The Saint(9)

By: Tiffany Reisz



“Ugh. Don’t call me that.”

Her father laughed and ruffled her hair. Maybe she could crash the car in such a way it would only hit his side….

“Sorry, kid. You’re growing up too fast.”

“You know I’ll be sixteen in less than three weeks.”

“God, you make me feel old.” He exhaled heavily. Her dad wasn’t old at all. Only thirty-five. And he would have looked thirty-five if he didn’t live so hard. He drank too much, did things he shouldn’t, hung out with bad, scary people. But still, he didn’t make her go to church or do her homework, so between him and her mom, she knew which parent she preferred to hang out with.

“I can’t wait to get older. Trust me, I’m counting the minutes until my birthday. Driver’s license, here I come.”

Elle grinned at the prospect of finally being able to drive to school, drive to the city, drive anywhere she wanted, especially away from her mom and her house and her life.

“Elle?”

“What?”

“You know I can’t buy you a car, right? And neither can your mom.”

Her stomach knotted up.

“Dad, you promised me two years ago—”

“I had a lot more money two years ago than I do now.”

“What happened?”

“Life’s expensive. Business isn’t great.”

“Business isn’t great,” she repeated. “You mean the car-stealing, chop-shop business? Did that get hit by the recession, too?”

“You have a smart mouth,” her father said, all affection gone from his voice.

“If you weren’t going to buy me a car, you shouldn’t have promised me one.”

“You want to keep this one?”

“You’re the car thief in the family, not me.”

“Can you back off me for five fucking seconds, please?”

Elle pulled over a block from her house, where there would be no chance of her mom seeing her with her father.

She turned off the car and sat in silence.

“Elle … baby … I’m sorry. I wish I could buy you anything you wanted, but I can’t right now. I owe some money. I have to pay it back.”

“Whatever.”

“Don’t be like that. You know I love you, and I’d do anything for you.”

“I know,” she said, although she wasn’t certain that she did. “I gotta go.”

Her father grabbed her forearm, pulled her over and gave her a gruff kiss on the cheek.

“Don’t be mad at your dad. He’s doing the best he can.”

“Tell my dad I’m not mad.” Her shoulders sagged. Her heart sagged. Her hopes sagged. “I just wish things were different.”

“Yeah, well … you and me both, kid.”

She gave him a faint smile and got out of the car.

She shut the door behind her and said under her breath, “Don’t call me kid.”

As she walked the final block to her house she choked back tears of disappointment. Two years ago, on her fourteenth birthday, he’d promised her with all his heart and all his soul he would get her a car for her sixteenth birthday. And she’d believed him even though deep down she knew better. He made promises all the time and never kept them. I promise I’ll see you at Christmas. I promise I’ll make the school play. I promise I’ll get a new job so you won’t have to worry about me. Promises made, never kept. One day she’d learn.

Maybe it was her fault. Maybe nobody could be trusted to do what they said they’d do. Once in her life she’d love to have someone who gave enough of a shit about her to make her a promise and keep it. For once she wanted someone to treat her like she mattered.

Nice pipe dream there. That happening was about as likely as her getting banged by an angel like St. Teresa.

Eleanor unlocked the back door and walked into the kitchen. The car was in the driveway, but where was her mom? Her mom worked the night shift as a motel manager and did bookkeeping part-time for a small construction company. If she wasn’t at work, she was either asleep or at the kitchen table with her ledgers and adding machine. Eleanor made herself dinner—a bowl of cereal—and went into the living room to eat.

She found her mom in her shabby bathrobe curled up on the frayed paisley couch, wiping her eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Elle asked her mother. Her mom swiped at her face with a tissue. “Did Father Greg die?”

“No,” her mother said, pushing a hank of black hair over her ear. “But he’s probably not coming back. Not anytime soon.”

“I’m sorry,” Elle said, sitting cross-legged on the floor. Her mom never let her eat on the furniture, which made no sense. The furniture was old and threadbare and stained. Like a little cereal on the couch was going to make things any worse than they already were. “What’s going to happen?”

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