MIW Critique #3

(Note: this is not a first page. It is a flashback – backstory that will show up later in the story.)

 I sat on the school bus with my book bag hugged tight to my chest. It was hard to keep from smiling so I laughed out loud at the Baldwin brothers who were playing Monkey-in-the-Middle with geeky Lawrence Simpson’s baseball cap. I knew it was bullying, but I was too happy to get all serious and righteous right then.

It had been a hard semester. Another new school.  That was life for a military brat like me. Middle school was different from grade school. Changing classes, lockers, study halls. I hardly went outside during the week, saving my free time for Mom on Saturdays and Sundays. We shared the same kooky love of art and either spent our time discovering new art museums, or taking our paints and easels someplace to paint, just the two of us.

I tapped the front of the book bag, imagining that I could feel the heavy envelope holding my report card. Of course, I couldn’t, but it was enough to know it was there. My insides were like jelly with all the anticipation.

Mom gave me a peck on the cheek when I entered the kitchen. Nothing on the stove and no smells coming from the oven. That was strange. Did she remember it was report card day? Maybe they were planning on taking me out to dinner to celebrate. I gave her a quick squeeze and headed for my room. She wouldn’t ask to see it until my Dad got home. That was the ritual.

My sister was in the family room watching Sponge Bob Square Pants. I waved hello but she was so engrossed she didn’t even blink away from the TV.

In my room, I slipped the card out of the envelope and traced my fingers over the grades. This was going to be the best. Dad was strict about grades but he understood how hard it was for me. This was going to make them so proud of me.

Things had been rather quiet between my parents lately. Mom had a hard time adjusting to new towns, not unlike me. Whatever was going on, this would surely put a smile on their faces.

Dad’s car pulled in the driveway at exactly 6:20, like clockwork. I heard hushed voices in the kitchen. I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Mom was probably reminding him what day this was.

When my dad called me into his den. I clasped the envelope in my hand and forced myself to walk, not run down the hall. My heart was leaping with joy and I knew that I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat in the Alice in Wonderland.

Dad was sitting behind his desk, jacket off and sleeves rolled up. Mom sat on the edge of the love seat. Neither were smiling. Something was wrong. I started to hand my report card to my dad, but when he began to speak, slow and deep, I pulled it back into my lap where I had sat next to Mom.

“Destiny,” he began. “Your mother has something to tell you.” He looked over at Mom and his eyes flashed a stormy grey.

Mom took my hands in hers. The envelope slipped off my lap and settled on the carpet at our feet. I didn’t bend to pick it up. My throat was suddenly dry.

“Destiny, you know how much we . . . um,” she looked at Dad and then back to me, “ . . . I love you, don’t you?”

All I could do was nod.

“Well, sometimes people fall out of love with each other.” Her eyes settled on Dad. “I still love your father, but I am no longer IN love with him.”

What the heck was that supposed to mean? What a stupid thing to say. I looked at her, then at my dad, where he was examining his fingernails. I wanted to ask what all this meant, but I couldn’t find any words.

“We’re getting a divorce, darling,” Mom said, her voice shaking, making it sound staccato, like our music teacher taught us last week. “I’m going away for a while. We think it would be best if you stayed with your father. I’m going to be traveling around for a while and you’re just getting settled in your new school. We think it is best this way. You can join me when school gets out in the spring, if you want. ”

Best for whom? I pulled my hands from hers. Divorce? When my friend Tammy’s parents got a divorce, she said there was a lot of yelling and throwing things. Her Mom even scratched big streaks down her father’s face. I saw them when he picked us up after school. Mom said it wasn’t polite to bring it up so I pretended I didn’t see. Mom and Dad never fought, and I couldn’t imagine anyone ever hitting him. Moms don’t just decide to walk away. Where was she going? Why didn’t she want to take me?

“What about Angel?”

Mom looked down at her hands. “She’s too little to live with your Dad. I’m taking her with me.”

Whoa! Where was she going? Mom was leaving and taking my little sister, but she didn’t want me? I thought she loved me. What about all those times we spent together painting, and those long talks we used to have? Why was I the one being left behind? I had to get out of there. I couldn’t look at her anymore. I picked up the envelope with the report card from the floor and tossed it at her. “Here, just in case you are interested. Straight A’s. Happy Travels.”

I burst into tears and ran from the room.

In my room, I collapsed on the bed, pulling Bugsy, my favorite stuffed bunny close to my chest. This couldn’t be happening. What did I do to make her want to leave, without me? What would we do if it was just Dad and me? Dad didn’t know anything about taking care of kids, or a house. I’ve never seen him even heat soup in the microwave. Mom did everything. We’d starve to death. And who was going to paint with me? Who was going to help me with my homework when Dad was at work? Would I stay home all alone when he was deployed again? She can’t take Angel away from me. Yea, sometimes Angel was a pain, getting into all my stuff and wanting to hang with me and my friends all the time, but she was kind of cute.