I felt a nudge on my stomach and my eyes fluttered open. Mary Ann was staring back at me with her wide and tired green eyes. "What?" I groaned, pulling my blanket back over my head. Mary Ann was quick to remove it again. She shot me an irritated look.
"Get up." was all she said. She was throwing clothes into her duffel bag, still in her gray sweats. I sat up in bed in a weird daze and watched her for a second. I glanced at the alarm clock. It was only three am! "Get up and get dressed!" Mary Ann exclaimed when she saw that I hadn't gotten up yet. I stuck out my tongue and opened my closet door. I had no idea why she wanted me to get dressed four hours before school but it was best not to question Mary Ann when she had that crazy look in her eyes.
I put on jeans and a clean t-shirt. Mary Ann was stuffing three pairs of shoes into her bag like her life depended on it. Maybe it did? I sat down on the dirty carpet and stopped her hand from grabbing another handful of pants. "What's wrong?" I asked, looking at her face. She didn't look like her usual self. Her nerdy glasses were not on her face, her eyes were bloodshot and her long brown hair was tangled and knotted like never before.
"Mom and Dad are fighting. They barely stopped and she told me to pack our things so we could leave," Mary Ann's eyes were tear-filled now. I bit my lip hard and fought back tears of my own. Our parents weren't the perfect American couple these days. They fought over everything, from putting the toilet seat down to Dad's alcohol problems. But they had never been so bad that Mom would want to leave. She had always said she'd be the one to get Dad to quit drinking, always help him through therapy and rehab. She couldn't give up this easily.
"But he'll hurt himself. He'll die if we don't help him!" I heard my voice crack. I hugged my legs to my chest. Mary Ann sighed and pushed away her duffel bag. She looked at the carpet as if deep in thought.
"There's nothing we can do, Cassie. He'll hurt us. And Mom if we stay. Mom'll get him the help he needs, I promise," she said it in a voice that meant she doubted it herself. I shook my head and felt my face grow hotter.
"We can't leave him! He's our father. He never hurt us, I know he scares you, but he never even looked at me in a mean way!" I cried. I had always been Daddy's little princess. Even drunk Daddy's little princess. I hadn't cared that Dad would slur his words when my friends were over. I didn't care that he'd send me to the drug store to get him a pack of cigarettes. He always told me I was patient with him and that he would quit. For me. And I believed him.
"Shush, he'll wake up!" Mary Ann hissed, getting up and locking the door. I watched her and wondered when she had gotten frightened of our father. She had always been closer to Mom, but she was like Dad's sister. Helping him but not relying on him. It was scary to think that even she despised him now.
"I'm not going," I said suddenly. I started pulling off my jeans. I wouldn't want to leave in the middle of the morning anyway. Dad deserved better than that. "We have to be patient with him Mary Ann. He's gotten better." I lied. Both of us knew his addiction had only gotten worse but I tried to act like that was just the therapist's opinion.
"Listen Cassandra," Mary Ann ordered, holding me by my shoulders. I tensed under her stare. "You're only fifteen, how can you help a forty year old man with a drug addiction? I know you'll regret it if you stay. You'll get hurt. And Mom won't let you stay. It's final, okay? Stop trying to be Dad's hero." She zipped up her bag and got up. She opened the door to our shared room silently and slipped outside. She left me alone on the floor. I started to cry. I didn't want to leave. I didn't mom to be single. Where would we go anyway? I'd have to leave school. What about my date with Eric Fitch? What about my sweet sixteen? I cried into my hands. My life was falling apart so quickly
I realized Mary Ann wasn't coming back to talk to me so I got up, stuffed my own duffel bag and pulled on my boots. I stood outside my Dad's doorway and saw him in a tangle of white sheets. He was wearing his Patriots pajama pants and a tank top. The room smelled too much of his cologne. I wiped my eyes and walked in quietly. I touched Dad's hand lightly. I expected him to wake up, give me a big hug and beg me to stay. But he just snored lightly. I bent down and kissed his cheek. I felt a tickle from wear his beard was growing in.
I grabbed my bag and left the apartment still crying. I would have to leave my stuffed animals, my colleague of photos, and all my CDs and DVDs. My iPod and laptop were in my bag but I couldn't live like this. My room was like a little sanctuary for me and Mary Ann. I wondered how my father would react in the morning when he woke up to an empty apartment.
I ran down the wooden stairs and into the darkened lobby of our Urwood Glen Apartments building. I looked around for a second and sighed deeply. I rushed out into the early, black morning. There was a yellow taxi waiting for me. Mary Ann was waiting inside of it. I got in in a huff and slid next to Mary Ann. The pot-bellied driver who looked ready for a long nap asked where we were going.
"Brooklyn, please." Mary Ann told him. He raised his uni-brow.
"You got that kind of cash?" He asked. Mary Ann crossed her arms over her chest.
"Would I get on if I didn't have the cash? And you might want to hurry." She ordered, crossing her legs. I just loved how strong she could stay while she was ruining my life. The driver started the taxi and we drove away from our home.
"Is Mom already in Brooklyn?" I whispered into Mary Ann's ear. She nodded. "What is she doing there?" I asked. Mary Ann shrugged but I could tell she knew. The New York skyline zipped past us as we drove at high speed.