Chapter 4Mature

I stared at the ceiling, but what else could I do I guess?

            I suppose I could have been doing homework, or sleeping seeing as it was about three o’clock in the morning. Neither of those was remotely possible for me at the moment.

            This was the third night in a row that I just lied in bed, staring at the ceiling. I haven’t slept. I closed my eyes and I saw my dad bleeding out on the ground, telling me everything will be just peachy. Well, guess what, Dad? Nothing is fine, or peachy, or okay.

            I killed you.

            I didn’t understand how I could have been so stupid. How could I have made such a novice error in not looking left and right before driving across the damn intersection? I had a stop sign. Whomever was coming had the right of way.

            But what bothered me was that I didn’t see any lights. I didn’t see anything. No vans, no trucks, no semis no anything. It was pitch dark. I should have seen the lights, but I never did. I saw nothing and thought it was safe to go.

            My mother told me that the man driving the semi, Viktor Dwelling, only suffered minor bruises and cuts from the accident. How was it that he could be okay? I was not complaining, it was good that he was fine, but honestly, why him? Why couldn’t my dad survive this?

            Anyway, my mom seemed to think that this was a great time to become one with God. During the last three days, she said grace at every meal (I haven’t, since I haven’t eaten anything really except a spoonful of soup), prayed before going to bed (which I also haven’t done, since I haven’t slept) and went to a Sunday service at the local church (which I was forced to attend).  She insisted that she had always been close to God, although I didn’t remember her ever doing anything like this when she and Dad were together or since the divorce. She said that now we need God. I laughed at her and said, “No, I needed him on Friday. I needed him when I was driving with Dad. I needed him when I didn’t see any lights. I needed him when we got in the accident. I needed him…” I stopped then because my voice cracked and I started to stutter.

            “There was nothing you could have done,” she said. “God made that choice.”

            To that, I put my middle finger in the air and told God to “fuck himself.” That was perhaps why she forced me to go to church yesterday.

            Someone had to have let the pastor know that I didn’t believe or something, because he kept glancing at me after saying things like “acceptance is essential” and “one cannot question God’s will.” It probably didn’t help that I shot him disbelieving looks through the whole service. But he sounded ridiculous.

            I tried to close my eyes again. So tired. Please God, just let me sleep now. I know I’m bad, just let me sleep.

            “Everything is going to be okay,” I heard Dad say again as blood continued to pour from his chest. The EMTs were rushing again…

            There was another prime example. Thanks a lot, Your Holiness.

            I sat up in bed and decided it was time to have some tea. The stairs creaked as I made my way down. My mom was already in the kitchen, sipping her own tea like she’d been grieving all night.

            “Eryn, you’re up,” she said with surprise. Her brown eyes were nearly closed, but I could still tell they were red and swollen. Her light brown hair stuck up on end. I didn’t think she had brushed it in a while either.

            “I haven’t slept in three days, Mom,” I said, my voice still weak. I wished that would go away. I wished the lump in my throat would go away.

            “Me either really.”

            I chuckled. “Yeah, right.” Even though her eyes said that she was telling the truth.

            She looked at me, shocked again. “I haven’t.”

            “Mom, I’m really tired of your bullshit. I really am.”

            She stood from the table, her eyes perked open in anger. “How dare you speak to me that way? I am your mother; you will treat me with respect.”

            “I would if you deserved some, Mom. But you lost my respect long ago.”

            She sighed. “It’s been a year. Can you please stop holding the affair against me? I already told you that I made a mistake, but I was lonely and your father was never home to see that.”

            “That doesn’t make it right for you to go looking for a new guy. A new guy who knocked you up and left you! While you were still with Dad!”

            “Things were bad with him and I long before that—“

            “Do you hear yourself making excuses? It’s your fault. You can’t remember me ever looking for a new father can you?”

            “Now, Eryn, that’s not fair.” I was upsetting her. She looked like she was about to cry.

            “It’s the same thing!” I threw up my hands. “You can’t pin this on Dad, Mom. You’ve been trying to do that for a year. You had an affair. You got knocked up. You had the abortion. You kept it from Dad. He caught you with him. It’s your fault, so stop sitting her acting like you gave a shit about him, because we both know that you could have cared less about him.” She opened her mouth but I didn’t let her speak. “NO, Mom. If you really cared about him, you wouldn’t have cheated on him. If you really cared, you wouldn’t have kept it a secret. We’ve both done something wrong, Mom. At least I can fess up to it.” I left the room and ran up the stairs, tears pouring down my face. I couldn’t stop. My heart hurt.

            I dropped onto my bed again, covering my face. I heard footsteps and my mother knocked on the door.

            “Eryn, please. Open the door.”

            I didn’t even think I could speak if I wanted to answer her. My throat felt like it was closing up.

            “Eryn, please. The funeral is Saturday. We need to work this out. For your father.”

            Anger boiled in my empty stomach. I hopped up from the bed and whipped open the door, suddenly able to do more than just speak.

            “For my father? FOR MY FATHER? You have got to be shitting me, Mom! Just…get the hell out of here! Leave!” I slammed the door.

            “I’m going out,” Mom said in a fashion that made it sound like she was choking..

            I sighed as I heard the front door close. Now is probably a good time to raid the medicine cabinet for sleeping pills, I decided.

            I didn’t really take pills very often at all, so this was a rather new experience. But I really needed to sleep. Mom had to use them before.

            My mom had an assortment of pills in the cabinet in her bathroom. I found the sleeping pills and put two in my mouth.

            I struggled to swallow them. It took nearly three glasses of water and the most dramatic form of swallowing I had ever used. The lump in my throat still very much existed. I wondered if they made pills to get rid of them. Lump Removers. No, that just sounded weird. Like an STD treatment. Not exactly what I was looking for.

            Back in my room, I lied down in bed and waited as patiently as possible for the pills to kick in.

            After about twenty minutes, I closed my eyes to abrupt drowsiness and nothing else seemed to matter; not the lump in my throat, the throbbing of my head, or the pain pulsing through my body. For the first time in three days, I was asleep.

            “Did you solve the case, Dad?”

            I was driving with my dad along Rochester Ave. It was a warm night; cloudy and it rained on and off. I remembered he asked me to drive so I could have more practice since I got my license not too long ago.

            He looked happy, not as stressed as he usually was. I cherished my weekends with him. I was so much happier with him than I was with my mom. He understood me. He knew me.

            “Almost,” he responded.

            “Almost?”

            “We’re getting much closer. We’ll have them soon.” He was working on a drug dealing case. Apparently this group called MAFFA was a huge drug dealing organization. There were members of the group throughout the United States and northern Mexico. My dad and Uncle Joe had been following one of them around, while another agent was posing as a dealer. The MAFFA was planning to sell large amounts of heroin and meth to numerous amounts of greedy junkies. Once they found more information on all of the dealers (like locations, ties to others, etc), they would move in during a major deal and arrest several of them at once.

            “We have locations on 20 of them outside of state. We’ve already contacted the other field offices,” my dad explained.

            “Awesome.” I was always fascinated by things like this. “You’ll have ‘em in no time then.”

            He smiled at me. “That’s the plan.” He put a hand on my shoulder. “One day, you can do it too. Catch people like this.”

            I smiled back. “Yeah, one day.” He could tell something was wrong. He kept looking at me funny.

            “Eryn? Your mom loves you. Don’t forget that.”

            Dad had always been pretty good at figuring out what was wrong with me. I never understood because he was the only one who could do that; figure out that I was hiding something and know what it was.

            It was hard to believe him. If she loved me, she should accept me, not try to change me.

            Mom had been all “you should go out and make some friends,” because Neil was clearly not enough for me and “maybe you should look into other things for the future” because being in the FBI was not a future she wanted for her daughter and “let’s go shopping and have a girls night” because I was too busy shooting guns and focusing on schoolwork than doing other things. She never even tried to hide her disappointment in me, like I posted drunken pictures of myself on Facebook or got caught screwing in some college guy’s car. No matter what I did, I couldn’t please her while still being me. I couldn’t make her happy. Sometimes I wished she would yell more. The dissatisfied silence hurt my ears.

            Just then, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith came on the radio. It was Dad’s favorite song. He cranked the volume.

            “I could stay awake, just to hear you breathin’…” His voice wasn’t all that bad. In fact, it comforted me. I loved it when he sang. It made me feel safe, gave me a sense of security. I always told him that if he ever stopped being excellent at his job he could make it in the singing business.

            “The sweetest dream would never do, I’d still miss you, babe, and I don’t wanna miss a thing…”

            I smiled again and joined in with him. This happened a lot in my dad’s car. Every time we heard a song on the radio that we liked, we turned up the volume and sang at the top of our lungs, not caring if people heard. It was our thing.

            I thought about how safe I felt with Dad in the SUV, his singing in my ears. I forgot about my problems at school and with Mom. I forgot about everything except being content here, with my dad. It was so easy just to be happy with him.

            There was a stop sign up ahead, so I slowed down. It was a two-way stop with the left and right sides with the right-of-way. I looked right, then left. I saw nothing. The music was still loud. I heard nothing. I pulled forward.

            We were distracted by the music, and my dad laughed because I messed up the words.

            Suddenly, there were lights coming at us from the right.

            Everything I saw, I saw too late. Panic washed over my face.

            “Dad!” I shouted.

            And then there was a collision. Both our bodies flew as glass shattered. I felt us go upside down. I saw my dad’s face, seemingly broken. I saw blood, too much blood…

            The world was spinning. My body lodged into the seat, and I felt needles in my arm. I reached for my dad, but I couldn’t see him. He was not there. Where was he?

            Then, Viktor Dwelling’s face appeared where my dad should have been. He was laughing. Laughing because he was driving that giant pickup truck without his lights on. Laughing because he wasn’t not hurt. Laughing because my arm was gone. Laughing because he killed my father.

            No, please. Make it stop. Make everything stop.

            “Dad…”

            “Eryn!”

            “Don’t leave me.”

            “Eryn!”

            “Just stay with me, Dad!”

            “Eryn, wake up!”

            Someone shook me awake. I blinked twice because I saw my dad, but Uncle Joe stood before me, concern on his face, pain still etched in the creases of his forehead.

            I bolted up realizing I was sweating profusely. A dream. I had a dream. That meant I was asleep for once. Wow. Those pills really did work. And now, there was clarity.

            “Eryn, I wanted to let you know that I had to pick up your mother. From a bar. I think she called you, numerous times. You seemed like you were having a nightmare though, so I thought I’d wake you.”

            I never even heard the phone ring and I was normally a light sleeper. “A bar?” I asked in utter confusion, the clarity disappearing.

            “She’s drunk. The bartender evidently had been talking to her a lot and wouldn’t let her go home without a ride. He didn’t want to call a taxi if she had family or friends around.”

            “Oh…”

            “She’s in her room right now, passed out. She mumbled something about a fight you guys had and she was crying and…are you okay? You’re awfully pale.”

            “Nothing. I’m fine. Just a nightmare.” I smiled a little for some reassurance.

            “Do you want me to stay?”

            “No, um…you have work and I have school tomorrow. It’s fine.”

            “Okay…” He got up, but looked like he had something else to say.

            “What is it, Joe?”

            “Your mom…she…” He ran a hand through his hair. “Somehow she got a hold of some cigarettes and…she smoked again. According to the bartender a whole pack in an hour.”

            I put my hand over my face. My mom had quit smoking a year ago and she swore she would never smoke again.

            “She’s just upset, I think. That was some fight,” Joe said.

            I looked up at him. “Yeah, I guess.”

            “I’m gonna go. Are you sure you’re okay?”

            “Yes. I am okay. Uh…Joe?”

            “Yes?” He stopped at the door.

            “Can I come by tomorrow after school to shoot?”

            He looked at me with understanding in his eyes. “Yes. Yes you may. If you come by in the afternoon, I don’t think anyone would use it and Wilson won’t mind then.”

            “Okay. Thanks.”

            “Goodnight, Eryn.” He nodded and left.

            I looked at myself in the mirror across the room. The dark circles were still there, but my eyes weren’t cloudy anymore. Everything was crystal clear.

            It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t kill my dad.

            Viktor Dwelling killed him. He had meant to hit us. He didn’t turn on his lights until the last second and didn’t stop at the stop sign. He was going about 90 miles an hour. It was his fault. That bastard killed my father.

            It wasn’t me.

The End

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