My Skylar(3)By: Penelope Ward
I took a break, slamming my head against the steering wheel in frustration. After about five minutes, I decided to try it one last time before I would abandon my car and walk the several miles home in the freezing cold.
This time, I pumped harder on the gas as I turned the ignition, and to my absolute horror, the car backfired in a loud bang.
I needed to grab my shit and just go. Now. Go!
I exited the car, and as I turned to lock it, there was the sound of a door bursting open and footsteps scraping the pavement behind me.
“Is everything okay out here?”
My body froze. My back was toward her. I had a hood on, so she couldn’t see my face to identify me. I was almost mad at her for coming out because for all she knew, I could have been a serial killer. But Skylar always had balls too big for her own good.
I had two options: run with my head down or turn around and face her. But how would I explain this?
It felt like my heart was in my mouth when I turned around and removed my hood. “Skylar…it’s me.”
FIFTEEN YEARS EARLIER
I really hadn’t wanted to go to the playground that day. Gram thought it would be a good idea for me to get out of the house because I had done nothing but play video games since I arrived yesterday.
I was staying with my grandmother for the summer because my parents were fighting all of the time, and my mother didn’t want me around to witness it anymore. The excuse she gave me was that my grandmother had been lonely and asked for me to live with her, but I knew better.
Things back home were really bad. Some nights, Dad didn’t come home, and I was scared that there would be nothing left to go back to.
“Come on, Mitch. Maybe meeting some new kids will brighten your mood.”
I begrudgingly slid into the backseat of my grandmother’s older, beige Camry. “Gram, I love you. But I just don’t want to be here all summer. I want to go home in a couple of weeks.”
“Sweetheart, I know. But your folks…they have some things to sort out. Besides, I have been waiting all year to spend quality time with my most handsome grandson.” She smiled at me through the rearview mirror.
“I’m your only grandson.” I offered her a half smile before staring out the window for the rest of the ride.
Gram pulled into the playground parking lot. “You go on and play. I’ll be sitting right here in the car knitting if you need me.”
I had already made up my mind that I was going to remain miserable. So, while the other kids chased each other around, played ball or climbed the rock wall, I walked across the park and planted myself on the bench farthest away from the action. I had snuck my portable video game player into my shirt before we left the house, so I took it out, trying to drown out the screams and whistles of the other kids.
I felt a whack on my arm. “Tag! You’re it!”
My head rose slowly in annoyance. A scrawny girl with two long braids was running away from me, egging me on to chase her. She looked back with a silly smile that soon faded when she realized I still hadn’t moved from my spot to play along.
She walked back to where I continued playing the video game. “I said you’re it. You’re supposed to chase me.”
I stared at her for a few seconds. “I’m really not in the mood for this today.”
She looked down then sat next to me and whispered, “Then, now would not be a good time to tell you that you have dookey on your shoe.” She flashed a shit-eating grin and covered her mouth in laughter.
I lifted my foot. “Shit.”
“You shouldn’t use that language.”
“Excuse me: crap,” I shouted sarcastically as I rubbed my foot on the grass to remove the dog poop.
She tilted her head. “Why are you such an asshole anyway?”
“Oh, you can say ‘asshole,’ but I can’t say ‘shit?’”
She ignored my question. “You should go over there. There’s a sprinkler you can turn on to clean your shoe.”
I groaned in frustration, walked over to the sprinkler and ran the bottom of my shoe under water, careful not to get the rest of me wet. When I turned around and walked back, the girl had disappeared. So had my video game device.
“Shit!” I mean…Crap! Where was she?
“Looking for this?”
I turned around to see the girl waving it in front of me with a teasing expression.
“Give that back to me!”
“See if you can get it from me.”
I lunged forward to grab it, and she started running away…fast.
She was giggling. “A-ha! You want to play tag all of a sudden, huh?”
I chased after her and yelled, “Give it to me now!”