Jeanie Petrie bolted upright in her bed slick with sweat and nausea.
She felt as if her brain had been put through a food mixer then clumsily rammed back into her skull which pounded with sickening fury. In her young years to date she had never felt so vile.
Just as her thoughts started to stumble on why exactly she felt so diabolically ill, her eyes fell upon her father, sat in the corner of her room, his eye lids half shut with the beginnings of a snore escaping his mouth.
With a sickening blow to the guts Jeanie remembered some of the events of this past Saturday and without warning threw up.
Her vomiting awoke her father with a start and Andy stared at her with a mixture of fury and dismay. His eyes were shrouded with dark rings while the suitcases that hung under them almost made his entire forehead sag.
He’d aged ten years it seemed to Jeanie. She didn’t want to know what she looked like.
Andy’s stare grew in intent, “You stupid little girl Jeanie, how could you do this to me and your mother? Drugs!? Hard fucking drugs!!!???” he screamed before slapping her. Jeanie cringed while tears rolled down her pale cheeks. Her curly red hair clung to her forehead in a dirty mess.
“Why?” Andy continued, “Why did you do this, such a thing Jeanie, so dangerous, so destructive. Why?”
Jeanie felt her dull anger rise. She had never felt so bad, but she also felt incredulous rage at her so-called father sat in front of her, full of morality and what felt like feigned outrage.
Jeanie knew lots of things. Her parents may think her a stupid little girl, but she was far from that. She had observed the unspoken truths between her parents, the silences, the feigned moments of happiness, her Mum’s desperation to be happy along with her father trying not to recoil from those desires.
Her parent’s relationship was a sham, and, like many adults in such relationships, the motive for maintaining that sham was to keep their daughter happy and stable.
It had failed and Jeanie’s view of them and herself had suffered in silence as a result.
“Why? Same reason as you Dad, I’m bored.” Jeanie finally replied.
“Bored? You are going to have to do better than that my girl. Bored? All kids get bored Jeanie, they all moan about being bored. What they don’t do is go find some other kids and shoot up in an alley way and get on the road to oblivion. You’ve just turned fourteen for God’s sake. Fourteen! I get a call from the hospital telling me my fourteen-year-old daughter is in the hospital having been shot with adrenaline to wake her up before they lost you for good. Do you know how that feels? You are so lucky your mother doesn’t know do you know that; it would kill her Jeanie. All this, this place, everything she and we have worked for would be up in smoke. It would kill her Jeanie, I mean it. This can never, ever fucking happen again do you hear me? Do you!!?”
Jeanie felt a mix of relief and sorrow. Her mother was none the wiser.
She wept as she thought about what her dad had said. He was right, it would kill her mother. She loved her mum so dearly.
“Bored like me? What do you mean by that Jeanie?” Andy said, breaking her thoughts.
Jeanie’s fire blossomed at the question. “Bored like you. You are bored of mum and me, you always are. That’s why you go out blowing money on drinks and sluts. I’ve seen you!” she shrieked. “I’ve seen you so many times since we moved to this horrible place. I’ve seen you in bars and at that country club with the tourist guide. You lecture me about drugs, but I’ve seen you coked up plenty. Running around with secret little groups. Even here in this place, you have a whole other life. You make me sick, you…you, you are lucky mum doesn’t know about all that. Though she does I bet, you know it, she knows it, you both just pretend not to. You did this to me!”
Andy’s colour drained from his face. His mouth moved but no words came. His brain froze and he stayed mute as the silence engulfed them both in the bedroom that belonged, to what used to be, his little daughter.
“Jeanie,” Andy pleaded as he broke from his daze and made to hold her. She shrank back from her father; she didn’t want him near her.
Jeanie, her stomach rolling, her head pounding, came to a quick and decisive conclusion. If her dad was as bad as she feared, then he’d go for and agree to what she was about to say. If he is a good man, he would do the right thing.
Jeanie, like most kids, could recognise right from wrong, a knack most adults had lost once they’d learned to create personal truths or justifications.
“I’ll never do it again, Dad. I did it because it was there and because I’m so lonely here, but never again. I regretted it instantly and today I regret it even more. So, I’ll do you a deal Dad, a grown-up deal. You say nothing to mum about me and leave me alone from now on. In turn, I promise to say nothing about you and that slut and all the money you’ve blown on her, coke and whoever else. Otherwise I will tell her, deal?”
Andy left his daughter’s bedroom with his fists bunched as he held back the urge to slam her in the mouth.
Jeanie sat up in her bed, silently hoping he would return and decline her deal. That he would embrace her and tell her it'll be alright. They'd all get through this together. hell, they could even leave this place if she wanted. She could accept the discipline and hurt of her mother, she even thought it might be the glue that held her parents together. A catalyst for new-found honesty and love.
But Andy knew already he was going to accept the deal. His fourteen-year-old daughter was just like all those bitches he’d dealt with, all bribes and blackmail. He knew he should do the right thing.
Tell Marie the truth, tell her everything.
But Andy also knew he was not one for doing the right thing by others. Life had caught up then passed him by. He was not this father or husband type, and never should have been. He'd been trapped, unfairly so.
Andy knew his daughter had his number and it was too late to change now, he'd cashed all his chips in at the bank of morals, nothing was left, besides, he didn’t want to change. He would not give up his life and wants in favour for another.
He accepted the deal and failed his daughters test.
Jeanie would never look at her father in the same way again, in fact she barely spoke to or acknowledged him again, unless in her mother’s presence. Andy was effectively dead in his daughter’s eyes, but he cared more about protecting his interests than what his daughter and wife felt or thought. About that much, Andy was honest.
But it didn’t matter now, not anymore. The city was his paradise and he had a new life here.
Andy was willing to do anything to protect that new life, like a great many others here in this city and together, they’d be willing to kill for it.