The way the leaves fall

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Chapter 3

It was late. Clara glanced at the note she held in her hand and sighed. The house had been empty when she had gotten back with Jake, and she thought she had gotten off easy, but she soon found that she was wrong to have presumed so.
When she had opened the fridge to get Jake his Sunny side Orange juice- this was one of many things he was particular about- she had found a yellow sticky note with a note from her father scrawled across it.
It read:
I had to leave for work before you got home with your brother. I'm a bit disappointed you couldn't be on time. Take care of him, I'll get back around 9:00 pm. We'll have a discussion about this then.
Clara frowned at the note and crumpled it up. It was eight thirty which left her only 30 minutes to finish her homework and come up with some excuse as to why she hadn't been on time. She swatted a strand of curly black hair away from her eyes and hoisted herself up onto the counter.
She grabbed her green spiral drawing book and opened it to a fresh page. She swore she went through like three of these a month. She grabbed her pencil from the counter and began to switch it between her fingers, a nervous tick she had developed over the years.
She was suppose to be coming up with a topic she could do a report on, but she didn't really have one. That wasn't to say she didn't have topics she was interested in, she just didn't have one that she thought she could make into a good enough writing, and quiet frankly she preferred drawing to writing by a wide margin of enjoyment.
Clara tapped the pencil against the paper and began to lightly outline a flower, deciding she would color it later. Soon the ruffled bell shaped flower turned into a grand ball gown, belonging to a very wealthy, full chested dark haired woman, with large sparkling brown eyes.
She was just beginning to add shadow to the left side of the gown when she heard the door creak open. Hastily she hid her sketch book and took out her english notebook. In an attempt to hide that she hadn't been doing her homework, she began to draw squiggly lines and then erase them.
As her father's footsteps grew louder and closer, she brushed a strand of hair that had come lose and began to chew her bottom lip. She cast her gaze down at the black and white tail floor of the light yellow kitchen and her father's black sneakers appeared at the door.
He leaned slowly against the white wooden doorway and glanced at her. He was still wearing his, blue mall security guard uniform, but his jet black hair was ruffled and one of the gray laces on his black sneakers was undone. He had bags under his dark brown eyes and the normally olive skin around them had turned a bit darker. He was clearly tired.
Clara leaned back against the counter and placed her notebook to the side, swinging her legs idly against the dark beige cupboards. She stared at her own tightly laced sneakers and waiter for her father to speak first. When it became clear he expected her to speak first she looked up.
"You're back." She muttered softly, the usual joy at seeing him gone from her voice.
Her father nodded, " are too." He remarked.
She folded her arms defensively, "I barely late!" she exclaimed.
Her father raised his eyebrows, "You were thirty minutes late, and besides you were picking up your brother you know you have to be there at a specific time or he'll throw a fit."
Clara sighed, "I'm sorry Julia's practice ran late."
Her father gazed at her before shaking his head and running his hands through his hair, "Julia's practice ran late? What does that have to do with you again?" he asked, rubbing his forehead.
"I- she- we haven't been able to walk home together this year. So, I wait for her to finish with practice and then we walk home together." She explained.
Her father shook his head, "Julia's a big girl she can walk herself home... you're brother on the other hand."
"I know! He needs to be picked up at a certain time, he needs this and that at a certain time..." She looked away angrily. Her father and her didn't fight often but when they did it was always about Jake.
"Good, then you'll be there on time next time?" her father inquired. Clara shook her head and looked away. "Right?" her father pressed.
"Yeah..." She grumbled. Her father raised his eyebrows.
"Clara I need to know I can count on you for this." His voice had turned firm and cold.
Clara nodded and pushed herself down from the counter. "I know, I know I'll pick him up from the stupid daycare." She muttered.
Her father didn't seem to happy with her response, "Clara, come on I need you to do this for me. I'm not here to take care of your brother all the the time I have to work." She spun around and grabbed her notebooks and pencils, taking deep breaths. She knew she was about to explode and she prayed her father wouldn't mention it. Wouldn't mention her...
"I said I'd do it. So, I'll do it." She muttered, struggling to keep her voice from breaking as she thought about her. Her smile, the way she laughed, the way she'd held Clara. Her hands began to tremble and she blinked away tears.
Her father still didn't seemed satisfied but it was clear he knew he wasn't going to get a more willing response. "Alright, you do your homework?" he asked walking across to the fridge and opening it up.
Clara shook her head and her father shut the fridge door and turned to her eyebrows raised. "Why not?" he asked. Clara shrugged, and his frown deepened. "Why not?" he asked again.
"I don't know.." She muttered.
Her father sighed, "You had club time after school." Clara bit her lip to stop herself from spewing her secret. She shrugged again.
"I don't know, look I'm tired I'm going to bed." She muttered pushing past her father.
"Alright then you'll do your homework in the morning." He grumbled. She rolled her eyes as she began to exit the kitchen.
And you'll pick your brother up from preschool." She nodded just a little more to go and he hadn't mentioned her yet. Her hands balled into fists but she pushed herself forward as tears gathered in her eyes.
Clara nodded and stormed away from the kitchen. She raced to her room, and quietly shut the door behind her. She quickly crossed the room to her bed, before stopping at her light pine wood bedside table. There she stared at a silver frame that housed a picture of her family from a couple years ago. She turned it over and grabbed her phone before plopping down on her bed.
Turning it on she saw that she had received a text from Julia. That brought a small smile to her face and her heart sped up a bit. She always enjoyed her time with Julia. She turned on her phone and opened it to the homescreen, swiping on the text notification at the top.
It read:
Hey Clara I just met this nice girl in my neighborhood I think you'd like her. She reminds me of you, she even hates the popular girls.
Clara smiled and read on.
Anyways, I was thinking I could invite her over to join our sleep over. That alright with you?
Clara frowned, and she felt a pang of something unpleasant growing inside her as she texted back,
Yeah sure no problem.
She wanted to spend some one on one time with Julia it hardly ever happened anymore. Clara was aware that Julia's mother suspected Clara of something, though she wasn't exactly sure what she had done. For the most part she was perfectly fine with it, the way Julia's mom felt and spoke about anything out of her perfect cookie cutter idea of nice made Clara uncomfortable.
Her phone pinged as Julia texted back.
Great! See you there!
Clara rolled her eyes, but she had a smile on her face.
See you then.

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