Mom broke the silence, "Daddy's going on a business trip next week."
"For how long?" I asked half-heartedly.
"Two weeks." Mom said gently, "Sorry I didn't tell you sooner."
I shrugged, "It's fine, it's not like it'll make a difference. He's never here anyway."
There was a crisp, chilling silence.
Mom cleared her throat and said, "Daddy's just had to take some extra shifts at work lately. You know that."
"Yeah," I said, still not taking my eyes off the T.V., "For four solid weeks?"
Mom looked surprised and said, "Pardon?"
I swallowed, trying not to care, "Chris has been counting. Dad may not act like he gives a damn, but he loves Chris and Chris loves him back."
"Do not use that word in this house, Angela." Mom said firmly, "Especially not when you're talking about your father."
I looked at her, kind of surprised, "The 'd' word? Well, sorry. What's the problem? You talk about him like he's dead!"
There was then a silence that scared the crap out of me.
"Mom...?" I said shakily, blinking back tears.
"No, no, Angela." Mom said, sighing, "Your father is not dead... But he might as well be."
I stared at her with my mouth hanging open, "What? How could you?"
Mom swallowed, looking tired and like she was about tell me something she had been hiding.
I watched her anxiously and she said, "Angela, your father has not been taking late shifts at work, he has been going to the bar with those friends of his. Those filthy alcoholic friends of his."
I stared at my mom, speechless. Without thinking, I asked, "Is he ever coming back? After the business trip, I mean."
Mom blinked back tears and held her hand to her mouth.
At last, she gathered herself and said, "I don't think so, Angela. Daniel is a mess and I think he's sane enough to know that he's not a very healthy role model for you and your brother."
I looked down at the floor, so Mom wouldn't see me cry.
"Oh, come here." She said, pulling me to her.
I put my arms around her waist and cried. I felt like a little kid. I felt like Leo.
Leo's father was crazy. He left Leo and his mom and his sister when Leo was eleven.
I didn't want to believe that my dad was crazy.
I thought about Chris; It would be so hard for him. Dad was his only male role model... Besides weird T.V. characters.
Dad had never really gathered and O.K.ed that he had a gay son, but, even though he had never really let anyone know, Chris loved him to death.
I mean, I loved him too, I just had a different relationship with Dad than Chris.
When we were little kids, I would always hang out with Dad, be 'daddy's little girl' and all that crap and Chris would hang out with Mom. He would cling to her leg and cry into her shoulder (if not mine) and the like. He never had much for memorable moments with Dad, except for when Dad took us to a Marlins baseball game when Chris was four.
I had gotten sick with the stomach flu when we were there and went home with Mom. Then, it was just Dad and Chris.
Dad tried hard to explain the seemingly complicated game to four-year-old Chris, would tried to understand.
One thing he did understand was that catching a foul ball was one of the coolest things a person could do.
When a ball later came flying into the crowd, Dad almost broke his back trying to get it. He did, and he gave it to Chris.
They haven't talked about that day in years, but I'll bet you anything Chris still has that ball.
I wiped my nose on my sleeve and said, "Hey, Mom?"
"Yes, Sweetie?" Mom said.
"I-I don't think we should tell Chris right away." I said, "He's had a rough week."
"No, it's fine." Chris said suddenly, stepping out from the hallway, "I already heard it all."
Mom and I stared at him in surprise.
Chris shook his head and blinked back tears, "It's not like adding any more crap to my life will make any difference. It's already screwed up. I don't have a best friend, I don't have Marble... Um, K-Kathy... And now, I don't have a Dad."
Chris threw his arms up and let them fall back to his side. He laughed hollowly and yelled, "Well, isn't that just fine and dandy? I thought I was going to have an okay life. I thought I was going to have friends and a good education and, most importantly, more than two thirds of a family!"
There was a long silence.
Walking toward him to put her hand on his arm, Mom said, "Chris..."
"Don't touch me," Chris said, shaking her off, "You've done enough."
"Hey, it wasn't her fault, Chris!" I snapped at him.
"Well, it wasn't mine, either!" Chris snapped back.
"Oh, yes it was!" I yelled without thinking, "You never did anything to make Dad proud! To him, you were as good as a second daughter!"
"Angela Magaret Harper!" Mom yelled.
"I HATE YOU, ANGIE!" Chris screamed, running to his room.
He slammed the door so hard that a picture fell off the wall in the hallway.
There was utter silence after that.
Mom slowly sat down on the couch and there was more silence.
"Mom..." I said helplessly, "You know I didn't-"
"How could you say that to your brother, Angela?" Mom said, "How could you?"
"Mom," I said, "Do you think I don't care that Dad's gone? I loved him too, it wasn't just you and Chris."
"He's not gone for sure, Angela." Mom said, "And you know you shouldn't have said that to Chris. He's sensitive-"
"And you're bias!" I said, "Why am I always the bad guy? He's always the good one, the little one, the cute one, the innocent one!"
Mom sighed and said, "Angela..."
"No, Mom." I said, "Whatever you're going to say, you don't mean it, you just want me to shut up and drop it."
"Go to your room, Angela." Mom said, "And I mean that."
There was another silence as I scowled and stomped to my room.
I tried not to regret what I had said to Chris. I tried not to care about Dad's absence, but I thought about how I might never see him again and cried.
Chris wasn't the only one who had it rough.