Tonight the Streets Are Ours / Page 35

Page 35


“Roman has a basketball game today, Dad,” she said. “You were supposed to drive him.”

“No, I had that on my calendar. His game is on the fourteenth.”

“Today is the fourteenth.”

Her father paused, and she could picture him in his ergonomic desk chair that she used to spin around on when she was a kid, looking through his calendar on his computer. “Dammit,” he said. “I totally screwed up. I’m so sorry, honey. I got my days completely confused. I feel terrible.”

“It’s okay.”

“I’m coming over right now. I’ll pick him up now.” She could hear him shuffling around.

“We’re already in the car,” she said. “I’ll get him there.”

Her father was silent for another moment, and when he spoke, his voice was low. “You’re a really good kid, Arden, do you know that? I hope I tell you that enough.”

“Don’t worry about it, Dad.” It wasn’t really his fault that she was in a car driving to a children’s sports game in what was basically the middle of the night. He was just doing the best he could with the situation he was given.

“I love you, honey. I’m sorry it’s such a hard time right now. Things will get better. I know they will.”

And she wanted him to be right, if only so he didn’t have to be so sad.

“It’s okay,” Roman said once she’d hung up, “because maybe Mom will be there.”

Arden felt her muscles tighten. “What makes you think Mom will be there?”

“Because I invited her.”

“What? When?”

“When I talked to her on Friday.”

Arden had artfully dodged that call, as she had so many others in the past seven weeks. She heard Roman’s and her dad’s ends of these conversations, though. She couldn’t help but overhear them pretending like everything was great at home, promising a repaired kitchen sink and an A+ science project and recordings of all Mom’s favorite TV shows, as if any of those things would be worth returning for. Arden couldn’t miss her father’s and brother’s desperate voices going on and on about what a blast they were having, what a delight it was to live here in this house with this family, and asking again and again, Will you come home now? Will you come home now please?

Arden didn’t want any part in these negotiations. They made her sick. What she knew was that you couldn’t force somebody to love you, you couldn’t convince them to feel something they didn’t feel, no amount of begging would work. All you could do was try, try to make yourself into somebody worth loving.

“Did Mom say she would come to your game?” Arden asked Roman.

“Not exactly…”

“What exactly did she say?”

“She said it was too soon,” Roman mumbled.

“Too soon for what?”

“I don’t know. Just that it was too soon.” He stared out the window for a moment, then sat up straighter. “But I think she was just saying that. I told her my team is doing really good this year. I told her I was the point guard and if she came I’d score a basket just for her.”

Arden didn’t know anything about basketball, but she highly doubted that her brother’s role on the team was anything so important-sounding as “point guard,” and she was confident that he would not be scoring any baskets today, regardless of who was in the stands.

She hated this. The bargaining, the gambling, the promises. It was the same thing her father was trying to do by working seventy hours a week. You should come back because I am so successful. You should come back because I’m so good at basketball. Come back come back come back.

It was a stupid game and Arden wasn’t going to play it.

“She’s not going to come, Roman,” Arden said. “She’s three hundred miles away. She’d have to wake up at like four a.m. to make it there on time.”

He shrugged his bony shoulders. “Maybe she’s going to surprise me.”

“It’s not a surprise if you think it’s going to happen. She’s not coming.”

Roman was the last kid to arrive at the gym, but he still made it there two minutes before Coach’s cutoff, so good enough. The Parakeets were playing the Wolverines, which seemed like a recipe for a bloodbath. Arden settled into the bleachers with the parents and tried to fall back asleep. But these bleachers seemed to be torture devices designed to keep the people sitting on them awake. So Arden pulled out her phone and returned to Tonight the Streets Are Ours.

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