“They always do go bad.”
Grandfather’s comment ends the conversation and I already know they’re thinking about me. Poor Morgan, who somehow couldn’t get a single A in school. Poor Morgan, who couldn’t seem to carry out the simplest task without messing up. Even though their conversation hadn’t been about her, I know what Grandfather meant by his last comment.
Morgan, who went bad.
I can’t stand the silence so I excuse myself, clearing my place of its untouched plate as I leave. My fork clinks against the ceramic, uncomfortably loud in the silent room. I don’t look up at anyone, partly because it would be awkward and partly because I already know what they’d all look like, down to their facial expressions.
Dad is looking intently at his salad, maybe stirring it up a little. He’s frustrated, but if I look up I won’t see it on his face. Dad has always been good at hiding his emotions. Mom is staring at the glowing surface of her phone, moving her well-manicured thumb up and down mechanically. She probably hasn’t heard a word we’ve said during dinner. She hasn’t listened to a word I’ve said for months. And Grandfather, he’s just shaking his head at his plate, at the conversation, at me. His face is no mask. He shows his disgust plainly. Painfully.
If I look up I know this is what I’ll see. So I don’t. I just put my plate, clean as it is, in the cluttered sink and leave the room.
But I don’t leave all the way. As soon as I’m out of sight, I stop walking and press my ear against the wall, listening as I always do. Eavesdropping like the poor Morgan they always talk about when they think I’m getting ready for bed.
The silence continues longer than most nights, but at last Grandfather speaks.
And he leaves it at that. It hurts. I know what he means when he says that, I can feel the disgust seeping out of his words. Dad doesn’t answer, and Grandfather just grunts.
Tonight has been normal.
Then dad stands up, sliding his chair backwards. The floor complains with a drawn out creak, and dad starts walking towards the doorway I’m standing next to. Time to leave.
I head for the stairs, my room, and safety. I don’t want them to see me, I don’t want Dad to know I was eavesdropping.
I don’t make it.
Halfway up the stairs, I hear Dad call my name. I bolt up the stairs heedless of the noise I’m making. I stop running when my bedroom door is locked behind me.
Tonight finally changed. For the worse.
I sit on my bed and pull a blanket over my knees. I reach under my pillow for my MP3 player, but then I realize I don’t want to listen to music. I just want to cry. But I can’t.
I’m so mad that Dad saw me. Now he knows I’ve heard them talking. I’ve confirmed Grandfather’s opinion of me.
Now I can hear Dad and Grandfather arguing. I don’t want to hear their words, I don’t ever want to hear either of them again.
I reach to my back pocket and pull out my phone to text Erin.
Erin, what’s up?
I wait for several seconds, enough to hear Grandfather’s shouting again. My phone blings.
Can’t talk, busy right now.
I text back anyway. She’s not that busy.
Where are you?
Seriously, can’t talk. Maybe tomorrow?
I glare at the phone screen as if it were Erin. Why is she ignoring me? I go to text Devin, he’s my next best friend. He’s funny if nothing else.
What’s up Devin?
I’m at a party! :)
Of course he’s at a party. While I’m here.
I wait over a minute for Devin to respond, just me staring at the screen. I hear the notification noise before I see the message.
Sorry, I took a while responding. Had to grab some chips. This is Dessie’s party. Here’s a pic.
The picture attached shows Devin with his mouth stuffed full of chips, hardly smiling with his mouth so full. Behind him there are more people but I can’t tell who.
Who else is there?
Um… Dessie, of course. Then there’s Gabe, Erin, Gus, Hannah, and Jed Christensen. I don’t know anyone else. Why aren’t you here?
I try to read the whole message, but my eyes can’t get past one name. Erin. Erin was busy? I forget Devin’s text completely as I type two words to Erin.
I wait for her to respond. The message says she’s seen it, but she doesn’t text back. In that moment I hate her. Why couldn’t she just say she was at a party? Why is she at the party anyway? I remember Devin asking me why I wasn’t there, and I go to respond.
I wasn’t invited.
:( Well, that’s sad.
Was he just gonna leave it at that?
Devin, who is Erin hanging out with?
Dessie, and Gabe. Why?
No reason, just wondered. How’re the chips?
I smile. Tonight just got better and worse. Mostly worse, but I can’t help but smile at Devin’s replies. Erin…
Maybe things will be better tomorrow. I’ll be able to talk to her in person. Then she’ll explain herself and things will go back to normal between us.
But as I lay in bed I know it’s not that simple.
Erin has been seeming more distant as the weeks go by. Not knowing what to do, I haven’t done anything. As I think about how our friendship has been weakening, I feel more and more guilty. I can try to justify my silence, telling myself I didn’t know, but I did know.
I did know, and I did nothing about it.
I turn off my phone, dropping it on the floor next to my bed. I turn onto my side and try to fall asleep but can’t. The summer air is hot, so I open my window to try to get the air moving. Outside it’s as hot as inside, only bordering more on the icky end of heat. No breeze. I shut the window again, regretting opening it in the first place.
I know I won’t be able to sleep, so I just sit at my desk, wondering what I did wrong.
Author Notes: This isn't the end of the story, I might post the rest later.