Home > One Small Thing(5)

One Small Thing(5)
Author: Erin Watt

God, I sound bitter. I hate feeling this way, especially when deep down I know my parents aren’t bad people. They just haven’t recovered from Rachel’s death. I doubt they ever will, not without years and years of therapy—which they refuse to go to. The one time I suggested it, Mom stiffly informed me that everyone grieves differently, and then she got up and walked out of the room.

But they’re hurting me as a result of their unending grief, and I am bitter. And now they’re taking away my car?

In my car, I can blast my music, scream profanities and give voice to all my inner frustrations. Losing it would be awful.

I grapple for reasons that’ll convince them that this is wrong. “How am I supposed to get to work? Or the animal shelter?” For the past year, I’ve volunteered at a local animal shelter twice a month. Rachel’s allergy made it impossible for us to have pets at home and even now that she’s gone, the no-pets rule is still strictly enforced. So volunteering is the only way I get to be around dogs, who are way better than people, in my opinion.

Mom doesn’t meet my eyes. Dad clears his throat. “You won’t be doing, either. We’ve informed your boss at the Ice Cream Shoppe and Sandy at the clinic that you’ll be too busy with school to be able to work or volunteer.”

“You...” I take a breath. “You quit my jobs for me?”

“Yes.”

I’m so stunned I don’t have a response. All I can see are the doors slamming closed in my already-constrained life. No car. Slam. No part-time job. Slam. No volunteer work. Slam. Slam. Slam.

“You’re saying I go to school and come home. That’s it?” The knot in my chest threatens to choke me. It’s my senior year. I should be looking forward to my world getting bigger, not smaller.

“Until you can prove to us that you’re worthy of our trust, yes.”

I turn toward Mom. “You can’t agree with this. I know you know that this is wrong.”

She refuses to meet my eyes. “If we were stricter before...” She trails off but I know what before means. Our lives are strictly bisected into BR and AR.

“Marnie, let’s not talk about that.” Dad likes to pretend that BR never happened.

“Right, of course, but it’s because we love you that we’re doing this. We don’t want a repeat of the past. Your father and I discussed—”

“This is bullshit!” I erupt. I spring to my feet and out of my dad’s reach.

“Don’t use that tone with us.” Dad shakes his finger at me.

This time I don’t cower. I’m too angry to be afraid. “This is bullshit,” I repeat recklessly. Tears are dropping—which I hate—but I can’t stop. I can’t stop my words, my anger or my tears. “This is punishment because I’m the one alive and Rachel is the one who’s dead. I can’t fucking wait until I leave here. I’m not coming back. I’m not!”

Mom bursts into tears. Dad yells. I spin on my heel and race to my bedroom. Behind me, I hear my parents shouting. I climb the stairs two at a time and slam my bedroom door shut. I don’t have a lock but I do have a desk. I break three nails and knock the wood against my shin twice, but I finally drag it in front of the door.

Just in time, too, because Dad’s at the door, trying to shove it open.

“You open this door right now,” he demands.

“Or what?” I cry. I’ve never felt more helpless. “Or what? You’ll ground me? You’ve taken away my job, my car, my privacy. I can’t make a call or write a text without you knowing. I can’t even breathe without having to report to you. You don’t have anything left to punish me with.”

“We’re doing this for your sake.” That’s Mom, pleading for me to be reasonable. “We’re not punishing you because of your sister—” she can’t even say Rachel’s name “—we’re trying to help you. We love you so much, Lizzie. We...” Her voice cracks. “We don’t want to lose you.”

I lie down on the bed and pull the pillow over my head. I don’t care what they have to say. There’s no justification for what they’re doing. I wouldn’t be sneaking out if they let me have some freedom. Scarlett’s parents don’t hold her down and she never sneaks out. If she goes to a party, she tells them. If she gets drunk, she can call them and they’ll come pick her up. And the truth is she rarely gets drunk, because they’ll let her have the occasional beer or glass of wine. It’s my parents’ fault I’m this way. They’ve made me into this girl—the one who doesn’t listen, the one who sneaks and lies and breaks promises, loses her virginity to some stranger.

I dig my face into the mattress as hot shame roils through me. I hate them. I hate Rachel. I hate myself most of all.

Because of my actions, the sweet animals at the shelter are going to suffer. Who’s going to take the doggies for a walk? Who’s going to feed Opie his medicine? I’m the only one that can handle the rottie. He hates everyone else at the clinic. And George, the snake? The techs there are scared of the python.

The sound of metal clanking against metal and the whirring of a drill grab my attention. I sit up and search for the source of the construction sounds.

My eyes clash with my dad’s, visible above the door he’s holding. He glares grimly at me before walking away. I gape at the open doorway. He removed my door. He fucking removed my fucking door.

I leap to my feet and rush over to the desk that’s still in the doorway. “What are you doing?” I say helplessly.

Mom appears in the hallway. “Sweetheart, please.”

“Are you serious?” I reach out, still in disbelief that my dad removed the door from the wall, but the empty hinges hang there in mocking proof.

“This is only temporary,” she says.

“It’ll be permanent if she can’t clean up her act,” Dad yells from below.

“Mom. I’m seventeen. I need a door to my bedroom.” I can’t believe my voice is so stable when my insides are rioting. “Even prisoners have a door!”

Her gaze falls to the floor. “It’s only temporary,” she repeats. “Until we can trust you again.”

I stumble back. “I can’t believe this. I can’t fucking believe this.”

“Don’t curse,” she snaps. “You know how much I hate that.”

“Right, because Rachel never cursed.”

“It’s not about Rachel.”

“Of course it is. Everything in my life is about Rachel. You let Rachel do whatever she wanted. She didn’t have to follow a single rule and it backfired on you, so now you’re doing the exact opposite with me,” I spit out. “You’ve kept me on a leash since she died, and now the collar’s so tight it’s going to choke me to death.”

“Don’t say that.” Mom’s eyes glitter dangerously. She advances, stopped only by the desk. “Don’t you say that. Don’t you say that word.”

“Or what?” I challenge. “You’re going to hit me again?”

Her face collapses. “I’m sorry I did that,” she whispers. “I—”

“What’s going on?” Dad has returned. He looks at me and then at Mom.

“Nothing,” we say at the same time.

And then we all fall silent because there’s nothing left on our tongues but caustic, hurtful words and we’ve done enough to inflict pain on each other. I return to my bed, shut my eyes and ignore the grunts from my father as he lifts the desk away from the doorway, the mewling noises of my mother as she frets over how our household is a war zone.

This is my life now. I’m imprisoned in my own home, with no privacy and no escape. Graduation can’t come soon enough.

5

The bus stinks of nerves and cold sweat. The freshmen are huddled toward the front, but the smell of their fear drifts all the way to the back. Next to me, Sarah Bunting chatters on about her new manicure and the “lit as fuck” Converse sneakers she scored at the Premium Outlets in Rosemont.

I turn my music up even louder and slouch down in the seat. Seventeen, licensed, has her own car, but still rides the bus. How lowering.

I keep my head down as I walk to my locker in the seniors’ wing. I don’t greet anyone and whether it’s the surly look on my face or something else, everyone leaves me alone.

I spin the locker combination, jerk my door open and stuff my backpack inside. My first class is AP Calc. Woo-hoo. At least there won’t be some long lecture—only a bunch of practice problems. I grab my supplies for the next three classes and slam the door shut. Scarlett’s face appears and I try not to jump in surprise.

“Hey,” I mutter.

“I’m so sorry.” She looks genuinely regretful.

First thing I did this morning was IM her with the heads-up that I’d been busted. With my parents having evidence that Scar and I have sneaked out to parties before, I had to warn her in case my parents snitched to hers.

“Forget it.” It’s not her fault, really.

“Everything is just going to shit, huh?” She sighs. “You’re having the worst luck—first your parents and TextGate, and now this.”

I guess she means the grounding. “They took my phone away, too,” I say glumly.

“Oh, okay, so that’s why you haven’t responded to the million messages I’ve sent you.”

“Yup.”

She clucks her tongue sympathetically. “I don’t know, maybe it’s a good thing you don’t have a phone right now. I can’t imagine what people are texting you. Kids can be so dumb.”

My cheeks feel hot. Why would anyone be texting me? Did someone see me at the party? Did they know what happened with me and Chase? Do they know what’s going on in my house? Did my parents actually tell other parents that they took the door off my room? God, this year is going to be nothing but one set of humiliations after another, all courtesy of my parents.

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