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Chapter no 12 – CLARA

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There are several routes I can take to get from my house to the grocery store, or my house to the school, or my house to basically anywhere in town. One of them is the main road through the center of downtown, which is the shortest way. The other is the loop, which is out of my way, but even still, it’s the only road I’ve taken to get anywhere for almost two weeks now.

Because it’s the only road that takes me right by Miller Adams’s house.

The city limit sign has moved a little more, and I can see now why he’s moving it in small increments. Unless you’re looking to see if it’s been moved, it would be hard to notice a twenty-foot shift every week. I’ve noticed, though. And it makes me smile every time I see it in a different spot.

I drive this way in hopes he’ll be on the side of the road again, and I’ll have an excuse to stop. He’s never out here, though.

I continue my drive to the grocery store to get diapers, even though I have no idea what kind of diapers or what size to get. Texts to my mother when I arrive at the store go unanswered. She must be busy with Elijah.

I open my contact for Jonah. I stare at it, wondering why my mother wouldn’t call him for diapers. I’m also curious as to why she’s had Elijah for as long as she has.

I could tell she was lying to me when she said he just needed a break. I could see it in her eyes. She was worried. She’s hoping a break is all he needs.

But what if Lexie is right? What if Jonah decides not to come back for him?

If that’s the case, it’s one more thing to add to the long list of tragedies I’m responsible for. Jonah is stressed because he lost the

mother of his child and has no idea how to raise him alone, and none of this would be happening if it weren’t for me.

I need to fix whatever is going on, but I can’t do that when I don’t know what, exactly, is going on.

I decide not to call Jonah. I put my phone in my pocket and leave the store without buying diapers, and then I drive straight to Jonah’s house because Aunt Jenny isn’t here to give me answers and my mother certainly isn’t being honest with me. No better way to get answers than to go straight to the source.

I can hear the television when I approach Jonah’s front door. I breathe out a little bit of relief, knowing if the television is on, he probably hasn’t skipped town. Yet. I ring the doorbell and hear rustling inside of the house. Then footsteps.

The footsteps fade, as if he’s walking away, attempting to avoid his visitor. I start beating on the door, wanting him to know I’m not going away until he opens this door. I’ll go through a window if I have to.

“Jonah!” I yell.

Nothing. I try the doorknob, but it’s locked, so I knock again with my right hand and ring the doorbell with my left. I do this for a full thirty seconds before I hear footsteps again.

The door swings open. Jonah is pulling on a T-shirt. “Give a guy a second to get dressed,” he says.

I push open the door and move past him, entering his house without permission. I haven’t been here since a week before Jenny died. It’s incredible how fast a man can let something go to complete shit.

Not that it’s reached the point of disgusting, but it has definitely reached the point of pathetic. Clothes on the floor. Empty pizza boxes on the counter. Two open chip bags on the couch. As if he’s embarrassed by the state of his house, which he should be, he starts to gather trash and carry it toward the kitchen.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

He steps on the trash can lever, and the lid pops open. I think his plan was to drop the trash into the trash can, but it’s too full for that, so he releases the lever and sets the trash on the kitchen counter with a pile of other trash. “Cleaning,” he says. He takes the lid off the trash can and begins to tie the bag shut.

“You know what I mean. Why has my mother had Elijah since Sunday?”

Jonah pulls the bag of trash out of the can and sets it next to the kitchen door that leads to the garage. He pauses for a moment and looks

at me, as if he might actually be honest with his answer. But then he shakes his head. “You wouldn’t understand.”

I am so sick of hearing those words. It’s as if adults assume that being sixteen prevents a person from understanding the English language. I understand enough to know that there’s nothing in the world that should keep a parent from their child. Not even grief.

“Are you even concerned about him?”

Jonah looks offended by my question. “Of course I am.” “You have a funny way of showing it.”

“I’m not in a good place.”

I laugh. “Yeah. Neither is my mother. She lost her husband and her sister.”

Jonah’s response is flat. “I lost my best friend, my fiancée, and my son’s mother.”

“And now your son lost you. That seems fair.”

Jonah sighs, leaning against the counter. He looks down at the floor, and I can tell my being here is making him feel guilty. Good. He deserves to feel guilty. And I’m not even done yet.

“Do you think you’re hurting more than my mother?” “No,” he says instantly. Convincingly.

“Then why are you putting your responsibilities on her? It’s not like you’re grieving more than she is, and now you’ve dropped your kid off with her, like your grief is more important than what she’s going through.”

Jonah takes in what I’m saying. I can see it sinking in because he looks guilt ridden. He pushes off the counter and turns away from me, like my presence alone is making him feel remorse.

“Elijah rolled over last night,” I say.

Jonah spins around, his eyes darting back to mine. “Did he really?” I shake my head. “No. But he will soon, and you’re going to miss

it.”

Jonah’s jaw hardens. I can see the shift in him seconds before it

happens. “What the hell am I doing?” he whispers. He rushes to the dining room table, swiping up a set of car keys. He begins to head for the garage door.

“Where are you going?”

Jonah pauses, then faces me. “To get my son.”

He opens the garage door, but before he leaves, I call after him. “I’ll stay and clean your house for fifty bucks!”

Jonah then walks back through the living room as he pulls his wallet out of his pocket. He takes out two twenties and a ten and hands the three bills to me. Then he does something unexpected. He leans in and gives me a quick kiss on the forehead. When he pulls back, he’s staring at me with an intense expression. “Thank you, Clara.”

I smile and shake the three bills in my hand, but I know he isn’t thanking me for staying to clean his house. He’s thanking me for knocking some sense back into him.

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