"A dog? You think you can replace my mother with a dog?" I demanded. Deliberately, I softened my tone. I knew my dad must be hurting, though he wouldn't show it. Moving to Maryland and getting a divorce were bound to get to him. "Dad, I'm sorry. I love him." He smiled a weary sort of a smile.
"That's great, kid. Now, I've got to get to work. Don't do anything too wild," he told me. And with that, he was gone.
I knelt down and studied the dog. He was adorable, I couldn't deny that. He had shiny black fur and clear grey eyes. He was studying me, too, from the looks of it. Impossibly, his eyes were as telling as a human's.
He was looking annoyed, and he walked over to the door. Before I knew what he was doing, he had stood up and locked the door with his nose.
"How did you do that?" I asked. He turned and gave me a look that clearly said 'you're crazy'. "Hey. If I feel like talking to dogs, who are you to judge me?" I snapped. The dog looked like it was laughing.
I ignored the laugher and asked, "Do you have a name?" The dog deliberated, staring at me. He nodded. "Okay… is it Lucky? Rover? Buddy? Fido?" After each guess, he shook his head. He went over to the bookcase on the other side of the room. Dad had never been big on reading, so it was filled with mementos instead of with books. The dog started poking around, obviously looking for something.
"Just don't chew anything," I told him. Dad would be furious if I let the dog ruin his things. The dog shot me a dirty look. Only later would I realize how unusual that was for a dog.
Finally, he seemed to find what he'd been looking for. He brought me a small hand-made book that had been one of my school projects back in first grade. It was about Jack Frost. I stared at it for a few minutes, trying to figure out why he had chosen this.
"Your name is Jack? I guessed. The dog smiled and nodded. He spun around in a circle, and I couldn't help but laugh. His enthusiasm was catchy. I sat on the ground and reached out to pet him. Before I could, he growled. I snatched my hand away.
"Fine. I'll be upstairs," I told him. It was about time I checked out my new room, anyways.
What I saw was shocking. Dad had arranged it exactly the way I'd had my old room. There was the same lime green carpet, a colorful quilt draped on the bed, and white furniture. He'd even splatter-painted the wall across from my bed. I knew from experience how long that took. The only thing that was different was the view out the window. Creepy.
I realized that my room might not be the only one he'd replicated. I ran down the hallway, opening each door until I found the room that was undoubtedly his. Nothing was different from the room he had shared with my mother. Wait, no. There was a desk where her dresser would have gone.
I took dad's desk lamp and threw it as hard as I could. It hit the opposite wall and shattered. Loudly. I turned around and punched the wall until I'd left a dent. It wasn't much, but I would take it.
Why would he do that? Was he a masochist? Did he even want to move on? Well, he couldn't when nothing changed, and everything was a reminder of her.
There was a pounding noise coming closer- someone was running up the stairs, then down the hallway. I sprang into my dad's closet, quietly shutting the door behind me.
It was dark, and I couldn't see anything. I shouldn't have shut the door all the way. I heard sniffing, and remembered that I had a dog now. I was being foolish.
Still, my heart was hammering as I opened the closet door and stepped out. Jack ran over to me and stood, putting his front paws on my shoulders. He rubbed his face against my cheek, then gave me a stern look. His tail was lashing. I almost thought he'd been worried. He stared up at me, looking like he was expecting something. An explanation? So I explained.
"My parents, they're getting a divorce. I don't know why, but Dad refuses to move on. He set up the rooms here exactly the same way they were in our old house. I can't tell he's upset at all, and he's always hurting the most when he hides it. It just makes me so mad," I said in a rush. It was nice to tell someone, even if it was only a dog. Jack tilted his head and gave me a curious look. He walked over to the lamp I'd shattered.
"Like I said, I was angry," I said, trying not to sound defensive. His sides started shaking. If dogs could laugh, I think he would have.
I felt a little guilty about breaking Dad's lamp, so I swept up the pieces. Then I went downstairs to the living room and flipped channels on the T.V. After the lamp incident, Jack had started trailing me. He sat on the couch, on the opposite end from me. He kept glancing over nervously, though why, I couldn't guess. It was like he was waiting for me to start throwing things again.
I must have drifted off to sleep, because the next thing I knew, the front door was slamming open, then shutting again. A dark figure loomed in the doorway, and it took me a moment to realize that it was my dad. It took another moment to catch my breath and calm my racing heart.
Jack jumped off of the couch and ran over to him, taking hold of his sleeve and dragging him up the stairs. Dad called behind him, "Riane, I need to make a phone call. I'll be down in a little while." It was far beyond my self control to stay downstairs. Instead, I crept up to eavesdrop. I could feel that something was going on, and that it was purposely being kept from me.
It took me a couple of minutes to find a good vent to listen through. I bent down just in time to hear, "Why don't you tell her the truth?" I didn't recognize the voice- Dad must have put the phone on speaker.
"You know I can't. She wouldn't take it well. She might not even need to know everything, in the end. Why disrupt her last month of normalcy?" Dad answered. He sounded troubled. This confirmed that something was being kept from someone. That someone was probably me. I pushed my ear closer to the vent. I was going to have marks from it later.
"She can take it. Besides, at least then she'll know why she had to come here, and why her mother had to stay away," the person on the other end of the line answered. "Besides, I don't like this whole dog situation."
What was going on? I walked out of the room I was in. I didn't want to hear any more.
But I did want to know more- I just wanted people to be honest with me. What good was finding out the secret, when I couldn't even admit that I knew it without my dad getting angry with me? I went to my room and called my mother on my cell phone.
"Hi, honey. How is everything?" she greeted me.
"Mom, I want to know what's going on," I told her, ignoring her question.
She hesitated, then asked, "What do you mean?"
"I know you're hiding something from me. You and Dad."
"Of course not, Riane." She sounded angry. I sighed. This was going nowhere.
"I'll find out soon, Mom," I promised. I hung up the phone.
Downstairs, Dad was making hot chocolate and whistling. He was trying to seem like nothing was wrong. He did that whenever he was worried. Jack was sitting on a chair, watching.
"What's going on, Dad?" I asked. He glanced at me and looked away. He looked guilty, which meant he wouldn't be telling me anything. I didn't feel like wasting my time, so I left.