I arrived home at eleven o'clock

I arrived home at eleven o'clock. After the movie ended, Heather and I just goofed around downtown. When I walked through the door that night, however, I was startled by the hard edge in the voice coming from the couch.

"Where've you been?" it was Anne, she was always like this when I went out on dates. And she always seemed to know when I was on one. But if she knew who my date was…

"Tina?" Her voice hadn't softened in the slightest.

"I was at the movies with Heather," I replied.

"Huh," she said doubtfully, she was looking at me from behind her glasses (she only wears them to read, which is what she had been doing) skeptically. "You met Heather in that?"

I looked down and realized what the problem was.

"Heather and I always dress like this when we go out," I pointed out to her.

"True," Anne said with a sigh, "I guess I'm just used to you being out with a guy."

"Nah. Everyone I was with tonight was gay. Literally." Anne took this to exclude Heather, even though she was gay and the only person I had been with tonight.

"Okay," Anne replied, "Mom and Dad are out," she added after a short pause. This was not surprising, and yet it was.

"Together?" The idea was nearly laughable.

"Hell, no, Mom's…being Mom. Dad went to dinner with one of his colleagues," she said, putting icy emphasis on the last word with a disgusted sneer.

"As in female," it was no question. No one could miss the ice in her voice, not even an icicle.

"Stupid bastard. Treats mom like shit, and then hooks up with colleagues from work. I wouldn't be surprised if we have a half-sister somewhere," she said in the same icy tone, it made me shiver, "And mom denies it. I've seen the scars," Anne said with a sigh, "and she knows what he's doing, but…she's scared of him."

Anne was really broken up about this. About a year ago my dad lost his job, and became physically aggressive with mom. He found a new job, but not much changed, only that in addition to abusing his wife, he also cheated on her.

He just ignored Anne and me.

Anne had always been closer to mom, and it destroyed her to see mom abused. I was always closer to my dad, so it was hard for me to believe that the man who used to give me 'horsy rides' could suddenly turn into a bucking bull.

I sighed and crossed the room to sit on the floor in front of the couch.

"I miss dad. This man…is not my father."

I tilted my head back so that I was looking up at Anne. Her face was wet with silent tears.

"A-bell?" I asked, using her old sobriquet.

"Tiny?" She said, humor seeping into her, dark humor, but humor all the same.

"It's gonna be okay. I mean, for us, and maybe even for mom."

"I…don't know what to do. Every time they fight, or mom realizes dad's 'out', it's like she's starting to crumble, and I'm crumbling with her," she paused to wipe tears off her face, "I'm just so glad I have Tom. He's really been sweet about all this."

Suddenly, my ears perked up. I never missed a chance to hear gossip.

"Tom? You're dating Tom? I knew you two were close, but…"

Anne laughed again, still with that dark humor, and said, "I've been seeing Tom for three months now, Tina. Gosh, don't you pay attention?" I knew she was teasing me, because I honestly do normally recognize these things, but…in the past three months I've had boy problems…and when that happens, I don't focus.

So that's a plus to going out with Heather (once we've been going out long enough to say we're 'going out'), she would never, ever, cause me the pain and trouble a boy has. I considered telling Anne about Heather, and me but now didn't seem like the best time.

But I would have to tell her.


A/N: This is mainly just to strengthen the realistic-ness of the character. Not that all realistic characters have to have a messed up family, but I need to include Tina's background story to help the whole thing seem more realistic. This is not a utopia.