“I’m taking off, guys. Have a great Thanksgiving,” I yelled to my coworkers as I pulled off my
Sephora apron and slid into my winter coat.
“See you later, Teagan. Happy Thanksgiving!” Janie replied as she finished up restocking
the lip gloss.
I’d been kind of hoping that we would be busy, that the store managers would be forced to
ask me to stay and work a double, but no such luck. Guess all the shoppers were waiting for
Black Friday. I really could have used the extra money, but more importantly, the work would
have kept me out of the house a little longer. Holidays are not so fun around there these days. It’s
safe to say this is my least favorite time of year.
New Mexico. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the weather here. And I used to think it got
cold in San Antonio! I guess when you grow up in Texas, you don’t really know the true
meaning of winter. As I stepped outside the mall, a rush of cold November air hit me so hard it
forced my teeth to chatter uncontrollably. Zipping up my coat, I ran as fast as my frozen legs
would carry me to my beat-up Toyota Corolla, circa sometime before I could walk. I always hear
kids talk about how much they love their junked out “classic” cars, how those cars have
character. Well, my car doesn’t have character. It’s a piece of shit. The damned thing’s heater doesn’t even work. But, at least I have something, and when you have to buy it for yourself at
seventeen you can’t afford to be picky. I could only imagine what it would be like to depend on
dear ol’ Dad for transportation.
By the time I got home little icicles were forming on my eyelashes, and as I walked up the
front steps to our house I saw that evidence of my father’s ever-growing habit littered the porch.
By the look of things, he should be fairly close to passing out if not already face-down on the
couch. A girl could hope. An entire case of empty beer cans and countless cigarette butts
surrounded the wooden rocking chair that my mother bought just before she disappeared.
“Disappeared.” That’s the belief my father holds on to—or at least he pretends to hold on to
it. Me, I know the truth. Only a fool wouldn’t see what really happened. She was miserable at
home, hated my father, and had clearly found someone new. Her sudden interest in late-night
drives were enough proof for me, but I’d followed her anyway one night just to be sure and
ended up at a Motel 6 near the highway. No, she just up and left one day. We moved to Red
Ridge, New Mexico, and in just over a month Mom went MIA. No goodbyes, no see-ya-laters;
she was just suddenly gone. Life isn’t a soap opera where beautiful, mysterious captors abduct
women with miserable lives and carry them off to happier ones, though. No, women have to
choose to leave. They pack a bag, snag your favorite family portrait from the mantel and just
walk out of your life. Out of their children’s lives. Out of everyone’s life.
So, that’s what really happened. Only an idiot like my father would believe anything else.
Hell, he likely believed that Paris kidnapped Helen of Troy. No way. Helen just took off with
that hot younger guy, leaving her sorry-ass husband Menelaus alone. Life would be so much
easier if my father would just accept that Mom chose to leave. Then maybe, just maybe, he could
I have. I sometimes wonder, though, if the face that launched a thousand ships left a
daughter alone with a drunken father. Who knows? Maybe she did. My Greek mythology is a bit
rusty, as Mrs. Shultz wasn’t the most fascinating teacher ever when we studied it in class last
The inside of our house wasn’t much better than the porch. More empty beer cans, full
ashtrays, and the dishes from the night’s dinner welcomed me back, which meant Dad was really
messed up. Being a retired Army captain, he’s anything but messy. The house was always clean
and orderly, sir! Unless he was drunk. And he never, ever smoked in the house. Something must
have really set him off.
I put my bag down and hung my coat in the hall closet. The sooner I picked this place up,
the sooner I could lock myself in my room and just crash.
“Oh…hey…when did you get in?” Dad asked as he stumbled inside from the backyard.
“Just now, actually,” I replied as I grabbed a trash can. Trying to avoid confrontation, I
walked around the kitchen and living room picking up the mess. Unfortunately, this only seemed
to irritate my father.
“Don’t do that. I’ll do it tomorrow,” he slurred.
“Dad, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I need to clean up so I can attempt to cook this year. I told
you that, remember?”
“I know damn well what tomorrow is,” he grumbled. “You think I can’t remember what
There was no use trying to talk to him like this. Instead, I handed him the trashcan and said,
“Fine. Have it your way. I was just trying to help.”
He didn’t reach for the trash can, so I let it drop to the floor and spill out even more evidence
of his drinking binge. At first he looked shocked, but that shock soon turned to rage. Maybe I shouldn’t have done it, but come on, who was the parent? I was sick and tired of trying to make
things better all the time when all he did was screw things up.
He just stood there, anger boiling inside him. I saw it in his eyes just before he snapped. He
kicked the trash aside and tried to grab my arm, but I stepped out of the way just in time and Dad
lost his balance and fell to the ground. He wasn’t hurt, though, just defeated. The look of failure
on his face as he lay there was almost worse than the anger. I reached out to help him up, but he wouldn’t let me.
“Don’t touch me! Just leave. Leave like your goddamn mother did,” he yelled.
“Come on, Dad. Let me help you,” I said.
“Get out! Get the hell out of my house!”
So I did. I grabbed my bag and coat and left.
Leaving the house like this wasn’t new to me. It’s not like it happened every day, but I’d
walked out quite a few times over the past couple of months so I knew where to go and how long
to stay away. The 24-hour diner on the other side of town was always open, so I figured I’d go
there and order myself a nice, greasy burger and a few sodas. I was hungry, and in a few hours
my father would be good and passed out. Then I would drive home and pretend that nothing ever
happened. Just like I did every other time Dad kicked me out.