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3. Masks

“Are you not hungry, Amabel?” My dad asks as he sits down at the table. He’s obviously in a great mood, and obviously not because of anyone in this house.

I shake my head and pull my knees to my chest. The food looks delicious, but it makes my stomach churn. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m sick, or if it’s because my family makes me sick.

“Your mother worked hard on it,” he says as he reaches for my moms and brothers hands to pray.

“It’s alright, dear,” my mom says slowly and carefully. She had drank some alcohol before she cooked, I bet.

I put my legs back down and take my brothers rough hands and my mothers shaky ones. How can she hold the hand of the man who is going behind her back?

“Dear Heavenly Father, we pray you bless our food and that you help in nourish our bodies,” My dad says rhythmically. “We pray you keep our futures in in mind as we move forward in our every day lives, and that you bless the time we have with each other. Please help Tobiah get that scholarship, and Amabel continue to do well in school. Amen.”

We let go of each other, the walls going back up around each of us. We shovel good into our mouths almost silently, until my dad breaks the nauseating silence. He talks to Tobiah about football and college. My mom keeps her eyes on her food, her jaw muscles tense.

I think I hate eating dinner the most out of everything I do with my family. It’s filled forced conversations and fake smiles. No one cares what the other person did, really, they just want to act like they’re listening. At least, that’s what I gathered about my family. No one cares unless they really need to.

I decide to eat my food because I love food and I can’t just have it sit there getting cold. But to make my stomach happier, I don’t eat everything.

Putting my dishes away, my mom asks my brother to do them. My dad says he’s going to stay up to watch “the game”--whatever it is.

I sit back down at the table and pull one knee up to my chest as my brother finishes off his last bite.

“What were you doing today?” I ask him. I mean, I know you went to the gym...”

He looks at me, a little stunned. My heart is pounding. I’m never this straightforward when I try to understand my family. I’m more of the watching kind.

He clears his throat and shakes his head as he sets down his fork.

“I was, um... I was just in my room. Then I went to the gym and came home. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I lie, drawing a flower on the table with my finger.

“What--did you spy on me or something?” He says, getting angry.

I’m startled by the sudden flex in his emotion. None of the Doll family ever gets mad. Is it the drugs?

“N-no,” I stammer. “Just curious.”

“Why?” He snaps.

“Just--I was, Tobiah, okay?”

“Hey, what’s going on in here?” My mom barges in from the kitchen.

“Nothing,” Tobiah says and shoves himself back from the table. He makes his way up to his room and I hear the door slam.

I groan and rest my forehead on my knee.

Smooth, Amabel.

“What happened?” My mother asks, a little bit of annoyance and hanger bubbling up inside of her.

“I just asked him a question,” I say to my leg.

My mom sighs. “What have I told you about prying, Amabel? It makes people uncomfortable and it’s not polite.”

I nod as my eyes focus on the flat top of my knee as I hug my leg against my body. She eventually leaves and I stare at my half-eaten plate of food. There’s a feeling in my gut that’s making me uneasy, like guilt or something.

I sit and listen to the sounds of my house. My mom doing dishes. My dad talking to the TV. My brother in his room doing God-knows-what.

And then there’s me, in my own little world where everyone’s secrets reverberate in my mind when their faces come into view. Whose secrets are kept to themselves, but unknowingly shows them like an open book. The very people who are supposed to care about me and what I think, they turn their backs and wear masks that no one else can see through.

No one but me.

Tomorrow is Monday and I have so many things to do.

I flip through my planner and run my finger on the calendar in front of me, making sure I have everything on the right date and at the right time and so on.

My phone buzzes and I ignore it as I jot something down on the calendar from my planner.

It buzzes again and I look at the screen. A green message icon by my boyfriends name pops up.

JOHN: Hey you.

I smile and unlock the phone, sitting back in my chair. The calendar can wait.

John and I have been going out for about a year now. In a few weeks it will be our anniversary. We tell each other ‘I love you,’ but I honestly don’t believe I meant it in the month he said it. Over time, I started feeling like I did love him, and I hope that I do. I think that I do, at least.

ME: Can I ask you to do something for me?

JOHN: Yeah, sure. What is it?

ME: Could you pray for me?

JOHN: Yeah, is everything alright?

ME: Yeah, just feeling overwhelmed.

JOHN: I can only imagine. But will do haha.

ME: Thank you.

We talk for a while until I decide to go to sleep and we pray together, something we started doing because why be with someone if you can’t share your faith with them?

I lie in bed staring at the ceiling, knowing I have to go to sleep. I have a big day tomorrow. So much to do...

But I can’t stop thinking about the way my brother reacted to me. It was highly uncalled for, even though my question was too. But he didn’t have to explode.

I turn over onto my side, trying to get comfortable. The clock on my desk glows with the numbers 1:30.


I’ve got to go to sleep.

Eventually, I do, and the alarm clock wakes me up.

I get up and get dressed and go to school as usual. Turn in my homework, go to my after school whatnot, and drive myself home in time for dinner. It’s the same thing the rest of the week, with a bit of a cold shoulder from Tobiah. All the same except that now it’s me who’s wearing the mask so no one could see what’s wrong inside of me.

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