“Hailee, honey, come down here now, please,” said the scratchy voice downstairs in the living room.
“Comiiiing!” I yelled back, trying hard to hide the lip smacking and teeth sucking that came right after. Mommy hates that. But I mean, leave me alone.
I could almost hear Daddy’s raised eyebrows and slight smile as he said, “Princess, moving like a turtle is not going to stop this from happening. Let’s go.”
Meanwhile, I could hear them laughing. Really? This is not funny. It’s Saturday. I should still have my arms and legs stretched across my bed with my feet just barely hanging over the edge. I should be dreaming about Bryan Bentley coming to sit next me in the cafeteria and wanting to share the pizza rolls Daddy made me for lunch. I should be turning back and forth and hiding my head so the light peeking through my blinds that is starting to make me squeeze my eyes tight and scrunch up my face won’t wake me all the way up.
What I should not be doing is shoving this stupid black T-shirt into my brand new backpack that I have been begging for, for a month. I should not be being forced to brush my own hair back into a ponytail after I just got it done at Cassie’s Salon. I should not know that it’s really dark at 5:30 A.M. and light by 6:30 A.M. I should not be awake!
I grabbed one strap of my backpack, threw it over my shoulder, and let my feet drag the rest of my body downstairs.
“There she is. My little bus-girl!” said Daddy. “Let me just grab my keys.” He walked toward the table near the front door.
“Oh, sweetie,” Mommy said with her very scratchy voice, “I’m sorry I can’t go with you all today,” sniffle, sniffle, “But you haven’t spent the day with him at the restaurant in a while. You’ll—” She stopped to cough and choke so hard she almost fell off the couch. “You’ll have fun,” cough, cough “and if not, just remember it’s either this or you can sit in your room with no TV, video games, phone, or human contact except of course waiting on your sick ol’ Mom hand and foot.” She paused, smiled, and said, “Have a good day.”
I probably should just say okay, but I couldn’t help but beg just a little. “Do I really have to go?” I whined.
“Yes, Hailee,” Daddy said quickly without even looking up as he tossed one set of keys after another to the side, “you do.”
I can usually make a very sad face that will at least make them feel bad for me, but it wasn’t working. Look sadder, Hailee. Sadder!
My sad face was interrupted when Henry Jr. came running into the living room still wearing his pajamas with a big box of cereal in his hands, and slid down on the carpet in front of the TV.
“But it’s not fair!” I whined some more. “How come Henry Jr. gets to lay around watching cartoons?”
Henry, Jr. stopped me to insist that he “ain’t watching no baby cartoons,” as bits of Lucky Charms® come flying out of his mouth. Ew. Boys.
I rolled my eyes and continued. “How come he gets to watch this and I have to go work at the restaurant for free?”
“For free?” Daddy said with that one eyebrow raised and his voice a little higher than usual. “How much do I get paid for feeding you, buying you clothes, and letting you live in my house young lady? And furthermore . . .”
He continues and his mouth is moving, but there’s no sound. He’s going on and on about how I don’t appreciate things. And just like all the other times he does this, I started thinking about other things until he’s done talking, and then I said, “Yeah, but you have to, you’re my daddy.”
He started to say something else, but then the scratchy voice jumped in and said, “Okay, okay. That’s enough, Hailee. This is no one’s fault but your own, and unless you want this punishment to last for an extra four weeks, I suggest you follow Daddy quietly to the car and be on your best behavior today.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said with a sigh as I lowered my head.
Daddy looked at her, raising both eyebrows and curling his smile downward as though he was impressed. He kissed her on her forehead and whispered, “Nicely done. Feel better, honey.” He headed out the door and I walked slowly behind him.
I got in the car, sat in the back, and buckled my seatbelt. There’s no way I’m gonna talk to him all the way there. He looked up in the rearview mirror right at me, laughed under his breath, put the car in reverse, and blasted some group of old guys singing a very slow song as loud as the radio could go before pulling away. I guess he didn’t want to talk to me, either. But I didn’t care. All I could think about is how I got myself into this mess in the first place.