I looked out the passenger window of my black jeep, the rain trickled down leaving the road a blur behind the little streams that twisted and twirled along the glass. I had a deep pain in my stomach that had been tearing my insides apart for days. I sighed, pushing my bangs out of my eyes, as I turned towards the radio to change the station form a rap song that I had no interest in. A few moments passed and my father stared at me like I was a child looking for a specific candy bar and having no such luck. I settled for Britney Spears’ latest song. With a huff I sat back and continued looking out the window. I wanted to do anything but go home that night. The headlights began to blend with one another as I continued staring. The song changed to one I knew well. I sang the lyrics in my head.
My eyes are open wide and by the way, I made it through the day….
“Leila! Were you fucking listening to me?” my father barked as he pushed me.
“Uh, sorry distracted, what did you say dad?”
“I asked if you would help me tonight.” He said it with low, but with confidence. He already knew my response.
I paused and looked at him. “Yeah, sure.” A slight smile formed along my face. I turned back to my window. The rain had thickened forming sheets along the glass.
Tell my mother; tell my father I’ve done the best I can
To make them realize this is my life, I hope they understand.
I’m not angry, I’m just saying
Sometimes goodbye is a second chance…. Sometimes goodbye is a second chance.
As the final verse in the song played, a small tear escaped from my eye. We pulled in the driveway and the rain splashed down all around me as I walked to the door. I was welcomed by darkness and cool thick air. I felt the metal bars close and the latch of the lock click behind me. I stared as my father shut the door, the rain still pouring from the black sky.
I awoke to a freezing breeze. Cold air flooded the room from the window that I broke when I tried to open it the night before. It was a murky winter day. Thick gray clouds covered the blue sky. I pulled my thin tan blanket tightly around me like a cocoon. I heard my parents screaming downstairs. I just laid there and prayed it would disappear. I knew it wouldn’t. I pulled the blanket over my head, like child hiding. I heard footsteps heading up the stairs and then a small pause. I waited. My mom leans in the doorway in a straight line obviously pissed off.
“Leila, do you mind actually cleaning up for once?” Her face was cold and emotionless. Her green eyes, for the slightest second softened, giving her away.
I grunted as I rolled off the hard mattress. Tired, annoyed, and cold I followed her down the stairs, nearly tripping over the textbook left at the foot of the staircase. The house was a mess. It was a complete disaster. There were dirty dishes piled high in the sink. Clothes were thrown on the broken wooden rocking chair, along the concrete floor, everywhere. A sea empty pill bottles lined the floor around the couch. The floor itself was covered in pine needles from the dying Christmas tree in the corner. I grab some clothes from my cardboard box the laundry room, picking up grey sweat pants and a tie-dye tee. The doorbell chimed loudly as I was half way up the stairs. The slam of the metal door against the wooden frame made me jump.
As I began stripping off my light pink nightgown tiny goose bumps began to form along the plains of my tan skin. I could hear the sounds of faint mumbling outside. I put on my clothes and slipped on my chestnut colored moccasins and went into the bathroom with a copy of the New Yorker in hand. I heard the creak of the front door opening followed by a load slam. The sound of forceful footsteps vibrated along the floor.
I walked out of the bathroom, dried hands on my shirt, and headed to my closet where my phone was hidden under a pile of jackets and scarves. I knelt down on the rough floor as the front door opened with a loud squeak. I felt the cold arctic breeze enter. I turned on my tiny black phone the bright lights flash as it turned on.
I looked out the window and I could see my father, still standing there, tense and motionless, like the unmovable rock of a mountain base. His eyes shined pure and livid, like in the crystal blue ice of a frozen pond. The mummers were low but I could tell it wasn’t good by the tone of his pitch. The anger builds on my father’s face layer upon layer. Within seconds my father looked like he was yelling at our landlord.
I stared, as he waved his arms around angrily. All I could think about was how much I hated to be there, with him, my asshole father. I looked around the room, my bed covered messily in blankets the carpet turning up along the wall, and the thick sound of the television in my room clouded my brain.
I turn back to my small black phone and began deleting the calls and messages I had received. The door slams shut.
The earth seemed to stop moving at that point.
My father walks in, and starts kicking the stuff that lined the floor; I shut off my phone so and stash it away.
“This house looks like a fucking pigsty,” my father yelled to my mom.
I began to go downstairs, my heart racing.
“I have been cleaning the kitchen,” my mom said her tone coated in annoyance.
“Bullshit this place should have been clean before, I told you to fucking clean it,” My father picked up a plate full of Chinese food and threw it across the room. A metal fork clinked along the tile floor of the kitchen nearly missing my sister who was eating her breakfast as quickly as possible.
“Is that really fucking necessary?” my mom said as she got up and began making her way to the kitchen.
I reach the bottom step as I see him fling a full cup of Snapple at her, drenching her in the sticky brown liquid.
“You’re an asshole,” She said as she grabbed a towel off the floor and began wiping her face. A small tear fell down her left cheek.
I followed her into the kitchen ignoring him to the best of my ability. I walked over to my mom to see if she is okay. As I am about to grab her hand, the clash of glass on the floor stopped me where I stood. I rush back to the living room; the Christmas tree is thrown on the floor. Tiny shards of colored glass coated the floor from the collection of broken Christmas ordainments.
“Start fucking cleaning, we are not stopping until this house is cleaned to my standers. You can’t eat, you can’t shit, and you can’t do anything else until it’s done.” He sat down on the couch and turned on the T.V.
My mom starts cleaning up the tree. A steady stream of tears flowed down her soft face. She gently picked up each decoration that had broken along the cold cement floor. I began searching for paper towels to clean the Snapple that was dripping from the wall. My lip was numb from biting it.
I finally find them under the sink in the laundry room and walk over and began to wipe down the walls; my sister starts the dishes in the kitchen.
He just sat there, watching each of us work, as if he was the king overlooking his slaves. He gets up and limps towards the stairs, and begins screaming as loud as he could.
“Gerry! Wake your ass up and come down here and start cleaning!” he waited a few minutes and called again “Gerry, now!!!”
My brother walked to the top of the staircase, rubbing his eyes. He was obviously still half asleep.
“What?” he said.
My father marched up the stairs and grabbed my brother by the ear, pulling him down the stairs along with him. My brother started yelping in pain and crying.
“What did you do that for?” my brother screamed between sobs.
“Clean. Now!” my father said as he poured himself a new glass of peach Snapple.
Gerry began picking up the clothes along the floor, whipping the tears off his cheek with my NYU t-shirt. I cringed from a sharp pain in my chest as I watched him go into the kitchen. My thoughts were distracted by my father’s stern voice.
“It’s a shame; see if you all cleaned the house before we wouldn’t have this problem. We could have been relaxing. Instead I look like an asshole in front of the landlord,” He said condescendingly. “They will most likely kick us out now, who would want a bunch of slobs in their home.”
I spun around form my position on the floor and said icily “If you are so concerned about what people think of you why don’t you get off your ass and help clean…”
My mom, sister, and brother all stared at me with their jaws almost reaching the floor. In what seemed like a second, my father sprung up from the couch and came charging at me.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” I said as he pushed me hard against the kitchen table.
“You better fucking be!” He yelled, pushing me against the table once more before heading back to the green and red coach. He sat back down and started flicking the channels.
My mom walks into the kitchen, going to the storage closet to get the broom. “Do you really need to talk back to him like that?” she said coldly.
I was still shaking against the wooden kitchen table when I turned to look at her. I just stared in disbelief. Did she not see what I saw?
“Yes, I was right!” I said sternly. She sighed nodding in acknowledgment. In a whirl of a second he was back up in my face, his nostrils flaring in anger.
“What did you say?” he screamed in my face. The smell of breath made me cough.
I cleared my throat …. “I said that I am right”, the strength in my words surprised even myself.
I closed my eyes, half expecting him to slap me across my face and half expecting him to push me into the table again. Instead he got closer in my face, pushing me back with his hands. All eyes were on Gerry Leench Sr.
“You’re not going back to NYU, you won’t get an education and just stay here” he said
“Oh yes I am going back,” I said.
He pushed me back hard when he slapped me, causing the table to slide backwards and for me to fall onto the cold tile. He then flung the plate on the table across the room. It smashed loudly when it finally hit the ground. I stared up at my father.
“I will just tell financial aid that I make 50, 000 dollars off the books every year and you will lose all your financial aid.” He said it as if he was ready to convince anyone that it was true.
. “I don’t care, I wouldn’t stay. I would rather be anywhere but here.” I smiled as I realized the truth in my own words.
Time seems to pass slowly before my mom begin to walk over and extended her hand to help me up as my father just stared at me. His stared , his eyes coated with think fiery flames.
“Don’t fucking help her!” He screamed in my mom’s face.
“She could be hurt Gerry,” My mom said calmly and extended her hand again.
“I said don’t fucking help her!” he shouted and tackled her to the ground in a single movement. I get up to try to help her.
At that moment everything sparked up faster than I could imagine. As I ran over to my mom he viciously grabbed me by a clump of my thick brown hair and began dragging me to the door, my feet sliding across the concrete.
“Fine, you don’t want to fucking be her, let’s start now!!!!!!!!!!” he said, his tone baked in fury, as he threw me out the front door, then slam it shut and lock it.
I stood in the cold snow waiting for him to come unlock the door. Time passed slowly and the cold air burned my lungs. Before I knew what I was doing I was running down the street. As I ran faster and faster the dingy white house soon left my view. I felt my chest burn as I ran up the steep hill, the intense ache in my thighs each time my feet hit hard against the charcoal pavement. I pushed my feet to keep going. The smell of crisp, cold, snow filled my lungs as they strained to keep my breathing under control. My cheeks were hot from the chill of the December wind. Yet I kept going. I finally stopped in front of a large brick building that read ‘Police’ above the door. Two cop cars were parked in the street. I slowly walked up the stairs to the glass door. I looked back to where I ran from.one last time. With a deep breath I pushed the door open and walked over to the receptionist.
“May I help you?” the receptionist said with a smile.
I smiled back and nodded. Sometimes goodbye is a second chance.