Her eyes widen, and she bites her lip as she thinks about it. “Where is it?”
My pulse picks up speed, thinking she might be interested. “It’s downtown. I could give you a ride since I help out there most days.” I see her hesitation and clarify for her. “Or if you wanted to walk, it’s about the same distance. Either way, he likes to hire kids from the high school, so if you want the job you’ve got it.”
“Really?” Her smile is big, and for a moment things slip to what they were at lunch.
“Absolutely. Let me take you home and I’ll get your number and tell him to call you.”
She shifts her weight from foot to foot and then looks back up at me. “I’m not going to sleep with you if that’s what you’re after. I’m not that kind of girl.”
Her words shock me, and I don’t like them. “Why would you say that? Have I given you the impression that’s all I was after? Because regardless of what you might think, I’m not that kind of guy either.”
Pink hits her cheeks, and she looks down at the ground and mumbles, “Kristen said…”
I reach out and touch her chin so she looks back at me. “I don’t care what anyone told you. I’m telling you that’s not what I’m after. I like you, Lily, and I want to get to know you. Let me take care of you and we can see how things go. Please.”
“Okay.” Her bright blue eyes lock on mine, and I feel a weight lift from my chest.
I take her hand and we walk over to the Jeep. I open the door for her. She’s so short, and my Jeep is lifted, so I have to grab her by the waist and lift her into the cab. She lets out a giggle when I do it, and I promise myself to make her do that more often.
She tells me how to get to her house, and I pull up out front. It’s clean, but smaller than I’d imagined. I don’t say anything about it, because I can see she’s a little wary. We exchange numbers and sit in comfortable silence for a second.
“Thank you for today, Ren. You made it a lot better than I anticipated. I appreciate the ride, too.” She grabs her backpack, and I get out to help her out of the Jeep.
“Thanks for today, too,” I say and hold her hand another minute, reluctant to let it go. “I’ll be here at seven-thirty in the morning.”
“Oh, you don’t have—”
“I’ll be here,” I say, cutting her off. She smiles and nods, and as much as I don’t want to, I let her hand go.
I climb in my Jeep and watch to make sure she gets inside okay before I leave. When I’m far enough away that I know she can’t see, I pull out my cell phone and hit the top saved number.
“Dad, I’m gonna need you to give my girlfriend a job.”
I look around the living room. I finally got the last box unpacked. Each move, we have less and less that we bring with us. Our old life is slowly disappearing. I wonder if the pain will still linger when it’s all gone. Will my father and I be able to stop living in this misery that’s always hanging around us?
When I hear the front door open, I turn to see my father stumble in. He almost trips over his own feet, and I rush over, trying to stop him from falling to the hardwood floor.
“Don’t fucking touch me!” he bellows and thrusts his arm at me.
He pushes me back, and the force causes my feet to tangle. I lose my balance and can’t catch myself in time, and I fall. A sharp point shoots through my back, the corner of a small table. I scream as the blinding pain sears through my body.
“Goddamn it, Lily.” My father bends towards me, his once-dark hair now streaked with gray, the wrinkles around his eyes stark. They’ve doubled over the last few years. He looks worn to the bone. The alcohol, combined with the death of my mother, shows all over his face. His filthy breath fills my lungs as his fingers dig into my arm, and he pulls me to stand. I bite back another yelp, my back now throbbing.
“Sorry,” I say, wanting to look anywhere but at him. He doesn’t release my arm, and I have to look back up at him. He stares down at me, his eyes wild. He doesn’t know where he is, and that knowledge sends terror rushing through me. His hold tightens on my arm, and I don’t know how far he’s about to go. “Dad,” I whimper.
“You look just like her. I can’t stand it.”
With that he releases me with a small shove and heads into the kitchen. I hear him banging around for a minute, then everything goes quiet. I know he’s eating the simple spaghetti with hamburger I made. I left a plate wrapped in plastic for him on the table. I didn’t know when he’d be back. Sometimes he comes right after work, and other times he ends up at a bar until late into the night. If that’s the case, he comes home well after I’m asleep. I prefer him to go to the bar. When he comes home straight from work, I have to watch him slip away drink by drink. At least when he does it there I don’t have to see it.