When I set foot into a building, I always wondered about all the people who walked the halls before me. I especially thought about it at school. I imagined all of the things that really mattered in high school: winning the big game, getting the grade, going with the cute boy, and having your heart broken. I wondered about the years and years that the old plaster walls had seen. Then, in the grand scheme of it all, it didn’t seem that important that I was there, doing the same thing. I closed my locker and walked to class, feeling the only thing that any normal high school sophomore could ever feel: utter boredom.
My life consisted of getting up in the morning, walking to school, shuffling through classes, and coming home. Then I ate dinner, watched TV, did homework, and went to bed. Every day was exactly the same and part of me liked it that way. I liked my routine of curling up on the couch during increasingly darker fall days, and knowing the day of the week by the television program I was watching. I’m sure my dad loved it, too. I was boring and predictable, and he didn’t have to worry about me. Although, at the same time, something else was happening to me. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was something inside that just wasn’t completely right. I had an idea of what it was, but I didn’t want to give it a name.
During my sophomore year, I was lucky enough to gain two of the most fundamental experiences of being a teenage girl: my first best friend and my first proper crush. Lilly Waters was my best friend, and her twin brother, Skip, was my crush. Lilly was gorgeous. Her blonde hair framed her heart-shaped face, and blue eyes peered out from behind long bangs. She had a small button nose and a radiant smile. She looked like a Seventeen magazine model, but in conservative clothing. The guys loved her, but none of them stood a chance because her father was a pastor, a strict one, and she was exceedingly obedient to him. Additionally, Skip was always there to reinforce her moral standards if she even thought about straying from them. Skip was an all-muscle, good-natured boy with the same shade of blonde hair and blue eyes as Lilly, and dimples that melted my heart.
Every other Friday I broke my usual routine and spent the night at Lilly’s house. We talked about clothes and school and boys. We were both boy-crazy in our own way; she had celebrity crushes and I had Skip. Lilly knew about my crush on her brother, but it didn’t bother her because neither of them were allowed to date, and she knew that Skip took Pastor Waters’ rules seriously. He would never cross his father. Never. Even if it meant breaking my poor little adolescent heart.
On that same every-other-Friday, my dad had a standing rendezvous with a waitress named Kristi from Alice’s Pizza. During my formative years, my dad tried to hide things like that from me. I never thought about him dating anyone because I knew that he was still in love with my mother. It never occurred to me that he might have other needs to fill. When he did finally tell me he was seeing someone, it took me a while to figure out it was her, but I put it together after I noticed the way my dad liked to go out for pizza every-other-Thursday night, and the way she touched his shoulder when she took our order, and the fact that not only had I found a pair of pink panties in the laundry, but also an Alice’s Pizza t-shirt.
I didn’t hold it against him. After all, my dad became a father when he was nineteen and had given up all the better years of his life taking care of me. I decided that he should have his fun now at age thirty-four. I never brought up the Kristi thing and neither did he. It was known, but unspoken, when I neatly folded the forgotten articles of clothing and left them on his bed. At least she was a nice girl.
It had just been the two of us since I was four years old. My parents met when my dad was in college and my mom worked at National Record Mart. She was way out of his league, but he built the courage to ask her out, and they fell in love. It was no secret that he fell a lot harder. My mom was a manic depressive, but by the time he found out, he was invested. When she got pregnant with me, he tried to marry her. She never accepted his proposal, and five years later she died of a drug overdose. We didn’t talk about Tressa very much. I learned about her by chance, like when one of her favorite songs would come on the radio and he’d be reminded of her and say, in a barely audible voice, “She loved this song.” The truth was that he was still in love with her, and still heartbroken that she was gone. He couldn’t bear to think about her too often. He still cried when he did.
I didn’t look like my mother. She had brownish-blond hair that fell down to her waist, and pale blue eyes. She was tall, slim, and beautiful. In pictures, she never smiled. She never really looked happy, just lost. I had inky dark hair that always looked jagged around my face, no matter how I tried to soften it. I wasn’t as tall as her, but the same height as my dad, and I had his brown eyes too. My dad smiled even when he was breaking on the inside; I had a harder time concealing my feelings, more like my mother. I tried, even when I knew I was showing all the signs of depression, to hide it from my dad so he wouldn’t have to go through it again. I dragged myself out of bed for him, I pretended to be interested in things for him, and I laughed for him even when I didn’t feel like it. I saw my dad as fragile, and I didn’t want to break him. And I saw my mother as heartless for doing so.