But this story has a sad ending because my mom died a year ago. She lost a long battle against drug addiction and passed away quietly as she slept. It didn"t hurt as much to lose her as I thought it might because the truth was that I never really had a mother. We were three people living under one roof, but we were never really a family. My parents were more concerned with fighting each other than they were about raising me.
But family was family. Taking care of my father was my job now, and I accepted that. I"d been working since sixteen, and after high school, I"d started working full-time. Daddy hasn"t had a job in a couple of years. He used to be a car mechanic, but he"d gotten fired when he couldn"t stop drinking, and after that gig, he never really looked for a new job.
Sitting the bowl of eggs on the counter, I reached for the frying pan and stifled a scream when a cockroach ran out from behind the wall. Getting a hold of myself, I narrowed my eyes and slammed the pan down on the counter.
"Why you got to be so damn loud, girl," my father yelled from the other side of the door.
"Sorry," I called back and shoved the pan in the sink. Scrubbing it down, I turned on the stove and waited for it to heat up.
Our small apartment wasn"t much. We"d had a tiny but nice house on the other side of town up until I turned fifteen. I was never sure what happened, but things got so much worse between my parents. But I wasn"t too young to understand that the drugs and alcohol had taken over their lives. They sold the house and we moved here. It was rent-controlled, but that was about the only good thing to it. The walls were thin, and at night, I could hear everything. In this neighborhood, those aren"t good sounds.
The walls were cracked and dingy from tobacco smoke. The carpet smelled of alcohol and urine. And no matter how many times I scrubbed the carpet, it never seemed to get better. There were two small bedrooms in the apartment, a living room, the small kitchen and dining area, and a small patio looking out over the busy street.
It wasn"t much, but I"d made it home. Any money left over at the end of the month would go to buying a few things from our local dollar store to help brighten the place up. My father always cussed me out for it, but the knickknacks made me smile. I"d collected a bunch of strange tin figurines in the shape of fun animals that sat on the counter. I filled glass vases with fake bright-colored flowers, and used craft paper on cheap canvases to decorate the walls and hide some of the cracks. It was the little things that made me happy.
Humming to myself, I pulled out the sliced ham and opened it up. The smell hit me before I saw the white and green moldy spots. Turning the box over, I sighed. I distinctly remembered buying the sandwich meat not too long ago, but it had come from the discount store.
Tossing it, I grabbed the last egg from the carton, the one that I was going to boil, and cracked it into the bowl. If there was no meat, Daddy wasn"t going to be happy, but hopefully the other egg would appease him.
Throwing hard ramen squares into some boiling water, I did a quick scrub of the kitchen while the food cooked. My father expected everything to be spotless, although with all the strange old stains on the surfaces, that was easier said than done.
When the food was ready, I took it out to the living room. We had a small dinner table in the kitchen, but I was the only one who ever used it. My father always took his meals in front of the television. "Here you go, Daddy," I said as I handed him the plate and sat a new beer on the side table next to him.
"Where"s the damn ham"" he snarled as he looked at his dinner. "You said you"d fry up some ham."
"It went bad, Daddy. I gave you an extra egg to make up for it. I"m sorry. I get paid tomorrow, and should be able to swing my the grocery store when after work."
Grunting, he grabbed his fork and dug into the eggs. Quietly, I twirled my ramen around my fork and watched him from where I sat on the couch. "Are you and Rosaria going out tonight""
"No. Boys night."
Immediately, my stomach clenched. My neighbors, the drug dealers and gang bangers and addicts, didn"t scare me as much as my father"s friends did. Most of my neighbors have known me since I was fourteen. If anything, they looked out for me. On the nights that I came home late, those of them who were still out loitering would snap at me for not texting them and asking them to walk me home. They"d follow me up the stairs to the apartment to make sure that I got in safely.