This is the 36th installment of my new book, Lost Days. The Advance Reader Copies have been printed and are on their way to me. I’ve giving some free copies out to the folks who have joined the Lost Days Facebook group. They’re also the only ones eligible to enter a drawing for a free laptop computer. Join the group today and get in on the fun!
“What do you mean we can’t go out with Danny and Joyner?” Denise was screaming.
“It’s complicated,” I said into the phone. “Just trust me.”
“Trust you?” There was panic in her voice. “You’ve been acting really weird lately, Hayl. How am I supposed to trust you?”
I sighed. “I can’t really go into it now…”
“No,” she roared. “I’m going. This is my one chance to get out of the social dungeon I’ve been in my whole life. I’m not passing it up just because you have cold feet.”
“You’re not going, Denise,” I was so stern I almost convinced myself I could prevent her from going.
She wasn’t buying it. She laughed. “What? You can’t tell me what to do. I’m going. Be a bitch and stay home!” She hung up the phone.
I looked at the receiver for a few seconds before I hung it up. My grandparents didn’t have anything as high tech as a cordless phone, so I’d been tethered to the kitchen wall throughout the entire conversation. Nana Taffy was at the sink washing dishes. She was dying to know what was going on, but to her credit she didn’t ask. She pretended to be so wrapped up in removing the grease from a frying pan that she didn’t have time to take interest in my squabbles with my silly friends.
I jumped when the phone rang shortly after I hung up. I picked up the receiver. “Hello.”
“Comet?” a familiar voice said.
“Dad?” I asked, but I knew it was him. He was the only one in the world who called me comet. I hated it, and I hated him. I was in disbelief when I heard his voice.
“Yep, it’s me. How are you, comet?”
“Fine,” I said not really caring if it was the truth or not. I didn’t like discussing any part of my life with my father.
“I tried calling your cell phone a couple of times, but I could never get through.”
“Maybe because I don’t have a cell phone,” I said gritting my teeth together. I couldn’t believe how little he knew about me.
“Really? Since when?”
“Since never,” I said.
“Is there a reason you called,” I snapped.
“Yes, I’m your father. That’s why I called.”
“Whatever,” I said.
“Don’t get smart with me, young lady. Your mother called me. She’s concerned about your living situation. She thought it might be a good idea if you and your brother stayed with me for awhile.”
I was too busy processing what he said to answer.
“It’s just not a good time for me, honey. I’d love nothing more. It’s just with work… things are really crazy.”
I laughed. I was confused, relieved, and devastated all at once.
“Tell your mother for me, will you? I have to go, comet. I love you.” He hung up.
I stood against the kitchen wall with the phone to my ear long after the call ended. He didn’t even ask to talk to Grover.
Mom walked into kitchen and looked at me with a puzzled expression. “Who are you talking to?”
I didn’t understand the question until I heard the dial tone. I slammed the phone on the cradle. “You’re stuck with us,” I said trying to sound like I didn’t care that she was trying to pawn us off on dad.
“What?” she asked.
“Dad said things are too crazy at work right now. He can’t take Grover and me off your hands.”
“That was you father?” she asked.
I nodded and attempted to leave the room, but mom stopped me.
“Sit down, young lady.”
“I’ve got homework,” I said as she grabbed my arm.
“Sit down and hear me out,” she said as if she were begging.
“Fine,” I said in as snotty a tone as I could muster. I flopped down on the nearest chair and rested my elbows on the kitchen table. Nana Taffy finally gave up the charade that she was too into cleaning pots and pans to care what was going on. She joined mom and me at the table.
“I called your father because I was concerned,” mom said.
“I bet,” I said sarcastically.
Nana Taffy didn’t like my tone. She raised her voice at me for the first time that I can remember. “That’s enough, Hayley Wanda Wilkes.”
I blushed, partly because I was embarrassed that my grandmother had just scolded me and partly because I hated hearing anyone use my middle name.
Mom closed her eyes to gather herself. She let out a quick breath, opened her eyes, and continued. “The police have been here twice in the last week. I don’t feel comfortable exposing you and Grover to that sort of thing. I just thought it would be better if you stayed with your father for a while, until your uncle can sort this out.”
“You think Uncle Crew did it?”
“No,” she said. “That’s not it. Crew would never hurt anyone. I know that. I just don’t want you and your brother to have to worry about this sort of thing. It’s an unusual situation, and to be honest with you, I’m completely confused by it, and I’m an adult. This can’t be fun for you and your brother.”
I leaned back in the chair. “Doesn’t matter, anyway. Dad’s too busy to take us.”
She gently placed her hand on my thigh. “Honey, your father is an… asshole.”
“Connie!” Nana Taffy shrieked.
“It’s true!” mom said.
Nana Taffy’s face was beet red. “Of course it’s true, sweetie, but I don’t approve. Call him a jerk or butt nugget even… I just don’t… please don’t use the ‘A’ double ‘S’ word.”
Mom looked at Nana Taffy cock-eyed. “Butt nugget?”
“Is that not a term?” Nana Taffy asked apologetically.
Mom turned to me and we both busted out laughing. We laughed until we started crying, and then mom wrapped me in a bear hug. “Honey, I just want to do what’s best for you.”
The emotions from the funeral came back in full force. “You’re what’s best for me,” I said sobbing like a baby.
Nana Taffy couldn’t take it anymore. She left her chair and placed a strong hand on both our backs. “My girls,” she said. “No one goes anywhere.”