3: Franny

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3. Franny

When I get off the school bus, the sun shines down on me, blinding me slightly as I haul my bag over my shoulder, trying to keep it from constantly sliding off. My house is a little further out from school than others. I could easily walk home, but it would take a good half an hour—twenty minutes if I run.

My house is old with white outer walls and a farmhouse look to it. The building itself is small and narrow, with two floors and a little attic with a single, circular window. Behind that window is all of my mom's things. Her clothes that we never got rid of, her bags and shoes, all her work and papers from the job, and everything else that remains of her.

My dad doesn't like me to go up there. He keeps it locked most of the time and doesn't know that I pick at it every Friday when he's out until it pops open for me. I sit there a lot, just going through everything. Sometimes I don't even bother to open anything—I just sit. It doesn't help me at all and I know it's probably only hurting me more.

But nothing else in the house has anything to do with Mom.

No pictures, fridge magnets, notes, nothing. It's like she never even existed. I guess that's what my dad's going for. He doesn't want to have to be reminded of the fact that she really was there, living and breathing until . . .

I sigh and walk past the large oak tree with the tire swing hanging from its largest branch. I don't swing on it anymore. Mom used to go on it with me.

I walk along the still-wet grass and stop at the front door, pushing open the unlocked door. The house is cold inside, and I know that my dad hasn't bothered to put the heating on. I drop my bag on the floor and kick my shoes off. I head toward the sitting room and stand in the doorway.

"Good day?" my dad asks me as he lounges on the couch, his arms resting out on the back of the furniture and his eyes glued to the television screen. His clothes are rumpled, and his face is darkened by a short stubble which is starting to grow back.

At one time, my dad's appearance was everything to him. I don't know where that man's gone, but the one in front of me is messy, uncoordinated, and currently knocking back a bottle of beer.

I take a deep breath to calm myself and nod. "Yeah. It was good. You? Work okay?"

I head into the kitchen, discreetly opening the fridge door.

"Yeah, it was alright," he says, and I shake my head to myself. By the state of the house and the six missing bottles of beer from the fridge, he hasn't even left the house, let alone go to work.

I look over at the microwave to see the time.

3:20

I glance back into the mostly-empty fridge and realize that there's nothing we can actually consume, unless I wanted to make a ketchup and hummus sandwich in a stale bread bun. I close the fridge door and walk back to the sitting room.

"Can we go out for dinner?" I ask. "Head down to the diner? It's cheap on Tuesday."

My dad turns his head back to look at me and nods slowly. "Sure. I'll drive us over in about an hour."

I look at his beer bottle and swallow. "Um, I'd actually prefer to walk. If you don't mind."

My dad nods again before looking back at the television and that's it. End of conversation.

***

After the fifteen-minute walk to the diner, the building comes in sight. It's one story high and has a lit-up sign that says, 'Bennie's Diner' along the front of it. The windows are large, and the lights are bright as we walk up to the front door. My dad goes in first and I follow. He gets us a table.

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