My dad yelled about me being late for supper since it was a school night. He left me a swollen cheek too. He's been drinking again.

My mom asked me the other day how I felt about leaving and moving, I asked her "What about dad?" That had made her cringe and she hasn't spoken to me about it since.

After dinner I went to my room and locked the door. I lie there for a while and I think of calling Nicki. I could always talk to him but sometimes he'd make it weird. Apart of me really doesn't mind though.


The next day at school we actually start doing work. I'm also thinking of signing up for baseball, which doesn't start until the second semester.

Today Nicki asked if he could sit with me and my friends at lunch. I didn't mind, but some of my friends thought he was strange, which he is.

"Hey Bobby." Jenna says at lunch.

"Hey." I say coolly.

"Mind if we sit?" She and her cousin, Vicki, stand there.

"Nah, help yourself." I say and I look at Nicki who's seated at the end on the other side. Jenna sits next to me, and her cousin Vicki sits on the other side next to Nicki. Nicki looks awkward but Vicki keeps trying to talk to him. It's a little pathetic.

"You throwin' any parties Jenna?" I ask.

"No not until Halloween. I'm throwing a huge costume party at my house. My parents already bought all the gear." She says.

"Sounds cool." I say.

"I was wondering if you all wanted to come." She asks basically everyone at the table.

"Sounds cool. October 31st?"

"Yeah." She says.

"What's so special about Halloween?" Nicki asks out of the blue while eating.

"I don't know. It's just Halloween." Jenna says curtly. More curtly then she really needed to.

"It'll be so fun." Vicki smiles.

"Yeah…I bet." Nicki frowns.

Jenna shot daggers at him though. "Nicholas, why are you so weird?" Jenna asks. We all look at her now. "You've always been so…strange. Do you hate everyone or something?"

"No." Nicki says without a thought.

"Then what's your problem?" Jenna continued in her scathing tone. "You don't like me?"

"I never said that." Nicki's voice rises.

"Then what?!" Jenna goes off.

"Jenna, calm down." Vicki basically whispered.

I laugh to break up the tension. "Yeah it's just Nicki. He's weird, don't bother yelling at him." I say, but I see Nicki give me that blank yet wanting look. The one I can't stand. No one knew what that face meant but me. He leaves his seat without another word.

"Nicholas." Vicki says but he keeps walking. "Nice going, Jenna." Vicki frowns.

"Ugh, he's such a weirdo. Why do you even like him?" Jenna asks Vicki.

"Shut up. Stop being a bitch." Vicki says.

"Ugh," Jenna scoffed and rolled her eyes. She felt the need to turn to me now. "What about you, Bobby? He's your friend."

"…" I don't have anything to say to her.

"Well?" Jenna keeps saying to me like I could explain Nicki.

"I wouldn't say all that." I tell her. Then I keep eating. I'll talk to Nicki later.

After school, I head straight home. After the bus ride, I find Nicki on the yellow road and decide to talk to him.

"Hey." I say.

"Hey." He says. He tends to sound down, but it's just him being him. Or so I think.

"Hey uh, I'm sorry about today. At lunch." I tell him.

"What about it?" He asks.

"I should've stood up for you." I say.

"No, it's fine." He says.

I roll my eyes. "Nicki, quit it with the passive aggressive shit." I grab his arm. "Seriously, it gets old." I tell him. His eyes narrow and I know I made a mistake.

"You're cheek looks pretty swollen." He says.

"Yeah." I release his arm and hold my cheek. His words give me phantom pain.

"Your dad?" He asks but I don't answer.

"Maybe you should quit with the passive aggressive stuff too Bobby." He says then just walks off.

I look in his direction. Kind of pissed, I don't say a thing. I just go home.

At dinner it's quiet, as usual. My mom and dad don't talk and I don't try to make them. It's always been like this. It's why I used to spend a lot of time with Nicki. He had the fort. He'd stay in there all day doing lord knows what. It's nice to have somewhere to escape to I bet.

After the loveless meal I head up to my room. Up there, I hear it all.

"Stop drinking! Goddamn it Harold!" My mom yells downstairs.

"Shut your damn mouth!" My dad yells. There's a slam, a smash, and some more noise but I ignore it. I listen to some music until it doesn't cover their fighting anymore. I stare out my window. The air's still warm. I look outside and see a few crows. Gross.

I want to ignore them for a little longer since they always do this bullshit. But then I hear something I haven't heard before,

"Alice? Alice, where the hell are you going?" I hear my dad. "You think you're leaving me? To hell with you!"

She said she'd take me…

As I look out my window I see my mom walking. She has a suitcase. She keeps going…and going and going until I can't see her anymore.

She left me. My heart beats all fast and I feel sick and sort of scared. No I am scared. My mom really abandoned me. When dad would get in his broken moods, my mom would tell me it would all be okay. She's been saying that less and less. Looking even more stressed out. Looking older and wearier and I hadn't done a thing to help her. I guess she thought I'd stand up to him, but I'm sure she just couldn't take it anymore.

So she leaves? What will she do? Stay with my grandmother? Flee the country? Maybe she even has another guy. I don't know.

I don't know or care. All I know is that she's gone and I don't know what to do about it.

Call Nicki? What can he do? Run away? And go where?

There's rattling on my bedroom door.

"Bobby!" My dad screams. "Open up this fucking door!"

I don't say anything. I think I even start crying. Fuck I'm scared, so scared.

My dad busts the door down and all the anger he's built up is unleashed on me.