The Cedarville Review 2021

chest jump and my breath catch. I croak out an imperative with a certain coldness: “Stop.” “Stop? Me? You’re the one abandoning me when you said we would get together. You know this is my day.” “It’s not your day. My time doesn’t belong to you” “I’m not arguing this again. Your day, my day, either way, you’ll be here on Thursday.” “No.” “You’re being really heartless right now, Heidie Lou. Don’t you feel bad, knowing I’ll be all alone?” I turn to him stiffly. My face is blank, analyzing the sweat dripping from his forehead and shade of rage priming his face. There is something about this ascribed responsibility that seems to slither around my neck and claim a part of me that I am not willing to give up this time. Turned down sleepovers, denied babysitting jobs, shortened coffee-dates, they flood my mind. All for him, all to feed his needs. I look deep into his dark eyes that barter for love in the form of Thursday night rice-kitdinners and exhale. “No.” “No? What do you mean ‘no’? What do you mean…” He begins his loud, emotional ascent in search of the answer he wants and I will not give. I, resuming my blank forward stare, close my eyes. I feel for the divots in the cheap, lonesome, unswept, unkempt, familiar yet foreign floor, and inhale sharply as I hear his favorite empty threat. “I’ll call the lawyer. You’re breaking custody, you know. I don’t even make you spend the night over here anymore. You’re supposed to sleep here two nights a week and all I ask is two dinners and you won’t even do that. They’ll side with me. You and your mom and your sister abandoned me. You’ll have to stay the nights here and come here after school. It’ll be legal.” He knows this game, and how for years the looming lawyer has squashed Thursday night invitations. He is not mourning; he is strategizing. His thunderous breaths shake the table and his towers of documents fall to the floor in disheveled heaps. The heat of his breath, the fluttering of the papers, and haze of burned rice - they all poke at me. I cannot exist as a ragdoll of appeasement every Thursday for the rest of my life, and if it makes me heartless, so be it. “Do it.” He sits back in his seat, silent. Even his breaths seem muted, sharper. “Excuse me?” “I said do it. I dare you. I’m not going to sit around here and have you threaten me every time you want me to cancel something for you. And I’m not coming over Thursday.” His eyes exchange a cocktail of terror, fragility, and rage with my own. My gaze swells with a fire of culmination, ready to spit back at him: Do it. I will come to your house and sit on the edge of your driveway until I am legally allowed to leave. I will not speak to you. I will not look at you. I will not acknowledge you. I will come, serve my time, and leave. If you touch me, I will scream. If you try to force me inside, I’ll cite your force as my reason for leaving. I will park on the side of the road so you have no control over my car. And you will be able to soak up every moment of me sitting silently at the foot of your driveway staring out into the street until 7:30 hits, and then I will go. You will have each of those precious moments until I turn 18, and then you will never see me again. I don’t care if you don’t pay for college or insurance or my wedding. I’ll figure it out. But I will not sit around