A thirteen year old was sitting in her class when the teacher called for the register. “Declan Rowans?”
A boy across from her raised his hand. “Here, Miss,” he called to her before pulling a textbook from his bag.
She remained in her seat, staring out of the window. Her thoughts elsewhere as she watched the clouds float through the baby blue sky.
The girl sitting at the desk next to her poked her arm. “Lindsay, snap out of it.”
Lindsay raised an eyebrow at the girl. “What was that for?”
She nodded towards the teacher and sighed. “Lindsay Mason?” The teacher called for the third time, her eyes fixed on the student.
Lindsay rolled her eyes. “You can clearly see I'm in the classroom. Why do I need to say 'here', it's just stupid.”
The teacher frowned. “Pardon?”
Lindsay sat forward in her seat and looked to the front desk as she raised her hand. “Fine, I'm here.”
She continued to take the register as Lindsay went back to staring out of the window. Most days at school was spent in this fashion, she just couldn't pay attention for too long. She watched as a butterfly beat its wings against the light breeze, the sun shining off its purple body.
She brushed her light brown hair out of her eyes as the class continued. Something about the war, world war two she thought. She was never into history, or any type of class in fact. She hated it, she didn't have the correct attention span for it and she would always go home with a headache.
Her father took her to the doctor's on many occasions but they never could find the source of the headaches, yet they continued to happen. Her headaches were the reason behind her lack of attention, when she concentrates, it makes them worse so she spends her school days staring out of the window, watching the world go by.
A thump woke her from her trance. She turned her attention from the window to the looming figure in front of her. “Again?”
The teacher nodded. “Indeed. Monday after school, don't be late.”
The bell rang and Lindsay picked the detention slip up and raced out of the room. She noticed that the corridor was louder than usual. I guess everyone was just glad about it now being the weekend, she thought to herself as she walked to her dad's car. “Hi, Dad.” She said as she entered the car and pulled the seat belt over herself.
“What's up, kid? Is your head acting up?” She nodded in reply, closing her eyes and blocking out the rest of the world. Her father smiled sympathetically then started the car. “We'll be home soon, you can go to sleep for awhile. That usually helps.”
She sighed. “I got detention again.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Again? Lindsay, that's now been four weeks that you've had detention, you need to focus.”
“I know, Dad. I do, it just hurts.”
They spent the rest of the twenty minute drive in silence. He turned the radio on to fill it but Lindsay turned it straight off. “Sorry, kiddo.”
“It's OK, Dad – Dad?”
He looked at her as he stopped the car in their drive and they both got out. “What's up?” He says as he locks the car.
“Am I a freak?”
He opened the front door and let her in, he frowned at the question. “What makes you say that?”
She threw her bag down then turned to him. “Mum isn't here, I have headaches and I'm constantly getting detention. Is there something wrong with me?”
He grabbed her shoulders and lowered himself down to her level. “Absolutely not. Your mother leaving has nothing to do with you, it wasn't working out.” He looked in her golden brown eyes. “And to answer your question, you are not a freak. You are special. My Lindsay.”
He held his fist up and she hit her fist against his. “You have to say that though. You are obligated to, especially being my father and all.”
He laughed quietly. “I would say it no matter what the situation.” He got up and walked through to the kitchen. “So what are you wanting for dinner? Salad?”
Lindsay kicked her shoes off and followed him. “Dad, I'm not a rabbit. Can we have pizza?”
He threw an apple to her and she caught it, taking a bite out of it. He opened the freezer to take out a frozen pizza then looked at her. “Pizza again? Jings, Lindsay. I'm surprised you aren't like Mr Blobby by now.”
She laughed. “Or like you.”
He shook his head. “Watch yourself, kiddo. There's a fine line here.” He grinned. “Just remember, you share my genetics.”
She waved her arms in the air, exaggerating her whoops. “Lucky me, eh?”
Most of their weekends started like this. Ever since his wife left, Scott Mason made it his mission in life to make sure his daughter did not blame herself. That she felt at home with him, that she could trust him. Every Friday night, he would take the night off work and they would occupy themselves in the kitchen, discussing what they would have for dinner. The discussions usually hit a dead end as Lindsay would always have pizza. He would smile as she described her day, what classes she had went to and what the others would say about her 'zone outs'.
This always upset her. No one understood or could tell her why her headaches were there but at least her father would try to ease her pain just by being around. Distracting her from the rest by including her in fun activities and quiet movie nights.
He picked the paper up and skipped straight to the sports section. “Leah is staying at your mum's house tonight. It's just you and me.” He smiled at her then looked down at what he was reading.
She raised an eyebrow at him as she went to the fridge, looking for some juice. Eventually she decided on Pepsi. She took two cans out and slid one across to her dad. “Mum's? Why?”
They both opened their cans at the same time and Lindsay smirked slightly, she loved spotting small similarities like this to him. Her father was everything to her. Her best friend.
“She wanted to spend the weekend with her.” He shrugged. “You could have gone too, you know that right? I wouldn't stop you, she is your mother.”
Lindsay's expression turned to stone. “She left us.”
He sighed and looked at her. “She's still your mother.”
“I don't care, she left us. Leah doesn't understand the situation like I do.”
“Lindsay, she's only three years younger. She understands that it wasn't working out between myself and Laura. It wasn't going anywhere and it needed to end for both our sakes. For both of you.”
Lindsay shook her head after taking a short drink. “She got up and left. She didn't even have the decency to wait till she got a new guy. I don't ca-”
He slammed the newspaper down on the counter. “That's enough!”
Her eyes widened as she looked at him. Her father wasn't an angry man but when he did, the fire burned behind his eyes. His green eyes danced with rage as he tried to calm himself down. Lindsay's eyes started to tear up, her words caught in her throat as she watched him. “I-I'm sorry, Dad.”
He turned his back and took the now cooked pizza out of the oven, he placed it on one of the plates to cool down for a few moments. “Pass me the pizza cutter.”
She nodded and opened the drawer nearest to her, lifting the cutter and passing it over to him. “Dad?”
He took it and started to divide the pizza up, making sure that her slices were slightly larger than his. When she was younger, when her mother first left. The only real comfort she could get was with the Friday night pizza nights with Leah and their dad. He learned quickly that they smiled more when they got the larger slices. It made them feel like they were grown up, eating an adult's portion.
As she looked at the slices, a wave of sadness crashed over her. She watched as the man before her tried to look strong. She now understood, she understood more than what he told her. He was in pain. Not physical pain, but emotional. When his wife, their mother, left, he was left to rebuild the pieces. To stay strong for two girls. To explain to a seven and a ten year old that their mother leaving was not their fault. It was inevitable, it had to happen eventually. He was just saddened that it had to happen when it did.
Shortly after their mother left, Lindsay's headaches started up. At first, they thought it was triggered by the strain and emotional loss of the divorce but she knew different. In fact, the divorce didn't matter to her. Just as long as she could stay with her father then she would make it her goal to stay happy, to prove that her father was the best in the world. And he was.
“Your pizza is ready.” Was all he said as he slid her plate across.
They ate in silence. The first Friday night dinner that they've had to be in silence and she didn't like it. She ate her pizza after it had cooled down. It didn't taste the same to her, neither did the Pepsi. Her dad was angry and she had caused it.
He looked up from his plate. “Have you finished?”
Lindsay smiled. “With the pizza, yes.”
They spent the rest of the night talking and watching random movies. Her dad remained distant but she didn't let up, she tried to lighten the mood but nothing worked. He sat in silence for most of the movie. She didn't like it at all. “Excuse me.” She got up and walked to the bathroom, fighting back her tears. She had upset him and in doing so, upset herself. She pulled the stool out and stepped up on it, so she could see herself in the mirror fully. Although she looks like her dad, she inherited her mother's lack of height. Being the smallest in her year didn't help much but she grew used to it. Her brown eyes met her reflection and she sighed. She didn't have the beautiful looks that Leah had, she didn't have the golden blonde hair that shined like the sun had inserted it's rays in her roots. She didn't have the baby blue eyes that she had either.
She focused her thoughts on something else, something like the shiny silver tap that she was turning. She allowed the water to flow for a moment, letting the coldness reach its maximum before she splashed some into her face. She squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath. Now that she was in another room, with nothing to distract her, her pain was back. And with a vengeance. She left the tap running as she walked back downstairs, she had just made it to the door when her head threatened to erupt. “Dad, it hurts.”
He looked up from the DVD cabinet and concern washed over him. “Maybe we should skip the doctors and go straight to the hospital.” She nodded with tears in her eyes as she laid down on the sofa and curled up in a ball, biting her lip against the pain.
Scott brushed his hands through his daughter's hair. He watched helplessly as she fought against the pain. He admired the way Lindsay battled with the it, only ever admitting it hurts when she can't fight it alone. Ever since they started, she had withdrawn herself from public view, she disappeared into the shadows and became a sliver of what she used to be. Scott missed her jokes, her laughter. Her banter with her little sister. The headaches changed everyone, she wasn't the same person any more but she was still his daughter. He could only wish that the headaches were nothing terminal and that they would go away.