When we walk in the front door, I immediately sling my loaded backpack onto the bench. I can feel where the strap dug into my shoulder. That’s going to leave a red mark. Damn small shoulders. Damn math book.
I have plans tonight; it’s my first school-night off in two weeks.
Time to catch up on spelling, math, and science. Why is Course I so hard? You’ve always been great at math. What’s happening? Maybe you’re working too much. You don’t even have weekends off. Practically living with Ann, Bob and their spoiled kid. Your kids will never be spoiled. I said it’s time to brush your teeth! Lucky you have a toothbrush, and teeth.
“Hey Dad, I have a lot of homework due this week. I think I should go work in my room for a little while.” So you don’t interrupt me every three minutes to commentate on the news.
“Okay, Jenny. But first come here. Look at that car parked in the driveway.” He points through a single blind slat that he’s lifted half way.
“That’s Kevin’s spot. No one parks there. Who the hell is that?” Who gives a shit? Can I go catch up on two weeks of math that I’m technically failing?
He must detect the sarcasm in my shrug. “Hey, it’s your Father’s job as manager of this place to keep an eye on everything. And if they don’t move, I’m going to have to go out there.” I roll my eyes out of habit.
Before Dad can make good on his promise, a professionally dressed woman carrying a briefcase exits the dark blue Toyota Camry. We don’t see people like that in these parts. I hope she’s not lost.
The mystery woman makes a beeline for our door. As she approaches, I notice the faint pinstripe in her grey slacks and the shimmer of her fuchsia-colored blouse. She can’t be a Jehovah’s Witness. It’s not Sunday.
Dad’s already opened the door before she knocks. Cautious, he says, “I’m Tom, the manager here. Can I help you?”
She doesn’t hesitate. “Yes, I’m Rachel Porter from Child Protective Services. Do you have a daughter named Jenny?”
“Yes, I do. I’ve raised my daughter since she was four days old because her mother didn’t want her. What’s the problem here?”
Stop trying to sound tough, asshole.
Rachel doesn’t flinch. “Well, I am here today because our office received a phone call regarding your daughter.” Her words cause goose bumps to form on my arms. Holy shit. Someone knows I’m alive and that he’s crazy? Who is it?
Furious, Dad shoots back. “There must be some mistake. As I’ve said, I’ve raised my daughter since birth. If there’s any question, you can talk to her teachers at school. I’d also like to know who made this phone call. The only reason I’m asking is because I have a lot of jealous and crazy family members who would do something like this to punish me, believe it or not.”
Rachel doesn’t blink. “I am sorry, but all calls to the agency are anonymous, sir. While, I’m here, though, would you mind if I had a conversation with Jenny?”
“No. I don’t mind. Come on in. Can I get you anything to drink?”
Again, Rachel resists Dad’s best attempt. “Actually, I’d like to take Jenny for a walk around the block if you don’t mind.” Holy shit. Showdown.
Now Dad hesitates. “Uh, sure I guess that’s ok.” He turns to me, “That okay with you Jenny?”
“Okay, when can I expect her back, Ms. Porter?”
“Oh about 20 minutes or so.” Okay so this is happening? Please be smart and take me away. Far away. Change my name. Put me under a protective order.
As we exit the apartment without Dad, I feel as though I’ve stepped into an unknown dimension. Next you’ll see the sandworms from Beetlejuice.
Rachel waits until we’re half way through the driveway to ask me where I go to school and if I like it there. So far her questions are easy. Stay calm.
She continues to probe in a friendly way, “So your Dad raised you?”
“Do you have a good relationship with your dad? Do you have visitation with your mother?”
The lies come out of my mouth with ease. He trained you so well. “Yes, I’ve always been with my Dad. My mom gave me up after I was born. I’ve only see her sometimes when she’s around. She moved to California when I was little.”
As we turn the corner onto Haskell…a safe distance…
Yeah right there’s no safe distance. This whole investigation is a fraud. Is this how they protect children? Does it work? Do they understand that he’s the Terminator. He’ll kill us all. He’ll never stop until we’re all dead, unless I lie. This might be your only shot, you idiot, but you can’t take it. Now take a deep breath and keep lying to this nice naïve lady.
Near the last house on the street, Rachel asks me the big question, “Has your Dad ever touched you in any inappropriate way?” You mean incest? No he hasn’t. Never. But he’s threatened my life, hit me, and called me a cunt and a whore on weekly basis. Does any of that matter?
I smile a little as my eyes graze the uneven sidewalk. “No my Dad has never done anything like that.”
“Are you sure, honey? Nothing at all that you want to tell me?”
Give it a rest already. You’ve got him all wrong. Thank God I know enough to lie or we would both be dead.
“No. I mean my Dad and I are really close. I used to sit on his lap sometimes if he would read me a story. But nothing bad ever happened.”
After I’ve answered her probes, we turn the corner again toward the apartment.
“Well, that’s good. You seem like a very nice young lady, and I’m glad that you have your Dad.”
“Thank you.” And you did it. Blew your big chance. Just hope he spares you after Ms. Porter leaves.
Before we knock, Dad’s already flung the door open. He’s smiling. He knows you wouldn’t have the guts.
For the first time, Rachel smiles too. She’s concluded that I’m safe and well-adjusted. Next case.
Dad grills me on the questions she asked. I tell him the truth.
When I finally open my math book, I hear him yelling on the phone, threatening my mother, then my aunt. “You cocksucking whores better not have done this to me. Those bastards thought I touched Jenny. Mark my words. I’ll kill whoever did this.”