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Fiction

I don’t want to sleep when my parents fight. The last time they got loud like this, I slept. When I woke up, Mom was gone. After weeks of cereal and sandwiches, she came back. I don’t want to lose her again.

Their fights are happening more and more. I can’t sleep. I keep falling asleep in science class. Mrs. Reed is so nice. She gives me extra time on tests. And my friends let me copy their notes. But the other kids are mean. They laugh when I show up late, and they put stuff in my hair when I sleep. Who ever told them it was okay to be mean?

“Eric, I’ve hit my limit!” My mom yelled from downstairs. “I can’t keep doing everything all on my own!”

“Tiff, just give me a bit more time!” My dad shouted back.

Dad stays at home a lot. He sleeps most of the time. Mom works for our dentist. Every year on Take Your Child to Work Day, she takes me and Lola to the office with her. We help put together the goodie bags. I don’t want to be a dentist when I grow up, but the x-rays are cool. I want to be an explorer and see the world. I’m learning a lot about Ancient Rome right now. The gladiators scare me. I bet the Colosseum’s haunted.

We haven’t gone on many vacations. Mom’s too busy. But I remember visiting family in Mexico. My abuela lives with us, and we got to meet her sister Sofia. She said she was our abuela too. The whole time we were there, they never stopped laughing. I hope Sofia visits us when things are normal again.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

I rushed to tuck myself under the covers and slammed my eyes shut.

“Cami?” When I heard Lola’s voice, I sighed and propped myself up on my elbows.

“What’s up?”

“Can I sleep with you?”

“Sure.” I scooted over to make room for Lola. She’s two years younger than me. Her favorite color is blue, and she likes to swim. Sometimes, we fight like Mom and Dad, but we’re good at forgiving each other. We don’t like to be mad. It’s not a good feeling.

“Are they gonna stop fighting?” Lola asked.

“I hope so. Try to sleep,” I said, looking at the ceiling.

“Are Mommy and Daddy going to live far away from each other?”

My friend Piper stays at her Mom’s during the weeks and her Dad’s on the weekends. She doesn’t like going back and forth, but her parents said this was what their family looked like. I hope my family doesn’t look like that. We’re really happy together, just not now.

“I don’t know, Lola. Try to sleep.” She shut her eyes, and I stared through the window.

“You haven’t done shit for our family for months!”

We gasped at Mom’s bad word.

“You know I’m trying!”

“Not hard enough!”

Dad used to work on construction sites. He helped build the offices by the grocery store. He got hurt last year, and he’s been at home since. He doesn’t come with us to the park. Before he said I could get a dog, but we can’t get one now.  It’s too expensive, so I’ve been saving my allowance. I have forty-five dollars. I don’t know how much dogs cost, but I hope I can get one for my birthday this year.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

The light from the hallway shined behind a short person. It was our abuela. After closing the door behind her, she shuffled into the room and sat on the foot of the bed. “Girls, are you alright?”

While I shrugged, Lola asked, “Are Mommy and Daddy going to live far away from each other?”

“No, mi vida. Just try to sleep. You too.” She looked at me, so I tried to go to bed. I closed my eyes and heard my abuela open the window. The cicadas were buzzing louder than ever before. Maybe they knew Mom and Dad were fighting and didn’t want me to hear. I knew tonight was going to be bad, but the cicadas made it better. When I heard my door creak, I opened one eye and saw my abuela was gone. Why did she leave us?

“You two need to stop.” I strained to hear her voice from downstairs, so I jumped out of bed and shuffled to the top of the stairs. “Your daughters can’t sleep. Shut up and work this out when they aren’t around.” While muttering to herself, she shuffled away. My parents didn’t say a single word after that, and I snuck back into my room.

“What happened?” Lola asked.

“Mom and Dad got in trouble.” I tucked under the covers. “You can go back to your room now,” I added, tossing and turning.

“Can I stay with you tonight?”

I sighed and said, “Fine.” Lola went to bed with a smile on her face, and I listened to the cicadas for another ten minutes before falling asleep. In school, I learned that male cicadas sing for female cicadas. Dad used to sing for us. Then, he’d start dancing with Mom. She’d smile and laugh. We don’t laugh as much nowadays. Dad doesn’t sing. Mom doesn’t dance. I wish we were back to the way things were.

***

I woke the next morning and rolled out of bed like a secret agent, to make sure I didn’t wake up Lola. Before facing my parents, I rubbed my eyes and stretched. As I tiptoed down the stairs, I smelled bacon. Once I saw the kitchen, my Dad looked up from the stove and said, “Hey there, sweetie.”

“Where’s Mom?” I looked around for any sign she was gone. Her shoes were still next to the door. Her purse hung above them.

“She’s taking a shower. How do you want your eggs?”

I looked around some more. I know Dad said she was in the shower, but I still didn’t see her. “I don’t care.” Where was she?

Just then, I heard Lola laughing. “Good morning, everyone.” I whipped back to the stairs to see my mom and sister coming to join us. I sighed.

“Good morning,” Dad said back to them. He went to kiss Mom. She turned away, so he kissed her cheek. It wasn’t the same as singing and dancing, but at least I could still hear the cicadas.

March 25, 2022 00:18

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