The front door banged open, heavy back-pack was deposited. "Dad?" She knew he wouldn't be there. She flopped upside down onto her bed with her pink hightops resting on her pillow and her long red ponytail hanging off the end. She had grabbed her iPod off the dresser and now she clipped it onto her jeans and stuck the earphones in. Great. She had just survived her first week at a new school and there was no one to tell about it. She took out her ponytail and shook her head a little. She tried to ignore the extreme pang of loneliness she felt. She rolled off her bed, stuck her favorite baseball cap on her head, just for comfort and headed into the kitchen. Something small, white and fluffy jumped on her as she did, so she got out a dog treat. She pushed her stray strands of wispy side bangs out of her face as she knelt down by her pet. Then she got up and opened the fridge. Beer, half-and-half and a lone can of sprite was all there was to drink.
"Hm, guess I'm having soda," she said to the little Maltese-poodle. It wasn't until she closed the door that she noticed the note carelessly taped to it. She ripped it down and perched herself on the counter to read it.
"Jessie," He was the only one who still called her that. "Must work douuble shift. You'll be spending a night with Grandpa John. Please pack, he'll pick you up at 7." And he had signed it. Not, "Dad" but his actual signature. She ripped her earphones out in frustration. She crumpled the note and shot it like a basketball into the sink. After she hopped down, she stuck a note of her own on the fridge. "Dad. Buy some food. JJ" Then she reluctantly trudged into her room to pack.
She layed down on her stomach to pull out her carry-on suitcase which she felt like she had just unpacked. She packed enough for the whole three day weekend, knowing she could very well end up staying that long. She sat on her bed looking out the window, thinking. Until last week, the only times she had seen her grandpa, or her dad for that matter, were on a few random holidays throughout the past five years. Her dad had always sent her a birthday card and never complained about paying child support but other than that contact had been minimal. He had called her once in a while but in five years had only flown to New York to see her once. She had fond memories of her dad but it was like after the divorce he had become a different person. This past week, the two of them had barely spoken unless they were arguing. When he got home from work, he mostly just drank. And avoided her. JJ reached under her bed again and pulled out a picture of her and her mom. Tears came to her eyes. This still seemed so unreal to her. How could her father be so cold at a time like this? And he knew how she felt which made it so much more confusing. After two years of battling cancer, it hadn't exactly been a surprise, but that didn't make losing a parent any easier. She reached under her bed again and pulled out a small pile of pictures. She sat on the floor, hugging her knees while she looked at them. Her head jerked up as she heard a car skid into the driveway and a door slam. She stuffed the pictures into the outside pocket of her suitcase before getting up to investigate.
She peeked out the window next to the front door. The only thing she could see was a cab pulling away. She jumped at the sound of the knock at the door. She opened the door just a crack and it was pushed open the rest of the way. Her heart jumped into her throat and her stomach tied itslef into a knot.
"Oh my God," she thought in a panic, "did he follow me from New York?"
"Jessica!" He scooped her into a big hug. She wanted to throw up.
"You allowed to wear that hat on this coast?" He laughed as he hit the brim. JJ just looked at him. She was done. For five years she has acted like everything was normal, made it seem like she was fine. Her mom was dead. Nothing mattered anymore and she never wanted to see him again.
"What are you doing here?"
"I needed to see you. We have to talk."
"No, we don't actually. And my Grandpa John is gonna be here any minute," she lied, "so…"
"I thought you might wanna know about your mom's will."
"I hope you didn't fly to California just for that. I was there, remember? I know what she left me."
"What about the part about you?"
"The part that says if your father is unwilling or unable to take care of you, sole custody of you is granted to me."
JJ looked back into her own eyes with utter horror. "What?"
"I also happen to know that your father is one slip-up away from getting his badge taken away, so I just thought you should know…"
"Shut up!" she screamed at him, hot tears spilling out of her bright green eyes. She stood there in shock, her sneakers glued to the floor. Since when had pain and tears become the most prevalent things in her life? So she did the only thing she knew how to do. She fought. "I hate you!" she yelled, hitting him hard in the stomach. She felt his hand come hard across her face, his ring making a cut under her eye. And she was running. She didn't even think about it but the next thing she knew, she was sprinting down the driveway. He ran out after her, yelling something she couldn't understand. She leaped over a skateboard on the sidewalk and just kept running, her sneakers slapping the pavement, oblivious to the fact that it had started raining. She didn't stop running until she was on a bus. She didn't know where it was going but she needed to rest and get out of the pouring rain.
As she sat there on the bus she tried to slow her breathing and refocus her brain. She knew she should be panicking but she just felt sort of empty. As she watched raindrops race each other down the window, her mind slowly began to form a plan. After a while she got off. She knew now where to go, she just had no idea how to get there. So the sixteen-year-old girl from Long Island found herself wandering down the streets of downtown L.A., totally lost.