Maybe I was going through my own blue period.
“Do you feel depressed, Aria?”
I didn’t reply. I played the angsty teenager role. He didn’t seem to mind.
* * *
“How was the meeting?” Mom asked me, driving away from Dr. Ward’s office.
“Great,” I lied. “He’s really great.”
“Good.” She smiled, nodding. “Good, good, good. I’m glad you have someone to talk to.”
* * *
After my therapy appointment, Mom had to go back to the hospital and Dad was working late, so it was my responsibility to grab Grace and KitKat from our neighbor’s house and make sure they had dinner. Boiled hotdogs and fries were as fancy as I was getting tonight, and the two of them didn’t seem to mind at all. There was nothing my two sisters loved more than fries and whatever the heck a hotdog was made of.
We sat at the table eating together, and Grace kept staring down at my stomach. “You’re really getting fat,” she said, stuffing her mouth with her hotdog, which was drowning in ketchup.
“Shut up, Grace.”
“You should think about going on a diet. Otherwise you’ll have a two hundred pound baby. Mrs. Thompson’s baby was pretty fat.”
“No one cares about Mrs. Thompson’s baby.”
“That’s not nice,” she hollered, ketchup landing on her colorful shirt. Grace’s outfits always looked like she’d walked through a Skittles factory and swum in rainbows. From colored bracelets to rainbow socks, you would think she would be as sweet and bright as her clothing. Not so much. “You’re not really nice anymore.”
“Well, calling your sister fat isn’t that nice either.”
“You’re so grumpy.”
I’m just tired. “Just eat your food, twerp.”
“So does your baby have a dad?” Grace asked, apparently not in the mood to give me a break.
“Grace…” The tone of my voice had an edge to it, warning her not to continue.
“He has a right to know probably that his girlfriend is knocked up with his baby.”
She had this crazy idea that only people who were married or at least dating could get pregnant. If only that were true. I refused to reply to her statement. Instead, I picked and stabbed the food on my plate.
“I bet your baby’s going to come out and his face is going to look like a butt. And it’s going to be all like this.” She made the ugliest face known to mankind, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
I also cried.
Emotional freaking rollercoaster.
Most of my love for music came from my mom, but Dad was the one who introduced me to the intense, beautiful skill of the air guitar and lip syncing when I was seven. Each night that I sat in the tree house, more and more memories of the man he used to be came back to me. I’d never forget the first song he taught me on the air guitar. It was one of my best memories with him.
* * *
Dad and I sat inside of the tree house, him with his case of beer, me with my case of root beer. He had a cigarette hanging between his lips as he crushed his first emptied beer can and tossed it to the side. I followed his movement with my root beer.
“I’m gonna teach you something that will get you a girlfriend some day, Lee. It’s the same way I landed your mom,” he said, lighting his cigarette. “The art of faking it.”
I didn’t know what he meant, but he turned to his left where his boom box was sitting beside an old guitar case. “You’ve ever played the air guitar? Or have you ever lip synced?” he asked.
After a few puffs of his cigarette, he nodded. “All right. You gotta watch closely, because this shit is serious and takes dedication. Do you think you can dedicate yourself to learning this instrument?”
I laughed and nodded as I watched his fingers start tuning an invisible guitar. He hit play on the boom box and as the music filled the space, his fingers moved against the guitar and his lips mimicked the words, but he didn’t actually speak a sound. “More Than A Feeling” by Boston boomed through the room as he strummed and ‘sang’ every note, rocking his head along the whole time.
“Whoa,” I murmured as the song ended.
He smirked. “Yup. I got something for you, one second.” He turned around, opened the guitar case, and he lifted an invisible guitar. “My old man gave me this when I was a kid, and now I’m passing it down to you. Take care of it.”
I stared at my empty palms as he placed it in my hands. I cradled it as if I was holding the world against my fingertips. “Whoa,” I murmured again.
“All right. Are you ready? I’ll teach you the song I just played.” He hit play one more time on the boom box. We spent the night laughing, drinking beers, and learning how to become professional fake performers.
* * *
“What are you doing today?” Dad asked Wednesday morning. I had to make sure he was talking to me, even though we were the only two in the house. It was actually a miracle that we were standing in the same room. Most of the time when he saw me, he dodged in the opposite direction.
“Are you stupid? Who the hell else would I be talking to?” he grumbled as he opened the refrigerator.
I stayed up late each night since I found out about his cancer, researching and learning more and more about the disease. I also decided that I would blame the cancer for Dad’s grumpy personality—that way I wouldn’t feel like I was the one making him moody. “I have school.”