“So, where are you from exactly?” Kayla said with her eyes now closed as we rested on her porch chairs.
I looked over at her, “Chicago, Illinois.”
“Ah. The windy city, right?”
“Yeah. Or Chi-Town,” I smiled.
She laughed, opening her eyes, “Sounds like a boy band name or something. A terrible one at that.”
I stuck my tongue out at her, “Hey, don’t make fun of my hometown.”
“My bad. So, do you miss it?”
“Yeah. I miss the water and the skyscrapers, the bustle of people going places, but Colorado Springs is nice too. Just, different, is all,” I shrugged, looking back at the street.
“I’d love to travel someday. This is the only home I’ve ever know. Heck, I’ve never been out of town before.”
“Traveling would be fun.”
“Yeah. I’d take a lot of photos and get souvenirs. Move far away from here,” she said with a far off look in her eyes.
“Big goals. Still, no idea what you wanna do?”
“None. Something involving traveling though. Lots and lots of travel.”
“Sounds like a blast. I’ll travel too someday.”
“Hey, you could always be a model. They get to travel. Or an actress,” I offered, scratching my head with my index finger.
She wrinkled her nose and shook her head, “Me? A model?”
“Yeah, sure. Why not?”
“Hello, have you met me?” She pointed to herself with an amused grin.
I shrugged, “Just brainstorming. Don’t knock it. Besides, you have plenty of time to figure that type of thing out.”
“I should head home, get started on studying so I have the rest of the weekend for hanging out or whatever.” I stood up and stretched, yawning.
“Okay. Yeah me too, I guess,” she stood up and hugged me, “Thanks for walking me home.”
“And for putting up with my meltdown,” she said with a blush.
I chuckled, “You’re fine. Don’t worry about it anymore, okay?’
“Okay. I’ll try. I’m kind of obsessive sometimes though,” she laughed, her eyes twinkling.
“Text me later okay? We’ll hang out or maybe you can come over for dinner and a movie sometime. Meet my mom,” I said, trying not to sound too hopeful.
“Will do. Oh yeah that sounds fun.”
“Later,” I waved.
“See ya,” she waved back.
When I got home I found a note on the fridge in my mom’s scrawling cursive:
Got called in early. Sorry hun. There’s frozen pizza and hot pockets the freezer. I couldn’t find my phone to text you. If you find it, leave it on the counter, please. Have fun.
PS: I can hear you laughing at me...stop it.
“Seriously mom?” I shook my head chuckling and called her phone.
She was always losing her phone and her keys. It rang a couple times on my end before I heard her ringtone.
“What the heck?” I laughed as I pulled her phone out of the fridge, talking out loud, “You’re so scatterbrained.”
I preheated the oven and opened the frozen triple cheese pizza, placing it on a brand new pizza pan. I missed the mark when I tried to throw the box in the trash can from near the fridge, grumbling to myself about how much I sucked at making baskets. As I leaned down to pick it up off the ground, I saw an envelope poking out from underneath the trash can.
“Guess I’m not the only one who sucks at trash ball,” I said, throwing the box away.
I was just about to toss the letter too, but noticed it marked in red. It was already opened or I wouldn’t have peeked inside. Honestly, I don’t even know what came over me. I guess curiosity took over my brain momentarily or something. It was an overdue electric bill. Maybe she didn’t mean to throw it away? Why didn’t she tell me? I wished I had known we were having money troubles. I vowed to do something about it. Something to help out. Maybe I’d get a job. I wolfed down the whole pizza and quickly did what little homework I had left over, which wasn’t much. I laid in bed afterwards, pondering the day, unwinding. I tried to fall asleep, but couldn’t seem to shut my brain off.
Instead, I picked up my PlayStation 4 controller and played some first person shooter games, losing track of time. When my mom came home, tiptoeing around the house, I pretended to be asleep. I didn’t feel like talking about my day and I knew if I stayed awake, we would end up doing just that. I must have been tired enough to actually pass out, because before I knew it, I was tossing and turning. Fitful nightmarish scenes plagued me all night. Many images haunted me, swirling around my brain like a taunt. But the one that stuck out the most had to do with me running through a large mansion type house in the dark. I was searching for something, or someone rather. I kept opening and closing doors, but I wasn’t finding whoever it was I was looking for.
Instead, the shadows began to close in around me, stalking me as I approached the last door in a dead end hallway. I reached out a tentative hand to grasp the doorknob, my breath showing in the icy coldness of the hallway. I turned around, a voice calling out to me from the abyss. The lights in the hall began to dim, one by one, growing steadily closer to me as a dark hand reached out to me. I screamed, but still it drew even closer. I turned the knob and burst into the room, trying to escape the darkness, only to find a room full of beings made of light. They were ghostly and silent in their approach. Their collective brightness temporarily blinded me. I felt one of them touch me, causing me to shiver and shake. I screamed once more, this time the sound pierced the glowing beings, causing them to explode. I closed my eyes as the light started to hurt my eyes, blinding me. I was shaking, my world was vibrating.
“Kai! Honey, wake up. It’s just a dream. A bad dream. Wake up,” a familiar voice called, sucking my spirit back into my body so fast that it made me nauseated when the two collided.
I sat up with a gasp, focusing first on my mom and then on my alarm clock that read five-fifteen a.m.
“You okay? You scared me,” my mom frowned as she came to sit beside me on the bed.
“Yeah. Weird dream. Was I loud?” I asked, rubbing sleep out of my eyes with the heel of my hand.
“Yeah, a little bit. Bad dream, I’m guessing?”
“Yeah, bad dream,” I agreed, nodding my head with half-closed eyes.
“Well, you can go back to bed if you want. You don’t have anything to do today unless you have homework or something,” she shrugged.
“Mom, why are you dressed already? Didn’t you come home late?” I said, noting her pant suit and classic French twist, not to mention her fully made up face.
She bit her lip and flashed a fake cheery smile at me, “I’m going on a few interviews today. Thought maybe I could pick up some extra cash for saving.”
“Are we broke or something?” I furrowed my brows at her, a worried frown creasing the corners of my mouth.
“Oh no, Kai, nothing like that,” she said, forcing a smile and patting my knee.
“Are you sure? Cuz I found a bill earlier that was overdue…”
She raised an eyebrow at me and nodded, “I’ve been having cash flow issues lately, but it’s nothing to worry about. Really.”
“So we are having money issues. Why didn’t you say something to me?”
“Well it’s not your job to worry about stuff like that. You’re seventeen. You should be having fun, focusing on school. You know?” She stood up, tucking a stray hair back into her twist.
“But mom, what’s wrong? Where’s the money going?” I stood up too, still wearing in yesterday’s clothes, and stuck my hands into my hoodie pouch.
She sighed, putting her hands on her hips, “I don’t really want to talk admit this anymore, Kai. I’ve got it under control.”
“But mom-” I started to argue.
“No. Enough Kai,” she said, putting one hand up to cut me off, “I don’t want to discuss finances with you. Stop worrying. I will handle it. Now, I’ve got to go to my interviews in a little bit. Breakfast is in the fridge if you’re hungry, but I really do hope you’ll get some rest, okay?”
“Okay, mom. Thanks. I’ll try…,” my shoulders slumped and I avoided her gaze.
She began to walk away, but turned at the door, “I’m sorry if I sounded harsh, Hun. I’m a little stressed out. But I promise, everything is going to be fine. Okay?”
“It’s okay mom. I get it,” I stretched my lips in a small smile
“I love you. I’ll see you later,” she came back to give me a hug.
“Love you, too. Good luck,” I offered a small wave.
“Thanks sweetie,” she smiled as she left my room.
I walked around my room, trying to decide if I wanted to go back to sleep or stay awake. I heard my mom banging stuff around in the kitchen, probably putting away dishes or loading the dishwasher. It was hard to tell from my room. When the front door clicked behind her and her car rumbled away, I sighed and flopped face down on my bed. I crawled back under the covers, drifting off into a relatively dreamless sleep, void of nightmares. I slept soundly and peaceful until the house phone rang and disrupted slumber. I groaned into the pillow and rolled out of bed, my feet hitting the hardwood floor with a dull thud.
“Hello?” I grumbled into the phone.
“Hello… Kai? How ya doin’ kid?” Came the voice on the other line, causing me to go quiet.
I sat in stunned silence for a moment, before grunting a reply, “Uh… Hey dad.”
“Wow! I almost didn’t recognize your voice.”
“You talked to me a couple of weeks ago,” I mumbled, kicking myself for encouraging him to talk to me, old habits die hard.
“True, but it wasn’t on the phone. So how-” dad babbled, but i cut him off, eager to end the conversation and go back to sleep.
“What do you need, dad? It’s really early…”
“What are you talking about? It’s almost noon there. That’s early for you?”
“No it can’t be. I swear the clock said it was seven a.m.,” I argued, picking up my cell phone and cursing under my breath as I saw that he was right.
Sure enough it was eleven forty five. I had wanted to get up a little earlier to hang out with Kayla, but I must have needed the sleep.
“Listen kiddo, I don’t want to argue with you. I only have a few more minutes. Can you put your mom on please? I need to talk to her about the hospital bill,” he said sounding rushed as if someone was standing over his shoulder watching him.
“Hospital bill? What hospital bill?” I questioned.
“The one from our accident. The one the insurance isn’t gonna cover? She called me about it and left a message this morning. I don’t know where she expects me to get the money to cover that, I wasn’t even working at the time and it’s not like I have any savings or anything. I’ve been racking my brain for a solution, but I’ve come up with nothin’. They’re giving me the signal to get off of here though. Can you just tell your ma to call me?” he babbled aimlessly as I listened in silence, finally understanding why my mom had been so cranky this morning and why she needed another job.
“No. You should pay. This is all your fault. You know that? Someone is in the hospital because of your stupidity and I should have never gotten in the car with you. I should have never trusted you.” I knew I was ranting, but I didn’t care. My blood boiled and the adrenaline racing through me at the exhilarating thought of standing up to my dad.
“Aw son, now don’t be like that,” he covered the phone, his next words muffled, “Okay, I’m almost done. Give me a sec.”
“I won’t make that mistake again. I don’t ever want to talk to you again! Don’t call here anymore,” I shouted, my heart pounding and my fingers clenching the phone so tight, they turned white at the knuckles. “Nobody wants you around. Leave us alone.”
“Kai…” he sadly said, then covered up the mouthpiece again, “I will get off in a minute. Geez get off my back will ya? No I will not calm down, I’m talking to my son here.”
I snorted with disgust and hung up the phone, slamming it down so hard that it made a clunking sound when the receiver connected with the base. Then I pulled the plug out of the wall, leaving it to hang there, unattached. I kicked the small table the phone was resting on and walked out the front door, slamming it behind me, needing to escape.