Like Nothing Ever Happened
Brad had to drop everything to fit her dating schedule. He bandaged his wrist, fought against the needle sharp rain out back, and tossed the first-aid kit in the dumpster. In twenty minutes, Janine would be dropping Sarah off again on a Thursday, a day he normally wouldn’t have her, so she could meet Kyle, and the place had to be spotless, like nothing ever happened.
White hairs had begun to sprout in the midst of his scruff. He didn’t like the reflection he saw in the bathroom mirror. His eyes were sunken, his hair, unkempt. But it wasn’t his appearance that bothered him. He just didn’t recognize the man staring back.
He placed a bible next to the lamp, more a decoration than a set of spiritual guidelines. As his old man used to say, “As long as you live under my roof, you abide by God’s rules.” He sat on his mattress, picked up the razor he cut his wrist with and tossed it in the trash bin. It was the third time in two months, but the scars left behind were barely visible.
His marriage to Janine had given him his only daughter Sarah. His friends and co-workers at St. John’s helped her through the birth, and then helped him through the divorce soon after. Unbeknownst to him, Janine never wanted a child, but claimed to have told him countless times. Why she endured the pregnancy for nine long months was beyond him. Brad opened the sock drawer and uncovered his old wedding ring, holding it as if were a clump of dried mud, susceptible to crumbling.
On the headboard he kept a picture of Sarah from her first day of school. According to Janine, she’d be wearing her new Hello Kitty backpack today and really wanted to show it to him. Janine purchased whatever Sarah wanted, but only if it shut her up long enough to give her and her flavor-of-the-week time alone. His daughter loved showing him her toys. Even though he didn’t have a lot of money, he looked forward to giving her all the attention she deserved.
Pacing through the house, he was reminded how bare bones it was. One bedroom and bathroom, gray walls, a TV, couch, fold-out lawn chair, and Sarah’s duct taped bean bag. Brad worked to survive on his own after Janine won the settlement in the divorce, and she felt such pity for his sudden job loss that she agreed to allow him weekend visits. When Sarah had crawled across his floor for the first time, he realized how rich he actually was. He set out Capri Sun drinks and a bag of cheese curls for her arrival.
Janine’s SUV squealed out front, and his phone buzzed. He answered, and she started with,“I promised Sarah you’d take her to the movies this weekend so you know.” He said, “I can barely afford gas for that piece of shit Pontiac out in the driveway.”
“You have a job,” she said. “You should be saving for these occasions.”
He said, “I don’t have the job I used to.” He almost blamed her for losing his job at the hospital, and now he’d have to let his daughter down. Janine loved playing him for the bad guy.
“Kyle’s taking me to Branson,” she said. “We’ve got reservations at the new bed and breakfast and tickets to the Branson Belle.”
He hung up, and moments later, he heard footsteps pitter-patter on the wet sidewalk. Brad quickly slipped into his a long sleeve shirt and went to the living room.
The screen door swung open, and like nothing ever happened, Sarah was there.