I remember my dad saying something about him having an early meeting today but didn’t want to go back to the office. He often did that. He was a corporate attorney so he was able to bring his work home with him. When he and my mom were still married he would spend lots of nights in his office catching up with the work he missed through out the day. My father wasn’t one of those tv fathers that spend all day at the office and then bring his work home and spend most of his home time working on work. He would always make it to mine and Alex’s schools activities and things that we were doing. He was a present father. He’s been a great dad, short of marring the Replacement.
I entered the house fuming. Getting in trouble for skipping school crossed my mind, but didn’t occupy any of the important space in my brain. The front door opened into the family room and there was my father. He had fallen asleep on the couch with a case brief on his chest. The sound of me slamming the front door made him jump.
“Sam! What in God’s name...”
“You knew and you didn’t tell me?!” I yelled at him.
“Watch your tone with me. I knew what?” He wiping away the sleep from his eyes. By this time I could hear Rebekah, the replacement, coming down the stairs, “What’s all this screaming about?”
“You knew and you didn’t tell me,” I repeated staring at my father.
“Sam, what are you talking about?” Rebekah asked circling around me to stand next to my father.
“I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to the person I thought was my father. I spoke to you about her. I told you things about her... I told you how I felt about her!” I continued to yell.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sam,” my father managed to say. His eyes gave him away. I could see he knew what I was talking about. I could see the wheels turning behind his retinas trying to think of a way to talk himself out of this. He was an attorney—it was what he was good at.
“How could you not tell me?” I asked again, calmer than before. Not because I was calm, but for dramatic effect. I wanted to see how hurt I was. I wanted him to feel how this betrayal made me feel.
Rebekah gasped. “Oh Sam,” she began.
“Don’t!” I said through gritted teeth.
“How did you find out?” she asked.
“ANSWER ME!!” My fathers eyes were unblinking.
“I asked him...” she began but my father cut her off.
“I didn’t think you were ready to know” he said.
How was I not ready to know? I asked myself.
My dad ignored her, “I see the way you’ve treated Becky and I didn’t want you to treat her the same way at school. She was going to be the new kid and I didn’t want her first day to be rough. I thought that if you didn’t know, it wouldn’t hurt you”
“It wouldn’t hurt me? It wouldn’t hurt me? How about the days I’ve been telling you about her? What about then? You didn’t think I was ready to know?” If my blood were in a pot it would have been at a roiling boil.
“It was tricky. I didn’t expect you to be so smitten with her. Luis David has always been cliquesish school. I didn’t really thing that you two would cross paths. When you were telling me about her I saw how much you liked her. Giving your history with Becky, I didn’t want to ruin it.”
I hated how much he made sense.
As if on cue, Ralfie walks in through the front door, “Sorry, I got here a few minuets ago and I heard shouting. I didn’t want to walk into the middle of it so I waited until the right time.”
“Why aren’t you boys in school?” my dad asked, looking at his watch.
“Time to go.” Ralfie grabbed my arm and pulled me out the door. We ran down the block, the opposite direction for the school. I guess he figured I didn’t want to be anywhere near that place. He was right.
We stopped running after we were a few blocks away from my house. I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket
Caller ID: Dad
I ignored the call and slipped my phone back into my pocket.
“Dude what happened?!” Ralfie asked slightly catching his breath. He’s been working out more than I have so he wasn’t dry heaving the way I was. “One minute you’re running out of the cafeteria and the next I’m getting a 911 text from you. What went down?” he asked.
“Jeanette is Rebekah’s niece!” I yelled in between breaths.
It felt nice to be able to talk to Ralfie about this sort of stuff again. Since the start of school we hadn’t really hung out much. He was so busy with practicing and training and I spent most of my time in the yearbook lab. Alex even asked if there was anything up with the both of us. In typical Alex fashion, he asked and left before I could answer.
“Can I ask you something and you promise not to get mad?” Ralfie asked. Ralfie and I have always been open and candid with each other. So much so that we literally had a three hour conversation about the wet dream he had about Shawna Mendoza in the seventh grade. What could he possible ask that his preamble of caution is necessary?
“What do you have against your stepmom anyway? I never got why you don’t like her.” Now I understand why he didn’t want me to get mad. I wasn’t mad. He asked a very good question.
“To be honest, I don’t know. Do you remember that time, when my parents first separated, that I stayed with my mom for a few weeks?” I asked.
“Yeah. You spent all day almost everyday at my house because your mom was working that huge felony case and was at the office a lot.”
Technically I didn’t even stay at my moms new apartment because I would spend most nights at Ralfie’s place. It wasn’t that my mom would forget about me, she would just come and get me too late, and when she showed up I was knocked out on Ralfies floor. Ralfie would tell me that his mom would just tell my mom to let me sleep and that she would take me to school the next morning. Although it felt like my mom was hardly present, she never failed to pick up her phone when I called. It didn’t matter what case she was working, we would talk on the phone for hours.
“I know that my parents didn’t cheat on each other. They both said that the flame just sort of slowly died out…”
“Whats that got to do with your stepmom?” Ralfie asked.
“My mom still loved my dad. She still kept a photo of the two of them on her desk. Almost every time I walked in to her office she was always staring at it. My dad was the one that stopped loving my mom.” I had never said any of that out loud before. I had thought it and I had harbored it for a long time.
“So you feel like Rebekah was the reason you dad fell out of love with your mom?”
“No. I feel like if my dad stopped loving my mom and started loving Rebekah, it was so easy for him to replace her. It was so easy to replace my mom, a woman who despite the entire divorce still loved my dad. My dad is my dad. I’m mad at him, but he’s still my dad. Rebekah replaced my mom…”
“Why do you keep saying that?! Becky did not replace your mom. Look, things didn’t work out between your folks, that happens. Unfortunate that it happened, but it did. Rebekah is the innocent bystander in your entire story. You can’t be mad at your dad properly because he’s your dad and your living with him so you take it out on her. If you actually went to England to stay with your mom you would’t be mad at just her, you wouldn’t treat her just poorly, but you’d do the same to your dad. You’re my best friend and I care for you, but you have to get over it. Your parents did.”
What Raflie said resonated with me. Looking back, I have been keeping a lot of these feeling in that it became toxic. I had no reason to hate or maltreat Rebekah.
“I miss this,” Ralfie said smiling.
“Since school started we haven’t had time to actually talk. We’ve both been so busy with other things. Oh, by the way, you and I got invited to a party at Eddies parents lake house. Selena said to bring your camera.”
“Whats going on between you and her?” I asked him as he instantly started blushing.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he obviously lied.
“Oh come on! I’ve seen how you both act around each other. The past two weeks you haven’t been able to keep your eyes off of her in the cafeteria. I hear that you two even started working out together?” I gave him small elbow tap to which he laughed at.
“Alright, fine, we’re into each other. Its complicated. I’ve asked her out, but she said that she had to get the ok from Elena first. Elena literally controls everyones lives. I’m hoping to get some alone time with her at the party.”
“I like it. There’s a twinkle in your eye that I’ve never seen before,” I laughed.
“Don’t be gay. Listen, if we are going to this party we have to get changed. We can’t roll up to the lake house in the same outfit we wore at school.”
I didn’t know how to asked this without sounding like a complete recluse, “What does one wear to a party?” It seemed like neither of us knew. Our first high school party and what we wore could possibly determine if we get invited to any others.
I didn't want to go home anytime soon so we just headed to Ralfies house. School didn’t let out for another couple of hours. No one was home so we wouldn’t be bombarded with question about why weren’t in school.
We got the party an hour-and-a-half after the start time. We literally Googled "high school party etiquette." Due to movies and tv shows, we knew not to show up to the party at the time it started. I didn’t talk to my dad, but I did send him a text letting him know that I was going to stay at Rallies house. Ralfies dad wasn’t home yet when we left for the party, but I was sure that he already knew about what transpired at my house today.
Ralfies mom let us borrow her car as long as we stopped somewhere and brought her home a snickers. We pulled up to Eddies lake house and there were already a lot of people there. Parking was horrible so Ralfie decided to just park down the street just so that we aren’t blocked in if we were to leave early.
“Remember, if we’re too wasted, we will not drive. We’ll get an Uber home, ok?” Ralfie asked.
“Do you really think the house would be swimming in beer?” I joked. We walked in to house and as if on queue someone tripped as I opened the door and spilt their beer on me.
“You’re gonna have to take your shirt off before getting into the car. If my parents smell beer, they’ll kill me.” Ralfie laughed through it, but I knew he was being serious.