My tears have dried by the time that dad leaves my room.
The story that mom had fed me so many years ago was apparently fabricated. The smell of alcohol and the sound of lazy footfalls in the middle of the night were real, but her reasons for leaving appeared to be dramatically different.
The sound of pots and pans clanking together fills the house from downstairs as dad prepares us some Kraft Dinner, our old comfort food. Whenever a bad day brought me down back then, a deep bowl of KD always fixed my mood. I inherited this love for the cheese covered noodles from my dad, since mom hates the carbs that come along for the ride.
Slowly, I begin to unpack. Every few minutes I think about simply grabbing my bags and leaving, but for some reason the curiosity that I have for my mom's actions are keeping me in place. I want to know more. I need to know more.
The smell of powdered cheese floats up the stairs and in through my opened door. My mouth waters with the memory of how delicious KD is. Back in Toronto, whenever I craved KD I had to eat it at a friend's house. The sight alone of my favorite snack food drives mom crazy. I put a red tank top I'm folding down on my bed and quietly walk over to one of the three large windows in my room. Several Avocado trees that dad planted a long time ago nearly block out the view of the beach from my room, but I can just make out the beige sand and rolling waves. The sound of crashing waves is eerie since I can't see them all that well, but it is peaceful nonetheless.
"Aly," dad yells up at the stairs, bringing me back from my thoughtless stupor. "Food's ready!"
The soft knocks of a visitor are barely audible over the clinking of glasses and plates as dad washes the dishes and I clean the glass table, but I catch the sight of black hair in the corner of my eye. A girl a bit taller than me (about five-foot five or six) is standing outside of our in-between door. The sunlight falls almost directly on her face and I can see that she has a few pimples on her forehead, but they are barely visible. Her brown eyes are silently questioning me and her blue Hollister t-shirt that says "Jump In!" with a small pool in the center of the shirt, rises and falls quickly with her labored breathing.
"Hi," she says and her voice comes out high-pitched. I catch a glimpse of braces when she smiles. "Is Robert in?"
"Dad," I say and watch her eyebrows go up in surprise. "Someone's here."
"Oh," dad says and turns around with a smile. "Hey Gabriella," he wipes his hands dry on a kitchen towel before walking around the kitchen island, "this is my daughter Alycia. She's spending the summer here. Aly, this is Gabriella Ramone, she's the daughter of one of my neighbors."
"Please," Gabriella says, the confusion gone from her eyes with a shake of her head. Her black ponytail waves wildly around, following her movements. "Call me Ella."
"Call me Aly," I offer.
Ella nods and dad signals with his hand that she can come in. By the time that she is in our large kitchen, Ella's breathing has regularized and her thin arms hold her weight as she leans against a high table that dad put as a decoration beside the door.
"Robert," she begins, "mom and dad want to know if you're going to be shipping over those orders they paid for tomorrow morning. They want to be sure that they'll be in."
Dad freezes for a moment, lost in thought, then his face eases into a smile. "Tell them that, yes they are coming in tomorrow. If they don't come in, tell me so that I can yell at someone to get them their things."
Ella laughs. "Deal," she turns to me, no longer leaning on the table. "Hey Aly, listen, I'm going down to the stores tonight to run some errands," she is heading back out the door as she is telling me this. "I'll probably be going for a walk after on the beach, would you like to join me? I mean, maybe I can show you around and stuff?"
Okay, so it seems that dad has left out the fact that he has a daughter that once lived here. I'm about to mention this when--
"Actually," dad jumps in, "Alycia was born here and lived here until she was ten, when her mother and I divorced and they moved to Toronto."
The surprise of him not telling Ella anything beforehand is swallowed by how his voice sounds as he says these words. It makes me, somehow, sympathetic towards him.
"Well," I say, recovering, "it has been a long time, I probably don't remember much."
Ella has been following dad and I as we say our own part, quietly with her eyes. "Great then," she announces, lifting a hand up to wave goodbye. "I'll see you at five!"