“I want a drink of water!” said a little voice by the door and her mom’s boyfriend Bill pulled back his hand and jumped up from the side of the bed in a flash. “G’night, Michelle” he muttered and went out to help Tommy with his drink.
Thank god for little brothers, she thought, switching on the bedside lamp and rushing to shut the door. It wouldn’t help to lock it because the lock could be popped easily with one of those funny little keys in the junk drawer, or even an unbent paper clip.
The last few weeks had been a blur–hospital, funeral, relatives, refrigerator overflowing with food from strangers, missing school then throwing herself into schoolwork to miss the drama, and now dealing with Bill who was one weird dude. Kissed her on the lips when she said goodnight to them a few nights ago, hand on her shoulder, huge eye contact. He kept saying she should be a model, but then he was a freelance photographer. Or so he said.
What was with her mom anyway? Ever since Tommy was born she’d been like a different person. She’d pushed her dad away with yelling and crying and acting crazy until he left, and in the three years since she’d brought home a parade of guys. Bill was just the latest loser to walk through the front door and appear at breakfast after a few so-called dates.
She pushed her dresser in front of her door. It would probably fall over if he could push the door open, but at least she could wake up and get out of bed. She searched her room for a potential weapon if he ever ambushed her like that again. She picked up a big Mickey Mouse figurine from a trip to Disney World. It was made of heavy resin and she loved it dearly. Her dad had bought it for her before the word divorce had ever been spoken in her presence. It would hurt if she had to hit somebody with it. She moved it from the dresser to her night table.
She grabbed her cellphone and texted her friend Amanda. Maybe she could go over there after school and then spend the night. She tapped out a quick question and got an enthusiastic answer back immediately. So that was settled. Amanda would ask her mom and tell her in the morning, and she’d wait to text her mom at work. It was easier than dealing with her face to face. She stuffed a clean t-shirt and underwear in her backpack and started to feel better.
Sleep was nowhere to be found, no matter how long she lay in the bed, so finally she moved the dresser, listened in the hallway for sounds of life but heard nothing, and walked quietly into the kitchen. She found an opened package of Oreos. She was about to stuff some into the pocket of her robe, but thought better if it when she saw there was another unopened package behind it. So she took the whole opened package and hurried back with it to her room. After putting it in a drawer of her night table, she went back in and got a can of Diet Coke, just as her mom opened her door and walked into the kitchen.
“Michelle? Can’t sleep?”
“I was thirsty,” she said, grateful to have stashed the cookies already. Not that her mom would care if she ate them but she wanted to eat them in private. Her mom would probably pull out the milk and want to sit down with her for a late night snack and a talk.
“Well, okay, but at least take a caffeine-free can, so you can get to sleep.”
“Sure,” she said as she switched the can, and mumbling “goodnight,” she hurried back to her room before a conversation could start. That mother-daughter talk might be okay later, but tonight she wanted to keep her thoughts and feelings about her mom’s creepy boyfriend to herself. Her outrage smoldered white hot, and it made her feel strong. She wanted to keep it and nurture it and use it when the time was right.
For the Daily Post