Walking down the dimly lit hallway to my dad’s home office, I stop just outside the door, watching him pull off his glasses and rub his eyes. I hate bothering him, but I really need my permission slip signed for my field trip tomorrow, and I can’t go to my mom because I know she’ll freak. She’s always freaking out about something these days. Pulling the folded up form out of my back pocket, I step through the door then pause, feeling my stomach turn and get upset when I see my mom asleep on the couch under the window behind the door.
“What’s up, bud?” Pulling my eyes from my mom, I look at my dad and take a step backward. “She’s asleep. It’s okay,” he says softly, studying me.
“I can come back,” I whisper, swinging my eyes to my mom to make sure she didn’t wake when I spoke.
“I gave her her sleeping pills. She’ll be out for awhile,” he says gently, and I ball my hands into fists, crushing the paper in my grip. It sucks that I’m afraid of my own mother.
Licking my lips, I pull my eyes from her on the couch, move swiftly to the side of my dad’s desk, and unfold the paper, placing it on top of the stack of paperwork sitting in front of him. “We have a field trip tomorrow and I need this signed,” I tell him quietly, moving my eyes to my mom once more as fear makes my hands shake.
“Where are you guys going?” he asks, uncapping one of his fancy pens, one of the few Grandma got him for Christmas. One of the hundred he has, because she always buys him pens, the same way she always buys me socks. Her gifts suck, but she never fails to bring peanut butter cookies with Hershey Kisses on top that she bakes fresh, which makes her lame gifts worth it when she comes to visit.
“Um…some museum,” I tell him, licking my lips again then feeling my heart stop when my mom moans and rolls over on the couch to face the back of it.
“That sounds fun.” He chuckles. I wish I could laugh with him, but I can’t breathe as I wait anxiously for him to sign the paper so I can leave. “Did you get something to eat?” he asks, placing the pen to the paper.
“Yes,” I lie. When I got off the bus from school, I went right to my room, did my homework, and stayed there until now, because I didn’t want to accidently run into my mom who I knew was home because her car was parked out front, half on the drive way and half on the grass, like she was in a hurry when she pulled up.
“I know things haven’t been easy, bud, but I promise they’re going to get better,” he says, and my eyes meet his. I wish he was telling the truth, but I know he’s lying. No matter how many times my mom comes to my school and embarrasses me, or how many times the police come here when she’s freaking out, he still acts like nothing’s wrong. He always just says things will get better, but they never do.
“I know,” I lie back, watching his eyes flash with something before dropping to the paper and signing his name across the bottom.
“Do you need any money for tomorrow?” he inquires, shifting to the side, shoving his hand in his pocket, and pulling out a large wad of money before I can tell him yes or no. “You may want to buy a souvenir or get something to eat,” he murmurs, pulling off two twenties from the wad, wrapping them in the permission slip, and handing it back to me.
“Go get some sleep. I’ll take you to school in the morning so you can sleep in.”
“I can catch the bus,” I rush out, knowing that if I don’t, I will have to see my mom in the morning, and nowadays, I do everything within my power to avoid any kind of contact with her.
“We need to talk about something, so I’ll drive you.”
“Sure,” I agree as his hand comes up to rest on my shoulder, giving it a squeeze before letting me go.
“Night,” I mutter, rushing out of his office and down the hall to my room. Unfolding the paper, taking both twenties to my desk, and opening the top drawer, I add them to the pile of money I already have. My dad is always giving me money, whether I want it or not. I think he uses it as a way to not feel guilty for how crappy things have been lately.
At first I thought it was cool because I was able to get whatever I wanted, but not now. Now, I hate it. Closing the drawer, I go to my backpack and shove the permission slip inside one of the pockets then dig to the bottom of the bag until I find the candy bar I bought from the vending machine at school. I scarf it down, hating the way my chest hurts as I remember the times we used to have dinner like a normal family.