Tonight the Streets Are Ours / Page 40

Page 40


Roman had been in the game for all of six minutes, and Lindsey was a terrible liar, but it was possible that a child might believe her.

Roman didn’t seem to be paying attention to her, though. “I don’t know where Mom went,” he said.

“To New York, Roman,” Arden said. “You do know.”

He shook his too-big head. “I saw her in the stands, though. I saw her while I was playing. But she wasn’t there afterward. Why wouldn’t she come say hi? Because we lost?”

Arden and Lindsey exchanged a glance. “She wasn’t there,” Arden said. “I promise.” But there was a tightness in her chest. If her mother had been there, she would have noticed—right?

“Yes, she was,” Roman insisted. “She was sitting right under the exit sign.”

Then Arden realized what had happened. Roman hadn’t been wearing his glasses, so of course it made sense that he would have gotten confused, from a distance. “No, Roman,” she explained, and she felt so bad for him, her baby brother, who had so much learning to do about the world and all of its disappointment. “That wasn’t Mom. That was just me.”

Arden’s mother explains herself

It was funny that Roman thought their mother would come home for his basketball game, because the next day, she sort of did. Not in a literal, physical sense. But she sent a letter. It was addressed just to Arden, and her father hand-delivered it while she was sitting in her room doing homework on Monday after rehearsal.

“No,” Arden said when he handed it to her. “What is this? No.”

“Your mother asked me to make sure you got this.”

“And what, you just do everything she tells you now?”

“I think doing this particular thing makes sense,” Arden’s father said. “You won’t take her calls. You don’t respond to her e-mails. I think you should hear her out.”

“Do you know what she says in here?” Arden asked, weighing the unopened envelope.

“I have a pretty good idea.”

Arden gave an impatient snort. “I don’t have time for this. There’s a huge math test tomorrow that I’ve barely studied for, and I’m supposed to call Chris in twenty minutes, and Naomi is freaking out over some costuming thing, and I can’t rearrange my entire life just because Mom has written a letter.”

“Fine,” her dad said. “I don’t have time for this, either. It’s pro day for a lot of big college teams, and I need to keep track of it all.” He turned and left her room.

A minute too late, Arden said, “Oh, Dad, that’s not what I…” She sighed. She hadn’t wanted to fight with her father. But the person she wanted to fight with wasn’t there.

A letter. Could there be a more one-sided form of communication? A letter was saying, I’m going to state my thoughts, and you can’t argue with them because I’m not even there to hear you. All you can do is listen to me. A letter was not a conversation.

Arden threw it in the recycling bin. Then she fished it out and opened it. Her curiosity always got the best of her.

This is what her mother’s letter said:

Dear Arden,

I know you’re angry at me, and I don’t blame you. I’m certain what I’ve done has been traumatic for you, and it pains me to think about how you might be suffering, or what you might think of me now. But this was something I had to do. I’m hoping that enough time has passed since I left that you might be willing to consider what I have to say, to try to understand why I felt like I didn’t have any other options.

The first thing I need you to know is that I did not leave because of anything you or your brother did, or failed to do. I love you both with all my heart, and all my soul, and nothing that you ever do, or fail to do, could change that. Please understand that.

Things between your father and me have been difficult for a while, and in recent years, instead of improving, they’ve only gotten more challenging. As you’re well aware, your grandparents fought constantly when your dad was growing up, and it affected him in a lot of negative ways. So it was important to him that you and Roman not be exposed to the same sort of parental conflict that he was, and I agreed with that. But the truth is that just because two people aren’t yelling at each other doesn’t mean that they’re making each other happy.

To put it simply, your father and I have very different ideas of what it means to be a parent. And I reached a breaking point. I felt like I had done all the running of our household for seventeen years. I wasn’t getting the sort of support from your father that I needed. And I couldn’t take it anymore.

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