I dialed home. It rang and rang. I was calling Daddy’s direct line. He always picked up when that line rang, but instead, I got his answering machine.
“Daddy!” I screamed. “I’ve been arrested for stealing our own car. I’m in jail. Come and get me.”
The policewoman hung up the phone and led me back to the cell where I sat waiting. Hours went by and no one came. Finally, tired from screaming and protesting, I sprawled out on the hard wooden bench and fell asleep. I woke when I heard the door of the cell rattle. The policeman said my father had come to get me.
“Finally,” I moaned, and walked out.
“Just get in the car,” Daddy said when I saw him at the front desk. “Go out and get into the car. It’s right in front.”
“Why didn’t you come earlier? Why didn’t you call to tell them I didn’t steal the car?” I asked.
He looked at the police dispatcher and then at me and said, “But you did steal the car, Teal. I told you that you couldn’t have it and you took it. That’s stealing. You don’t own that car. I do. Now you’re known as a car thief. Happy?” he asked. “Get in the car,” he ordered before I could respond.
I went out and got into his sedan. When he got in, he said nothing until we had driven away from the police station and I asked him why he had let this happen.
“You let it happen, Teal. I am not going to coddle you any longer, young lady,” he said “From now on, whatever you do, you will pay the consequences that result, no matter what those consequences are, understand?”
I didn’t say anything. I turned away and pressed my forehead to the window. Right now, I thought, I’d trade places with Del in a heartbeat.
Mother was waiting in the hallway when we arrived. She stood there with her arms crossed and her lips pursed.
“Well, what do you think of yourself now?” she asked as soon as I entered. Before I could respond, she cried, “Look at yourself, your hair, your expensive jeans. You’re absolutely filthy. How could you want to be seen in public like this?”
“She wasn’t in public, Amanda,” Daddy reminded her. “She was in a jail cell.”
“Oh, dear me, dear me,” she wailed. “Will it get out, Henderson? Will it be in the newspapers?”
“No, she’s still a minor,” he said, and looked at me. “I’m afraid she will be a minor for a long, long time, the way she is going.”
“Well, we can be grateful for that, I suppose,” my mother said, and sighed. “Go up to your room, Teal, and sit and contemplate what you have done and what you are becoming. I have to get to an important luncheon,” she added. She made it sound as if, otherwise, she would sit and talk with me.
“Get upstairs, young lady,” Daddy ordered. “Don’t even think of leaving this house.”
I walked up the stairs slowly and just collapsed on my bed. All I wanted to do was sleep, sleep forever. Hours later, I woke, groaned, and stretched. I did feel terribly dirty and decided to take a bath. How would I contact Del? I wondered after remembering his phone had been turned off. I had to let him know what had happened to me. I thought he was the one person who would have any sympathy.
After I had gone down to get something to eat, it occurred to me that Del would be at work. I flipped through the yellow pages and found the number for his pizza parlor in the mall and then called. He answered the phone.
“It’s me,” I said. “Can you talk?”
“Yeah, there’s a lull.”
“You won’t believe what happened to me,” I began, and described it all without taking a breath.
“Your own father had you arrested and left you there?”
“You heard it,” I replied.
“Well, you weren’t actually convicted of anything,” he said, sounding like an attorney, “so he wasn’t right that you’re labeled now as a car thief. Besides, you’re still a minor in the eyes of the law, so no one can hold what happened against you or use it as evidence in any other court proceeding.”
“I’m not in the least bit concerned about any of that, Del.”
“You should be,” he said.
“How are things at your house?”
“My mother was still sleeping when I left the house. I made her some coffee. She sipped it and passed out again. I got the kids up and dressed and came to work,” he recited, “just like I do almost every day. I hope she will get up and give them lunch at least. I can’t call the house to check on it, thanks to her.”
“We should both just run off,” I suggested. I was more than half serious, and he heard it in my voice because he was silent for a long moment.