“I wish I could,” he said. “I’d hate to think what would happen to Shawn and Patty Girl if I left them with dear old Mom.”
“I shouldn’t have given away that diamond bracelet yesterday. You could have pawned it and used the money.”
“No, I wouldn’t have taken it, Teal. My brother and sister and me are in trouble enough. I go to jail, and they go to foster homes in a heartbeat.”
“It’s not fair,” I said.
“I stopped thinking about what’s fair and what isn’t a long time ago. I got to get back to work. We just got a crowd of teenagers, and they all look hungry.”
“I’ll try to see you later,” I promised. I had no idea how I would, but I felt I had to hold on to the hope.
“Good,” he said, and hung up.
I sat in the kitchen, moping. I was still in a bit of a daze from the night before. I heard the vacuum cleaner go on in Daddy’s office. The maid was permitted in there on Sundays only, which meant he wasn’t home either. I was glad of that. I didn’t want to have another lecture. Lately, that was the sole sum of all our onesided conversations: sermons on behavior.
Moving like a sleepwalker, I went back upstairs and moped about my room. I had a pile of homework to do, but just starting it seemed like a monumental task. I flipped through some pages and then fell back on my bed and stared up at the ceiling. Prohibited from leaving the house, I felt just as trapped as I had the night before in the jail cell. I kept thinking about Del and our time together.
Suddenly, I heard the door slam downstairs and then heavy footsteps on the stairway. Moments later, there was a knock on my door.
“Who is it?” I called.
The door opened and Carson stepped in. He was wearing a sweater and sweat pants and looked like he had just come from his gym.
“Dad told me what you did last night and what happened,” he began.
I sat up.
“He left me there all night.”
“You’re lucky he came to take you home at all,” Carson said. “What is wrong with you, Teal? Why do you keep doing these things? What do you want?”
“I want to be left alone,” I snapped back at him.
“You don’t want to go to school? You don’t want to achieve anything with your life? You just want to party, get drunk, screw around? What?” he shouted at me, his face red, his arms out.
For a moment Del’s relationship to his siblings flashed across my mind. He was the older brother and he showed them so much love and affection. Carson and I rarely ever kissed each other, rarely held each other’s hands, and rarely hugged each other, even on birthdays. He was so much older than I was in every way that it turned him into a stranger, not a brother. It wasn’t hard to see that he really wasn’t here this morning for me; he was here because he was upset for our father and mother.
“Just leave me alone,” I said, falling back on the bed.
“Daddy thinks you might need some sort of military school, Teal.”
“You mean prison, don’t you?”
“The last step before it, yes,” he said.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him wander over to the windows and stare out.
“I guess I should have done more with you,” he said in a tone of voice that was softer than ever. It widened my eyes. “Your birth was quite a surprise.”
“For me, too,” I muttered. He nearly smiled when he turned to look at me.
“I used to resent you,” he confessed. I looked up at him. “You came when I was a teenager, and for nearly fifteen years, I had been the center of all the attention.”
“As it turned out, you had nothing to worry about, Carson. You still were and you still are,” I fired back at him.
“That’s not true, Teal.”
“What do you know? You were out of this house by the time I was five.”