(1) You lose you win
I’m sitting on the cold ground in a dark forest when I hear an unfamiliar voice call out to me. The voice sounds terrified and I look around confused.
“Heather, you shouldn’t have come for me! Run! Get out of here!”
I stand up and dust the dirt off of my pants. I freeze not knowing where to run, or how I even got here.
“Go Heather, Go!”
My vision becomes blurry and dark as everything around me fades.
“Heather let’s go, we are going to be late!”
My eyes blink open and I realize I was just dreaming. It felt so real. Standing above me is my 10-year-old little sister Remi, looking annoyed. I rub my eyes and sit up.
“Morning Remi,” I say as I sling my legs off the side of my bed. “What time is it?” I ask her and she sighs.
“It’s 8:40, and I need to be at my dance class at 9:00, come on!” She jumps up and down in her tutu.
“Okay, sweetheart, I’m sorry, I overslept,” I say as I jog to the bathroom and quickly brush my teeth and my hair. I couldn’t sleep last night since I was crying most of the time. Mitch, my boyfriend of 2 years left me for some Russian model he met online, on the same day that I got fired from the coffee shop.
I grab Remi’s little hand and walk her outside. She eagerly slides into my VW bug, which is threatening to leave me stranded any day soon.
She sighs in the front seat twirling her hair, and keeping her head down.
“I miss mom.”
My heart nearly cracks at the soft sob that follows her words, and I hold her hand tightly.
Our mother died on Remi’s 6th birthday, while she was driving quickly to the supermarket to buy her a birthday cake before she woke up. A drunk driver smashed into her car, and... and that was the worst day of our lives. Our father James Williams, or also known as pastor Williams in the Baptist church, still struggles with her death, and a part of him died with Sarah, my mother.
“I know kiddo, I miss her so much too.”
She looks up at me in question.
“Is that why I heard you crying last night Heather?”
Oh no. I didn’t tell my sister I broke up with Mitch. As much as I dislike the man right now, he was very attached to my sister. Always bringing her treats, drawing with her, playing manhunt. If I tell her this it will break her heart as well.
“Um no Remi, I was crying because I was just stressed out with work.” That’s not necessarily a lie, but she gives me a look, letting me know she doesn’t buy it.
“Okay, you don’t have to tell me, I always find out anyways.” She says this as a matter of factly, and swings her hair back, looking out the window.
“Okay sassy pants, whatever you say.”
“I’m not wearing pants, I’m wearing a tutu.”
We get to the dance studio and she reaches over to hug me before she hops out of my car.
“Bye Remi! Call me when you’re finished!” I yell through my car window, and she nods already at the studio door.
As I start my car, My phone pings with a notification. It’s a message from my friend Clara. She worked with me at the coffee shop that closed down yesterday. I read the message.
Clara: [Hey Heather. I got some great news!]
Heather: [I could use some great news.]
Clara: [I found us some new jobs, working at that new pet training place downtown! I saw they were hiring and I asked if you and I could get an interview, and they said yes!]
Heather: [Ahhh! Clara that’s awesome! Thank you! What time?]
Clara: [4:00 pm, I’ll meet you there. Bring your resume, and if we get the job I’ll bring the booze.]
Heather: [Clara... have you forgotten that I don’t drink and that my father is still a pastor? If anyone told him how wasted I was I would be in so much trouble.]
Clara: [Oh that reminds me! My brother is throwing a party on the weekend, and since I haven’t seen him in months thought I would go and invite you as well!]
Heather: [I don’t think I’ve ever met your brother. What is he like?]
If he looks anything like Clara, one thing is for sure, he must be handsome. However if he acts anything like Clara he must also be wild. I try to steer clear from men like that.
Clara: [Oh my brother is... similar to me. We were always close growing up, then he went to college for a business major and we haven’t spoken in so long.]
The only thing I know about Clara and her brother is that they were adopted at the age of 10 after their parents abandoned them. That’s all Clara ever told me, but I have a feeling there is a lot more to that story. Things that pain her too much to say.
Heather: [okay, just send me the address over the weekend, and I’ll be there.]
Clara: [Yes!! I told my brother Hansel all about you, and he actually wants to meet you. I know it’s a bit too soon to party after your brake up but... maybe this is exactly what you need! Later babes!]
I turn my screen off shaking my head as I start my car. I don’t ever go to parties because of my social anxiety, and because of the fear of my father finding out. It's not like I'm afraid of my father, I'm just afraid of failing him.
He is so strict sometimes he feels more like a general than a father. The dad part of him is what died with mom, and I miss it, I miss my old dad, the one who smiled all the time, who had a sense of humor, who took us to watch movies. He’s gone.
I Drive back to my dad’s house. I’m only living there temporarily until I pay off my student loans.
When I walk into the house my father stands in the living room glaring at me. Oh no here it comes.
“Heather, I am very disappointed in you.” He says putting his bible, that he never seems to put down, on the coffee table. His blue eyes Pierce right through me, and I couldn’t look away if I tried.
“Hello to you too dad,” I say in an even tone.
“When were you planning on telling me about what happened to your boyfriend?” He says now looking a bit sad.
“I don’t wanna talk about it dad, we ended things. Also, how did you find out?”
“I called him after I heard you crying last night, and he told me what happened, but then hung up, before I could give him a piece of my mind.” He looks angry again, shaking his head in disbelief. Although my father Is not the same man who raised me, one thing has never changed. The fact that he cares for Remi and me more than anything.
I place my hand on his shoulder, and he looks at me with a face I can’t quite read.
“It’s okay dad, I will be okay, I promise.”
“Heather. I need you to come pray with me Sunday morning.”
It’s been a while since I’ve been to my father's church. Remi and I used to go every Sunday with mom, but when she died, I started going less and less. The place reminds me of her too much.
He nods as he walks away without another word, and I head to my room and fall onto my bed mentally exhausted.
My dad never lets me listen to anything except for gospel in the house, so I plug in my earbuds and listen to some soft, classic rock. As I feel myself drift to sleep.
I wake up an hour later with an anxiety attack.
Oh my gosh I forgot to pick up Remi from dance class!
I run down the stairs and I breathe in a sigh of relief when I see her doing her homework on the kitchen island. I try to control my breathing as I walk up to her.
“Hey Remi. Did dad pick you up?”
She nods, concentrated on her math homework.
“Yeah, he stopped by before I even had time to call you. He seemed quieter than usual. Something must be really bothering him. What did you do this time Heather?”
I gasp at her.
“What makes you think I did anything Remi?”
“Well I have already been all quoted out with my misbehavior this month, so you must be the one getting in trouble this time.”
I can’t believe her. She talks more like an 18-year-old than a 10-year-old. Sometimes it scares me how fast she’s growing.
I place a kiss on her head and sit next to her.
“Do you need any help with your homework?”
She shakes her head no. “This stuff is easy, but next month we’re going to be getting into algebra, so I’ll need you for that.”
“Okay, I’m not very good at algebra myself but I can try and help you.”
She smiles up at me. “I wish you could stay here all the time Heather, I’m getting used to it.”
My heart brakes.
“I know kiddo, but I eventually have to leave the nest, like you will one day.” I bop her nose and she frowns.
“I guess so.”
While I take a shower I think about what Clara said about her brother Hansel. He said he wanted to meet me. I don’t know a dang thing about him, but I wanna make a good first impression. I can’t help but imagine what he’s like.