I stood in the driveway of the house I thought I’d never return to. My heart was beating fast as I saw the cozy scene through the dining room window. I saw my father place a bowl of salad in the middle of the table and smile affectionately at my younger brother. My older brother scowled when my father’s wife, Sandra, slapped his wrist, stopping him from grabbing a roll.
I clenched my teeth and squared my shoulders, stepping forward resolutely, my heels clicking on the pavement. I didn’t usually wear heels because I was already nearly six feet tall but today, I felt like I needed the extra height.
My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest as I stared at the white door in front of me. Taking a deep breath, I raised my fist and knocked, telling myself not to run away as I waited.
Sandra answered and the pleasant smile that was on her face immediately fell to be replaced with a look of horror. “No,” she whispered, obviously recognizing me.
“Hey Sandra,” I said, pushing her out of the way and stepping into the house.
“Donald!” Sandra yelled, her voice shrill and filled with panic as her eyes followed my movement. I looked at the pictures on the shelf, lining the foyer. They were all pictures of the family but not a single one of them had a little blonde girl with slightly crooked teeth in them.
I ran my tongue over my now straight teeth. Braces had been one of the last things my father had ever got me.
“What is it, Sandra?” my dad said before he caught sight of me. His jaw dropped and a look of pain and anger crossed his face.
“Hey Dad,” I said, giving him a wide grin even though all I wanted to do was cry. What happened to the days when he looked at me with love in his eyes, when I ran into his arms and he lifted me over his head as I squealed?
“Corinna,” he breathed. “What are you doing here?” His eyes couldn’t seem to leave my face and his skin had turned a frightening shade of white.
I shrugged, running my finger over the shelf, inspecting it for dust. “I was just hoping I could stay for a little while.”
“No,” Sandra said firmly, crossing her arms and standing next to my father. “Donald, she is not staying here. She’s trouble and you know it. We’ve been through this before.”
“Corinna, I really don’t think it’s a good idea. Where’s your mother?” he asked and a muscle ticked in his forehead at the mention of the woman who gave birth to me.
I smirked at them. “That’s the thing. Mommy dearest is in jail.”
“Oh my god,” Sandra muttered, turning half away from me and covering her mouth with her hand.
“What happened?” Donald asked, obviously shocked.
I shrugged, my smirk slipping. I swallowed hard, ignoring the mix of emotions running through me. “Oh you know Barb, she got mixed up with the wrong people.” That was an understatement. I couldn’t even think about the shit she’d been doing lately without wincing. My mother had what you might call an addictive personality. She’d tried her first cigarette when she was 12 and had been chain smoking since. She had her first glass of wine when she was 15 and so on and so forth.
I’d gotten used to the drinking and the smoking but there were some things an 18 year old would never get used to. Police raiding your tiny house for instance was not something I would like to ever experience again.
“How long is her sentence?” Donald asked.
I looked him dead in the eyes, noting how much their dark brown colour with their golden flakes looked like mine. “Six years,” I said firmly and he cringed as he stared at me like I was an exotic animal that had been dropped off on his doorstep. “Don’t worry Dad, I just need to finish school then I’ll be out of your hair. I’ve already registered. I just need a place to stay for a while.”
I walked past him and into the sitting room that obviously no one sat in. The white couches were pristine and the TV had a sheen of dust on it. I felt fingers wrap around my arm, stopping my movement and I turned to look down at the small hand, watching as she hastily released me. Sandra cleared her throat, rubbing her hand against her shirt as if she’d touched something dirty. I raised my eyebrow at her in question, ignoring the stab of pain I felt at her action. “You can stay here for tonight but we’ll help you find another place tomorrow, right Donald?”
Sandra and I both looked at my father who was looking down at me with memories dancing in his eyes. Memories of his little girl who used to think he ruled the world, who used to smile at him with her crooked teeth and he would look down at her and call her beautiful.
His eyes went flat and he nodded. “One night, Corinna,” he said before turning to leave.
Good thing my heart was already in pieces because it would’ve definitely broken at that moment.