Catherine Habgood ’16

The world was blurry from the hot summer rain. The inside of the car felt like a steamy tea-kettle. I was waiting for my mom, I’d climbed riskily into the passenger seat, knowing she would give me one of those looks but let me stay. I was sitting and steaming and I heard a faint buzzing start to grow louder from the backseat.

The driver door opened and she sat down behind the wheel, slamming the door behind her and jolting a front of intensely humid air into the car. The fly hummed even louder in the potency of the air.

 

Before she could have possibly had time to register my presence, I heard her automatic, reflexive response– “Honey, get in the back please”–I heard her rummage through her bag for her keys–“can-not have you sitting in the passenger seat today, okay?

 

“But I liikee the front… You never-”

 

“Honey. Back. Now.” The fly was right by my ear.

 

-ever let me sit up here.”

 

“I am not asking, I’m telling.” The fly was in my ear.

 

It drowned out the sound of her turning the ignition.

 

I tuned her out, and reached down, smoothly pulled off my shoe and slapped my ear with the sole. A nice, surprising thud echoed through the car.

 

The dead fly fell onto the leather seat.

 

***

I ate kraft mac and cheese for dinner, sitting at the counter by myself. Me and my dauntingly tall glass of milk. I stared lazily at the milk, half-watched it, knowing that its cool refrigeratedness was gradually turning to room temperature, a cheesy lukewarm. Yum. There were three noodles left in the bottom of my bowl, sitting defeatedly encompassed by the synthetically orange cheese sauce. My babysitter sat at the table on her phone.

 

I heard the sharp tap of her heels on the stairs. I stared into my bowl and played with the three leftover macaronis. Scraping the spoon along the bottom, carving circles in the cheese, leaving a little trail in the residue. Usually I would give her a hug, koala-grab her leg and beg her not to leave. But something about the piercing tap of her shoes on our stairs made me angry.

 

I sat at the counter and heard her call out something about going to bed on time, something about how she loved me, how she’d see me in the morning. I didn’t respond and I heard the dull thud of the front door closing, followed by a faint procession of quieter and quieter clicks against the stone walk. Her shoes leaving holes in the slate walkway, aerating the pathway to our home.

 

I ran to the front door and standing on my toes, peered out the small glass window to see the swish of her silk skirt and the glint of the light dancing off of it as she disappeared into her black car. I heard the gravelly sound of her car pulling out and I stood there until it was too far away to distinguish anymore, until her red tail-lights faded away into the night.

 

“C’mon sweetie, let’s go upstairs. Do you want to read a book before you go to bed?”

At the mention of a book, I perked back to life. “Yes, yes yes!” I scrambled up the stairs before she…(I forget what her name was)… could change her mind. Perhaps I’d been a little too eager, but being read to before bed was my favorite thing, it reminded me of when three of us would squeeze into my twin bed, pouring with wonder over an unremarkable book whose only real gift was that it was bringing us together. Together, together. I loved that word but it also made me sad. Together, our little life had been better together, don’t you think?

 

The babysitter Ooh’ed and Ahh’ed at my tidy book collection covering an entire wall of my room. She asked me if I had The Sneetches. Of course, I did. They’re all organized by author’s last name, I replied. The A’s start at the top left corner. She bent over the ‘S’ row and nudged a teal bound book out from the shelf, began lightly flipping through it as if remembering reading this book when she was my age.

 

“I must say I’m very impressed with your library. Who alphabetized it for you?”

“Ohh I did it myself.”

“Without any help?”

“Yep!”

 

The babysitter’s voice was nice. She was nice to have read to me before bed. But once she turned out the light and left the teal book on my bedside table, the room wasn’t silent. For the whole of that night that sound was stuck in my head. Little high-heel clicks replaying over and over in my mind, torturing me while tucked in bed. Piercing taps, tap, tap, tap, taps of high heels on slate… Tapping and clicking until finally their monotony put me to sleep.

 

The next day I spent all morning playing in the yard. When I went back into my room, Mom had made my bed and picked up my dirty clothes. The teal book wasn’t on my bedside table. I glanced over to my shelves and noticed it on the bottom shelf, a Dr. Seuss amongst the W’s…

***

 

The reason why my father left was a shoe.

 

A brown leather shoe that he knew wasn’t his.
Left on the bedroom floor.