I woke up with my head rising and falling slowly. I blinked, confused, until I remembered what happened last night. I blushed but didn't move. Caleb was still asleep and I didn't want to wake him up. The Benadryl had helped me get to sleep quickly and I didn't have any nightmares. I shut my eyes again and reflected on my father's death.
We had been at my grandmother's funeral. Everyone was gone but me and him. My mom had gone to oversee the luncheon after. She didn't have a close relationship with her mother-in-law because we lived in different countries.
My father held my hand tightly as he stood by the freshly dug grave. He was crying a lot and I was trying to make him feel better.
"I'm sorry, cel mic," he said and I looked up at him.
"Sorry for what, tată?"
"I-I know I promised," he said and let go of my head. From his sweater pocket, he pulled out a syringe and my heart dropped. "I-I have to, cel mic."
"No," I said, grabbing his hand again. "No, tată! It'll be okay! We'll go back home and watch your funny movies! I'll make you chocolate chip pancakes! I'll read you your favorite book. Please!"
He smiled at me, his lips trembling. "It will be okay, cel mic. When I am done, we will go and eat until our bellies burst."
He got on his knees and wrapped his arms around me. I hugged him tightly, trying not to cry.
"Please," I whimpered. "I'll do anything. You can ground me. I'll be a good girl."
"Oh, Mirela," he said. "You don't need to be grounded! And you've always been a good girl! It's just one more time, okay? I hurt too much, baby. This will make it better."
I gripped him tighter. "I can help!"
He kissed my forehead. "It will be okay."
I watched in dismay as he put the needle in his arm. He winced a little and pushed down on the syringe. He closed his eyes, gasping a little, until the stuff inside was gone. I sniffled and he smiled at me.
"Come. Let's go eat."
He held my hand and walked with me back to the church. He slipped the syringe back in his pocket. My mother was outside, waiting anxiously for us. One look at my father and she knew what he had done. He kissed her with a reassuring smile and we went in. While he talked with family members, I wrapped my arms around her waist.
"I'm scared, Mommy," I whispered.
"Shh," she whispered. "It will be okay."
Halfway through the luncheon, my father got pale. He had to sit down and my mom hurried to get him some water. He started to sweat even though it was freezing in the church. I gulped. Something was very wrong. They thought it was grief until he passed out. Someone called an ambulance and they rushed him to a room, trying to flush his veins.
They were too late. My mom and I had ten minutes with him. He tried to encourage me to not be a business woman. He know how much I loved running around with my fake camera. I promised him I'd do what I love but, in my mind, I promised myself that I would do what he had desired and become a business woman.
The flat line sounded and I sobbed into my mom's chest.
"Mirela?" I opened my eyes. Caleb was rubbing my arm; I didn't realize I had fallen back asleep. "Stop crying. It's just a nightmare."
"Sorry," I whispered. "What time is it?"
"A little after seven."
"Thank you for staying with me," I said, embarrassed.
"Of course. Do you want to grab an early breakfast? There's an IHOP not far away."
"I'm not hungry," I murmured.
"I know you're not but you have to eat something."
I sighed. "Okay."
I sat up and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. Caleb sat up, too, and stretched, his back cracking.
"I'll wait for you out in the kitchen," he said and closed the bedroom door behind him.
I frowned. Why had he stayed with me during the night? I was still clothed and I didn't recall him touching me.... Could he really have been genuinely concerned for me? I remembered him crying for me. Should I ask him or just leave it be?
I sighed and stood, going into my closet. My head was starting to hurt and I didn't want to think about it. I changed into all black, feeling like I had just lost my father all over again. Though I was only seven at the time, I could remember everything that happened in terrible detail.
Caleb was on his phone when I walked out.
"Yeah, I'll bring her by if she wants to," he was saying, his back to me. He sighed. "I highly doubt it, Lu. Are you sure about this? We can ask, I guess. ... All right." He turned and saw me. "She's up. I'll see you soon."
"Everything okay?" I asked as he led the way to his car after I locked the house.
"Yeah," he said. "We finally heard from the insurance company. They're going to replace the green screen."
"That's great!" I said and he nodded with a small smile.
"Luther wants you to come by after we eat. He also wants to do a shoot of just you."
"Why just me?" I asked.
He waited until we were seated to answer me. He rubbed the back of his neck.
"He didn't say but, if he agrees with me, it's because you're beautiful."
I stared at him and waited. I waited for the smirk, the inner dick to come out. He just stared at me, though, waiting for my answer.
"Uh... okay, I guess. I don't really have any plans."
"Great," he said with a smile.
I stuck with just some sausage and eggs, not feeling like a big breakfast. He ordered his and we sat in silence for a while.
"I got an email from Carol," I said quietly and he nodded.
"I did, too," he said and smiled again. "I'm so glad he's fitting in well. She says that I can visit on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays."
"When do you go up to take pictures of the property?"
"We were going to do it today and tomorrow but there's rain in the forecast. We're hoping for next weekend instead."
"Why not during the week?" I asked, thanking the waitress when she brought our food over.
"Because she's too busy," he said. "We want her to be in most of the shots since she's the reason that place exists to begin with." He sighed. "Are you sure you can do this shoot?"
"Yeah," I said quickly. "I think it'll be good, too. Get my mind off of...." I cleared my throat. "Is your dad still mad at you?"
He rolled his eyes and nodded. "I don't care, though. Tom is more important."
"Why did he try to rob you?"
He sighed. "Probably to pay for his next score. I know it doesn't look like much, but those dressing rooms have a lot of valuable things in them."
I nodded and sighed heavily. I hated drugs. I hated what they did to the users and their families. It wasn't fair. I wish Caleb's father wasn't so terrible to him. I wish I could have done more for my father....
"You ready?" Caleb asked, jerking me from my thoughts.
"Yeah," I said and finished my water. "Thanks for breakfast."
"Of course," he said with a strange smile.