I think I was about 14 years old when my Mother started hanging out with the widowed guy who lived across the street from the park. His name was Denny and his wife left him with 5 children. Secretly, I hoped my Mother would marry Denny because I thought it would be loads of fun to have such a big family.
The oldest of Denny’s children were both girls, ages 17 and 16 respectively, and way too cool to hang out with anyone unable to get their drivers license. The youngest two were little boys, both under the age of 6 with a distinct tendency to latch onto to anyone who paid them the slightest bit of attention. Right smack dab in the middle was another boy, Daniel, my age, and the bad apple of the family.
Back then, I was a full fledged Miss Priss who earned nothing but straight A’s in school and always completed my daily chores on time. I was respectful to my elders and firm with my peers. I had never tried a cigarette, a sip of booze, an illegal drug, or kiss from a boy. I never, ever, ever missed my curfew. I was a goodie-goodie who did everything right and looked down on anyone who did anything wrong.
Daniel, on the other hand, had a mouth like a sailor and would often steal bottles of cheap vodka from his Father’s liquor cabinet. The majority of his friends were delinquents and he’d often sneak out of the house late at night to run the streets with them. His marks in school were laughable and he was in the process of repeating a grade. Worst of all, he had just gotten out of juvenile detention…where he had spent the better part of three months after breaking into a neighbor’s house and stealing a gun.
I’m sure our parents assumed that Daniel and I had nothing in common.
They were right, but I was instantly smitten anyway. The boy was handsome as hell with some of the most piercing blue eyes I had ever seen in my life. He was a bit rough around the edges, true, but who cared? I could change him.
The first time my Mother packed us up and took us over to Denny’s house for a visit, I couldn’t take my eyes of Daniel. I chastised myself for being silly even as I burnt holes in the back of his head with my eyes. Finally, it occurred to me that if I continued to sit in the house drooling over the boy, my secret crush would become embarrassingly obvious to everyone in the room. I had to get out of there.
My Mother and Denny were already three sheets to the wind when I asked them if I might go outside for a breath of fresh air. They giggled drunkenly and told me to be back in a couple of hours. I rolled my eyes and walked towards the back door when suddenly, I felt a hand lightly grip my arm.
“I’ll go with you,” Daniel whispered in my ear.
Of course, the entire point of taking a walk was to escape this boy, but I was helpless to argue. His fingers were burning holes in my skin and his breath was hot against my neck. A tiny nod was all I could muster up in way of a reply.
The day was bright and windy. After a few discreet deep breathes, I had re-gained my briefly lost composure. I concentrated very hard on being Too-Cool-To-Care as we walked across the street to the park and settled on some swings. I sat on mine; Daniel stood on his.
Very casually, I said, “So. Juvenile detention. What was that like?”
Just as casual, he replied, “Not as bad as your Mother would lead you to believe.”
“Whose house did you break into?” I asked.
He pointed to a little blue and white house on the corner. “That one.”
“Why that one?”
“Because I knew they had a gun.”
“That’s all you wanted?” I questioned, “A gun?”
“That’s all I wanted.”
“No money? No jewelry? No electronic equipment?”
He paused for a moment and looked off into the distance. “They had stuff like that there, but I left it. All I wanted was the gun.”
I was seriously beginning to doubt the intelligence of this boy. “So let me get this straight,” I sneered, “You just spent 3 months in Juvie so you could look cool in front of your idiot friends. Real smart there, buddy.”
“First of all,” he shot back, “My friends aren’t idiots. And second of all, I did not steal that gun so I could look cool in front of them.”
“Then why did you steal it?” I challenged.
“I wanted to kill my Father.”
“I’m being serious here. Why did you really do it? If not to impress your friends, why?”
“I told you why. I wanted to kill my Father.”
“If you’re just going to jerk me around, we might as well change the subject.”
“You want to know the truth?” he asked.
“I prefer the truth,” I answered with a sarcastic curl of my lip.
“I wanted to kill my Father.” He repeated.
I lost my temper. “You know what?” I raged, “If you’re going to be an ass, don’t even talk to me.” He tried to say something, but I interrupted. “No seriously, don’t. I’m going to walk around the block. You are not invited to walk with me.”
I stomped away, furious. What was his fucking problem anyway?
After I had cooled down, I walked back to Denny’s house. He and my Mother were still drunk in the kitchen and the older girls had gone off to visit their boyfriends. The younger boys, my brother, and Daniel were all in the back room playing video games. Tentatively, I curled up on a couch.
“V, you want next game?” Daniel asked me.
The dust had settled, the fight was finished, and there was a video game championship to win. Daniel and I never discussed the gun or our exchange at the park again.
Because we were in different grades, Daniel and I didn’t see much of each other in school. However, our parents were inseparable, so we were nearly always together after school and on the weekends. The majority of our time was spent babysitting our younger brothers while our parents got wasted in some bar or another. Every day, we’d take them to the park or hiking along some railroad tracks in search of treasure. Denny would marvel to my Mother about what a good influence I was on his son.
Daniel and I were young and inexperienced, so our romantic relationship moved very slowly. By the time summer rolled around, we were both still firmly entrenched in the secret smile/playful slap stage of teenage relationships. If anyone accused us of having a crush on the other one, we were both quick to deny it while simultaneously turning a million shades of red.
“I can’t believe they think we like each other!” I’d mutter quietly to Daniel.
“Yeah, so stupid!” He’d agree.
Then I’d bump him with my hip and run mischievously across the yard. He’d chase me down, grab me around the waist, and pull me to the ground. Our brothers would laughingly join the wrestling match, always the buffer to our awkwardly executed intimate moments.
Then one afternoon, I noticed my Mom was sleeping a little later than usual. I was eager to begin the day with the boy who so easily captured my heart, so I decided to check in on her and see what the hold up was. She had tacked blankets up over her windows, so her bedroom was pitch black.
“Mom,” I called softly into the darkness, “Aren’t we going to Denny’s today?”
“Not today,” She mumbled, “I’m not feeling so good.”
Apparently, she was suffering from a particularly brutal hangover.
“Is it ok if I walk to the park then?” I hopefully requested.
“Yesssss,” my Mother moaned into her pillow, “Go to the park. Take your brother! I need quiet!”
When my brother and I got to the park, Daniel’s younger brothers were already there playing. However, Daniel himself was nowhere in sight. Rachel, his oldest (pregnant) sister seemed to be in charge of the fray. She was sitting on a swing, absentmindedly rubbing her belly, and digging a hole in the dirt with her sneaker.
I sat down on the swing beside her and asked, “So…where’s Daniel?”
She kept her eyes firmly fixed on the hole she was digging, sighed sadly, and answered, “In the hospital.”
Shock propelled me abruptly out of my swing. “What?!? Oh my God, Rachel! What happened?”
Slowly, tears made their way down her cheeks. She continued to stare at the ground as she whispered something too faint for me to hear.
“Rachel, what happened? Please tell me what happened! Is he going to be OK?” I demanded, panicked.
“It’s our Father,” she whispered a bit more firmly, “He hits him. He hits him all the time.”
I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach. I collapsed back onto my swing. “Oh,” I said dully, “Oh, I didn’t know.”
Her tears were falling much more quickly now. “I just want to get away from here!” she wailed.
“Rachel, go ahead. Go visit your boyfriend. I’ll watch the kids.”
“Are you sure?” She sounded hopeful as she wiped her nose with the sleeve of her shirt.
“Sure I’m sure,” I said, “Besides, if the kids see you crying, it’ll scare them. Go ahead. I’m sure my Mom won’t mind.”
“Oh thank you!” she stood up quickly and gave me an awkward hug. Then she rushed into her house and called her boyfriend.
When she was finished, I called my Mother. I explained the situation and asked if I could spend the night. She mumbled something about not caring and hung up on me mid-sentence.
Later that evening, after I had put the boys to bed, Denny and Daniel came home. Daniel’s eye was bruised, his lip was split, and his arm was in a cast. He was doped up on some pain medication, so Denny helped him immediately to bed.
When Denny came downstairs, he asked me where Rachel was. I told him she was spending the night with friends and I had offered to baby sit. He shrugged his shoulders and opened another bottle from his liquor cabinet. “You can sleep in Rachel’s bed, if you want,” he told me. “I’m going to call your Mother and see if she wants to go out.”
I had a hard time sleeping that night. Worry kept me up wringing my hands far into the night. Because of this, I was the last one to wake up. Daniel and our brothers were already in the back room, laughing and playing video games. My brother was telling Daniel that he sucked now that he only had one hand. Daniel was telling my brother that he sucked with two hands.
I walked into the room and rested my hands lightly on Daniel’s shoulders. “Let’s go for a walk,” I whispered, “Alone.”
He handed the controller off to his brother and we slipped out the side door. The park was deserted (for a change) and we had the monkey bars all to ourselves.
“So, what happened?” I questioned.
“I fell off my dirt bike.”
I shook my head, confused. I did not expect him to lie to me. “Ok, yeah. But, what really happened?”
“I told you. I fell off my dirt bike.”
“Daniel…don’t you trust me?”
Furious, he jumped down. “I told you! I FELL OFF MY DIRT BIKE!” Angrily, he grabbed a swing with his one good arm and flung upwards so it would wrap around the top bar a couple of times. Then, he turned around, glared at me, shook his head, and stomped back towards his house.
I was very obviously not invited to walk with him.
I sat on top of the monkey bars for a moment, numb and heartbroken. Then with eyes downcast and the weight of the world on my shoulders, I trudged my way home. My Mother wasn’t there to nag, but I completed my chores anyway. Afterwards, I sat down at my kitchen table and stared out the window. I was in a daze. Finally, the day turned to dusk and I couldn’t stand being awake any longer. I curled up in my bed and stared forlornly at my ceiling.
I just didn’t understand it. I had thought that Daniel and I were so close. I thought he knew he could depend on me, I would always be there for him, I was his friend. So, why did he pull away from me? Why did he lie to me? Why didn’t he trust me?
Suddenly, the night whispered a single sentence into my ear:
I wanted to kill my Father.
My body froze. My fists clenched. My drowsy eyes snapped open.
I wanted to kill my Father.
I saw Daniel, months ago, reaching out to me across a dark abyss.
I wanted to kill my Father.
I saw that sentence, in my mind, stretching itself into a long rope. I saw it floating through the air, whispering its way towards me to casually wrap itself around my throat. I felt it tightening. I choked.
I wanted to kill my Father.
Daniel did try to take me into his confidence. Months ago, before his lip was split and his arm was in a cast. And I got angry with him. I called him a liar. I walked away.
I wanted to kill my Father.
The guilt and self loathing was unbearable.
I wanted to kill my Father; I walked away from him.
It was no wonder he didn’t trust me now.
- A Happy Ending
- The Point of it All
- The Difference Between a Real Father and a Biological One
- She’s So Nice
- Fifteen and Already a Wife