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iii. going along

When my father died I could not do anything to help my mother.

We had no other living relatives or friends that would lend a hand.

She fell into a very deep depression, one that my twelve year-old self had no idea how to bring her out of. Often when I would come home from school I would find her in her bedroom staring at an old bottle of painkiller tablets, just thinking. Contemplating.

I would call out mom, I would call out her actual name but nothing worked. She didn’t look towards me or give me a hug or tell me that she loved me.

One day, in eighth grade I came home before her shift ended. I grabbed the bottle of pills and hid them under the sink. When she came home she silently went into her bedroom and closed the door. Then she screamed.

She grabbed my shoulders and spun me so I was facing her, a dark pencil line now scratched across my math homework. The sound irritated her so she grabbed the pencil from my hand and threw it behind her.

She screamed at me, begging me to tell her where they were. I didn’t say anything. I had never seen her like this before.

She scared me.

Eventually after she realized the pills were no longer an option, silently went into her bedroom.

When she met Mike, everything changed. She was happy again, she treated me like a daughter again. She told me she loved me again.

I didn’t like Mike. He was sleazy and looked at me weirdly. But I was fourteen then. I thought everyone was looking at me weirdly.

I would come home from school and they would be laughing, watching movies, making dinner. All the things I used to do with her. At that age I understood that he was good for her. That she needed Mike to bring her out of whatever depression she was in. And while she was happy now, and treated me like a daughter again, those two years in painful silence of watching her look for pills and then buy more would always be ingrained in my head.

I would never be able to look at her the same.

I thought I would be able to help her, but I wasn’t enough. I was her own daughter, and I wasn’t enough. So when I found out that Mike was that person that could help her and it wasn’t me, it hurt. A lot.

But they were happy.

So I was happy.

Mike didn’t really bother me much until my fifteenth birthday, a year after he had moved in. I didn’t think much of it. The comments I brushed off as jokes and the looks I brushed off as his beady shark eyes (poor genetics in other words). Then there were arm touches. Then random shoulder massages. Then him β€˜accidentally’ opening the bathroom door when I was in there even though it was locked.

One time I was at the kitchen counter, making a nutella and banana sandwich when I felt his presence behind me. I instantly tensed up as his hand roughly grabbed my shoulders and he loosely massaged them.

β€œIt looks good Maria,”

I froze and my stomach dropped. It was an accident. It had to be.

I turned around and looked him in the eye, hoping he would realize he just called me by my mother’s name. Instead he just smiled at me, winked, and walked away.

My mother came home from work and I wanted to tell her. I walked up to her and wanted to talk. Mike swooped in and took her away while the brightest smile graced her face. I instantly felt like it wasn’t my place and I would just be taking away her happiness if I did so.

I kept tolerating it. For her.

I would leave for school early before he woke up and I would try to come home when I knew he would be busy watching tv or when I knew my mother was already home. So now, here I was again at the coffee shop I went to on my first day of school. I ordered my usual and walked to school.

About three days had passed since then and nothing spectacular had happened. I sat with Nina for lunch and I actually had her, James, and Alexander in my math class but I hadn’t seen James or Alexander for about two days.

β€œWhatcha thinking about?” Nina asked me as we packed up our books.

I shrugged, β€œNothing.”

β€œWeeellll, as you know cheer tryouts are next week and we haven’t practiced at all.”

My actions pause momentarily. I had completely forgotten.

β€œI don’t know if I have enough time to prepare. If I went it would probably be really embarrassing,” I replied.

β€œNonsense! I really want you to make the team Corvina. And I really like you as my friend!”

I smiled at her, genuinely. She was a really nice person.

β€œFine,” I said giving in.

β€œYes! I’m one of the captains so I promise they won’t do anything too bad at tryouts if you’re not comfortable with everything yet. We can do some simple drills after school today, if you’re alright with it.”

I thought about it.

Anyone seeing how physically out of shape I was would be humiliating. My asthma says no to any sort of physical activity that requires massive amounts of cardio. Yet, on the other hand it would mean more time away from Mike and more time with a friend.

I nodded my head in agreement at her proposal.

She gleamed and after school she gave me a ride to her house. When she pulled into her driveway, my mouth dropped. Her house was huge.

Like at least four stories, not including a basement and huge marble columns that lined the front porch.

I made a mental note to ask her parents what they did if I met them.

We walked to the front door and she muttered an apology about the house being messy. When she opened the front door we were greeted a man.

Said man was completely naked.

Well, he wore socks.

But that was it.

My eyes widened, a blush instantly creeping onto my cheeks before I quickly turned around and faced the front door again.

I heard Nina let out a sound of disgust, β€œWhat fuck Damien?”

β€œHello to you too sister.”

β€œWe have a guest, can you leave?”

β€œWhy? What’s her problem?” he asked as if he was genuinely curious.

Nina took a deep breath and there was silence for a minute before a silent β€œoh” was passed through the pristine white walls.

β€œMy bad β€˜Nina’s friend.’” I heard him shuffle out of the room and slowly peered around to make sure the coast was clear.

Nina scratched the back of her head, β€œSorry about that. He’s such an idiot.”

β€œDoes he normally walk around naked?” I asked, trying to erase the sight from my mind.

β€œNo, he doesn’t. He’s just an idiot.”

I simply nodded my head and she told me to wait in the living room while she grabbed me a pair of clothes to change into that I could practice in. As I waited I looked around the room. On the left wall, above the fireplace was what looked like to be a family crest.

It had a wolf and a moon behind it.

Just like Alexander’s tattoo.

Do rich people still use family crests?

Are they part of a country club?

Is that what it is?

I probably wouldn’t have questioned but it stood out so much compared to everything else. Nina came running downstairs, a pair of shorts and a t-shirt in hand.


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