Sweet Sober Summer

            Dad would be drunk again.  Even if he wasn’t, he would be drunk again soon.  The house would smell dankly of it.  Rotten.  In fact, the whole house was rotten.  Mom would be there too, but last time Sarah came home for the summer, she knew.  Mom had given up on Dad.  Given up on the marriage, really.  But it wasn’t her fault.  Sarah didn’t blame her, at least not about Dad.  Maybe for letting it get to her so much.  But Sarah didn’t know what it was like to be married, so there was that.  The entire house had this lingering mood which came from Mom, because of Dad.  A mood which was Mom’s voice, saying “I’m sorry you have to come back to this place.”  Sarah was sorry too, but not for herself.  She’d be leaving again when the summer ended.

The cab driver had been surprised at Sarah’s age, but so was everyone.  She remembered telling the guy she was sixteen, that she was coming home from boarding school.  She remembered his face, and wondered why her age strove so valiantly to define her.  As she got out of the cab and faced her white-washed two story suburban house, she decided that her age didn’t actually define her.  Her house wasn’t defined by the way neighbors saw it from the street, either.  A pretty thing, modestly dignified, painted white with a three-car garage–the kind of house you expect every soccer mom to drive home to.  Very American, but ultimately fraudulent.  The life one expected another to have while living in such a house was fake.  Everything was fake.

Dad’s car wasn’t in the driveway, but it would be later.  Sarah walked up to the front door, which looked the same as it had for the last 13 years.  But the hinges gave a reluctant groan as the door swung open.  It didn’t sound the same.

It was time to be the daughter Mom wanted to see, not the daughter that was coming home.  As they exchanged hugs and routine greetings, Mom was happy to see her daughter, but her aging eyes saw through the act.  It didn’t really matter though.  Moms lie to themselves too.

Let her.  Sarah was thinking.  It’s better that way.

Sarah had moved to the only downstairs bedroom when she was 12, so she wouldn’t have to share a room with Marisa anymore.  She was glad for that now, mostly because it meant she wouldn’t have to walk up the stairs, not yet.  Saying hi to Marisa and Ben was on the to-do list, but not before laying in her own bed for at least five minutes.  They’d be upstairs in their rooms with their headphones in most likely.  She told her mom she’d be out in a bit and dropped her stuff just inside her doorway.  Her room had been waiting for her for weeks since a family friend stayed there for a few days.  A hotel room really.  The bed was perfectly made and her closet pristine.  It occurred to her that while she was always telling herself she should clean her room, coming home to an all the way clean room was sort of weird.  It would have been more comfortable if it didn’t faintly smell of laundry soap and if there were at least a couple bras laying around.  She flicked on the lights.  Great, only one bulb working.  She flicked on the ceiling fan.  Great, the damn fan blades haven’t been dusted in 4 months.  Oh well.  It wasn’t that much dust.

Sarah dozed for a time that might have been half an hour, or longer.  Definitely not five minutes.  Dad might have gotten home between the time she fell asleep and the time she woke up.  Maybe not.  She would probably have heard him by now if he had.  It was time to get up.  Time to fulfill her petty obligations.  Time to go find out if Ben’s room smelled as bad as it did last year, or worse, if it could rival her current B.O.  Probably not.  Showering was on the to-do list for sure.  In fact, maybe she should shower before going upstairs.  Then again, who really cared?  Actually, a lot of the guys at school might.  Not Ben though.  Definitely not Ben.  Maybe Marisa, but she was 13 and probably smelled awful herself.

Stairs.  They were between her and her siblings.  How would she go up these stairs she had been up so many times?  Her footsteps came softly on the wooden stair case, yet the sound still brought distant memories trampling after her.  She would run at full speed, obviously.  In fact, she was racing.  Her daddy was right behind her, and his heavy footsteps crashing after her heels would probably bring the whole house down.  He was laughing.  She was laughing, but trying her best to focus on the goal.  She must reach the top first.  She couldn’t skip every other step like he could, but she could still beat him, she knew.  Somehow.  She could run so fast, she could probably fly if she really tried hard enough.  She was almost there, but then she really was flying.  Right before the top she was thwarted by the long, impossibly strong arms of her daddy, suspended above the last step.  There was probably nobody in the whole world as strong as him. Her legs were still running.  Running in the air.  She would be put down eventually right?

Wrong.  Sarah looked down at the top step, perhaps from the very view point she had years ago in her Dad’s arms, but now her legs reached all the way to the ground.

She walked over to Ben’s room.  His door was cracked open, so she pushed it in to reveal a dark room with assorted posters for the bands he listened to in middle school.  But he was in high school now.  He had a guitar now, one of those classical ones.  He most likely considered himself some kind of artist.  Why didn’t he turn the lights on?  When he saw the light come in through the door, he looked over at Sarah and pushed himself back from his computer, clicking and shoving off his head phones.

“Hey, what’s going on?”

“Hey Sarah.  Just playing a little minesweeper.”

Sarah had played that game before.  Although she did wonder whether or not he was really playing minesweeper.  She had lived her life believing she was close with her siblings.  She had always loved them, even if she didn’t say it out loud very often.  If asked about it, she would say something like, “Yeah, we’re close,” and nod her head and not really have more to say.  Coming back from boarding school made her wonder if she was truly close with her siblings.  Just walking into her brother’s room gave her a new, yet odd feeling.  A feeling that she hardly knew him at all.  They did stuff together, but hardly told each other much.  In fact, she hadn’t the slightest idea who his friends at school were, what music he was listening to these days, or whether or not he had a crush, or even a girlfriend.

It was saddening, after a brief reflection, that the two of them probably wouldn’t even feel comfortable telling each other their adolescent romantic secrets.  She knew a couple girls from school who had older siblings, (or were older siblings,) who always knew all their boyfriends, gave them social advice, and told them everything about sex that their parents didn’t.  A sophomore girl revealed during a slumber party that her older sister let her try smoking weed, spray painted her first boyfriend’s car when he dumped her, and taught her how to masturbate.  But of course, some of her friends had no siblings, or hated the ones they had.  Sarah didn’t smoke, but if she did, she definitely wouldn’t tell Ben or Marisa, let alone give them anything.  She decided there were other ways to be close to siblings, even if she hadn’t exactly figured it out how.

“Sooo how’s school going?” Sarah asked.  She tried to make herself sound interested, but not so interested that it sounded fake.  It was hard.

“Well, high school is still pretty fun compared to middle school so far.  Except some people aren’t that nice to freshman.  Teachers are cooler though.  One of them even swears, my English teacher.”

“Yeah, high school is like that.”  Sarah paused and neither of them said anything for a couple seconds.  “Hey, is Marisa awake?”

“Yeah, she should be.”

“All right, well, it’s good to be back,” Sarah said with a smile, giving Ben a side-hug.

“Yeah,” said Ben as Sarah was walking out the door.  It sounded like he wanted to say more, but that maybe there wasn’t anything to say.  She thought about asking him about dad, but she wouldn’t get a thoughtful answer.  He was over it, or at least acted like he was, even if he was bitter.  He didn’t have hope for Dad, and he wasn’t afraid to always tell him exactly what he thought about him.  She remembered her brother walking out of the house with his backpack on, Dad calling his name, Ben not giving the slightest response.  She remembered him getting home from school, remembered his voice saying, “Hey, Dad, how drunk are you right now?  Yeah?  Feeling good, feeling a little buzzed?  Get outta my room.”  She couldn’t decide if her brother was bravest in the house or the most afraid.

Sarah knocked on her sister’s door, and then opened it, or tried to open it.  The mass of clothing and accumulated messiness which was taking over Marisa’s room had reached the door.  She shoved the door open, scrunching a jacket, some papers, and who knows what else between the door and the wall.

“Hey sis,” Sarah struggled back a laugh, “how do you even survive in here?

“You’re back!” Marisa hopped off her bed threatening to bounce her laptop off the bed.  Not that it would have had a hard landing.  Marisa walked to the door, stepping on her mess as if it weren’t even there.  The two exchanged a hug, which knocked Sarah off balance.

“Trying to kill me?”

“No.  Just trying to suffocate you until you pass out.”

“Oh really?  When are you going to clean this room?”

“I cleaned it like two weeks ago.”

“That’s hard to believe,” Sarah believed it though.  She knew how fast the mess could accumulate.  Usually the youngest sibling grows up faster than their peers, but it seemed to Sarah that Marisa was actually behind other 13 year-olds.  Sweeter and more innocent.  But Dad had been drunk since Marisa was eight.  Sarah hardly had any memory of being eight.  Sarah knew that Marisa understood Dad’s problem, but she doubted that she really remembered what Dad was like before he started drinking.

“Hey, uh, sis?” Marisa said, with a lower voice even though nobody else was listening.  Marisa looked at her with her curious, big eyes and nodded.

“How’s it going with… you know, Dad?”

Marisa looked at her for a few more seconds before answering.  Her eyes looked the same, but now they looked more sad than curious.

“Well they had a big fight and Mom told him to stop drinking.  He said he was going to stop.  But it’s not going to happen overnight.”

“When was that?”

“Uhh, like 3 weeks ago?”

Sarah searched her sister for anything further, any insinuation of deeper feelings.  Marisa was usually pretty reserved about this.  “Has he yelled at you much?”

Marisa’s eyes met the floor.  “Not much.”  She might have been embarrassed because she knew dad yelled at Sarah way more often.  Then again, Marisa hardly came out of her room.

She decided was close to Marisa.  Close enough that seeing her made her miss being home.  The two looked at each other for a moment, before Sarah hugged her again and said, “I think I’m gonna go sleep some more.  It’s good to be back.”  She allowed herself some nostalgia.

She turned and walked from the room to the top of the stairs where she saw the front door opening.  Great.  Dad.

“Heyyyy Sarah!  My baby girl’s back.”  He managed to be way too loud.  Insufferably embarrassing.  He was carrying some grocery bags.  He set them down too hard.  He always acted like there was nothing wrong.

“Hey Dad,” Sarah said from the top of the stairs, with a particular amount of disdain.

“Do I get a hug?”

Sarah did not want to hug him.  He had gotten a little bit fat.  His face was no longer young and charming like it used to be.  He was almost 50, and definitely couldn’t convince someone he was younger than he was.  She walked down the steps.  Even when she reached the front hall she hadn’t decided whether to hug her dad or to walk past him into her room.  She figured the summer would go by the least smoothly if she antagonized him.  But he had already antagonized himself.

Sarah walked up to him avoiding eye-contact, knowing he would hold it if she looked up.  He had his arms open the whole time she was walking down the stairs.  He had to make this kind of thing way too obvious.  He had to overdo it.  She hugged him, a side sort of hug, but he pulled her in closer and her face pressed against his shirt.  It was a bit sweaty, but a least he didn’t smell like booze.

She almost wanted to press her face against him harder.  Listen to him breath, listen to his heartbeat.  Wrap her arms around his warm, strong body and squeeze.  The thought left a bad taste in her mouth.

He let go.  She let go.

“Good to have you back.”

“Yeah,” she said.  She needed to find a way to show him her bitterness.  That coming home sober on this day did not make everything okay.  Not the last 5 years.  She needed to find a way to show him that he was unforgiven.  She didn’t think she was succeeding.

She went to her room again.  Why was she so tired?  She closed the door and started waiting for dinner.  It would probably be at least an hour.  Her family still did that thing where the whole family sat down and had dinner together every night.   She felt bad that she wasn’t doing something with her siblings, but they knew she needed the rest.

She got in her bed for the second time of the day, and not the last time.  It might look like a hotel room bed now, but it was the same old mattress.  The perfect amount of softness.  She took off her jacket and sprawled out.  Sleeping would be better without most of her remaining clothing, but it already felt so much better without the jacket, and she wanted to be ready for dinner when it came.

Sarah wondered what would happen during the summer.  A whole four months.  She had never really had friends in the neighborhood.  She had been thinking a lot about how much it would suck having to be around Dad, but obviously she wasn’t going to spend her relief from school having one big four month long argument with him.  She used to have plans for the summer, things she wanted to do.  She would have soccer tournaments to play, and friends to stay up with at night and talk about boys, girls, boys again, and clothes.  Yes, she would have clothes.  Clothes to wear and clothes to shop for.  Some just to look at.  And she would never admit to the girls at school how she diligently maintained higher scores than Ben’s on who knows how many video games.  Or that she listened to classic rock in middle school.  And the movies!  There used to always be a movie she was waiting to see.

Now she felt like there was nothing to do, or maybe that if she did do something, it would still seem like doing nothing.  Was everything that boring?  She didn’t know.  Maybe she had forgotten how to do stuff with people who weren’t her friends from school.  It could be sorted out later though.  She closed her eyes.

When she opened her eyes, it was because someone was knocking on her door.

– – – – – – –

Knock knock knock.

Fifteen year old Sarah braced herself.  “Don’t come in here, Dad.”  The door handle moved.  “Dad, I swear to God, don’t come in here right now.”  She wished Mom was home.

He was in, his business clothes wrinkled and his smart phone in hand.  He could barely even walk straight.  Her room had started to feel more and more private as she got older.


“Sarah, I’ve had a long day, just listen.”

“What d’you want, Dad?”

“You over used your data again?”  The way he gestured was like adding “Duh.”

Sarah had overused her data again, but she would rather have this conversation with Mom around.  “Okay, Dad.  I’m sorry.  Can we do this another time?”

“Another time?  Are you serious?”  He stepped closer to Sarah, his eyes uncomprehending.

“Dad.  Out!”  She tried to push him out, but he had more than a few pounds on her, and she was able only to compress his torso a bit.

“You think money grows on trees or something?  You wanna pay your own phone bill?”

“Dad, I don’t care!”  Her allowance would have to be doubled for her to pay her own phone bill.

“What is this?” He wasn’t yelling anymore, or even looking at Sarah.  He was basically talking to himself.  “I didn’t raise my kids to be irresponsible little brats.”

Sarah looked at him, the way he was holding on to the door handle just so he could stay standing.  “Really Dad?”

“Yes really, Sarah, how many times do I have to fucking tell you?”

“Dad I literally used like 50 cents of extra data, okay?  Leave!”  She pushed him harder, enough that he took a step back.  He gave up and walked back out into the hall.

“I should just sell your phone online for all you give, ungrateful bitch.”  He wouldn’t remember calling her names in the morning.

– – – – – – –

The knock came again.  She really hoped it wasn’t Dad.  Not that it would have been such a grueling experience if he come to get her for dinner, but it was more that if it was him, it would show some sort of persistence.  A determination to interact with her, make amends.

“Sarah?”  The door opened.  It was Marisa.  “Come on, it’s time for dinner.”

“All right, I’m coming.”

Sarah managed to get to the kitchen table in less than three minutes.  Everyone was sitting in the same places as they always did.  Sarah’s chair was waiting for her, and the family had already started picking at their food.  Stir fry and rice.  Everyone was likely feeling some sort of “whole” feeling, having everyone sitting together again and all.

“You made it,” offered her Mom with and empathetic-looking smile.

“Yeah,” answered Sarah.

“Sooo, how was your junior year?” asked Ben, between mouthfuls.

“Yeah,” Marisa chimed in, “do you have a booooyfriend?”

Sarah shushed her sister as her parents laughed, and she tried her best not to blush.  She blushed.  It was excruciating.  She should have known that interrogation about boys was imminent, but she had only been home for a few hours.  Was it really necessary to get that conversation started already?

“Well do you?” Marisa asked after the laughter was over, grinning the biggest, dumbest grin Sarah had ever seen.  The kind of grin where the grinner is so dedicated to what they are grinning about that the grin itself seems like it cannot be contained.  The kind of grin that makes one want to slap it off the grinner’s face.  Sarah did not understand why is was such a pressing matter to Marisa, but Marisa was so genuinely curious.

“Well I have some friends who are boys…” Sarah started.  She did, of course, have a boyfriend, but she did not know she wanted her parents to know about it.  Well it wasn’t like they were going to meet him or anything.  She was about to admit to having a boyfriend when she realized that she would probably be asked approximately two million questions about him if she did.  She might just tell Marisa, later.  “I mean, not really.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ben asked.

“So there is someone who is not really your boyfriend?” added Marisa

Sarah laughed nervously.  “That’s not what I mean, guys.”  She was beginning to be uncomfortable.  Everyone was acting like there was nothing wrong, when there should be tension.  She glanced over at her Dad.  There was no way Dad had gotten better since Christmas.  Her family seemed too relaxed.  They seemed like they were pretending, somehow.  Sarah knew better.  She knew by the weary look in her mom’s eyes when she came through the front door.

Dad pushed himself gently up from the table and started wandering towards the cabinetry.  Oh God, here it comes.

“Hey, Jane, you want a drink?”

“No, Grant, I told you not tonight.” Mom answered, disappointed.

“All right, you don’t hafta.  It’s just wine.”  Mom looked like she was going to reply to that, but didn’t.

Sarah watched as her dad pulled a half-empty bottle of red wine from the cabinet and started pouring.  She knew it.  Yet she couldn’t believe her eyes.

“Hey dad, can you not?”

“You too?” Dad looked at Sarah incredulously.  “Everyone’s so bossy in this house.”  He tried to play it off like it wasn’t a big deal, like he was the one being oppressed.

“You said you’d be working on this.  I come home and you’re drinking on the first night of summer?” Sarah used to keep quiet about this stuff.  She would keep herself hidden, just like Dad’s vodka bottles, which she would pour out in the sink if she found them.

– – – – – – –

“What the fuck happened to my Smirnoff?” Dad was yelling at Mom in the kitchen.

“Clearly one of your kids must have dumped it,” Mom said cooly with her arms crossed.  “What do you want from me?”

Thirteen year-old Sarah was peering at the strife through a cracked door.  She didn’t want to watch, but she couldn’t look away.  She wanted to run away, to forget the fight she made her parents have, and what the alcohol would have done if it hadn’t been poured out.

“That stuff isn’t cheap, what the fuck am I supposed to do about this?”

“You weren’t even supposed to get those, Sean.  Maybe you should take the hint and stop coming home with bottles.  For your kids.”

“God damn it, Jane!  I spend so much money on the kids.  Their clothes, their sports, and fucking laptops!  I come home from a 10 hour shift and I want a drink, what’s wrong with that?”

He was being scary, but he loved Mom too much to hit her.  Never the less, Sarah flinched whenever Dad swore.  He would never hit mom, or anyone.  She tried her best to believe it.  All he was doing was complaining loudly.  Deep down inside, he knew he was complaining about himself.

“Because it’s not just tonight.  It’s every night-”

“Not every night,” Dad interrupted, but Mom raised her voice.

“And it’s not one drink; it’s enough to get you piss drunk.  How does this not seem like a problem to you, Grant?  Look at yourself!  You’re acting like a child right now.  I shouldn’t have to explain myself and neither should your kids.”

Dad stood wide eyed and shaking his head, oblivious.  “The kids barely notice the vodka, I barely even drink it in front of them.  Besides, I can handle a bit of alcohol, Jane.  I was just gonna get buzzed tonight.”  Dad’s face and posture made him look so innocent, so victimized, but Mom wasn’t having it.

“Yeah?  Sure.  The kids don’t notice fuckin’ vodka,” Mom said, shaking the empty bottles in Dad’s face.  She didn’t usually swear, and when she did it was always did so in an under-the-breath sort of way.  Mom put the bottles in the recycling bin and made to leave the room.

Sarah ran on her tip-toes back to her bed, where she thought she would burst into tears.  Instead, after waiting a few minutes for the tears to come, she sat up, completely dry-eyed.  Without thinking much of it, she took the bobby pin from her hair and twisted in half like she used to do with paperclips.  The gnarled end of each half exposed a glint of thin, broken steel.  She drew it across her inner arm just once, but it was enough to ruin her shirt with blood.  Only then did she cry.

– – – – – – –

“He is working on it honey,” Mom said calmly.  “We’re working on it.”  Ben and Marisa were being careful not to look up from their food.

“You hear that, Sarah?” Dad was sounding proud, like an elementary schooler when his Mom took his side in an argument he was having with his brother.  “So can I have a bit of wine?”  He was asking Sarah for permission.  Despicable.

“Whatever.”  Sarah realized she was being inexcusably immature.  But Dad was acting basically a tenth his age, which gave her some leeway.  Being mature was easier when she was around other mature people.

“Let’s calm things down, okay?” Look at Mom.  Always being such a good mom, doing exactly what you’d expect a mom to do.  “It’s the first night of summer like you said.  Let’s not make a mess of it already.  Dad’s gonna do his part, and that means you’re gonna do your part.”

“Right,” Sarah mumbled.  It was actually not okay for Dad to be drinking his wine at the table, but at least it was a compromise, sort of.  Dad was getting that look again.  That look that he got when he wanted people to feel sorry for him.  Of course, it was all fun and games to him.  Look how sad I am, look how much you judge me.  Pathetic.  He never took anything seriously, especially not himself.

He held a sort of mood that was comical, as if he knew his face wasn’t really going to install sympathy into Sarah’s heart.  Poking fun at her for her apparent jump to conclusions.  But of course, it was not a joke to Sarah, and he wouldn’t waste his time with it if there wasn’t a part of him that meant it.  He knew that he had become seen by his family as undeserving of his position as a father.  He felt sorry for himself, and he wanted the family to as well.

The rest of dinner was a little tense, but it was relatively smooth.  Eating dinner as family was sort of nostalgic.  Things lightened after a couple minutes, and regular dinner conversation continued.  Sarah told her family about how she already knew who she would room with next year at school.  She told them about how she brought up her grade in English to a B right at the end of the year, saving her GPA.  She told them about how her current roommate’s boyfriend was the most annoying person ever and how the food at the cafeteria had gotten a little better but still sucked.  It was mostly stuff that her family was interested in hearing, but had no actual reason to know about it.  Except maybe the thing about her grades.  She surprised herself, that is, by opening up and talking the way she did.  She hadn’t really had plans to be detached, but looking back on it, she knew she had been expecting, if only subconsciously, to be detached.

The family had gotten in the habit of playing hearts during evenings, after the board games they owned grew old on them.  Besides, it was a game of strategy, so the losers couldn’t complain about losing due to the luck of the game.  Mom suggested that they all played hearts and had ice cream.  The idea sounded good to everyone except for Dad, who said he was too tired to play and was going to bed early.  He also had never won.  That was okay, because hearts was a better four player game than five player.

Sarah sat around the kitchen table once more with a hand of cards and a bowl of coffee ice cream.  If there was a way to enjoy time with her family, this was it.  The familiar suspense and despair of the game was coming back sweetly: they always played for blood.  It was all in good fun though.  Sarah let the frozen flavor melt in her mouth while staring down her sister, wondering if she was trying to shoot the moon or not.  She was, as she would find out, and she did.  Mom ended up winning it all though.  That was better than if Marisa or Ben won.  If one of them won, Sarah would be subtly bitter.  She felt a little guilty about that.

The cards were stacked and bowls were placed in the sink to be dealt with the next day.  Everyone was ready for bed, and went to their own room.  Sarah remembered when she used to share a room with Marisa.  There was something good about sharing a room, something she missed.  She saw her siblings painfully less often nowadays.  She opened the door to her room and flicked on the lights.  She looked at her bed and wondered in a curious sort of way how much of her summer she would spend on it.  If at the end of summer she had spent most of her time in bed, she’d probably feel like her summer had been a big waste.  Yet she could foresee staying in bed as being the most enjoyable thing to do at any given time.  If she kept herself out of bed merely so she would feel better about it later, what did that make her?  Sarah decided such thoughts could wait.  It was summer, and she did not really want to have thoughts.  Taking a break from thinking in general would be nice.

But then again, the last month or so of school had been quite a chore, and she felt as if she had spent the whole month just waiting for school to be over.  That meant that if she wanted to maintain her dignity, she ought to wait until the first 2 months of summer had passed to start just waiting for school to start again.

Sarah had been dozing, but it was some time after midnight that she woke up again and felt that it would be a while before she could get to sleep again.  It was so annoying when that happened.  The light in the front hall was on, creating a thin stream of light in her room through the cracked door.  Out of habit, she pushed herself out of bed to go turn off the light, and any other lights that might have been left on downstairs.  Her family was asleep by this hour, and always forgetting this kind of stuff.  She got to the hall and glanced around.  There was light coming from the kitchen too.  Great.  She walked down the hall.  When she stuck her head in the doorway to reach for the light, she saw in the corner of her eye Dad sitting at the table and wondered, not for the first time, how it was possible the he was her biological father.

She didn’t turn off the light.  Instead, she turned towards the kitchen and faced a bleak, familiar scene.  Her dad was wearing basketball shorts and a tank top.  His gut protruded rudely and his feet were almost falling out of loose, dirty socks.  The bags under his eyes made him look tired, though the eyes themselves were wide awake, noticeably bloodshot, and focused on Sarah.  He made no effort to hide the cup or the half empty vodka bottle on the table.  He was, in that moment, reaching maximum wretchedness.  Caught in his crime, and bleakly nonchalant.  What happened to, “We’re working on it?”  She felt a burning in her chest and throat.  An anger that when contained fought to escape in the form of tears.  Sarah fought back.  Now, in the time that should be his greatest shame, he would not avert his eyes, though Sarah willed him to.  She willed him to look away, maybe to say her name, to apologize, or say something at the very least.  She wanted to fight him.  She wanted to yell.  She wanted to throw the bottle against the wall, hear it shatter, and walk out.

She had, instead, after a brief eye-contact, averted her own eyes and let out a feeble whimper.  There were many things in the world Sarah did not understand, but it was more baffling to her than anything else why, in that moment, she was the one filled with shame.

He was still looking at her.  Still waiting for a response.  He had been caught with nothing to hide, and he just wanted to know what she was going to do about it.  He was so proud, but perhaps there was a hint of sadness in his eyes.  He had failed his daughter so completely, so promptly.  Sarah would not give him the satisfaction of hearing her voice, no.  That much she knew right away.  He could not get the response he wanted from her, he did not deserve even that.  She decided she would do something she had promised herself years ago that she would never do, and could not mess it up.  She would  not.

She walked to the cabinet and got a cup.  She closed the cabinet and turned to look her dad in the eye, who was obviously not planning on talking either.  She went to the table and sat across from him, and set the glass on the table.  Staring him down, she reached for the vodka, and somehow, she knew he would not stop her.  She could have done anything and he wouldn’t have even moved.  She poured, slowly, until the glass was half full, at which point her father’s eyes grew wide.  She knew it was way too much for her, but she was making a fucking statement, so it didn’t matter.  She knew it would taste awful, and probably burn, but she didn’t exactly know what to expect.  She knew she had to down it as fast as she could or she wouldn’t be able to finish.  Her eyes were locked in place, and her dad, in his pathetic silence, had fear smitten on his face.

She raised her glass to him and uttered, “Cheers,” with a stone-cold straight face.  Even at this point, he looked as if he didn’t believe she would follow through.  Without hesitating, she tilted her head back a little, and gulped it down in three large, painful gulps.  It was entirely foul, and even worse than she had guessed.  She stared at him once more, and her eyes began to water as her body convulsed and she swallowed again to keep it down.  After five or ten seconds, she knew it was down for good, and she had tears running down her cheeks.  Now she was the one waiting for a response, but she knew he was speechless.

He looked like he might cry.  Dejected, he stammered, averted his eyes, and pushed himself up from the table.  He had been ready for something, ready for her to yell, ready to yell back, but no.  He paused for a second, too drunk to say anything, but conscious enough to adequately process what he had just witnessed and remember it the next day.  He walked out and she listened to his slow, defeated footsteps ascend the stairs.

Sarah sat on her own at the table.  Placated she was, but yet immensely guilty.  She waited until she thought her dad would be asleep to cry.  She really let herself cry, like she used to as a child.  She hadn’t cried this hard since elementary school.  But it was different now, a woman’s cry, not a child’s.  She cried alone, weary and appeased, and was, in due time, serenely and extremely drunk.