Leila hated lying to people. Especially when they were people she cared about. Miss Fairway was such a nice and beautiful person. But beautiful people shouldn’t be so burdened. Leila sat in her small room in her father’s apartment. The bed would soon be too small and the blankets that decorated it were worn and thin, like that cursed sweater. Leila sat on top of that bed, her back against the wall, and her head hung low. Her door was pulled shut and piles of books sat at the base, trying to impersonate a door stop. Most of them were paperback so they didn’t do much to stop the door when it was thrown open in a mad rage.
Outside her window Leila could hear the sounds of the city buzzing around her. Chicago was always bustling with noise; it sounded like how New York was always described in her books. Leila reached over the side of her bed and pulled out a world encyclopedia. Though she couldn’t understand half the words that were printed on the pages, her eyes hovered longingly over the color pictures that accompanied the text.
Pictures of far-away places with ancient buildings and mysterious jungles. The world was such a vast place and Leila couldn’t help feeling embittered by the fact she was only allowed to see an incredibly small portion of it. When I’m older, she thought, and away from all of this, I’ll travel. I’ll run and I won’t ever stop.
She cringed at the sound of her name. Her father was back. Hastily she put the book down and ran to the living room. Her father sat down on the living room sofa and without turning to her said, “I’m thirsty.”
Leila knew what this meant. She hurried to the fridge, opened it, and grabbed a bottle of beer. She returned to her father and placed the bottle in his open hand. Easily, with the swiftness that came with years of practice, her father unscrewed the bottle cap and flicked it at Leila. She flinched with the cold metal hit her skin, but she picked it up and threw it away without question.
It was all thanks to Leila that the house she and her father lived in wasn’t a complete pig sty. She had decided once, a few months ago, to stop cleaning to see if it might rouse her father into cleaning up his own mess. But it hadn’t. The house had just gotten filthier and filthier and when her father was finally sober enough to notice… Well, she was sore for quite a while afterwards.
Her father turned on the TV and ignored her. She didn’t dare leave, however, because if he turned around and did not see her there when he hadn’t let her go, he would barge into her room and beat some sense into her.
Lazily, her father flicked through the channels, not stopping long enough on any one to see what program it was playing. He finally settled on some new station but he didn’t pay any attention to it.
“Leila,” he said quietly.