Thursday, 18 November 2021 08:04

Departure by Andi Michelson

Departure by Andi Michelson“You can still change your mind.” I shake the sweaty tendrils of hair out of my face. They annoy me. The heat and the exhaust smell from the buses annoy me. He annoys me.

Derik lifts those steady brown eyes to meet mine. “I need to go, Rissa. He asked me to come.”

“Yeah, you. Not me. I’m his kid, too!” As I cross my arms and jut out my chin, I realize how silly I must look—like I’m 10 and not 16—and that makes me even angrier.

Derik looks up from the bus schedule on his cell phone and sighs. “Rissa, can you blame him? For not inviting you?”

Well, yes, I can. I can blame him for a lot of things. For leaving Mom and us. For starting over with his new family. For making promises and not keeping them.

Derik reminds me, “The last time we went, you were so rude to Angela.”

Angela. The new wife.

“You didn’t even hold the baby. Nothing is her fault, you know.”

Yeah, I know, but I sure won’t admit it.

My phone dings. A quick look. It’s Dad. I shove it back in my pocket.

Derik raises one eyebrow in that knowing big-brother way he has. “Dad, huh? Why don’t you see what he has to say?”

I know what he has to say. I read the letter he mailed me, the email he sent me, the texts he sends every few days. He’s sorry. Deeply sorry, but he just wasn’t happy, and this is all for the best. Blah-blah-blah. What I want to know is whose best?

I swing my car keys around one finger. “So, I’ll pick you up here Sunday night. You’re good?”

Derik hugs me with the arm that doesn’t have a backpack hanging from it. “I love you, Sis. Don’t be mad at me for going.”

As I pull up in front of our house, I see Mom sitting on the porch swing.

“So you decided not to go.” A statement, not a question.

“I wasn’t invited,” I choke out. Whatever. I don’t care, I tell myself.

This is news to Mom. She breathes in sharply, then lets it out slowly. She pats the seat beside her. “You’re angry, Rissa.”

No kidding. I slump onto the hard surface with a thunk.

“So was I, Rissa, but you know what? That anger doesn’t hurt him one lick. It hurts you.” She presses her finger into my chest. “It hurts you right here, until that bitterness turns your heart into stone.”

I pull my legs up onto the swing, making myself as small as I feel inside. “But how could he do that to us? Just walk away?”

“I don’t know, baby.” Mom coaxes my head onto her shoulder.

I feel IT bubble up inside me. Now that I look at it, it’s not pure anger—it’s tinged with fear. I whisper the awful thought: “If he could stop loving you…”

“Rissa, your daddy will always love you. It’s complicated. He was wrong with what he did, but I know he will always love you.”

Monday afternoon. Kids shove one another in a rush to get to their buses. As I slam my locker, I see Leila leaning against the wall, arms crossed over her chest.

“Hey, what’s up?” I ask.

She glares at me. “How could you? You’re supposed to be my best friend!”

“What?” Although the churning in my stomach tells me I do know what.

“The school newspaper? Remember? We had agreed that if we both didn’t make it, we wouldn’t do it!”

“I know, Leila, but they only had one spot to fill. I can’t help that!”

“You’re right, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it.”

“This is a great opportunity for me. It will look good on my college applications. I’m sorry--really sorry, Leila--but you know I’ve wanted this ever since we were freshman.”

She nods as she pushes off the wall. “You know what else I know, Rissa? You don’t keep your promises.” She brushes past me and stomps down the hallway.

I blow out my breath and think how ridiculous she’s being. Can’t she see I need to do this? Why should I give up something that will make me happy just for her?

Oh, no…I deflate like a balloon.

If I were really sorry, I wouldn’t be doing it. Maybe it was a foolish promise to make, but I did make it. Granted, breaking a promise like this isn’t even close to breaking marriage vows, but I guess now I see how selfishness can take root.

I stare at the empty hallway for a minute before taking out my cell phone. Do I call Leila first…or Dad?

Additional Info

AUTHOR BIO: Andi Michelson has always wanted to be a writer. Since she figured out that to be a WRITER, you have to actually WRITE, she has had 5 articles and a poem published. She is a lover of Jesus, and is a wife, mom and grandma. When she's not teaching piano lessons, she can usually be found walking her goats in the woods or getting dirt under her fingernails in the garden.

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