Short Story: Only Sometimes

Three minutes.

I pick up the phone from the stupid counter. I remember when mom got the counters put in. She went through seven different shades of grey. She was so disappointed when I couldn’t tell the difference. I still don’t know what shade this is.

It doesn’t matter now.

I close the Uber app and reopen his alarms. It has to be exactly the same as when he comes back to it. Dad won’t check his apps but he’ll know someone’s been in his iPhone if his alarms aren’t the first thing he sees when he opens it. I place the phone directly next to my mother’s medications. In the morning the alarms will go off for each medication. He’ll pull out the medicine and shut off an alarm. Then he’ll give the lot of it to my mother. He’s predictable that way. He has to be.

I grab my backpack and jolt for the front door stepping carefully over Kendra. She looks so peaceful when she sleeps. She must be having a nightmare because she lets out one of her dog hiccups.

Goodbye Kendra.

 I pet her head to help the hiccups. She’ll be gone soon anyway. She’s sixteen, same age as me, except I have my whole life ahead of me, and she’s nearing the end of hers.

My earliest memories are of Kendra, first of her licking my face, then of her letting me ride her back, and all the nights she slept next to me. I’m as much hers as anyone else’s, maybe even more than my parents. I touch the hair behind ears. It’s her softest spot. We started together. It’s hard to say goodbye.

Behind me, outside the front door, I hear the car pull up.

I have to get out there before they call Dad’s phone or else he’ll know.

With that I’m outside. I wave to him. There’s no way he called already. He waves as I walk toward him.

“Hello! A man named David…”

“Shhh! Yea, that’s my dad. He ordered the car for me. He didn’t want to take me to the train station himself this late. I’m Mags.”

“No problem, Mags.” He holds open the door to me. How fancy. I get in quickly. “Irvington Station. Correct?”

“Mhm.” I try to smile casually. This isn’t a big deal. I didn’t just pack up everything I could fit into a backpack and suitcase. I didn’t save up all the cash from babysitting this past year to fund moving to a city where I don’t know anyone. I didn’t just break into my dad’s phone to use his Uber account without his permission to get a car in the middle of the night to the train station. And most of all I didn’t just lie to your face, car driver. I swear – I didn’t.

I hate lying.

“Where are you going?”

“Nowhere? What do you mean?”

“I’m taking you to a train station, so I just assumed.” I wish he wouldn’t talk to me. I’m in the middle of running away and he’s distracting me.

“Oh, I’m going to visit relatives upstate.”

“Where…-“ Before he can finish his sentence, I decide on a new game plan. Ask all the questions and avoid his.

“Where are you from?”

“I grew up in Philadelphia with my mom. She was an artist. She paints bicycle helmets. Check this out.” He hands me a helmet from his passenger seat. It has small butterflies with different color patterns on each of their wings. It’s so beautiful. “She died when I was a teenager. And then it was just me.”

“What about your dad?”

“My dad was never around. After she died I went out on my own. They tried to put me with another family, but things weren’t the same without my mom.” If only he knew how much I could relate. My mom has been sick for so long. Her mind is completely gone. It’s just like she’s gone. And with my mom gone, my dad is basically gone too.

“What did you do?” I asked him.

“I got a job making minimum wage for a long time to make end’s meat. It was hard but now I’m able to make a good amount of money and I have a family, but it took a long time. I was lonely for years.”

“Wasn’t it nice to be on your own though?”

“No. I made it work but I wished every day that my mother didn’t die. I wished every day for her to come back. I talked to her every day like she was right in front of me.” His eyes find mine in the rear view mirror. I look away. “Hey, how old are you?”

“Eighteen.” I hate lying. I can see the station. I’m so close.

“You look so young – not a day over fourteen. I’m surprised your Dad let you go to the train station on your own.”

“My dad has other things to worry about than me.”

“I bet your Dad worries about you more than you think. He’s probably worried about you right now.” I wish he hadn’t asked the question. I don’t want to talk about my dad or my mom. I don’t want to think about them. I only want to look forward. “But it’s hard for any teenager to see their parents as good people, I suppose.”

We pull into the station.

“They’re good people. They’re just hard people.” He pulls the car up front. “My dad is obsessed with taking care of my mom. She’s really sick. She’s been sick for two years now. Most of the time she doesn’t even know my name.” I’m talking but I don’t know why. It’s like I have no control. The words just pour out of my mouth. “My dad gets really mad at me and yells because I don’t help enough, but I don’t know how to be around her. She’s there but she’s not really there…” STOP. TALKING. MAGS. His eyes catch mine in the mirror again. He looks so sad for me. That’s how everyone looks when they find out about her. I’ve said too much, again. 

“But she is there.” He says softly. “That sounds hard, but she’s still there even if it’s only sometimes.”

And I remember sixteen days ago she tucked me in like normal, like old times. I remember the look in her eyes because I hadn’t seen it in thirty-two days and I haven’t seen it since.

“Miss? Mags? We’re here.” I was so distracted I didn’t even notice he had gotten out of the car and come around to open the door for me. “Are you okay?”

“I forgot something. We have to go back.”

“What about the train?”

“I’ll get the next one.” He closes the door.