“Stay by the phone in case Grandma Mary needs you to come over.”
“Yes, Mom,” Angie said as her mother left for her night shift at the diner.
Angie wished her mother would only work one job like everyone else’s mother, but she didn’t. She didn’t understand why her mother wanted to work two jobs, especially since her dad’s life insurance money paid off the house, her mom’s car, and Angie’s future college bills. Before Angie started ninth grade last month, they even took a week-long trip to Disneyland. Her mother hadn’t been herself since the funeral, but then again, neither had Angie. Maybe this was just part of the grieving process.
No one ever called, and no one ever came over to the house, so that meant that Angie spent a lot of lonely nights with just her and the television. She knew all the channels and programs by heart, and all the reruns of family programs that made her long to be part of a normal family. Wally and the Beaver’s parents never worked nights and left their kids alone. The Brady’s had not only their parents but Alice as well. Everyone on television had a loving family that cared about them. No one cared if she lived or died.
The last few months since her dad died had been hard, but everyone seemed to move on. It was as if no one really cared if he lived or died. Angie was even beginning to doubt her mother even having a second job. She was probably out dating some man and didn’t want to tell him she had fourteen-year-old daughter sitting alone at home. No one would even notice if she was gone. No one even noticed last month when she started cutting herself. At first it was hard, but now it came as easy and normal as breathing. Every time she cut her skin Angie wondered if she could ever cut hard enough, deep enough, to make her feel something again. She was nothing more than an empty shell waiting to fall apart at the slightest touch.
“Higher Daddy,” a little girl on the television shouted, startling Angie as she inched the blade closer to her wrist.
Angie stared at the screen. She didn’t remember turning it on. The screen went blank as she hit the power button, then returned to looking at her wrist.
“One more time,” the little girl on the screen said, running around the back of a slide.
“What the hell?” Angie hit the side of the remote against her hand and hit the power button again. The screen went blank. “Stupid thing.”
She wiped a tear from her eye as she traced a line down the middle of her forearm with her finger.
“Come out, come out, where ever you are!” her dad’s voice called from the television.
Angie stared in disbelief at the screen, then ran over to the plug and pulled it out from the wall. The home video started playing again, but this time it was of Angie’s sixth birthday when he dad brought home the giant stuffed bear that was larger than she was. “That’s not possible.”
Tears flowed uncontrolled down her cheeks as she finally decided that no one cared like her father had. If he hadn’t of died, she wouldn’t have been left alone. If he couldn’t be with her, she was going to be with him. She tilted her hand down, placed the blade at the base of her palm, and –
“ANGIE!!” Angie’s mother burst through the front door.
The blade dropped to the floor. “Mom,” Angie said. “What…what are you doing home so early?”
“Oh my God, Angie,” her mother said, sobbing. “What were you going to do?”
Angie was taken aback and looked at the blade on the floor. Was she really going to do it that time? “Um—”
Her mother grabbed her in a bear hug and wouldn’t let go. Someone kept calling at the diner and would only say, “Tell her.” Mr. Davis got mad, but all I could think of was you.
“Tell her what? Why would you think of me? You don’t even care if I live or die! Wait, you really do have a night job?”
“Of course, I do! Why would you think I didn’t?”
“I-I just thought you had…” Angie started crying even more.
“Oh, you didn’t think I was seeing someone did you?”
Angie nodded her head. She was too ashamed to look at her mother.
“I need the second job because I lied.”
“Lied? About what?”
Her mother sighed and took Angie into the kitchen. Angie sat at the table while her mother poured two glasses of kool-aid.
“About your father,” her mother said, sitting at the table.
“What about Dad?”
“He…well, he was a good man, a great father, and loved you,” her mother said, holding Angie’s hand. “But, he was lousy at holding down a job or keeping money in his pocket.”
Angie looked confused and her mother knew then, that she had been wrong all that time trying to protect Angie from the truth. Her mother sighed heavily.
“What are you saying, Mom?”
“I’m saying that your father didn’t leave anything but debt when he died last year. I wanted you to remember him as the great guy he was. I know he would have put away money if he would have been able to stop gambling. I –”
“Mom! You mean you’ve worked two jobs, because you wanted me to remember him as a great guy?”
“Well, yeah. He was your dad.”
“Oh my God! Why didn’t you just tell me! I don’t care about whether we have a house or an apartment! Whether I ever went to Disneyland! All I wanted was –”
“Oh, Honey, I –”
The phone interrupted their long overdue heart-to-heart talk. Angie’s mother answered the phone and after a few minutes of ‘uh-huh’ and ‘really’ and ‘oh my’ she hung up the phone and returned to the table sporting an ear-to-ear grin.
“You’ll never believe it!”
“What is it, Mom?”
“That was your Grandma Betty. She’s getting up there in years and wanted to know if I thought you wouldn’t mind moving out to her farm so that we could help her.” She started crying. It was the answer to her prayers.
“Wouldn’t mind? I love her farm! I could help in the mornings before school, and after school! We’re going to, right?”
Her mother smiled and nodded. Two weeks later, the pair pulled up to Grandma Betty’s farm and started a new life. Angie saw a counselor once a week and her mother never worked outside of the farm again. It was the life both had dreamt of, and it was all made possible because of a phone call.