A red station wagon – a la Car and Driver – pulled into my gravel drive way, the tires, spinning much too fast, kicking up dust. Fifteen minutes late. Again.
Why couldn’t this week of hell just end already?
I slowly sat up from where I had been laying in the cool grass, facing the awful humidity and heat of the August afternoon. I could feel some of the blades pressing into my skin, leaving little imprints and causing the sticky skin to itch.
“Dee, baby, I’m so sorry! I could have sworn I was running on time!” He jumped out of the car and started tossing my bags haphazardly into the trunk.
“It’s Delilah, Dad. Easy with those bags!” I said, trying to keep most of the harshness from my voice. I didn't want this weekend to start in hostility, like most of our weekends together tended to. “I swear, if you’ve been drinking and driving again…” I took what was left of my bags and lightly set them in the seat next to where I would sit.
“Come here, angel. I haven’t seen you in so long…” He gave me some sort of crushing embrace that I guess was supposed to be a hug. It felt like he was trying to choke me, though. Like someone was trying to crush my ribs down on me and puncture one of my lungs and kill me. I knew better than to struggle, though. That would have just made his arms wrap around me even tighter, tighter than what should be humanly possible.
“Don’t touch me.” I snapped, trying elbow him in the chest to at least wriggle out of his grasp. Lucky for him, he was smart enough to let go fast. “At least you don't smell like alcohol or some other drug. Now, get in the car, pay attention to the road, and drive.”
I got into the car and slammed the door quickly behind me before he could get a word in edgewise. The leather seats started sticking to me any where that was bare skin, trying to meld with my own skin. Simply one more thing I hated about foreign sports car companies – the leather seats. They made crappy napping bed material and stuck to bare skin every chance they got.
“So, how was your first week back at school, sweetheart?” Dad asked, sticking the keys in to the ignition and started the car, pulling out of the driveway in the same manner as he pulled in. A gray cloud of dust flew out behind us, and I tried not to inhale for a long moment, just so I wouldn't get any of that crap into my system.
“How do you think?” I deflected, not wanting to think about that right then. He never understood that...
“Come on, sugar! It's high school! It had to have been at least a little bit of fun! Especially after being home all year last year with that mother of yours.”
“What's that supposed to mean?! Are you insulting Mom? Last year was peaceful. This year is hellish.” I looked him straight in the eye, via the rear view mirror, daring him to contradict me.
“Delilah! Watch your language!” He glared.
“It's not like you haven't called me worse. I’m talking about an inanimate object, at least. Not a human. Not a human who is your damned daughter!” I snapped again, and then flinched, because if we hadn't been in the car, I knew I would have been slapped for that remark, no matter how true it may be.
“Shut up, you little bitch! You're mouthy, just like your mother.” He snarled, snapping his head around to spit at me.
“Pay attention to the damn road!” I yelled. “And we're only mouthy to you, if you haven't noticed that already, Father.”
“I'll pay attention to the road as I damn well please! And your mother learned not to mouth off to me... You still haven't gotten that through your thick skull.”
“What, that thick skull I got from you, asshole?”
He was silent for a few miles. By the time he replied, we were half way to his house and in the middle of nowhere.
“Get out of my car. My car, my rules. You can walk home.”
“You know what, Dad? FINE. I will walk back to Mom's. You have to pay child support either way. And for my cell phone. And health insurance…” I trailed off, knowing I was trapping him in his own agreements. Some of the only agreements he couldn't get out off until I was eighteen, others until I was completely out of school.
“That’s your mother, always stealing my money. Fine, stay in the car. Just shut up.” He grumbled, defeated. Worked like a charm, every time.
“I will shut up when you do, Daddy.” I said in my best sugar-y sweet voice.
He glared at me once more and then cranked up the radio. Soaring riffs of a Hendrix song blared from the speakers, soothing my irritated mind. In a battle of the wills between my father and I, mine would win every time. But music was our peace treaty.
“Deee-liii-laaahhhh!” My step mother trilled the moment I walked through the door, my bags in my arms. “How’s my angel?”
“Hi Jewels. I’m good. Dad’s being an asshole again, though.” I smiled at her – my family was weird. I loved my step mom more than my dad. That couldn't be normal.
“Oh, honey. When is he not?” She patted my head and followed me to my room, where I dumped all of my bags. I had a tendency to over pack when I went to Dad’s, bringing any and every escape I could think of.
“When he’s sober.” I deadpanned.
“True, very true. And he tends to be one then, as well.” She said, wrapping me into a hug. “How was your first week back, sweetheart?”
I rolled my eyes. There was no way of avoiding that question, was there? “It was fine, I guess. Stressful. I’ve hardly ate all week. And, at least when he’s sober he acts a little bit more like an actual dad.”
“Let’s get you some food then. Not eating isn’t good for a growing teenage girl! How else are you going to keep that beauty going?” She brushed my nose with the tip of her index finger and winked as she exited my room, completely ignoring my “actual dad” comment.
She was always doing stuff like that.
Ignorance is bliss.
I sighed sadly to myself once I knew she was out of earshot. “So much for having that perfect life that every one thinks I have…”
“Delilah, how does pizza sound, honey?” Jewels yelled from the kitchen where she was trying to prep something for her son to eat for dinner, from the sound of it. Pots and pans were clattering in only a way that Jewels could. Which was why unless Dad was cooking, we ordered take out a lot of the time. Just the idea of Jewels cooking could cause a fire fighter to shudder. Or even the man on television and in Guinness and Ripley’s who can eat scorpions or worse.
“Sounds good! Just let me know when it gets here, Jewels!” I called back, and then shut my bed room door. The mirror on the back of the door shuddered and quaked with the impact, and then finally returned to mostly normal, the glass only quivering just a little.
I stared at the piece of glass, and my angry reflection glared back at me, sallow and sweaty because of the late August heat. I had to pick a piece of grass out of my tangled mess of hair from where I had been lying on the lawn earlier, only succeeding in putting more knots in to the mass. My eye liner had smudged from my sweat, and most of my make up was completely removed from my face. I didn’t wear much, but with the way my eyeliner was running, you could have mistaken me for a so called goth. I couldn’t help but wonder if it had been like that at school, or if any one had even noticed if it had.
Something told me that out of anyone, James probably had.
Good God, he made Algebra better. So much better.
I wiped as much of the runny black goop from under my eyes as I could, and then jumped on to my bed, sprawling on top of the fluffy white blankets that covered it. Those blankets were the only things in this room that were mine and actually stayed there. The only little piece of heaven in that huge place of hell.
I shoved my thoughts of James and how he’s a boy, just a teenage boy, just a stupid heart breaking teenage boy out of my head and plugged my ear buds into my ears and cranked up the volume on my iPod. I wasn’t in the mood for soft, acoustic music right then – it was like a too soft pillow when what you want is strong support. Annoying as hell. And at that point, it was irritating me that I had never realized just how much of that damn music I had! I scrolled right down to one of the songs I knew had heavy guitar riffs and that I knew Dad would never listen to, no matter how much he loved good guitar playing. I wanted to forget about this damned week already. Forget about Dad and his narcissistic tendencies, forget about having to deal with bratty teenagers who felt entitled to anything and everything every day, forget about life in general. Life was painful. Life was hell.
Life was high school.