But I see Noah clearly, and I can tell he sees me. He shakes his head slowly, the movements almost imperceptible. I recognize that look, and it sends pinpricks up my arms. I’ve seen it after lacrosse games when a player from the opposing team came up to Noah off the field, looking for a fight.
The look means: Don’t come over here, Frankie. . . . “Frankie?” Mom’s voice scrambles the images, and Noah’s face disappears.
I open my eyes and blink hard, battling double vision. “Are you still drunk?” My mother doesn’t recognize
when I’m having a flashback, which only proves how wrong things are between us.
“I’m just tired.” And completely screwed up.
The glass door to the precinct swings open, and Dad charges in like he owns the place. From his faded green Indian Motorcycles Tshirt and five o’clock shadow to his scarred knuckles and crooked nose, he looks more like a middleaged boxer or construction worker than an undercover cop. I guess that’s the point. He flashes his Maryland State Police badge at the county cop sitting behind the counter. Did Mom call him? Or one of the officers here?
It doesn’t matter. He knows.
“Why don’t you go sit down while I talk to your parents?” Officer Tanner nods at a row of red seats bolted to the wall. He doesn’t have to tell me twice. He meets Dad in the middle of the hallway. “I’m sorry, Jimmy. I’d like to make this go away, but—”
Dad cuts him off. “You know I don’t walk that line and I would never ask another cop to walk it, either.”
I’ve heard my father talk about the line between right and wrong so many times. It defines every aspect of his life, and tonight I crossed it.
I slouch against the molded plastic seat and count the black rubber marks on the floor. My long hair falls over my shoulder and hides my face. I want to disappear, especially when the precinct door opens again.
“What the hell is going on?” King Richard, my pathetic excuse for a stepfather, bursts into the lobby.
“Why don’t you take it down a notch, Richard? This isn’t your office,” Dad says. “Nobody here works for you.”
“James.” Only Mom calls my father by his given name. “You could at least try to be civil.”
Dad crosses his arms. “I could do a lot of things. . . .”
Nobody pisses my mother off more than Dad. At least he gives her another target.
“That’s enough, Elise.” My stepfather shoots her a warning look.
Mom’s heels click against the floor as she scurries over to her place beside King Richard. He rests his hand on the small of her back in case he needs to pull her invisible puppet strings.
Within seconds, they’re arguing. It’s nothing new, and I don’t worry until the shouting dissolves into sharp whispers. Never a good sign.
Snippets of the conversation drift through the hallway, and I strain to listen.
“—ruined her chances of getting into Stanford.” Mom.
“If she keeps this up—” King Richard.
“Ever since Noah died—” Dad.
“It’s a shame she can’t ID her boyfriend’s killer.” Officer Tanner doesn’t bother whispering. “That son of a bitch should be locked up.”
My stomach lurches like someone kicked me. He’s right, but it’s not a shame.
My mind is damaged—shrink code for too weak to handle what I saw that night. Now I’m a hostage to the flashbacks that hit without warning and the insomnia that keeps me from sleeping more than three hours a night.
Mom and Dad walk toward me shoulder to shoulder. A united front. They divorced when I was three, and they get along about as well as two rabid dogs locked in a closet. If they managed to agree on anything, they must think I’m a few weeks away from hooking on a street corner.