The Bootlegger's Daughter

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Life Doesn't Always Work Out

The boy who was carrying me sat me down in a chair next to Miss Hayes’s desk. The classroom was empty and for some reason all I could think about was that I never got to eat my lunch. I know I should have been scared, but I never really had consequences before. Why should I have been afraid of them now? Because I cut my brother’s face up, that’s why.

The boy stood behind me with his hand on my shoulder, keeping me down. It made me feel uncomfortable sitting with my back to someone like that. When I was a little girl I could hardly sit still. I would wiggle and squirm everytime I had to sit. I felt like doing that then because I couldn’t take having someone touch me like that.

“Why did you do this, Lucy?” the boy asked me. Of course then I recognized who it was instantly. It was my dear cousin, Robert. The same boy who got yelled at for throwing stones at people was now criticizing me. Granted, I did deserve it.

“Do you know what he did?” I asked without looking at him.

“It does not matter what he did. You could have seriously hurt him. You did hurt him!”

“You say that as if it was my goal to kill him. I only wanted to teach him a lesson.”

“But you went too far,” Robert said. I didn’t want to admit my mistake. It was wrong and I never should have done that, but I did and it was too late to back down. The door to the classroom opened and Miss Hayes walked in. I watched her closely as she crossed the room.

She took a seat behind her desk and sighed. She rubbed her face with her hands. Miss Hayes only does that when she is really, really stressed. I am sure she did not like the déjà vu that seeing me sitting on the opposite side of her desk gave her. If only I had just given Lillian a bloody nose again.

“You may leave us now, Mr. Jenkins,” Miss Hayes said.

“Yes ma’am,” Robert said. He walked out the door and I heard him walk down the stairs. It made me wonder where the rest of my class was. Robert later told me that our whole class had to go to the other room, the same class that David and John were in.

“Miss Sweet, I cannot even begin to say how disappointed I am in you. You were never a perfect student, but I must have severely misjudged your character. You could have killed your brother!” Miss Hayes said.

“I wasn’t trying to kill him. I already told Robert that. It was revenge.”

“Well, you should not have taken your revenge that far, especially on school property.” She paused a moment to collect her thoughts. “I have phoned your father and he took your brother to the hospital. He will be here later to pick you up. I have also written a note that you are to give to him saying that you will not be welcomed back at this school.”

“What?!” I knew that I had made a mistake, but I didn’t realize just how bad until I was expelled. “You can’t do that! It was a personal matter. I am not going to hurt any other student, and I’m not going to hurt David again. I promise!” An act of desperation.

“Maybe I would believe you if your record showed that, but it does not. Only about a month ago you punched Miss Foster. That is not counting the other times this past year when you have missbehaved. This school is not for you. Your father informed me that you have an aunt who stays at home and a cousin who fairly recently graduated from school. They can teach you.”

“But I’m sorry. I’ll stay in during lunch. I won’t talk to another student. Please, just let me stay.” I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. I don’t know if you have ever been on a sandy beach and stood at the shoreline. But if you have it felt like I was standing right at the shore and the waves kept on coming up to my feet. When the waves retreaded the sand underneath would go back into the lake, making it feel as if I wasn’t on solid ground. It was like I was going to fall down. That was what that moment felt like. It felt like my life was getting pulled out from under my feet.

“I am sorry, but this is not going to be changed.” I put my head down. There was no use trying to fight the decision. For a second I thought that everything might turn out jake. I thought about how Father could alway pay extra to keep me in school and to drop the issue. But then I thought in the logical part of my brain and realized how wrong that would be. Father would never let this slide. In fact, he might have killed me when he picked me up.

“I am sorry I hurt David. I know that what I did was very bad. I understand that I deserve to be taken out of school. I am so sorry,” I said. Miss Hayes shrugged.

“I am not the one you should apologize to. Now please go gather your things and wait outside for your father.” I nodded my head. It was time to finally accept defeat. No teenager can live forever and my time had come to die.

I grabbed my school supplies and left my desk that was now only Ada’s. I put on my coat and hat and went to go out the door.

“Oh, Miss Sweet?” Miss Hayes said. I turned towards her. “Miss Zimmerman gave me your lunch.” Thank the world for Ada. I walked back over to the desk and took my lunch.

I forced myself to open the door, which was really hard. I went down the stairs and to the front steps of the school. There wasn’t even a full minute before Father’s car came down the street. Looking only from a distance I could tell that he was not happy. I pictured my gravestone one last time. “Lucille A. Sweet, June 1st, 1906 - November 3rd, 1922” Rest in peace, me.

Father’s car pulled off to the side of the street for me to get inside. It felt like my stomach was doing somersaults. When I walked to his car it felt as if I was trudging through a foot of water and mud. My lunch bag and books felt like they weighed a million tons. The world was in slow motion.

I opened the car door and slid into the passenger’s seat. I could feel Father staring at me but I tried to ignore it. I closed the door and looked straight ahead at the road. Father sighed and shifted the car’s gear. We started to drive home.

It had been a long time since I drove to or from school. Under any other circumstances the ride would have been quite enjoyable. But it wasn’t because I kept on waiting for Father to yell at me.

After a couple of blocks I thought that he might, but he still remained silent. I dared a look at him to see if I could guess what he was thinking. It didn’t work. Father’s always been hard to read and I don’t know why I thought it would be any different that day.

Every second that passed the tension in the car grew. It was so bad. I wanted to jump out the window just to get away from it. Being shot couldn’t have been as bad as sitting in a car waiting for your father to yell at you for almost killing your brother.

I wanted to do something because more than anything I wanted to car ride to be over. I seriously considered talking just to clear the air, although I knew that wouldn’t work. I wanted to ask how David was; if he was dizzy from his head knocking on the ground. I wanted to ask if I was in trouble. Frankly I am quite grateful that I never did that as I would have won the award for world’s dumbest question.

But there was a part of me that just wanted to apologize. I wanted to say how sorry I was for distracting my father from work. For making him drive out to my school to drop David off at the hospital. For now having to bring me home. And most importantly for getting expelled from school. I would apologize for cutting David but what Miss Hayes said stuck with me. Her nor Father was the one I had to apologize to. I had hurt David and I needed to tell him that I was sorry. The problem was I wasn’t sure I could.

The drive home should have been only a few minutes. Maybe ten to fifteen because of traffic. But it felt more like three hours. All I can say is that it was absolute torture. But finally, finally we made it home. I remember taking a literal breath of relief when we pulled up to our street. Then almost throwing up in the car when we drove straight past my house.

“Where are we going?” I asked. It was a leap of faith to ask about our location because I should have predicted it, and that was the first thing either of us said to each other the whole car ride.

Father didn’t answer because he didn’t need to. Once we changed streets I recognized where we were going. This place was worse than getting yelled at at home, school, or the car. Father was going to yell at me for hurting my brother at Mother’s grave.

I somewhat joked about jumping out the car window, but I really, really considered it now. How could my luck be so bad? Thinking about it now, that was the second unlucky thing that happened to me that day. First was being expelled, second was going to the cemetery. If only I was smarter I would have looked out for unlucky number three.

A minute or two later we pulled into the cemetery. In the middle of the day on a Friday it looked almost quaint. I love how it lays between buildings as if it was hiding. It would be a nice place to rest after you die. And I felt that I was going to die there, at the grave of my mother.

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