“Amy, where on Earth have you been?
Amy didn’t know what had given her away—the security light, the creak of the gate, or the sound of her footsteps as she’d snuck along the pebbled path. The truth was that she hadn’t meant to come home so late. She had been visiting her mother and simply lost track of time, a mistake she instantly regretted when she discovered her father anxiously waiting for her on their front porch.
“Well?” he growled. “Speak up.”
Amy stuck her head down and tried to squeeze through the narrow gap between him and the door. “I’m sorry,” was all she could say.
“You’re sorry? That’s it?”
“I’m tired, Dad. I just want to go to bed.”
Amy pushed her way inside and made straight for her room, desperately hoping that he would save his interrogation for morning. But considering her father’s line of work—he was a detective in the Criminal Investigations Division of the Oregon State Police—that seemed highly unlikely.
“I asked you a question. Where were you?”
“Can we do this tomorrow? Please?”
“No, we can’t.” He chased Amy down the hall and into her bedroom, his tone growing more tempestuous. “Do you have any idea how worried I’ve been?”
Amy drew her curtains shut, plugged in her phone, switched on her lamp—whatever she could do to avoid eye contact.
“Amy, are you hearing me?”
“Yes,” she snapped. “I hear you.”
“Well? Will you tell me where you disappeared to?”
“I didn’t disappear. I was visiting Mom.”
“You can’t be serious. You mean to tell me you’ve been at the cemetery this whole time?”
She turned to face him. “Is there something wrong with that?”
“Aside from the fact that you should have called to let me know? Why haven’t you been picking up your phone?”
“The battery died. I didn’t realize it was so late. I didn’t know you’d be so worried. I’m sorry, all right?”
“Sorry isn’t good enough, Amy. You’re eighteen years old. I know you miss your mother, but it’s completely irresponsible for you to be wandering around the cemetery by yourself at this ridiculous hour.”
And there it was again, thought Amy, the beginning of yet another lecture. He’d been like this since the day of the funeral: critical of almost everything she did. If he wasn’t micromanaging how much she was eating, or fussing over how much sleep she was getting, then he’d be second-guessing her every decision, just as he was doing tonight, or like yesterday when he’d urged her to “take some more time” and not to “jump the gun” after she’d announced her plans to withdraw from college. They’d sparred over it for the better part of the day, and Amy wasn’t even sure why. The decision wasn’t permanent; it was, as the university soberly called it, a “special dispensation for life-changing event,” which meant she could return to her studies whenever she wanted, and yet the most her father could offer in response was a resigned, “All right, Amy, whatever you think is best.”
On the one hand she shouldn’t have been surprised. The two of them weren’t close, hadn’t been for a long time. Still, she’d never thought they’d end up like this, that they would become so … distant. It was as though the death of her mother had left a crater so wide and pushed them so far apart that neither one of them knew who the other was anymore.
“Do you know what I was about to do?” Her father’s rising voice urged Amy back to the present. “I damn near called this in. I was this close to sending out a patrol to look for you.”
She shot him a stunned glare. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“What did you expect? I couldn’t reach you.”
“I expect you to trust me, not order a citywide police hunt whenever I leave the house!”
“This isn’t about trust, Amy—it’s about me having some clue about where you are.” He paused to take a breath. “Look, I’m not pretending any of this is easy. I’m still trying to come to terms with the loss of your mother, just like you are. And, yes, I realize I’m doing a damn poor job of it. But despite everything that’s happened, I am still your father, and I don’t appreciate being treated as though I don’t exist.”
Amy resisted the urge to fight back and instead marched across the room and swung open her door. “Would you mind just leaving me alone? Please?”
“Why won’t you talk to me?” he said, making no effort to move. “All I want to do is help.”
“What’s the point, Dad? It’s not as if you can fix what’s happened.”
“I can’t fix anything if you won’t let me try.”
Amy rattled the door hard and pointed to the hall, a stampede of tears building behind her eyes. “I said you can’t, okay? This isn’t another case for you to solve. You can’t help, you can’t fix this—and I’m pretty sure you can’t bring Mom back—so will you please just leave me alone?”
“All right, Amy, fine—if that’s what you want.”
With his arms raised in surrender, her father turned and trudged out of the room.
And as soon as he was gone, Amy slammed the door.