“Perry,” my father warned.
“No. No, I am not quitting. This job is all I have!” The panic in my voice was unmistakable.
He laughed. It was bitter, angry. “It’s not a job. I have a job, Perry.”
“It pays. I am making money. I signed a contract to be employed by ShowNet. So it is a job.” I was losing my patience and afraid I was losing the war.
“I am not discussing this with you further. As long as you live in this house, you will not be doing that show.”
“Oh yeah? Well, try and stop me,” I said, crossing my arms, surprised at my own stubbornness and nerve.
He looked surprised too. He sat back down in his armchair with a heavy sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose.
My mother spoke up gently, “Perry, we’re more concerned with the fact that you lied to us. I didn’t think you would lie like that anymore.”
“I said I was sorry,” I mumbled but kept my stance. “And I am sorry. I feel terrible about it. I haven’t been able to sleep, I haven’t been able to eat. And I’m not lazing around doing nothing, I’m out every day looking for jobs. It’s just hard. No one is hiring.”
“This wouldn’t be a problem if you hadn’t messed everything up,” dad said. “You had a chance for a great career and you threw it away. I mean, you actually had it in your hands, Perry. We were so proud of you. Why did you have to ruin it? Why do you have to make problems for yourself? You need to just…grow up.”
The tears were coming again. Not from anger or frustration but because I truly did feel terrible. I hated lying to them and even more than that, I hated the fact that they thought less of me.
The tears spilled down my cheeks but I tried to hold it together.
“I’m so sorry,” I said again, feeling utterly, destructively helpless.
“Just…go, Perry. Your mother and I have a lot to talk about,” my father said, turning his attention away from me. It was like he couldn’t even look in my direction anymore.
I sniffled, wiping my tears on my coat jacket and took off up the stairs, my vision blurring. I almost tripped on the last step but suddenly Ada was beside me and had me by the arm. We didn’t say anything to each other; she just took me down the hall to her room and led me inside. I stumbled through my tears and flopped onto her bed.
I spent a few minutes heaving into the down comforter, my sobs choking my breath. Ada patted me on the back and I was thankful for the rare affection from my little sister.
“Parents just don’t understand,” I said into the blanket, my voice muffled.
“What?” she asked.
I rolled over and gave her a weak smile. “Will Smith was onto something.”
She still looked puzzled at my old school rap reference. “Whatever. I’m sorry they found out.”
“Did they figure out you knew?”
She nodded. No wonder it looked like she had been crying. They laid into her for lying for me, for trying to save my ass. I felt very guilty for bringing her into my mess, for having to cover up my lies. I told her that.
“It’s OK,” she said licking her finger and wiping away her mascara smudges on her cheeks. “They were mad, though. Dad said some pretty mean stuff.”
“I bet Mom wasn’t an angel either,” I scoffed.
She tilted her head. “Actually…Mom was standing up for you.”
I sat up a bit straighter. “Really?”
My mom and I weren’t exactly close. We never had been. That feeling that I had earlier, that she was afraid of me…it didn’t exactly come from nowhere. I always felt my mom treated me with kid gloves, more for her own concern than mine.
“Yeah. She thought maybe this would lead you to something better down the road. The show. Not the whole fake job thing. She even told Dad it wasn’t that big of a deal if you didn’t have a job at the moment since you were living at home anyway.”
That didn’t sound like my mom at all.
She shrugged and got off the bed. She peered in the mirror. “I don’t know, it’s just what she said. Then Dad ended up yelling at her. You know, the usual stupid shit. And I ran away while I could. And that’s why I told your stupid ass not to come home.”
Well, would it have killed you to text a little more information? I thought, but didn’t say anything. She had done enough for me already.
She glanced at me. “So what are you going to do now? What are you going to say to Dex?”
Dex. Oh shit. For the first time in awhile, I had completely forgotten about him.
“You going to call him?” She came over to the bed and sat beside me.
“I can’t deal with that now,” I said, though I knew I would have to tell him something. I was supposed to meet him in Seattle on Friday.
It was just too much. My head began to spin wildly and I fell back into the covers, closing my eyes, wanting to shut everything out.
“Want me to text him?” she asked.
I sighed. “Could you?”
She reached into my coat pocket and pulled my phone out. “There’s only one Dex in your contacts, right?”
“OK, well what do you want me to write? Sorry dude, I have to bail. Forever...” She trailed off dramatically.
“Oh, give it to me,” I said impatiently, and snatched it from her hands. If I had to think about what to say, I might as well write it myself.
I typed the first thing that came to my head.
– Bad news. My parents are forbidding me to do the show. I’m so sorry. I’ll try and talk them out of it but no promises. I am so sorry. –
I hesitated before pressing Send. It felt like a cop–out. But I did press it and threw the phone away from me. I covered my eyes with my hands.
I waited a few seconds before I nervously eyed it. It was on silent after all.
Ada followed my gaze and peered at the phone.
“Nothing yet,” she said. She looked back at me, “What are you more upset about? Losing the show or losing Dex?”
The question startled me. It was oddly accurate. “Who are you, my shrink now?”
“Well, since the old shrink quit, I –” she started with a smirk.
“Shut up,” I cut her off.
“Hey,” she smacked my leg. “You owe me, stupid head.”
“I know.” I just wanted to avoid the question. Finally I said, “It’s both.”
That was the truth. I was terrified of losing the show because it’s all I had going for me. It’s what kept me going, kept my confidence, kept a strange sense of importance and destiny in my soul. It’s like I was meant to do this (do something) after years of searching blindly for anything that made me feel like I was as good enough as anyone else, or hell, even better, and I didn’t want to let it go.
And Dex. I couldn’t let Dex go. It was no secret I was in love with him, no matter how hard I tried to push my feelings down or rationalize it in some logical way. I just loved the guy. I know I didn’t know him that well – but I loved what I did know. And what I didn’t know drove me crazy like some book that you can’t stop reading, just to see how it ends, just to see if your hunches were right. The thought of losing him, even as just his dorky little partner, pained me. Literally. The more I thought about it, the more my heart seized up in sharp little spasms. I put my hand on my chest in an effort to soothe it.
There was pity in Ada’s big blue eyes. She knew. I didn’t have to say anything. Silence enveloped us both as I got lost in my own thoughts, and she in hers.
“Things will work out,” she eventually said.
I really wanted to believe that. “Must be nice to be young and optimistic.”
“You’re young too.”
“Well, I’m not 15-years old anymore. When I was 15, I thought I was invincible. And don’t say anything about how I was all fucked up back then; it’s not part of my point.”
She kept her snide remarks to herself and looked over at the phone. An apprehensive wave flashed across her brow. I knew the text had come through.
She handed it to me. I didn’t want to look at it. I gave it back to her.
“You read it. Don’t tell me what it says,” I said.
She read it over. I studied her face carefully. The side of her mouth stretched slightly. It wasn’t good. I felt sick.
“What does it say?” I asked.
“You told me not to tell you!”
“It’s bad, isn’t it? He’s mad, isn’t he?”
“Uh. I’d say so. He says ‘Are you shitting me? You need to be an adult and learn to handle your parents better. This is fucking ridiculous’.”
“Oh my God,” I gasped and took the phone. She wasn’t lying or sugar–coating it either. “Wha…what do I say? He hates me.” I spat out the last words. The tears pinched behind my eyes, threatening to emerge again.
“What did you expect, Perry? I mean…he’s kind of right.”
I fastened my eyes on her, hoping her smug face would burst into a million flames. She flinched a little and that same look I saw in my mother’s eyes passed over hers. All the anger and bitterness from earlier was rising up from my throat. It wanted to come out and get her.
I closed my eyes tightly and tried to keep calm. I felt so disjointed. It was hard to get control of my thoughts and to keep reality in check. She was just being Ada; I should have known better than that. And Dex had every right to be mad. If he hated me, I could only just accept it. I was the only one to blame here.
There was so much shame inside me. So much that it scared me. I felt like I was heading down a big, deep hole again. Who would pull me out this time? I couldn’t even trust myself to do it. I was a miserable, pathetic mess. No job. No show. No Dex.
“Are you OK?” Ada asked. I realized I had been off in my head, boring holes in her Zac Efron poster with my eyes. I wasn’t sure how much time had passed but my knuckles were blue from gripping my phone.
I wasn’t OK. Not in the slightest. I needed to either pass out and push the world go away, or embrace it and put on the angriest music I had. Since almost all of my music was angry rock and heavy metal, that wouldn’t be a problem. NIN might do the trick. Then I would systematically trash my bedroom and maybe put a hole in my wall. I’d done it before.
“You know what,” she said getting up. “I’m going to go make you some tea. Then we’ll think of what to do next and stuff.”
I nodded bleakly and laid my head down on her pillow.
The sound of the doorbell’s jarring ring entered my dreams and eased me awake. Something about water, darkness, a baby crying. Then the fragments of the dream were gone. Where was I? My eyes focused lazily on the silky ribbon tails that were sticking out of Ada’s desk drawer. She had won those years ago when she was a promising ballerina. She must be ashamed of them now, I thought absently.
I raised my head up higher and looked at her alarm clock. It was 8 p.m. There was a full cup of tea on the bedside. I must have fallen asleep while she made it for me.