Not that there are so many upsides to having a mom who works 12 hours a day, but one of them? She's never around to see me leave for school, and I take that to my advantage today to skip out. My head is pounding fiercely, and I can barely open my tear-crusted eyes. All I want to do is keep myself tucked away in my bed, all the layers of my comforter and my sheets keeping me from freezing to death in a 72° room, but I suppose that wouldn't be productive. I manage to get up just enough to shut my curtains, then I plop on my back and look up at the ceiling, my "Independence Day" and "The Fifth Element" posters returning my gaze. With the Sun now out of my room, the glow-in-the-dark ceiling stars are working their magic to not leave me completely blacked out.
I sigh, my breath trembling still from the quiet sobbing I did last night. I won't say it's rare that Mallory and I get into it; we've been in each other's lives for twelve years after my mom discovered an old friend from her days in residence had moved in next door. It's hard not to have a tiff with someone you've known since preschool, all ranging from cheating in UNO to the rare times Mal would come to Jhene's defense when I would call her out. That said, we don't intentionally seek fights because we agree that above anything, we really have each other to fall back on when it comes down to it. And yesterday's argument made me feel, for the first time in a very long time, that I'd lost her. Thinking about it now, I feel tears welling up again, but I quickly wipe them away -- I don't want my eyes to swell any more than they have. Despite taking the day away from school, I don't want to shirk my responsibilities.
I get out of bed, make my way downstairs, and put on some Sesame Street. I could really use the pick-me-up of the neighborhood right now, and no one is too old or too good enough for Sesame Street. Maybe a few academic lessons as you grow up aren't necessarily needed -- even with my less-than-stellar proficiency in the area, I would hope to know that 2 + 2 = 4. But a show like this doesn't go on for 30 years if its whole gimmick involves the basics of schooling -- I think the whole world can benefit from lessons in empathy, community, and even downright silliness. All of these, on their own, should be ingrained within us, and yet if it were ...
I pour myself a bowl of cereal, then whip out my English notebook and study up on Invisible Man.
I'm not sure when I found the time to nap, but I'm awoken by the sound of the front door clicking open.
"Hey, love," Mom greets me warmly. I blink my eyes open, looking at the alarm clock in front of me that reads 5:37 P.M. How long was I asleep for, exactly?
"Long day?" Mom asks.
"Uh, y-yeah," I answer, stretching my arms as I get off the couch.
"How was school?"
"Eh .. okay," I lie. Thankfully the time works in my favor so it seems that I'd only been napping for a little over an hour.
"Got it," Mom smiles.
"Good day for you?" I ask. It might seem like an odd question, but it's not often I see my mom so ... "smiley" after a shift. In fact, this is the most I've seen her smile in a good month and a half.
"Oh, yeah, same stuff, different day," Mom answers. "However ..." If you ever wondered where I get my dramatics from, it would be from my mother. and I'll admit, the suspense is killing me. My eyes widen, awaiting her news.
"Well, I don't want to say much, but rumor has it that there is some talk of a pay raise about to happen," she finally lets out.
"Oh! That's great," I tiredly cheer. The hospital my mom works for is ... well, not that great, and any bit of good news that she can pull from it is a win. And a pay raise? That might make things a little easier on us, which means there might be an opening for visitation to see my dad.
"Listen, I can't stay long -- I've got a get-together with my colleagues tonight," Mom tells me. "I'm going to clean up, then probably head out in about ... 45 minutes, give or take."
"Will you need anything from me before I go?"
"Ah ... not that I can think of, no," I say. My mom nods her head, then makes her way upstairs to get ready for her night out. Now that I'm up, I do some cleanup in the living room and the kitchen. My assignment binder is sitting on the counter, along with my Physics notebook. Yesterday is playing in my head again, and my chest hurts. What's worse than an argument with your best friend? An argument with the girl you're hopelessly in love with. And how could I not be? Over the years, we've had a few friends come and go, but even if they stuck around, none of them would have a fraction of the care and honesty Mallory has. All I wonder about right now is how she's feeling today. Thankfully I have the weekend to figure out how to fix things.
By the time I'm done cleaning up, I go back to my room. I open my curtains to let the evening light soak into my room, then I lay back in bed. I'm not so tired that I could fall asleep again, but I don't have much to do, either, so I just stare at my ceiling for a bit. That's when I hear a few noises coming from outside that sound like cheers. I get up and pull the window blinds up, peering down at the ground. There are a few people walking, decked out in Fireside High gear. Right, the game is tonight. I see a few cars pulling out of the driveway with banners and other decorations around it in support of the Foxes. The cars I don't see? The Setiawan's Toyotas and Jhene's Kia. My guess is that Mal and Jhene went to the stadium as soon as school was over, and their parents must've gone once their shifts were over.
"Everything okay?" I hear my mom ask. Wild, I didn't even hear my door open.
"Y-yeah. Of course," I stammer.
"Okay. Well, I'll be back around ... 10?" Mom informs me. "Make sure the doors are locked, and in case you don't feel like leftovers I left $20 on the dining room table."
"Cool, thank you," I acknowledge. My mom is giving me a worried look, but I try to keep my face from letting on what I'm feeling.
"Well then ... I'm gone. I love you."
"Love you. Be safe, please."
"Haha, I will," Mom slightly chuckles, then she shuts the door behind her. I look out my window again, and I still see a few people out. I hadn't realized how big of a deal these games were to everyone, and it dawned on me: I might be the only one at school who isn't going. Like, that's surely not true, but at the moment it seems like it. Normally it wouldn't bother me; again, I'm not a sports person by any means. I couldn't tell you the difference between a quarterback and a point guard, or how points are determined in a game. I know who could, though: Mallory. Mallory's been to plenty of these games for Jhene's sake. She's even asked me a few times to go just to spare her some boredom, but then when she reports to me about the games later on, it's as if she went on the field herself to play.
Mallory. Mallory, Mallory, Mallory ... I think I need to make a play of my own. I jump out of bed and throw on a set of clothes, brush my teeth, and apply some extra deodorant. Next thing I know, I'm rushing out of my room and through the front door. My mom is just pulling out of the driveway, the sheen of our Cadillac taunting me that I'm about to miss out on my chance.
"Mom! Mom, wait!" I yell out, waving my arms like an inflatable tube man. Mom brakes, and then I run up to the window. I'm huffing and puffing like I'm about ready to blow a house down.
"What's wrong?" Mom asks. "Did I not leave enough pizza money?"
"I-it's not that, uh ..." I'm trying to catch my breath. Maybe I'm not an athlete but good lord I could go for a walk every day or something! Mom is looking at me puzzled, and I put my hands on my hips, hoping what I'm about to say will be worth it.
"Is it okay if I go to the game tonight?"