By the time evening rolled around, I didn’t know which was worse: the mistake I’d made in going to church after all, or the way Dad’s misery hung oppressively in the air at home. He still wouldn’t leave his room. I was left to eat lunch and dinner by myself. I surfed the internet for a while, half-heartedly researching more on alternate dimensions. I even tried working on my painting, but today, art was just a painful reminder of Mom’s absence. I wished Sharon would call so I wouldn’t have to feel so alone. But it was eight o’clock and I still hadn’t heard from her. Had she forgotten too?
I picked up the phone and dialed. She answered on the first ring.
“Hey, I was just about to call,” she said.
“Oh. I was wondering if you’d forgotten.”
“Of course not! I’ve just been busy. How’s Dad handling today?”
A tinge of resentment shimmered through me that Sharon hadn’t asked how I was doing first since I was the one she was talking to. But then I thought of Dad holed up in that dark room, wallowing, and I shook it off. “He hasn’t gotten out of bed since yesterday.”
“That’s not good.” My sister. Master of the understatement. “He’s never done that before.”
“I know.” Not that he hadn’t tried in the past, but Sharon was always somehow able to coax him out.
"Have you checked on him?”
“Yes. Several times. But he won’t answer me.”
“You should just go in there, Rach. Dad shouldn’t be alone today.”
“I’ve tried! But he won’t respond to me. He won’t…” Tears suddenly welled up and chocked my voice. “He won’t let me in.” He never did. And Sharon would never get that. As much as I loved my sister, I sometimes hated her for refusing to see how things really are at home. Between Dad and me. She always assumed that it was somehow my fault. Did it never occur to her that if it was something wrong with me, I’d have changed it by now? Did she honestly think I liked feeling as though I’d never be good enough for him?
“Maybe you just haven’t tried hard enough,” she said as though it were that simple.
I closed my eyes and forced myself to breathe evenly. To not get upset. I failed. “You know, Sharon, Dad’s not the only one who shouldn’t be alone today. He’s just the only one that’s choosing it.” I hung up before she could respond.
“I got a car,” I suddenly announce and I’m not sure why. I don’t typically brag, but it seemed worth mentioning since I’m the only one of us who has a ride now.
Johnny got a new car last year when he got his license. Some expensive fancy thing I always felt uncomfortable in, like those pretty couches in living rooms no one’s supposed to sit on. But Johnny totaled it within a month of getting it. He’s lucky he didn’t die, really. And his parents refused to replace it until he graduated. Probably the wisest restriction they’ve ever put on him.
“No way, dude!” Johnny says, punching my arm. I can see that subtle hint of jealousy in his eyes.
“How? What kind?” Logan asks, intrigued.
“I’ve been saving for a while and my parents threw in the rest as my birthday present.” I don’t mention that my do-gooder ways with Mrs. Womack this summer proved to them that I deserved the car. “It’s nothing special, just an old Honda Civic, but it’s a ride. Sure beat walking in the rain on the first day of school.”
I smirk at Johnny, who’s been secretly obsessing over his rained-on hair all morning. He punches me in the arm again, a little less playfully this time. “You prick! No wonder you don’t look like a wet dog today. Why didn’t you pick me up?”
Brandon and Logan’s laughter over his reaction is loud enough to draw attention to our table. I can’t help but laugh too. Johnny’s so red, like we purposely planned for his hair to get messed up today in the rain.
I put my hand on his shoulder just as the lunch bell rings. “Chill out, dude. Your hair looks fine.”
THE WORLD THROUGH DEXTER'S EYES
by Vickie M.
It started out like any other normal day. Mom let me out, gave me a treat and then my pills, let me eat, and then back in the cage for my two hours. Well, when I woke up, I saw that everyone was home, and there was a lot commotion. What were they up to now? It's always something. I got past the gate, ran upstairs like I always did, but wasn't supposed to, and saw that Izzie's cage was missing. Well, they probably realized how annoying she is, and got rid of her. But, oh, that is so not like them. They SAVE in this house, not send AWAY. But, I decided to enjoy it. Now they can put their full attention on me. I danced around and whirled my bone up, wanting someone to play, and then it hit me. This was a hollow victory. Remember how happy I was when they brought the first fuzz home for me? (Delilah, God bless.) Well, I was just starting to like Izzie. Then I realized you should be careful what you wish for, because it just may happen. Izzie was gone. My hair was standing up, the way a cat's does, in panic mode, before a big hiss. And, I leaned against the wall, neutral ground, instead of my mom's side. WHAT IF I WAS NEXT? WHAT IF THEY GOT RID OF ME? Then the rest is kind of a blur. They took me to a vet, a different vet, at that. She looked me over, put this nasal stuff up my nose, and then they left. I went in a big cage, with a towel from home and a couple bones I didn't even like, and a place to run. They treated me like a dog. There were other abandoned dogs there, too. But this was so unlike my family. To do this to me. I didn't like it one bit. I lie there for days, so sad that my family was gone. I was beyond tears.