We drove home after cheer practice with Krys talking a mile a minute.
“You were great out there, really. You were.”
I really wasn’t too bad. I knew the cheers but never actually performed the motions so I was a few steps behind.
“Thank you, I—”
“Now there are a few on the team who are going to be put off by—”
“Put off?” I asked. “Why?”
It was my first practice, but the unwritten laws of cheerleading stressed that the weak shall perish and the rest of squad saw me as a lost lamb.
“Don’t worry about it, they’ll come around as long as you can keep up with the count. No pressure.”
“Oh, no,” I replied.” No pressure at all, thanks.”
I turned onto our street and saw Mom’s car in the driveway.
“True to her word,” I said absently.
“Tragically,” I answered as I parked the car next to it.
“Krystal!” Mom raced from the living room and nearly tackled Krys as she walked into the house.
Yep, she followed me. I refused to break and cause a scene, but I so wanted to yell at her.
“Hello, Aunt Rachel,” Krystal replied to her.
“It’s so good to see you and you’ve grown so much, just look at you.” Mom piled on the compliments to Krys as I stood two feet away.
“Thank you,” Krystal answered with a smile.
“You’re here early, Mom,” I hissed.
“I know, I was just, well, worried about you and how it would all go.” Mom tried to hide her spite behind a veneer of concern.
“Again, too much, too late and the wrong subject. And as you can see, Aunt Lydia didn’t have a heart attack.”
Aunt Lydia walked into the foyer. “How was your first day of school?”
“Tiring,” I replied with a heavy breath, “but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
“Lydia, can I see you in the living room?” Mom asked Aunt Lydia—completely ignoring me.
Krys tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “We should probably go.”
I watched Mom lead Aunt Lydia into the adjoining room and then she closed the door.
We wasted little time in leaving the house. We drove down the South Hill, onto the interstate and up Division Street to the NorthTown Mall. I still hated malls…but at least at this one I wouldn’t run into former boyfriends…or sisters of the aforementioned.
“They’ve added on a new wing—fifteen new stores.” Krys tried to point out all of the new things but I wasn’t impressed.
“And they all sell exactly the same stuff, right?” I asked, with my mind still on the snubbing Mom gave me earlier.
“There’s some variety,”
“We’ll see about that,” I replied as we pulled into the parking lot.
The mall was bigger than I remember it ever being.
Three stories—counting a lower floor—and thousands of square feet to look around. I introduced Krys to my way of shopping—bringing a sketchbook and writing down the style and fabric. It wasn’t like I couldn’t buy what I wanted, but I saw no point in buying items that used cheap materials for mediocre tastes, but had expensive prices. Needless to say, the store clerks were not excited about someone walking around taking notes.
We spent a few minutes sitting in the upper food court; since the mall was near closing all we could get were iced teas from one of the shops.
Krys had asked to see my driver’s license and was busy looking at it.
“Aylesea? Grans’ name?”
“I liked it. It fits,” I replied as she handed it back to me. “Grans said she was honored and we cried rivers when I got my license.”
“I still wish you would have told me,” Krys said as she got up and threw away her empty cup.
“I’m sorry, things were a little—”
“That word doesn’t even scratch the surface.”
“I can imagine.”
“I had broken bones and a fractured jaw.”
The mall’s closing spiel blared out. “Attention mall patrons: your NorthTown Mall will be closing in five minutes.”
“But it wasn’t my arm or any other part of my body that felt broken—morphine works like a dream, you know. I felt broken before all of that. I wanted to look so much like you and Lindsey—”
“And look at you now.”
“I know, right?”
I spent the drive back to the house telling Krys about the first time I met Travis.
We pulled the car into the driveway at the house, to the side of my Mom’s car. It would appear she was staying for the evening.
“So you hit the ball?”
“Yeah, pissed him off like nothing else,” I replied.
I closed the door of the car and saw a sign in the neighbor’s yard. I walked down the driveway but steadily increased my speed until I was standing in front of it.
“What’s the matter?”
We both looked at the placard that read in large letters: Daniel Kane for Washington State Senate.
“What. The. Hell?”
“Your dad’s running for office?”
I picked up the sign and bent it back and forth.
Tragically it was made of some kind of plastic and would not rip into a thousand pieces without a lot of effort.
I took the sign with me. Maybe my uncle had a chainsaw or a blowtorch.
“I’m going to take every one of these I see down. I’m- I’m… Who’s he running against?”
“You’re asking me?”
I walked up the driveway and into the house, dragging the sign behind me all the way.
“Mom, do you know about this?”
She looked at the sign, and without showing any emotion Mom responded, “Yes.”
Krys looked at the sign, now that it was in the light. It had my dad’s picture in the upper right and the standard vote for me spiel. “Maybe it’s not your dad. This guy’s smiling.”
“What’s he running on?” I asked as I dropped the sign to the floor. “Family values? He still lives in Spokane, right?”
“Yes, he does.” Mom responded with barely a whisper.
“Where? I’m going to see him.”
“You can’t go see him, James.”
“Stop calling me that!” I yelled.
Aunt Lydia came out from the living room and stood in the doorway while Krys stood behind me.
“We can’t have contact with him. That was part of the agreement,” Mom replied.
“What agreement?” I asked as I looked through kitchen drawers for anything sharp.
“The settlement stated that we cannot contact him. For all intents and purposes, your father is dead to you.”
“You mean you sold us out?” I located a serrated knife but as soon as I had it, Aunt Lydia took both the knife and the sign from me.
“I did not sell us out. You never showed any interest in seeing your father. You didn’t care to—”
“Because he didn’t call, write, light a fire for smoke signals, or send a simple telegram!”
“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t know how to…but when you wanted to come here....”
“Are there any other secrets you want to tell me?” I asked.
“Maybe, how about you?” Mom responded.
I abruptly turned around and ran upstairs.
Krys followed me and as I ran into my room I fell to my knees. I wasn’t sure what my problem was, except that maybe—just maybe—I actually did have daddy issues— duh—that needed to be worked out. I had stopped wanting to feel anything for him. Never wanted a birthday card… didn’t ask for new teeth or a leather jacket or to have him buy me a new car. So why the Hell did it matter? We were now complete strangers—if Mom was telling the truth. I had a hard time believing, but she never really lied to me before—she was just really good about leaving out key
facts. Perhaps it was a Monroe and Kane trait to selectively speak the truth.
Krys put her arms on my shoulder. “Anything I can do to help you, Jen?”
“Yes, actually. You can help me locate his office.” “We can contact the newspaper, they may know.”
I nodded as I stood up, sniffed, and brushed myself off.
The time for tears was over. James would have sat there crying, letting Krys calm him down, and he would tell her there was nothing she could do for him. That wasn’t going to happen. Krys handed over my sketchbook.
“Okay,” I answered as I turned back to Krys. “I have some work to do. Colors?”
“Umm, red, gold and green?” She asked.
“Doable. Good night, Krys.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“It’s ace. I’ll show you the design in the morning,” I replied.
“You’re still running tomorrow morning?”
“Going to join me?” I asked as I picked up a colored pencil.
“Another rain check for now, ’kay?”
“No problem,” I replied.
“Night, Jen.” Krys closed the door as I sat down at my desk.
I couldn’t say life was falling apart when it really wasn’t. I couldn’t give Mom all of the blame—because she was right. Why should I care what he was doing or what the final judgment in their divorce was? But what kind of man separates himself entirely from his child? And what kind of judge allows such a decision for that matter?
Sure, one could pack for a trip to Timbuktu and never be heard from again but if something happened I’d like to think one’d be missed a little bit. With this, I wasn’t even allowed to mourn his death—theoretically, of course— let alone go to his funeral. I knew the Kane family had
imploded but I had no idea it would ever get to this. Indeed, maybe she was trying to protect me from myself—as that I might, one day, actually find a reason in my mind, heart, or wretched guts, to go see him.
I really wanted to talk to Dr. London.
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