3. Chapter Three

Chapter Three


We loaded up in my dad’s shiny Subaru and head towards God knows where to get furniture for my childhood bedroom. Along the way, my dad and Marybeth kept up constant cheery chatter, trying to include me when appropriate. All my answers were short and brief, and every time I had to speak, Calum would reach over and squeeze my thigh.


To my knowledge, he was completely clueless on what had happened to me as a child, but he seemed oddly good at comforting me. I didn’t know what it was about him, but I’m glad Calum was here.


“Michael?” My dad’s voice broke me out of my thoughts and when I glanced away from the window, I saw that they were all looking at me.


“I’m sorry, what?” I say, blushing.


“Marybeth asked you what kind of things you’re going to want in your bedroom,” My dad explained and looked at me through the rearview mirror.


“Oh,” I look at my dad’s wife apologetically, “just the basics. A real bed would be nice.” She laughs and swats at my dad’s arm playfully.


“I told him we should put a bed in your room before you arrived, but you know your dad. He has to procrastinate everything.”


“Actually,” I correct her with a smile, “I don’t know my dad. He’s just as much a stranger to me than you and Calum are.”


Marybeth gives an awkward smile and turns back around in her seat. Calum leans over and whispers “are you okay?” and I nod my head, trying to look as convincing as possible. I knew my voice would waver if I talked anymore, so I didn’t bother.


Soon enough, we got to a furniture store I’d never heard of and we all unloaded out of the car. Calum and I kept a distance from the adults so we could talk freely about whatever we wanted.


“What just happened in the car?” Calum asks me, grabbing my arm.


“Nothing. I was just letting your mom know that I really don’t know anything about my dad, that’s all.”


“Why aren’t you close with your dad?”


“Because,” I tell him, “he might play super dad to you, but when I was around, things were different.”


Calum didn’t have time to question me anymore because Marybeth was calling me over to pick out a bedframe I liked. Calum was sent to find a worker to help us with the box, and my dad was finding a dresser to hold all of my clothes. It was just me and Marybeth now.


“Look, Michael,” Marybeth sighs, “I don’t know what happened with your dad because the man won’t tell me, but I don’t see how it could be bad enough that you want nothing to do with him. He’s your father. You’ve only got one of them. I’d love it if you two could get along.”


“Wait; dad never told you what happened when I lived there?” I ask, surprised.


“No. I’ve asked him quite a bit, he just won’t tell me. All he’ll say is that he made a lot of mistakes.”


I snort, “Sure, mistakes. That’s what that was.”


Before she could speak again, Calum showed up with a worker and they were busy trying to get the large box off the shelf.




I went to bed quite early, as soon as we’d gotten my new bedroom set up. I wasn’t tired in the slightest; I just wanted to get away from everybody. Marybeth with her “fix-it-all” attitude, my dad being the guy I never got to know, and Calum, being confused and stuck between wanting to ask me why I resented my dad so much and keeping out of it.


My insomnia, which had only worsened since moving here, was keeping me up, and after glancing at the clock, I realized that I’d been tossing and turning for three hours. I wished I could sleep today’s events off, but to no avail. Back at my mum’s, I kept a bottle of sleeping pills in our medicine cabinet, but I hadn’t quite gotten any here yet. I could only hope that my dad had some Tylenol PM or something to the same effect in his bathroom.


I got up, threw a pair of pajama bottoms on and trudged to the bathroom I used when I was only a child. My dad has repainted since last time. Our walls were white, stained tile with grout in between the cracks, but now it’s a modern gray color with no stains or spots.


The medicine cabinet was empty, aside for a bottle of cough syrup and some Aspirin. No luck. I probably wouldn’t get any sleep tonight, but I’m used to it. Sleep hasn’t always been my strong point, growing up with a father like mine, after all. But after nine years, you’d think I would’ve gotten over it. And maybe I was starting to, but being back in this house ruined it.


“Can’t sleep?” Calum’s groggy voice snapped me out of my thoughts.


“Yeah,” I tell him, shutting the medicine cabinet and turning around to face him, “just a rough first night.” As I look at him, I notice his tan, shirtless chest is way more toned than I would’ve thought. He had a tattoo going across his collarbone, and I wonder why I didn’t notice it sooner.


“Well, I’m awake now, too. Want some company?” He asks and steps closer to me.


“That’d be great.”


“I’ll meet you back in my room, I gotta take a piss first,” he tells me with a grin. I nod at him and leave the bathroom and as I’m starting down the hallway, Calum whispers, “Grab some chips!”


In the kitchen, I get the bag of potato chips Calum wanted and two colas from the fridge. By the time I get back to his room, he’s sitting on his bed.


“I got drinks, too,” I tell Calum and he nods in approval before asking me to shut his door. I do and then join him on his bed.


“Why’re you up this late?” I ask and Calum shrugs.


“Couldn’t sleep. I have trouble sleeping a lot, but I’ve never had someone to talk to during the night until now,” he wraps his arm around my shoulder.


“Yeah, same. My mum was the type to be in bed by nine, and I never could fall asleep before midnight,” I smile, reminiscing.


“What happened to your mum? You never told me,” he questions.


“Long story,” I sigh.


Calum shrugs, “I’ve got time.”


“Don’t say I didn’t warn you. This could take a while,” I glance down at my lap, trying to decide if I’m really okay with sharing this tonight.


“Go for it,” Calum says, “tell me the story.”


“This was a long time coming, really, so I guess we should start at last year. She had been dating this guy for a while and early last year, she found out she was pregnant. She always said she didn’t want any more kids, but once she found out, she was excited. I could just tell. Her eyes lit up every time she talked about it, she was even talking about marriage with this guy.


“But after three months in, she miscarried. Woke up one morning in a puddle of her own blood, and when she went to the hospital, the baby had died. Her boyfriend broke up with her after that, claiming it was her fault. Said she killed his baby. He was a sick bastard. Guess that’s just her type,” I laugh bitterly.


“I thought she was handling it well for around a month. After that, I knew something was up. She was spending more time in her room, spending all our money. It started slowly at first. So slowly that I didn’t even notice. But she got worse quick. Within another month, we were broke all the time. She would buy me just a little bit of food at the beginning of the week and tell me to make it last, because that was all I was getting. Keep in mind that all she would buy was a few TV dinners, some bread and lunchmeat, and cheap two-liters. That’s all I ever ate anymore.


“I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I’d known my mom for so long that I never would’ve guessed drugs. You never think about that at first. I didn’t know why my mum stopped spending time with  me, stopped spending money on me, stopped caring about me. She wouldn’t even buy me things like soap or deodorant.


“It went on like that for a couple more months until I walked in on her, a needle to her arm, an open box next to her. I screamed, asked her what the fuck she was doing, and she dropped the needle. We spent the rest of that night talking. She told me—she promised me that she would go to rehab. She told me she would get better.”


“And did she?” asked Calum.


“For a while, sure. She did great in rehab and was out within a month. For the first couple of weeks she was back, she was her old self. Happy, caring, perfect. But all of a sudden, just like last time, she completely flipped. She was acting the same way as before. Stingy with her money, distant, addicted.


“I told her that if I found out she was still using, I was leaving and not coming back. She told me to get the fuck out of her face. I knew she wasn’t going to get better this time. So from that point on, I spent all day, every day, trying to prevent the worst possible scenario: an overdose. I was there to check on her whenever she needed, and more than once I had to sit and comfort her while she was writhing on the floor in pain from an overdose.


“I knew she wouldn’t live much longer on this path. I knew it and she knew it; I warned her every single day. She never listened to me though. So after that, I came home from school a little late one day and when I went in her room to check on her, she was lying on the floor, a needle in her arm. I wasn’t surprised; I couldn’t have been. That’s exactly what I’d been afraid of since I’d found out about her habit.”


“And what happened after that?”


“I was on the next flight out here. I couldn’t bear to stay for the funeral. I knew they’d all be saying such great things about her, and I didn’t want to hear them. I was angry; I was pissed that she knew what she was doing. She knew that she would die if she kept doing it, but that didn’t stop her. In a sick way, I think she wanted to die. This was her way of numbing her life and slowly killing herself at the same time,” I say and flop backwards on the bed.


“How do you feel now?” He asks cautiously.


“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still mad, but after being in this house, I miss her. I miss her a lot, and I can’t stand that the last time I saw her was with a needle hanging out of her arm.” I didn’t realize that I’d been crying until Calum reached out and wiped a tear away.


“I’m so sorry,” he breathed, “I can’t imagine going through that.”


“I hope you never have to.” I pull myself up to rest on my arms before adding, “Besides, Marybeth doesn’t seem like she’d do that.”


“Yeah, my mum’s pretty great. I bet yours was too, raised you all by herself and all.”


“I guess so. But hey,” I suddenly remember, “you and Marybeth certainly don’t look alike…”


“I’m adopted,” Calum says, “Didn’t you know that?”


I shake my head, “No. Nobody told me.”


“Yeah, she adopted me when I was eight. I thought I was going to spend the rest of my childhood in that horrid orphanage…but then she adopted me,” He smiles as he speaks, his eyes lighting up.


I looked around at Calum’s room once again, just to avoid conversation. Calum and I, we had a lot in common. I was eight when I moved out of my dad’s; I was eight when I’d been saved. The only difference was that Calum’s version of hell was not having parents, and my version of hell was wishing one of mine would go away. And the fact that the person that had saved Calum had found happiness whereas mine only found despair and misery, leading to her cold demise.


“Michael? You okay?” Calum asks and I sit up to face him.


“I don’t know,” I admit, “but I’m trying to be. I just hate being back here, in the same house as him.”


“You know, you still haven’t told me what happened between you two. It might make you feel better to talk about it,” he suggests and I think about it carefully. Of course, I want to tell Calum, but odds are, he’d just tell Marybeth, which I did not want. I want my dad to believe what I told him earlier, that I am trying to move on and forgive him. I’m trying to make things work, and telling the whole family about the horrible, messed up stuff my dad put me through wouldn’t really be a good start.


I force myself to yawn.


“Maybe another time. I think I’m gonna go to bed now.”

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