Rules of a Rebel and a Shy Girl(2)

By: Jessica Sorensen

Sucking in a breath, I scoot away from the headboard and slide to the edge of the bed. The linoleum floor is ice cold against my bare feet as I stand up and walk to the door, probably because my mom turned down the heat to save money.

“Is Bill out there?” I ask quietly as I reach the door.

“No, he went to my room,” she says. “But he might come out soon, so hurry up.”

My fingers tremble as I place my hand on the doorknob and crack open the door.

My mom immediately shoves her way in, shuts the door, and turns to face me, her glassy eyes scanning my organized desk, my made bed, and the alphabetized books on the corner shelf.

“You’re always so organized,” she remarks, completely getting sidetracked, something she’s good at. “You definitely get that from your father.”

I don’t like when she compares me to my father, partly because I don’t like him and partly because she doesn’t like him, so the comparison isn’t a compliment.

“Mom, I don’t have to leave the house, do I?” I ask, chewing on my thumbnail.

She doesn’t make eye contact as she ambles over to the window and draws back the curtains to stare outside at the night sky. “Remember when your dad left, how sad I was?”

I start to answer, but she talks over me.

“I was really upset. He didn’t just break my heart; he smashed it to pieces.” She releases the curtain and twists around. “He bailed on you, too, you know.”

“Yeah, I know that.” I frown, unsure why she’s bringing the painful subject up. I hate thinking of my dad, how he bailed on me and destroyed my fun, loving mom.

“It’s okay, sweetie.” She crosses the room and pulls me in for a hug. She reeks of cigarette smoke, whiskey, and some sort of spice that makes my nostrils burn and my eyes water. “I wasn’t bringing that up to make you sad. I just wanted to let you know that I’d never leave you, no matter what. I promise I’ll be here for you no matter what happens. I won’t become your father.”

I circle my arms around her and hug her tightly as relief washes over me. She isn’t going to make me leave.

“But,” she starts, and my muscles wind into tight knots. “In order for me to keep my promise, you’re going to have to meet me halfway.”

“Okay … How do I do that?”

“By giving me some space when I need it.”

Tears burn my eyes as I slant my chin up to meet her eye to eye. “You mean leaving the house right now?”

She sighs as tears stream from my eyes. “It’s not a big deal. You can come home on Monday when Bill goes home.”

I wipe the tears from my cheeks. “But where should I go?”

She glances from the window to the door then back at me. “You can go hang out in the car. That could be fun. You could take your sleeping bag out there and pretend you’re camping.”

“I don’t like camping,” I say pointlessly. “And the last time I slept in the car, some guys started banging on the window and trying to get me to let them in.”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot about that.” She taps her finger against her bottom lip. “Maybe you could go spend the weekend at one of your friends’.” Excitement lights up in her eyes. “That would be fun, right?”

I glance at the alarm clock on my dresser. “I doubt any of my friends are even awake.”

She steps back, reaches into the pocket of her jeans, and retrieves her phone. “Well, you won’t know until you try, right?”

I warily eyeball the phone. “Their parents might get mad if I call this late.”

“I’m sure they won’t.” She urges me to take the phone. When I don’t budge, she grimaces. “Willow, this promise thing isn’t going to work if you’re not cooperative. I can’t keep my side of the deal if you don’t keep yours.”

I open my mouth to tell her I don’t want to do the promise, but then all the times my mom has disappeared for days on end flash through my mind. I’ve often worried that one day, she won’t come back, and I’ll be all alone.

While I try to act tough and pretend I can handle living on my own, I sometimes get scared, like at night when our neighbors are having parties or when someone knocks on the door, trying to get me to let them into the house.

“Fine, I’ll call one of my friends.” I take the phone from her. “But if they don’t answer, you still have to keep the promise.”

She holds the phone out to me. “If they don’t answer, I’ll find somewhere else for you to go.”

Grimacing, I take her phone, flip it open, and debate who to call. My friend Luna’s parents are super strict, so she’s a no-go. Wynter and Ari might let me stay over, but then I’d have to explain why my mom is kicking me out of the house, and I’m not ready to tell them about my home life yet.

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