Step one, get through my senior year. Step two, make some friends. This is easier said than done, especially when you must like people to begin with. Step three, step three is getting through teenage hormones. All the ups and downs that come with it, like cystic acne and period cramps. Step four, is dealing with my parents. Honestly, It’s not even both of my parents. It's my dad and his new family.
Have you ever been in a room full of people and still feel lonely? There were plenty of people around you. You could touch them physical, but you couldn’t connect and that made you feel alone.
My name is Felicity Tanner. I’m seventeen years old, and I haven’t accomplished much in my short-lived life. I don’t know why my parents named me Felicity; it’s supposed to mean hope, happiness, luck, and good fortune. I never considered myself to be any of the above. I’m about to start my senior year of high school at a brand-new school next week. Saying I was less than thrilled pretty much would be an understatement.
This school year I am living with my dad and his new family, newer to me than to him. I haven’t lived with him since I was a little girl. This was mostly due to him being in prison for three years and once my mom finally forgave him I was only allowed to spend a week or two with him during the summers. It was either move to Alaska with my mom and stepdad or California. I chose California. Don’t get me wrong, Alaska sounds like a great place to visit, but Alaska is so isolated, and I’ve seen those bush people shows. I guess I should give you some backstory to all this madness.
As a child, from what I can remember, life was pretty good. My parents appeared as if they loved one another. My mom stayed at home. She didn’t cook or do anything the stereotypical stay-at-home mom would do. She has always been messy, but she did her best to make everyone around her happy.
As far as I knew my dad just worked at a nice business that made him wear nice suits. I would ask to help him iron his white shirts the night before. He would come to my classroom at school and give out cool gifts with his business logo printed all over them. He left for long periods of time, but he would always return with post cards, handmade jewelry, and paintings from the places he had been. I can remember our house being huge, and I had my own room.
My childhood was filled with lots of friends, everything I had ever wanted. I only worried about the things an eight-year-old should worry about, cheap lip gloss, and barbie dolls. When I turned nine, that’s when everything changed. The day my dad left still feels like it was yesterday. My mom had picked me up from school, something she had done every day. We had our routine, after school my mom would pick me up, I hopped in the back seat, and we would jam out to whatever song played on the radio for the hundredth time. Almost everyday my mom stopped by Subway on the way home because she didn’t like to cook, and my dad was never home on time to eat dinner with us anyway. That day, my mom unlocked the car door for me. I jumped inside, filled with excitement and ready to share the highlights of my day. She didn’t say a word once I had finished. She didn’t even turn on the radio station when I asked. Instead, she stayed focused on anything else.
“Mom, you passed Subway,” I called out from behind. Subway got further and further out of sight. I was hoping she had cooked something good for dinner because I wasn’t going to have my pizza sub.
“Mom, where are we going? Mom?” She had driven right past the turn we always took to get to our house. “Mom, you passed the house! How come you're ignoring me?”
“Felicity, please!” she yelled and my eyes started to swell. I hated being yelled at more than anything. I kept quiet for the rest of the trip until the car came to its final stop. We were at my grandma’s house. My mom’s mom. Grandma’s house was tiny. It was a one level home, with only two bedrooms and one bathroom, but she had the biggest yard that was always fun to play in. There were also lots of kids in grandma’s neighborhood.
“Let’s go Felicity,” my mom said turning off the car and heading straight for the trunk. I nodded and obeyed. She grabbed two suitcases that I hadn’t noticed before now, and we walked toward my grandma’s small house. The porch light was on and my grandma came outside with a sad look on her face. My dad walked out behind her.
“Daddy!” I ran to him full of excitement.
I wanted to hug him and tell him all about my day. He embraced me as if nothing was wrong. A huge whiff of his cologne tickled my nose and made me sneeze.
“I told you not to be here when we got here, Brian,” my mom said.
She wasn’t walking anymore. She was standing with her hand in the air as if she was commanding my father to sit and not to speak as if he were a dog. My parents told my grandma to take me inside. I could hear their shouting from the living room, no matter how loud my grandma tried to drown them out with the television, and then it had stopped. I had never seen so many officers before. They were all surrounding my father. He was on his knees in front of my grandmother’s house saying how sorry he was. He said it wouldn’t be long and he would see us soon and everything would go back to normal. One of the officers placed cuffs on him and threw him in the back of a car before they sped away. I spent that night crying until my headache forced me into a deep sleep. My mom says he was sent to prison for an unspeakable crime. Till this day, she doesn’t talk about it and won’t tell me why. Too bad for her the internet exists. I could Google everything about my criminal father who turned his life around and is now a wealthy mogul. He went to prison for three years for tax evasion, theft, and fraud. Just like that, everything was gone, the house, our cars, and all my friends. I learned later that most of the kids I hung out with as a child didn’t want to be associated with our family. It's not like I had did anything wrong.
At school I tried to keep my family’s secret under wraps. Some kids didn’t know my dad had gone to prison even though their parents did, or maybe they did know and just didn’t say anything. I would tell everyone something different, even my teachers who most likely knew the truth all along. I lied to anyone even before they would ask. I told them Daddy works in a different state. I didn’t say we moved from our big house in with my grandma. Thankfully no one asked about money being tight, but even if they did, I wasn’t going to tell them.
To me, what my dad did wasn’t the worst thing someone could do, but it was enough to embarrass our family and be shunned by friends. My mother, especially, did everything she could to erase his memory. Sometimes I think she still held a bit of anger against me because I still had my dad’s last name, and I looked more like him than I did her. She never outwardly said anything to me but some days she felt distant and she looked at me different. After my dad was arrested, they took everything. We had to pay back everything he owed. We were left with nothing and had to start all over again. My parents to divorce shortly after. Juggling between her loans, medical bills, and rent for my grandma, my mom found a job that made enough to feed and squeeze the two of us in the small bedroom she slept in as a young girl. I don’t remember too much about my grandma’s house. I can, however, remember my grandma and I picking up my mom late at night from her job at the Flamingo Casino. It was always super late when we would go to get he and I was in my pajamas. Her uniform was a green and teal button up shirt with Flamingos on it. The casino was lit dimly with hints of neon light on the laminated ceilings. When the Flamingo shut down and my mom got another small job. I can remember every day my grandma and I going to pick her up. I could only think about how much I missed my parents together.
It didn’t take my mom long to get herself back out there. I remember the ﬁrst boyfriend; I named him Boyfriend Number One. He was a kind, round man. He had a quiet home and a beautiful black Labrador. I can’t remember what happened to my mom and Number One. We had dinner at his house a few times, and then his dog bit me on the wrist, and that was the end of Number One. I don’t think they ended because of his dog, but they were over. Next there was Boyfriend Number Two. I don’t remember much about Number Two except he had a teenage son. I remember going to his fancy condo and making healthy homemade pizzas. He was a tall, light-skinned man with freckles all over him. He had a strong southern accent. He used to come over to grandma’s house a lot. One day, my mom, Number Two, his son, and I all went to the neighborhood pool. I didn’t know how to swim, I probably never will. Well, you know that story people always tell you when they explain how they learned how to swim?
“When I was a kid my (enter an irrelevant person) just threw me in, and I had to learn how to swim or I would drown...blah, blah, blah.” They’d say.
Well, good for you, bitches. That was not the case for me. I was a relatively cautious child when it came to pools. I stayed in the shallow end the whole time we’d spend at the pool. Most of the time I was happy with letting my feet wade in the water while I sat on the edge. Nothing pleased me more than occasionally sticking my head under water or trying to do a handstand. But this did not please Boyfriend Number Two. Instead, his large, muscular hand grabbed me, picking me up from the water. I screamed because I could no longer feel the bottom of the pool beneath my feet.
“This is how I learned how to swim,” he said, struggling to keeping me still as I fought helplessly in his arms.
“Don’t throw me!” I screamed, teriﬁed as I searched frantically for my mom. It was too late. Immediately, I was in the air and then hit the water in the deep end instantaneously. I was under water for who knows how long. I couldn’t swim. The entire order cause me to be in such a panic when it came to my ﬁght or ﬂight senses. My little body chose ﬂight. I was drowning. Next thing I knew, Boyfriend Number Two dragged me out of the water. Luckily, I was not unconscious, I could breathe own my own, but I couldn’t stop coughing and crying. From that day on, I hated Boyfriend Number Two. Just like that, he was gone.