17: Franny

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17. Franny

 "Where were you last night?" my dad asks when I come down the stairs in the morning to see him sitting at the dining table.

To say I'm surprised is an understatement. My dad usually doesn't come crawling out of his room until after I've left for school. Or sometimes we'll just both get ready and somehow dodge each other without realizing.

"I was just out."

"I heard you come in at midnight," he says.

"I was out with Tally."

"On a school night," he points out and I almost burst out laughing.

"That's never stopped you on a work night," I mutter.

"Fran," he snaps. "It's still a school night and you shouldn't be out that late. You know that—"

"Stop." I clench my eyes shut. "Just stop."

"Stop doing what?" I can hear the confusion in his voice and I snap my eyes open, glaring at him.

"Stop telling me off like you're my dad," I say.

He immediately shrinks back, his confidence draining away until it's nearly all on the floor. It's silly, but it irritates me—the way he's trying to act like a regular parent who can tell me off. Who can rein me in when I mess up. He isn't that parent. He's anything but. The idea that he thinks he can just waltz in and out of parenting me makes me want to scream at him.

It's a full-time job. He can't just pick the moments when he wants to act like a dad.

"You're my father," I say. "But you can't be my dad. Not after everything you've done."

I turn around and don't look back to see his reaction. I stay as strong as I can and go back upstairs to my room to finish getting ready for school. I act like I didn't just shoot my father in the heart. I pretend like I didn't just create a huge void between us. I pretend that I don't see him when I walk out the front door. I pretend that I'm not hungry from skipping breakfast because of him.

I pretend like everything is okay.

And after pretending for so long, I start to believe it myself.

***

"Something's wrong," Tally says at lunchtime.

I shrug as I pick away at my sandwich. I tear the crusts off and then pick at them, breaking them into smaller pieces mindlessly.

"No, something is definitely wrong," she persists.

"Nothing's wrong," I say. "Really. Just not in a good mood."

Tally sighs and picks up her own sandwich, taking a huge bite. "There's a difference between not being in a good mood and looking like you just saw a dog get shot in the face."

I give her a horrified look. "Something is definitely wrong with you. Shot in the face? Really? Couldn't you have said something normal? Or at least less graphic?"

"But the weirdness is a part of my personality," she says. "If I said something normal then you might as well go talk to Steven over there."

Steven lifts his head up from his seat, glancing over at the two of us from another table nearby. "Um, it's Sam."

"Who?" Tally frowns at him.

"My name," he says. "It's Sam."

"I didn't ask for your name." Tally laughs a little and looks back at me. "Honestly, everyone's trying to be my friend today."

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