Growing Up (short story)

Of course, it would happen this way! Lydia dropped her book bag onto the floor as her arms went numb; it was all she could do not to sink to the floor herself. Sandra lay in bed staring at nothing, foam crusted at the corner of her mouth. There was a grey tinge to the skin that couldn’t be mistaken for anything but the color of death. Shakily she crossed the room to close the curtains effectively covering the room in darkness. It couldn’t hide the stench of burnt plastic or the acrid smell of decay. Lydia snatched up her bag and quickly left the room closing the door behind her.

In her own room she turned on the record player so Ozzy could fill the empty spaces. The image of Sandra’s corpse stayed with her clogging up her mind so she could think of nothing else. Desperately she reached for The Prince on the shelf above her desk. She took it over to her bed where she carefully lifted the cover. Nestled inside the cutout pages was a joint and a lighter. At this moment she was grateful for Leo’s insistence to preroll all of her weed ahead of time. Her hands were shaking so much she knew she wouldn’t have been able to accomplish that process. She sparked the joint and breathed in deep pulling smoke all the way into the bottom of her lungs.

How could Sandra have done this to her? Sure their’s wasn’t a relationship based on love like most mothers and daughters. It was more of a mutual hatred. Lydia needed a roof over her head and someone to pay the bills. Sandra seemed to like to have someone around to yell at when the drugs finally left her system. Not that Lydia was home when Sandra became sober. It still rankled that Sandra would just overdose like, that leaving Lydia to deal with everything on her own. She should’ve just filled out the emancipation forms a long time ago and rid herself of the burden of having to care for her mother. Now she was stuck with a dead body and the possibility of ending up in the system. Which is what Lydia was trying to avoid by staying with Sandra.

The doorbell rang startling Lydia out of her daze. She quickly snuffed out the joint cursing the entire time. Positive that one of Sandra’s “friends” was at the door looking for a good time, she yanked the door open with a sneer. Unless the guy was into necrophilia, that was unlikely happen tonight. Still she had to deal with this problem before whoever it was decided to get belligerent. She didn’t need the neighbors calling the cops till she figured out what to do about Sandra. “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT?” she demanded.

“Just, you.” was the smirked response from a crowded shadow, where a lit cigarette took a drag, and a man slumped against the wall one ebony shoulder exposed from his bright purple top. A bulging backpack lay against his legs like a drunken toddler. “What’s wrong Baby Girl?” He asked tenderly reaching for her face.

Lydia forced on a watery smile, “What makes you think anything is wrong?” She turned her back on her friend and walked away from the door forcing back the frustration of the last few moments.

“Because I know you to damn well, Sweetheart.” Leo closed the door behind him and placed his backpack onto the oriental coffee table Sandra got at a garage sale. It settled there with a clink of glass as Leo turned his focus to his friend who seemed to be trying to hold herself together by wrapping her arms around her stomach. “That and you opened the door yelling at me. Now tell me what is wrong.”

Lydia leaned back against the wall still hugging herself.  She looked away from Leo not wanting to see his reaction as she said, “Sandra is dead. She overdosed in her bedroom.”

“Is that all?” Leo asked smirking. His friend should’ve been relieved to be rid of the burden that was her mother. Something wasn’t adding up. Lydia wanted to wipe the smug look off his dumb face.

“She’s still in her room,” Lydia confessed in a whisper, “I don’t know what to do.”  The enormity of the next few moments began to weigh on her and she sank to the ground rubbing her arms. Leo walked passed her and the family photos Sandra took when they were still happy. While they covered the walls they only showed Lydia when she was baby til she was five. When the pictures stopped is when Sandra lost the battle against the meth that took her.

Eventually, Leo made his way back into the living room where Lydia stayed huddled against the wall. He sank down next to her and placed a hand on her head. “Well, we are going to have to do something,” he began gently. “We can’t let her rot in there.”

“I know,” Lydia sniffed. She rubbed her nose against her arm, refusing to raise her head.

“We should call the cops,” Leo’s tone remained gentle as he began to stroke her hair.

“No!” Lydia jerked away horrified. “We can’t do that! They’ll find a way to blame me and put me in Juvie or worse foster care!”

“Foster Care isn’t that bad,” Leo tried to reason, getting an arm around her shoulders.

“Can you guarantee that?” Lydia demanded, pushing his arm off.

Leo wanted to say yes but he knew better. He knew that sometimes you ended up in a bad house where the ‘parents’ there were just gathering kids to collect paychecks from the government. In those home the kids were always neglected and left to their own devices. Leo found himself the butt of every joke other boys would play on him for being different. Sometimes he was even bullied by the adults themselves. Not everyone was like the Hendersons who Leo currently lived with. He couldn’t be sure that Lydia wouldn’t end up in a bad home.

Leo sighed, “Well, we can’t just sit here and mope.” He got up and held out his hand. “We have to do something about Sandra.”

“We aren’t calling the cops,” Lydia insisted as she used Leo to haul herself up.

“Let’s think about this rationally,” Leo huffed. “Your Mom has overdosed in her own bedroom. If you don’t do anything she will rot and the neighbors will call the cops.”

Lydia considered what Leo said. He had a point. It wouldn’t be long before the smell got too much and the neighbors noticed. Her and Sandra had lived in peace on their quiet street because the neighbors didn’t pay attention to what went on in the house. She had to do something and quickly if she wanted to live unnoticed like she had for the first sixteen years of her life. “What if Sandra just disappeared?” She wondered aloud.

“You can’t just make someone disappear,” Leo pointed out logically.

“Sure you can,” Lydia declared optimistically. “We just need to pick up a few things. Wanna do some shopping?” Leo shrugged. He didn’t know what Lydia had in mind but he knew better than to leave her by herself. Lydia went over to the decorative vase Sandra threw the car keys thinking that she was hiding them from her daughter. That didn’t stop Lydia from taking the car when Sandra was knocked out so that she could buy food to eat.

It was a quick trip to the office supply store to pick up goods. Leo quietly worked with her when they got home to prepare.  With a curse Lydia began to quickly seal up the windows closest to Sandra’s bathroom to keep the smell in the room. They left her there for a while as they gathered a few of her belongings and threw them into a duffle. Lydia placed the duffle into the trunk of the car so she could deal with it later.

Sitting in the living room, Leo opened his backpack and pulled out a couple bottles of liquor, a bag of weed, and a pink and blue silicone bong. “I’d figured you could use a little pick me up. I just didn’t know how much.”

“Oooh, you brought Willie Nelson” Lydia cooed. “You are the best Leo.” She went to the kitchen and brought back a couple of shot glasses and two cans of pop to use as chasers while Leo packed the bong. They took large rips off of the bong in between shots letting the last couple of hours disappear from their minds.

“What are you going to do next?” Leo asked from the floor. A few minutes ago he took a bong rip that didn’t settle well and caused him to cough himself off of the couch. Instead of getting back up he figured it would be best to slide on the floor for the time being. Lydia took advantage of the empty couch and had laid down herself.

She rolled over on her side to look at her friend. “What do you mean?”

“Well, Sandra is slowly becoming necrotic, leaving you without a parental figure.” he cleared his throat. “Eventually someone is going to notice.”

Lydia carefully considered what he said. He only stated what she had been thinking for the past hour but she still didn’t want to rush to a decision. “I guess I am going to have to file for emancipation,” she began slowly. “I can do it when I file a missing person’s report in 48 hours.” She sighed heavily and rolled onto her back to stare at the ceiling. She realized that it was time she started taking care of herself instead of taking the easy way out. “I guess we all have to grow up sometime.”

The compatriots pulled the emancipation papers out of Lydia’s room and spread them across the floor, weighing out the gravity of their forgery. Lydia had perfected Sandra’s signature in kindergarten, she had already been so tired of waiting for a lucid moment from her would be mother. The seals and stamps were a piece of gold tin carefully matched to the logos needed and glued and hit with a hairdryer.  The dates they left for last, and set the dates to Lydia’s last birthday.

Confused, Lydia asked why. That was like 8 months ago.

“The cops will find it in the room after a more thorough inspection. We did not file it. She did. It’ll solve what happens to you net.” She watched as he slipped into the room to leave the papers, and she called the police, to report her mother’s death. As she hung up, they walked out front to light a cigarette and wait for the inevitable flood of red and blue lights screaming into the neighborhood.

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