hunter on my mind.
The phone rang at 2:14 am.
"Oh hell," I groaned as I fumbled for my phone. "Oh Christ, not again, please not again." It had barely been four months since I'd had to go out in the middle of the night and pick up my drunken father from the bar because he'd lent his keys to a stranger and ended up with his car stolen. I sent up a quick prayer that was more than a few swear words and answered. "Hello?"
"Scarlet? Oh God, Scarlet!" Her voice was shaken to the point that I could barely understand her, and through her sobs I could hear what sounded like sirens. My heart went numb in the way that I had tried so hard to forget, and I choked, "Mrs. Westran, what happened? Just calm down and tell me, please." My voice broke on the last word and I felt the hot tears staining my shirt.
"Oh God. Scarlet. He--he's dead."