“Hello?” I hear my dad as he answers his phone. “Yeah, well, I can’t talk right now. Yes. Mmhm… Okay see you in a bit.”
I see my dads smile as he hands up, his green eyes brightening. My mom walks up to him, clutching to her purse just in case it’s an answer she doesn’t want to hear.
“Work,” He says, slipping past her to grab his shoes. “I’ve been asked to work on someone. The doctor that was supposed to got sick all of a sudden.”
“And you’re happy about that?” My mom asks, trying to smile, but I can see the hurt and the knowledge in her eyes.
“Honey,” My dad says sweetly. “I got a promotion. Of course I’m happy!” He rubs up and down on her arms, her hands white from clutching the bag. “I get paid more to do things like this. Have fun at your bakery, today, okay? I’ll even recommend it to the patient’s family when they come into his room.”
With that, he turns and leaves.
She knows where he’s going.
She slips the flask out of her purse and takes a big sip of alcohol from it. She knows she can’t drink very much yet. She has a bakery to run, and she has to be there in half an hour.
I put the last of the dishes into the dishwasher and rush up to my room. I don’t want to see what she does next, if she does anything at all. She is her own boss. If she wants to take off from work, she can, and she might if she feels too stricken with grief to go.
I don’t pity her. She’s a drunk. I don’t pity my dad either though. He’s a liar. Why pity those who just constantly bring havoc upon themselves? All they have to do is sit down and talk about it. Then it could all be better. It could all work itself out, by the grace of God.
The Doll-Syndrome comes back and I sit on my bed, pretending like my life is perfect and nothing could be better. I busy my mind with other things like organizing meetings for school and doing my homework. I don’t know when my mom leaves, but I know she does, because I can smell the fumes from Tobiah’s room start to leak into mine.
I crack open the circular window above my bed and stick my face out to get fresh air. Does he not know what those chemicals are doing to his body? Does he not understand that?
And what behooves me is why does he do it alone? Usually people do those things together, but he’s all alone in there. I know this because if anyone came over, I would see him or her. I just have that kind of view from the attic.
Plus, nobody knows he does any of this. If they did, he’d be ridiculed and I’d know about it. I’m the girl everyone goes to when they want to gossip or they need advice or they have to rant… No one thinks that I know everything about them, but I do. I become a shoulder for everyone who needs one. That’s how it always has been. It’s how I have so many friends.
If you can call them that.
They’re mostly absorbed in themselves and I feel like they hang around me because I know all of their secrets. I wish I could tell them that friendships aren’t just built on secrets. You need trust and love and…
The stench coming from Tobiah’s room is getting to be too much to handle for me. I start to cough and pull the collar of my dress over my nose to filter out the smell. I make my way down the stairs to the game room and open up all the windows, along with the ones downstairs.
I open up the back door and sit in the grass, a ways away from the house. I feel lightheaded from holding my breath so long, but it goes away after I lay in the grass for a while. The sky above me is crystal-clear and the perfect shade of blue. Only a few fluffy white clouds float high above me and the sun shines down happily onto the Earth. It almost reminds me of a movie, how perfect it all is.
I pick a yellow flower from the ground beside me and smell it. The scent is sweet, but it makes me sneeze. I laugh at myself, as if my brother isn’t experimenting with drugs inside the house while my parents are gone, and my dad wasn’t cheating, and my mom isn’t an alcoholic. I laugh at myself like I have no worries in the world. Like I don’t have secrets swarming around in my head and like I’m not sitting outside because of my brothers’ addictions.
I sit up to look at our house. It’s white walls stare back at me, glistening with secrets that I don’t even know yet, and it’s green window panes watching me, as if telling me to come back inside and stop what’s happening inside of it.
I hear a car start and pull out of the driveway. Tobiah has left, most likely to go to the gym, like my dad predicted.
I wait a few more minutes for the house to air out, and then I make my way inside. The smell is gone, but I still take the spray and cover every inch of the house, especially my bedroom. The after-smell of his drugs gives me headaches.
Shutting all of the windows, I finally make my way to the basement. It’s where my dad works when he’s researching something or studying something. He’s always been an intelligent man, or at least I always thought he was, until the whole other woman thing happened. How stupid do you have to be to cheat on your wife?
I sit at his computer, as I often do when I think, and I move the mouse. On the screen is a picture of our family, our white teeth gleaming in the sun with our house behind us.
I open up his pictures to find more of us to look at. It’s comforting to me to look at these pictures. It makes me feel like nothing is wrong.
As I’m flipping through the familiar pictures, I come across ones that are new, ones that no one should send people.
I quickly look away from the woman, making sure to change the screen as fast as I can. I feel tears well up in my eyes, my bran unable to keep my dad’s secret from itself anymore, and they spill over.
My family is a wreck. We’re all screwed up in one way or another. Everyone thinks we’re perfect, and at times, I do too. But I know better. I’ve always known better.
I start to sob and I pull my knees up to my chest, twisting away from the computer in the swivel office chair. I know too much. Why can’t I be five again when all I worried about was whose birthday party I was going to and what my favorite color was?
I wish I didn’t know the things I know.
I look up at the screen, a more decent picture of the woman smiling seductively at me. She has long black hair and light brown eyes. She looks like a raccoon, if a raccoon was a model. Her body is perfect and her eyelashes are long. She looks like she’s ten years younger than my dad.
I shiver and sniffle as I close out of the window. I think I’ve seen enough for today. Those pictures are recent. I’ve never seen them before.
He’ll probably delete them.
I look out into the room, where the long couch sits with its back to the white wall. A glass coffee table sits before it, with two more chairs that match the couch on the other side of it. We have a living room, but this is more of the work-room-slash-relaxation-room.
I’ve always loved it down here. Always until the night my dad brought that woman home. He brought her down here. I heard him come in in the middle of the day on a Saturday with her. I snuck down to where I could hear them, and he was talking about going down to his office to “work.”
Even after that event, I still came down here to think. I don’t understand why; it seems like I would abhor this room because of it. But maybe it’s because it helps me try to understand my father, even if it doesn’t really do that. Maybe it helps me figure out why he does what he does. Why he brought home that strange woman that day.
The day I learned my dad’s secret, four months ago.