When I got home, Richard was in the kitchen, standing in front of the open refrigerator.
"More phone calls for you," he said. His tone was tentative. "Same guy."
I didn't respond. I thought about what Mr. Bodoni said, about joining forces with Richard to help Mom. I did not want to join forces with The Dick. He was looking at me like he wanted a response, but what did he expect me to say? The silence swelled between us.
"Did you tell him not to call back?" I asked.
"Sure. Yes," I said. I dropped my book bag and bent down to untie my sneakers. Richard had yet to close the fridge and the cool air tickled the back of my neck. "How's um...how's my mom?"
"She's…the same," Richard said.
I made myself look at him. "So I, um... I saw my guidance counselor today, and he gave me this…pamphlet on depression. Like, the signs and stuff. And I think... " Fuck you Richard, why was this so hard? "I think you might be right. About my mom."
Finally, Richard shut the door to the refrigerator. But he didn't respond.
"I mean... " I said. "I mean, I'm worried about her too." I kept my voice low; even though I could hear the television from the kitchen, I was half-afraid Mom could be listening in. It was silly, how badly I didn't want her to hear me say I'm worried.
Richard came up to me and shocked the hell out of me by laying both his hands on my shoulders. He wasn't usually a toucher. To my horror, his eyes looked a little teary.
"Your mom is going to be fine," he told me. "We're going to help her. Together."
"Um, okay," I said.
"We need to sit down and talk to her," he said. "You know, as a"—don't say it, Richard, my mind screamed—"family."
And that was when I found myself saying, "I want my dad to be there too."
Richard pulled away a little. "Your dad?"
"Yeah," I said, deciding to run with it. "Like a real intervention. You know?"
Richard nodded. "Well... all right. If you want to ask him—“
“I’ll ask him,” I said, realizing this also would buy me some time. Hell, I could now delay this confrontation as long as I wanted—maybe I could delay it indefinitely. Somewhere along the line I'd started to believe that if you stop thinking about something for long enough, the problem would just go away. Despite being repeatedly proven wrong, I still saw this as a viable strategy. "I'll be in charge of that. Just don't say anything without me, okay?"
"Okay," said Richard.
"Promise?" I asked. I might not have wanted to talk to Mom myself, not at the moment anyway, but I also didn't want Richard going and screwing things up before I even had a chance.
"I promise," said Richard. He put his hands on his hips and let out a long sigh through his teeth that almost whistled.
"Did you know you're out of milk again?" he asked.
I'd been putting off talking to Teek about the Homecoming game. Half the reason I was waiting was to see if Adam was serious about making other plans with me. I hadn't forgotten the week he'd spent ignoring me between when we took Vicodin at his house and when we cut out early to go to my Dad's. At school, it still felt like he was bouncing between wanting to hang out and hardly acknowledging me. But he had said I was awesome this time; he'd said, Who else am I going to be hang out with? So maybe that was starting to change.
The other half of why I waited should be obvious. If it came between going to the Homecoming soccer game with Teek and doing, well, anything else with Adam…sorry, Teek I was going with Adam. That was probably shitty, but I rationalized it by deciding that Adam needed my company more. Teek had Jacob Saddler and Adam had, what, a busted ankle? And my interest in the game was pretty minimal to begin with. Unfortunately, I hadn't deluded myself into thinking Teek would understand.
I was lying on my bed, thinking about maybe, considering calling her, when the house line rang and Richard picked it up booming "What?" in the other room. Just as I was closing my eyes, believing that Richard could handle Ken this one time (he had to be good for something, right?), I heard the rap of knuckles against my door.
"Telephone for you," Richard called through the door.
"I don't want to talk to—"
"It's your girlfriend with the weird name."
I wondered if Richard meant girlfriend or girl friend for a moment, before realizing I didn't care. I got up to get the door.
"Thanks," I said, opening my door just wide enough to grab the phone, then letting it swing close again. My door wouldn't stay open unless I propped it, a quirk of the apartment's architecture I'd always enjoyed.
I flopped back down on my bed; it was that kind of afternoon."Hello?"
"Yo, Dillon," said Teek's voice, "How's it going?"
"I was just going to call you," I said, "Why didn't you call my cell phone?"
"I tried. But I got a number-disconnected message. You forget to pay your bill or something?"
"It's possible," I said, groaning inwardly but trying my best to disguise my distress.
"So Richard's in a mood, huh? He totally yelled at me, before I even said anything. Then he said I had a weird name. Don't think I didn't hear that."
"I think he thought you were someone else.”
I shrugged, like she could see me.
"I don't know," I said finally. "You'd have to ask him."
"Something like that. What's up with you?"
"Not much. I was thinking about the homecoming dance. You're not going, are you?"
I almost laughed. "Uh, no."
"Well, this is the first year I'm going."
"Yeah, and I need a dress…and maybe someone to go to the mall with…"
"You want me to go shopping with you?" I tried to imagine myself in one of those stores in the mall that specializes in fancy prom dresses. It was difficult. "I didn't even know it was formal."
"It's only sort of formal," Teek said. "But the soccer guys always wear nice suits and their dates are supposed to dress up too. It's like a thing."
It sounded like the kind of 'thing' that Teek would normally detest.
"You really like this guy," I said.
Silence on the other end. I laughed before I could help myself, and Teek called me a jerk.
"Tell you what," I said, "I'll go to the mall with you if you'll let me off the hook for the soccer game."
"The homecoming game? I thought you wanted to go!"
"Well…It's more your thing than mine, right?" I hoped that sounded less lame and tired to her than it had to me. "I just don't think I want to see the game that bad," I added.
"Oh," she said. There was a long enough pause to make me feel kind of shitty.
I floundered around for a better reason. "Adam said our team's going to lose the game anyway and that would just be kind of depressing, right?"
"Adam said we were going to lose?" Teek made a scoffing noise. "What does he know? And why do you care what he thinks anyway?"
"He's on the team, Teek. He's played these guys before. And you're just going to see Jacob play, right?"
"No! Well, maybe. Look, I went to all the other games. I just want to go to this one too." Teek made a little frustrated sound that resembled a squeak. "Okay, what are you going to do if you don't go the game with me? Hang out with your mom?"
"Thanks for making me sound like a huge loser."
"I was..." There wasn't really a good way to say this. "I was going to hang out with Adam. He's really bummed about his ankle, and he asked me—"
"Really?" Teek's voice was flat. "You're blowing the game off for Adam?"
"I just said, he's bummed about not being able to play and..." I let my sentence trail off. "Come on, we're both allowed to make friends with other people. You're the one that thought we were 'too close' or whatever."
"You know I didn't mean it! Now I'll have to watch the game by myself."
I saw my opening. "You know, Adam wanted me to ask you to come hang out instead of going to the game. He said Jacob was only going to play for the first part of the game anyway."
"Adam said Jacob is only gonna play for the first part of the game?"
"Well, yeah. Doesn't he usually?"
She didn't say anything. I couldn't even hear her breathing.
"You still there?" I asked.
"Yeah," she said. "I was just...yeah."
"So do you think you'd want to come along? With me and Adam?"
"I...I want to talk to Jacob about it. Okay?"
"Okay," I said, "Later, then?"
"Yeah, see ya." She hung up. I hung up too. At the time, I didn't think anything of Teek talking to Jacob, cause I guess I assumed she would know to keep her mouth shut about the stuff Adam told me, about the team losing, about Jacob playing. That was stupid, in retrospect. But I wasn't even thinking of it because now I was dealing with another problem: Mom had apparently stopped paying our bills. I tried to call Teek back with my cell, just to make sure. It didn't work.
"Mom, my cell phone stopped working," I called, pushing my way out of my room, through my defective door.
Mom was taking a nap on the couch.
"Shhh," Richard came out of the kitchen, a finger raised to his lips. "She's sleeping."
"I can see that," I said, but I lowered my voice a little.
"Did you say your cell phone stopped working? Do you want me to take a look at it?" Richard was suddenly Mr. Fix It.
"It's not broken," I said, "I think the service has been disconnected."
"Oh," said Richard. "Oh." His eyes scanned to the kitchen table which was overflowing with stacks of mail, undoubtably lots of little white envelopes waiting to be stuffed with a check and sent back. Mom had never been the best at keeping up with the bills, even before she lost her job, but we'd never weathered more than a few late fees. We'd never had a service shut off before.
Richard came up close to me like he was going to clap his hand on my shoulder again but then thought better of it. "Don't worry about it. I'll take care of it."
"Really?" I said. I forgot my pride for a second there. "You shouldn't—"
"It's not a problem. I said I'd help you guys out."
I wasn't sure what to say. On one hand, it was gonna suck, not having a cell phone. On the other, this was Richard, the Dick, Mom's man-child boyfriend. I was reluctant to let him take care of anything.
"Don't worry about it," Richard insisted.
"Thanks," I said finally.
"Do you want something to eat? I'm making Rice-a-Roni."
"Thanks," I said again, "I'll come get some in a bit."
"Did you talk to your Dad yet?"
I glanced over to Mom. "Not yet," I said.
Richard just nodded and went back into the kitchen. I felt a little guilty making Richard take care of the bills while I put off our "real intervention" with Mom indefinitely. But not guilty enough to stand there and make myself think about it.
I grabbed the cordless phone from its cradle and went to dial Adam from my room.
Yeah, I was off the hook for the Homecoming game. What were we doing instead?
Up next Thursday, Chapter 18: Today Sucked.