“It’s almost dinner time; do you want me to bring you something up?” he asked.
“No, I’m not hungry, but thanks,” I said as I hugged him.
“I’m really sorry this happened, Julia.”
“I know you are, baby brother. I think I’m going to take a shower. Could you please do me a favor and text London and tell her what happened?”
“Sure, I’ll do that right now.” He smiled.
I got up from the bed and decided to take a bath instead. I started the water and poured a capful of bubbles under the stream. I climbed in and lay back, letting the hot water soothe my body. I closed my eyes as the tears fell down my face once again. I was thinking about everything that happened when I heard the bathroom door open, and I heard my mom whisper my name.
“Get out. I don’t want to talk to you,” I cried.
“I’m sorry, but I’m not leaving. I’m your mom, and you’re going to talk to me whether you want to or not,” she said as she sat down on the floor next to the tub.
“Please just go away and leave me alone,” I whispered.
My mom took my hand, which was sitting on the tub, turned it over, and softly rubbed my wrist. “The tattoos I have on each of my wrists are covering up the scars of my attempted suicide when I was your age.”
I opened my eyes and looked at her, horrified by what she just told me. “Mom.”
“I guess it’s time you knew about my past. You already know that my mom died when I was a little girl, and I’ve told you how hard it was on your grandfather. I was diagnosed with cancer on my sixteenth birthday.”
My heart felt like it stopped beating when my mom said that. I had no idea that she’d been sick or that she had attempted suicide. “Mom,” I said as I put my hand on her cheek.
She took my hand and pressed my palm against her lips as she smiled softly. “I couldn’t let your grandfather go through that again, so I thought it was best that I spared him the pain. I figured it would be easier for him to get over my death than to have to see me so sick and then die.”
“How could you think that?” I asked as tears swelled in my eyes.
“Because I was sixteen years old. He became an alcoholic because of what happened to my mother. Anyway, he came home one night and found me and called an ambulance. The doctors saved me, and I went through a year of chemo and went into remission.”
The tears that were in my eyes fell quickly as I stared into my mother’s eyes. They were full of sadness and despair as she told her heart-wrenching story. She handed me a towel and told me that if I stayed any longer in the bath, I’d turn into a prune. She walked out of the bathroom and told me she’d wait for me to get dressed. As I stepped out of the tub, I wrapped the towel around me and looked at myself in the mirror. I started to believe that there was more to my mom and her past I didn’t know about. I put on my robe, walked into my bedroom, and sat down on the bed next to her. I grabbed her hand and turned it over, staring at the tattoo that said my father’s name on her wrist.
“Your dad got kicked out of a club for being so drunk that he was causing a scene. I had already noticed him that night, and when I walked outside to get some fresh air, he was sitting up against the brick wall. I hailed a cab, helped him into it and took him home.”
“Mom, that’s dangerous. You just don’t do stuff like that. Even I know better than that.”
She smiled at me and kissed the side of my head. “You sound like your father. He got sick all over his clothes when I brought him here to the penthouse, and I couldn’t let him sit in his own vomit all night, so I undressed him and made sure he was safe in his bed. When I went to check on him one last time before I left, he was on his back, so I rolled him on his side and sat next to him all night to make sure he didn’t throw up again. That’s how your grandfather died. He choked to death on his own vomit. I ended up falling asleep and, when I woke up, it was morning.”
I lay down on my back and my mom lay next to me. “What did Dad say when he woke up and found you lying next to him?”
“I wanted to get out of the penthouse before he woke up, so I went down to the kitchen, made a pot of coffee, and made my famous hangover cocktail. I was going to leave a note with the drink when he came into the kitchen and scared the shit of me.”
“What did he say to you?” I asked.
She looked over at me and smiled. “Your father had a list of rules and he thought that I had broken one of them.”
“That’s weird. What kind of rules did he have?”
“That’s something I don’t think your father would want me to talk about with you.”
“I’ve heard stories, you know. Stories about him and all the women he dated when he was younger. Some of the stories aren’t so nice.”
My mom took my hand and interlaced our fingers. “All that stopped when he met me, and your father became the man he was destined to be. Listen, Julia, your dad loves you and this family more than anything in the whole world. He’s acting out of anger right now and he’ll eventually calm down. But we need to talk about what went on here today. I want nothing but an open and honest relationship with you and I thought that’s what we had. To be honest with you, I’m very hurt that you felt you couldn’t come to me and talk to me about hav**g s*x with this boy.”
Tears started to fill my eyes again as I looked up at the ceiling. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t talk to you because you would tell Dad or you’d lecture me and try to talk me out of it. I think I love him, Mom.”
“Oh, Julia, love is so complicated. You may think you love him, but at sixteen, it’s hard for you to understand what love is. You’re going to have so many more boyfriends that you think you love, until that one special person who knocks the breath right out of you, looks at you.”
“I bet you had a lot of boyfriends at my age.”
“I dated a couple of guys, but nobody wanted to get involved with the girl who had cancer. To be honest, before I met your dad, I had one boyfriend, and we dated for four years. His name was Kyle.”
“Wow, four years and you broke up? Why?”
“That’s another story that I’m not ready to get into with you yet. I’ll just say that he left me in our tiny apartment, and it wasn’t too long after that I met your dad.”
“Obviously, you loved Kyle if you were with him for four years,” I said.
“I did love Kyle. But there’s a difference between loving someone and being in love with someone. I was with Kyle out of convenience, and I didn’t have anyone to guide me and tell me otherwise. He was there when my father died and he was a source of comfort, so I just stayed with him. I just wish you would have waited to have sex and talked to me about it first. This was your first time, right?”
“Yes, Mom, it was my first time, and I don’t see what the big deal is. Sex isn’t anything special or great. It hurt, it was awkward, and I’m feeling lousy about myself. I thought I was supposed to be glowing and feeling great. God, I can’t believe I’m going to say this to you, but you and Dad must have amazing sex because you’re always glowing.”
She smiled at me and laughed lightly. “You want to know the truth? We do. Your father is an amazing man, in and out of the bedroom.”
“Mom, stop it! That’s way too much information, ew.”
“Julia, you’ll know when the time is right, and you’ll know when you meet the man of your dreams. You’re only sixteen, sweetie. You don’t need the complications of a boy or a relationship in your life. You’ll have plenty of time for that,” she said as she kissed me on the head and got up from the bed.
“Hey, Mom,” I said as she went to leave the room.
“Am I still grounded?”
She tilted her head and pursed her lips. “Yeah, baby, you’re still grounded.”
“Can I ask you one more thing?”
“What is it, Julia?”
“Why did you come home?” I asked.
“The plane was having mechanical problems, so we never left the airport.”
“Oh,” I said as she walked out the door. Just my luck.
I stayed in my room the rest of the night and thought about what my mom and I had talked about. The next morning was Sunday. Every Sunday, we had family breakfast. My mom said it was the one day of the week that we had to eat breakfast as a family. I didn’t want to go downstairs because I couldn’t face my dad after yesterday. There was a knock at my door and Collin told me it was time to eat. I took in a deep breath and headed downstairs. When I walked into the kitchen, I saw my dad sitting at the table, drinking his coffee, and looking at the newspaper. He didn’t look up at me like he did every morning. I walked over to my mom and kissed her good morning. I avoided my dad because I didn’t know how he’d react. Breakfast was silent, and it was uncomfortable. I ate my eggs and walked my plate to the sink. Before walking out of the kitchen, I stopped and turned around.
“I have homework I have to do, and I need my computer to do it.”
My dad looked up at me with anger in his eyes. “You can use my computer in my office for your school work. You’re not getting your laptop back.”
“Dad, please, I’m sorry,” I pleaded.
“Sorry isn’t going to cut it this time, Julia.”
“Dad, come on,” Collin said.
“Stay of this, son. This has nothing to do with you. This is between my daughter and me.”
I was so angry, I thought that maybe my mom would have talked some sense into him last night and he would have at least forgiven me, but I guess I was wrong. My heart was racing as I blurted out, “I wish you were never my father!”
He got up from the table and stared at me as he shook his head. “Get your ass upstairs. I don’t want to see you the rest of the day or night!” he yelled.
“Don’t worry about it; you won’t have to,” I cried as I ran up the stairs and to my room.
I threw myself on the bed and sobbed. I didn’t know if I was crying because I got caught hav**g s*x or because I hurt my dad and he was disappointed in me. I needed to get out of here. I couldn’t stay here anymore. I looked out my bedroom window as the clouds covered the sky. There was one place to which I needed to go. A place where I knew I could think and find some sense of peace. I packed a light bag because I didn’t know if I was going to be coming back for a while. I heard my mom and Collin leave, which meant I was home alone with my dad. After getting dressed, I put my hair up in a ponytail and put on my shoes. I carefully opened the door and stepped outside my room, looking down the hallway and making sure he wasn’t around. I tiptoed down the stairs to the kitchen and peeked around the corner to see if he was in there. He wasn’t. I would bet he was in his office. I couldn’t take the elevator out of the penthouse because he would hear the doors open, so I quietly opened the front door and stepped out, pulling it closed as softly as I could behind me. As I let out a deep breath, I took the elevator down to the lobby and left the building.