The hot Texas air filled the bathroom with a humid smell of cattle and tobacco; Tanya’s lavender scented bubble bath barely knocking a dent in the heavy atmosphere. She absentmindedly flicked the purple bubbles with her pinkie finger, watching them explode from perfect spheres into nothingness. The smell of nicotine began to drift up the stairs, signaling that her mom’s new boyfriend had lit up a smoke. She pictured his brown hair and side burns, his pale blue eyes, trying to remember what his name was. Henry? No, that wasn’t right… maybe Joey? Wait, that wasn’t it either. Her mom had broken up with him a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t really matter anyway; none of the men mom brought home were around for long. Her mom didn’t seem to notice this ever-present cycle, but it was there. The man would be brought home from some sort of bar or club. He’d then be introduced to Tanya as “yer new daddy.” When Tanya had been real young she had sometimes called them that, “daddy”. She always wanted a dad; but ever since she was old enough to understand the cycle, she’d realized it wasn’t worth getting her hopes up. Now she just nodded curtly, then waited a week or two for her mama to break up with the man and find someone new. That was the system, the way her life worked.
I’m not crazy about Sundays to begin with, and this particular Sunday, with me being awkwardly in love didn’t help. Every Sunday, all day long, I keep thinking about having to go back to school on Monday, and how I’ll have to wait until baseball practice on Wednesday to see Betsie Newton again. So there I was, lost in my same old Monday-is-tomorrow, Sunday evening funk-mood, walking home from my friend Alex’s house, when I heard someone calling me in a sing-song voice: “Rob–ert…”
I barely heard it.
“Rob–ert…” I looked behind me and I saw someone riding a bicycle toward me. She was pedaling slowly. Soon I could make out that it was her: Betsie Newton. “Well, now I don’t have to wait until Wednesday after all,” I thought.
And I smiled.
Betsie is my little league coach’s daughter. She started coming to games and practices with her father and brother a couple of weeks ago, and things have gotten progressively more complicated for me ever since. I should have known that it was her, since she’s just about the only person that ever calls me “Robert.” Most everyone else calls me Bob. My mood improved significantly, and I tucked my shirt in.
I turned and waited for Betsie as she eventually, finally peddled to where I stood.
“Hey, how’s it goin’?” she said. She smelled like strawberries.
“Okay, I guess. I’m just hoofin’ it home for dinner.” I looked vaguely in the direction of my house. Alex’s dad had invited me to stay for dinner, but I didn’t even bother to call my mom and ask her if I could stay; I knew she would probably say yes and then torment me later with subtle, soft psychological torture designed to induce maximum guilt, so I declined. You see, Alex’s mom pissed-off my mom for an undisclosed reason, and even though Alex’s mom didn’t even live there anymore, I guess it became a kind of ‘guilt-by-association’ kind of thing.