I had a dream once. I can’t remember it, otherwise I’d say it. Now I’m 75 grand in the hole, and I can’t even wait tables. I host.
I pretended to look at the seating charts, but I kept thinking about not going home.
“Hey, you keep seating too many families in my section. Can you give Jay the families? I have just had it up to here with all of the screaming,” Kass asked me.
“Yeah, sure. Sorry about that,” I said, offering up a smile.
The truth was, I probably wouldn’t even have a job if it wasn’t for my Aunt. She felt bad for me and gave me a job. She and her partner Kim made me still apply for the job and everything, and that process was much more rigorous than it should’ve been. I had to memorize the menu, the history of the restaurant… it was stupid.
Even though I had my degree, I couldn’t even get a job as a receptionist. I had no work experience, and a degree in Liberal Arts doesn’t exactly open doors for anyone. It’s the golden lie that we all buy - that a degree could offer a career and an opportunity for a future.
Yet here I am, now gloriously using my degree to help seat people. I looked up and saw a family enter and steered them into Jay’s section. It just reminded me of how much I didn’t want to go home to see my own. All I saw in my Mom’s eyes was disappointment.
Her disappointment rang in her voice whenever she talked about me after Miles would call to tell us about Grad school or his fancy architecture job. It was hard moving anywhere in that house without seeing her disappointed glances.
Or my stepfather.
He and I, well, we just never got along. It wasn’t like my life was blasting off or going anywhere, which just was added fuel to the fire that he stoked between my Mom and me. So, if I could take longer cleaning during closing time, I took the time.
This time I probably should’ve taken even longer than I had set out for. Or maybe when Kass offered to give me a ride, I should’ve said no. I had this weird feeling that overwhelmed me when I walked through the front door.
There is probably some statistic somewhere about having kids later in life or to save a marriage. That’s what my little brother, Mark, was. I thought Mark was the door on the Titanic, and I hoped my stepdad would just fucking sink into oblivion.
It didn’t work that way. My Mom and this psycho got closer. All he needed for his dream life was to find a way to get me out of it. After months of scheming, he finally found the perfect way. Apparently, all he had to do was say one thing.
“It’s almost midnight. Why are you back so late?” He asked accusingly.
“Zoey, what is this!? Why are you home so late!? Was it Owen!? Are you seeing Owen again!?” My mother shouted at me accusingly. Fuck. It was times like these I fucking hated Miles for leaving me here, alone.
“No psycho. I was held up at the restaurant. It was a long close,” I replied.
“I called Kim. You should’ve been back 2 hours ago,” she said, trying to trap me into whatever lie she just so happened to dream up.
“What? Look, I already told you-”
“Don’t talk back to your mother! This is what you do, what you always do. All you do is lie. Everything you say is a lie,” Gavin said scathingly.
“Okay, first off… what the fuck Gavin? I’m not even talking to you. Second off, I-”
Then it happened. I felt my mother’s hand across my face. It was quick, and it was swift. I bit the inside of my cheek in anger and surprise. I could hear the baby beginning to fuss down the hall.
“Now you’ve done it, you’ve woken up the baby,” my mother retorted.
She left for just a quick moment to pick him up, and I could’ve sworn I saw a smirk roll across Gavin’s face. Motherfucker- literally. I could feel the anger within me begin to rise.
“I want you to know,” my mother continued as she came back in the room with the damn baby in her arms, “I’ve had it with you. I’ve had it with your attitude, with your language- I’m done. You walk in and out of here like you own the place.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying,” Gavin chimed in.
“I don’t even understand what you’re doing with your life. Why can’t you go back to school like your brother? I don’t understand why you’re not applying yourself,” my mother said, annoyingly perplexed.
“I am applying myself. This is ridiculous. I don’t even understand why this is happening right now,” I said almost at my wit’s end.
“You need to be accountable,” Gavin said with finality.
“We want you to start paying rent. It’s time for you to be more responsible for yourself.”
“What!? I barely make thirteen dollars an hour. Are you joking right now? I have to pay my school loans, and you think I have money for rent!? On top of which, I clean the house every other day, I do laundry, and help however I can whenever I can.”
I was so angry I was shaking, and tears were coming down without my permission. I couldn’t contain my anger.
“Ha! As if. She didn’t even do anything this week,” Gavin said. Of course, he was right, but that was only because I pulled extra shifts. “All you do is lie, Zoey.”
“You know what… fuck this,” I went to my room and slammed the door.
“FUCKING OPEN THIS DOOR!” Gavin said, banging on it.
Mark was screaming and crying at the top of his lungs. I pulled out a bag and just began to stuff it with clothes, underwear… everything, and anything I could find. Fuck this place, I thought as I shoved my bag out the window. I threw my leg over the sill just as Gavin broke through the lock on my door.
We had a moment where I saw the smile creep up to his eyes. He had won. I looked at him with so much anger that it only pulled his smile higher; then, I jumped out.
I slung my bag over my shoulder and made a run for it. I hid behind the vast bushes at the house at the end of the road. I peered through the leaves and watched as the outdoor lights came on, and Gavin pretended to look for me.
I was a cross country runner and never stopped running, even in college. I didn’t compete in college even though I had good times and could’ve gotten scholarships. Still, I realized now that I was probably training for this moment to use my legs to run the fuck out of that house.
Gavin hopped in his car, probably at my Mom’s behest, and started driving down the road with his brights on looking for me. I looked down at my phone. I thought of everyone I could call. My first thought was Miles, but he was in Connecticut.
I needed to call someone that my Mom wouldn’t think of. Someone that just not only wouldn’t occur to her but someone no one would associate me with, and that person would also have to owe me somehow.
I kept scrolling through my phone and looked at name after name. Then I found it.