I woke up to her screams protruding rooms away from the kitchen each morning. Who would she scream at until her lungs gave out? Usually the four walls. I saw less and less of my dad as he volunteered to work overtime while our family struggled through the arduous divorce process. He was never an affectionate parent, frequently coming across as stern or deadpan. But now, I saw his emotions breaking through. His startling change left me intimidated and vulnerable. My silence spoke for me, it knew I was an irrelevant piece in this ceaseless game and I shouldn’t even make a move. My sister Dani was a ghost, never home. Fridays were a poor excuse to spend time together as a family. My mom wanted nothing to do with any of our excursions, between family gatherings to mundane grocery shopping. She would choose to bicker with the four walls for the rest of the night instead. Friday was my day to finally escape and be somewhere I could appreciate, the McDonald’s underneath a bustling train station. The train’s harsh screeching on the metal tracks was like a lullaby. The aroma of French fries and other greasy delicacies emitting from McDonald’s placed me into my own fairy tale. My dad, without much of a clue, tried to add some cheer, even if it seemed as mediocre as Friday night trips to McDonald’s.
Tonight was different. Dani dragged along three of her closest friends, each snaring bitterly at me when I spoke, as if I were their prey. I would rather eat my words than be eaten by this vicious pack. I wouldn’t even glance in their direction. While leaving the car, Dani commanded us, “My friends and me are going to sit at our own table. Don’t bother us till we’re ready to leave.” Each word was sharp, piercing through my father’s relentless attempts of kindness. Our orders were placed and received speedily. Friday nights were suspiciously calm.
Like clock work, a peculiar old lady showed up as she did each Friday night with her toothless grin, bleach stained, deteriorating clothes and disheveled hair. We never learned her name. Judging by the contents of her plastic bag, she was trying to sell something. My dad noticed her attempts, “Excuse me, m’am? What are you selling?” he curiously asked . With a burst of excitement, she grasped onto multiple flowers made of silk. She handed one to me. A nauseating perfume-smell on the flowers slapped me across the face. With a hearty smile, my dad said, “I’ll take them all. Please bring four to the girls sitting at that table.”
“Dad, what are you doing?!” I exclaimed, worried that something awful would bestow upon us.
“She’s your sister. She isn’t gonna bite.” The distance between the two of us at one table and my sister’s group at another was filled by a sea of yellow and red steel chairs. My dad was right; Dani couldn’t swim through this sea and punish us.
The woman placed the flowers on their table, frantically pointing toward me and my father to let them know we were the ones responsible. Then I did the impossible; I turned to the pack, smiling as warm as the heat emitting from the grills behind the cashier counter accompanied by a small wave. My father lied. They would bite me. Their looks of disgust and malice was a bite so deep that it penetrated my bones. I nearly winced when Dani walked up to my father after their meal with such a fierce attitude, “We don’t want to leave with you. I’ll be home later tonight. Don’t wait up.” None of their flowers made it home. I could hear the cries of their helpless flowers echoing from inside the trash bin. I tightened my grip around the wired-stem of my own flower, holding back cries of my own. I couldn’t find it in me to neglect a gift that was so cheap, but so precious. Afraid to see how much damage they caused, I refused to even look at my once stoic dad. With my head down and my grip secured, I made sure my flower made it home safe.