May 26, 2009


Brandon is silent for a moment. He nods his head, looking away. “I guess that makes sense.” His voice is soft and understanding, and for some reason it makes me more sad than if he had been angry or called my reasoning ridiculous. He locks eyes with me. “Aren’t you scared though? To start over?”

I shrug. “Yes. I am. But I’m more scared not to.” Brandon looks confused. I pause, trying to gather the thoughts I have pushed to the back of my mind until now. “I’m more scared to have things keep going the way they are now – with Mom, and Dad, and even Gretchen and Andrew. And with me.”

“With you? What do you mean?”

“I just … I guess I’m just tired of feeling like a shadow. Like, I’m a shadow of what Billy was. And Katie. I’m in her shadow--“ Brandon opens his mouth to argue but I rush on “--and I’ve actually been fine with that, you know? I’ve stepped into her shadow. But now, I’m just ready to be me.”

Brandon frowns. “But you are you. And you’re awesome. I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit.”

“Maybe not. But I’m hoping that will change.”

Brandon sits down on the bottom porch step and looks out toward the road. “I’m going to miss you.” The sun has almost completely set. A car drives by, moving slowly through the thick evening air.

I sit next to him. “I’m going to miss you, too. But we’ll always be friends.”


We sit in silence as the rose-gray dusk shifts to black.

May 21, 2009


Brandon stops short at the base of the stairs. “So?” He stares expectedly.

“Oh! Hi.” I smile at him quickly before turning back to the box I’m packing. I begin folding the top panels closed.

Hi?” Brandon’s voice is filled with hurt and anger. “That’s it? Hi?

Across the porch, Mom clears her throat. I keep my eyes on the box, bending the flaps of cardboard so that they interweave. Mom drops a final chair cushion into her cardboard box and then slips through the front door.

I glance at him. “Yes. Hi.”

Brandon’s lips are pressed together in a scowl. He pushes his wavy hair off his forehead and looks up. “Ok. Fine.” Spinning around, he begins to walk back to the front gate.

“Brandon. Don’t be mad.”

Brandon turns back. “Mad? Of course I’m not mad. Why would I be mad that my best friend is moving – in six days – and didn’t even tell me about it? I’m not mad.

“I was going to tell you. It was just--"

“When? When were you going to tell me? You’re leaving in six days.

“I--I just didn’t want to bother you,” I stammer, racking my brain to remember the other reasons I had come up with for keeping it secret. I can’t.

“Bother me? Why would you think you would bother me?”

I can feel my face flush. “Because you and Katie were always together, and I knew you were really happy and everything, and I--I just didn’t want to ruin that.”

Brandon looks skeptical. “That’s stupid.”

“I know.”

“Me and Katie aren’t together anymore anyway.” He shoves his hands in his pockets.

“I know.”

“You do?” He sounds surprised. “Did she tell you?”

“Of course she did. She’s Katie.” I cringe as his face falls. “Brandon, I’m sorry…”

Brandon shakes his head slightly and then smiles. “Hey, don’t worry about it. Who cares, right? No big deal.”

“Yeah, no big deal.”

Brandon is silent for a moment. “So. You’re moving.” His tone is changed; his anger gone.

I shrug, smiling. “Yeah.”


The question takes me aback. “I dunno… Mom is unhappy here, and Gretchen could really use her help in Connecticut, and Andrew is there, and … and…” And what? I feel like I’m missing something. Why do I want to move to Connecticut? Why did I convince Mom to follow through with this crazy idea?

“…And I’m tired of people making decisions for me. I want to make my own. I want to start over.”

May 19, 2009

Loose Ends

My visit from Dad was the first time I questioned my decision to support Mom in her crazy idea to move to Connecticut. The second was when I finally told Brandon. Well, told might not be the right word …

It’s a week before the big move, and the sun is setting peach in the distance. Mom and I are on the front porch, silently boxing up the clutter. I pull out the final push-pin holding the string of white star-shaped lights to the ceiling and they fall in a twinkling cascade at my feet. The air is still and hot, and the dust clings to my arms and makes my face feel gritty. I wipe my hand across my forehead.

I hear the crunch of sand under sneakers before I see the figure jogging lightly toward us down the sidewalk. I immediately know it’s Brandon, even though his outline is made fuzzy by the dimming light. I’ve been expecting him to show up today, but my stomach still tightens as he gets closer. I grab a box filled with citronella candles and worn straw beach mats and begin twisting the star lights into a pile on top, turning my back to the road.

Last night, I called Katie to break the news of our move – which is why it was only a matter of time before Brandon found out, even though I told her not to tell anyone.

“WHAAAT?! Shut up. SHUT. UP.” Katie’s high-pitch squeal wasn’t softened at all by its travel through the phone lines.

“I know, crazy, right?” It felt kind of good to shock Katie, for some reason – to be the one to do something so totally unexpected for once.

“And you’re OKAY with this?”

“Yep. I am.”

Katie was uncharacteristically silent for a moment. “Well then. I guess that’s great.” She sounded frosty. I didn’t care. I said nothing.

“So… well, why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

I tried to ignore the slight tinge of guilt settling in my stomach. “Oh I dunno… It all happened so fast. And I know you’ve been really busy too, with Brandon and everything, and…”

“Brandon? Ha!” Katie barked a laugh. “Didn’t you see my Facebook status? That’s like, so over.”

My heart stopped. “What? Since when?” I tried to sound casual, but my voice squeaked with the strain.

Katie didn’t notice. “Oh, I changed it yesterday morning. Yeah, I told him I’d still go to the dance with him and everything, but just as friends. Maybe that will make other girls like him or something, you know? Seeing him with me?” I could hear Katie’s nails clacking against her laptop keys through the phone. “But anyway! I can’t believe you’re leaving!

Katie rambled on through the rest of the conversation, and I inserted the necessary whining “I know, I can’t believe it either!” and “I’m gonna miss you too!” But the entire time, all I could think about was Brandon. Was he all right? Was he completely crushed by Katie’s easy dismissal? And most of all, why didn’t he TELL me?

Now, as Brandon runs through our front gate to the porch where I stand, his face twisted in a mix of anger and shock, it looks like I’m about to get my answer.

May 14, 2009


Dad’s face falls slack with recognition. “Luce, I…” His eyes gloss over; he looks pained. I see his bottom lip tremble once before his jaw tightens.

I have to look away. The anger that exploded from me cools just as quickly as it boiled, leaving me exhausted. I sigh. “I know, Dad. I’m sorry.”

“No. No, I’m sorry.” Dad runs both palms down his face, wiping away his emotion. “I shouldn’t have done this.” He clears his throat and shoots nervous glances around his feet. “Where … where is my hat…?” he mumbles.


Dad’s eyes bounce quickly from my face to his hat, perched on the banister post. He grasps it with both hands to his chest, bending the rim. “I’m so sorry, Lucy. You’re right. Of course you’re right. I can’t ask you to stay.”

“Dad… That’s not it; I…”

How can I tell him what I’m really feeling when I don’t even know myself? I’m so angry with him, but so happy he’s here. I’m excited to leave with Mom, but I wish I could stay with Dad.

His eyes catch mine. “It’s OK, Luce. I know.”

And in that second, I think he does. I feel like I’m five years old again, when Dad could sense that I was scared to ride the kiddie rollercoaster at the traveling fair without even asking. “Let’s skip this one,” he said as we strode by the clanking, sparkling ride. “It looks boring.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

Dad smiles a crooked smile and opens up his arms. I step forward and allow myself to be wrapped up. And as he gives me a tight squeeze, I know I made the right decision.

May 12, 2009


My hands jerk back out of his instinctively. "Wait - what?"

Dad looks down, uncomfortable. He runs his palms back and forth against the tips of the grass. "I mean, I know the apartment would be kinda crowded, but we could make it work--"

"Wait. Dad--"

"And I'm not the best cook, but I'm learning--"

"Dad. Dad!"

He looks up. His eyes are hopeful. I break his gaze. "Dad, thanks and all, but I just don't think... I mean..." I push myself up off the step. I suddenly feel claustrophobic in our postage-stamp square of a front yard.

I cannot believe my father is here -- and not just here, but here asking me to move in with him. My father, who said he felt so contained by his life in Fort Myers that he had to break free. My father, who had seemed perfectly content to see me on a few weekends and holidays and no more. Why is he doing this now? Why is he doing this to me?

I lean against the front fence and look out down the street. I had just been so excited and anxious to leave this place, and now I suddenly have a whole new option to consider. Why can't things ever be easy?

Behind me, I can hear Dad stand. "Luce, don't leave me."

His words catch me off guard. I freeze. Don't leave me. Is he serious?

The warm anger that I have been able to keep contained until now begins to trickle through my body. Don't leave me. How could he say that to me?

"Don't leave you? Don't leave you?" I feel the tears threaten to pour over, and it makes me even more angry. "That's impossible, Dad. You already left me."

May 7, 2009

Close Range


My dad, Mark Malone, is perched on the edge of a wicker rocking chair on our front porch. He looks up at the sound of my voice and smiles, his tanned face breaking into deep grooves like dry leather. “Lulu…” Standing slowly, he takes the faded Ranger hat he has been fiddling with in his lap and drapes it over the banister post.

“Dad!” I sprint up the front steps and throw myself against his chest, wrapping my arms around his thin frame. His canvas uniform feels rough and starchy against my cheek. He smells like incense and freshly turned soil.

“Hey there kiddo.” Dad’s callused thumb scratches my forehead as he pushes my bangs out of my eyes. “What’s new?”

Behind us, the car door slams. “Hi Mark.” Mom’s tone is cut and dry, and I immediately loosen my grip on my father and turn to face her. Her forced smile is painful. She gives Dad a slight nod.

“Bonnie. Hi.” Dad’s voice is soft and calm. He runs his fingers through his sand-colored hair.

Mom adjusts her pocketbook on her shoulder and clears her throat. “Well. I’ll let you two catch up.” She sweeps past us up the porch stairs and into the house.

The uncomfortable silence only lasts a moment. “Dad! What are you doing here?”

“To see you, of course.”

I’m so happy to see him that I hold back my knee-jerk response to say that you should only use “of course” when something is obvious, since Dad coming to see me is anything but obvious. He hasn’t been to the house since the divorce. The few times I have seen him I’ve gone to stay at his small one-bedroom apartment in Homestead, right outside Everglades National Park.

I try to put all that aside and focus on the fact that Dad is actually here. “Of course. Well, I’m glad you’re here.” I pause. “So … I guess you heard about the move.”

“You guessed right.”

I bite my lip. Planning for the move has been a busy, frantic, exciting whirlwind. For the past two weeks, I’ve willingly let myself get caught in it, ignoring the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that keeps reminding me how hurt everyone will be when they find out. Because it’s not just Dad who has been kept in the dark – I haven’t built up the courage to tell Katie or Brandon either. But that’s another story.

In my mind, I can justify not telling Dad. I just tell myself that he did the same thing to me – he moved away and left Mom and me alone. But now, seeing him in person, all I remember is how hurt I was when he moved out. I don’t wish that on him. I don’t wish that on anyone.

“Sorry I didn’t say anything.”

“Your mother called last night. I have to say I was taken aback. Moving in two weeks? That’s not enough warning.”

It was when you left.

Although I don’t say it, Dad can read it on my face. He squats down next to me and grabs my hands in his.

“Lucy. I’m here because, well, I don’t want you to go. I know I haven’t been here for you as much as your mother has, but I’m ready to make a change.”

Dad takes a deep breath. “I’m here to ask you to come live with me instead. Stay in Florida. Don’t go to Connecticut.”

May 5, 2009


The next few weeks go by in a blur. Turns out Mom had done a little more than some Googling on the Internet before she sprung the idea of moving to Connecticut on me. She already has a house in mind – a tiny white ranch with pretty powder-blue shutters and a big maple shading the front yard – and she has talked to a local real estate agent about listing our bungalow in Fort Myers as a rental home. She has even applied for that librarian job in South Haven, and they call her to do an over-the-phone interview two days after my midnight revelation.

Everything seems to fall into place easily – and for some reason, I’m not freaked out. Instead, I’m actually excited.

At first Mom seems skeptical about my out-of-character ease. “Now you’re sure you want to do this?” she asks repeatedly for the first few days, and every time I answer “I’m sure,” my heart flutters – but with anticipation, not nervousness. It feels, I dunno, exhilarating to be acting so unlike myself – to be taking such a risk and not worrying every step of the way. I feel grownup and mature, like my mom and I are making this decision together.

There are only a few times during the month before we move to Connecticut that I feel like the old Lucy – the old scared, nervous Lucy. The first is when Mom and I come home after a lunch out celebrating the news that she got the job to find an unexpected visitor sitting on the front porch...