Just a Little Crush (Crush #1)(10)By: Renita Pizzitola
“College,” she mumbled. “Where are you really? What are you hiding from me?” Her words were laced with suspicion. “You’re with him, aren’t you?”
My shoulders sank. Out of all her drunken rants, I hated this one the most. The one where she couldn’t let go of the past, and accused me of things I hadn’t done.
There was a bang, like something had been dropped. Mom cursed to herself then I made out Grandma’s voice in the background.
“It’s Brinley.” Mom paused. “No, I just asked her to get us some bread.”
Grandma spoke again but I couldn’t make out what she’d said.
“Why? Brinley’s already out. She’s just being difficult,” Mom said. “She’s refusing to come home, acting like a goddamned…” She was yelling now. “No. I won’t calm down. She’s lying to me,” Mom screamed. “Why are you defending her? She’s a no-good…”
Muffled sounds buried Mom’s words, then Grandma came on. “Hi, sweetie. I’m sorry we disturbed you. I’m sure you’re busy so we will let you get back to enjoying your Saturday night.” Grandma’s tone was chipper, though I could sense her remorse for what I’d heard. She always tried to protect me from Mom’s outbursts. I appreciated her attempts, and was glad she had no idea how many times she hadn’t been there to intervene. It was better that way.
“Are you sure everything’s okay?” This little reminder of what life at home was like had me worried about Grandma. Dealing with Mom was an overwhelming job. “I can come visit tomorrow if you’d like, or you know, if you need a break you could come meet me for lunch or something.”
“Don’t you worry. I’m fine. You have school to think about and I’ve been so busy with work lately, I’m just going to enjoy a quiet weekend at home.”
For Grandma’s sake, I hoped Mom passed out soon and slept it off most of tomorrow.
Mom yelled something in the background and Grandma cleared her throat. “How about I call you back another day and we can catch up a bit?”
“Sure, Grandma. If you need anything, call me, okay?”
“Of course, honey. We love you. Take care. Bye.”
“Love you too. Bye.” I stared at my phone, trying not to think about what Grandma would have to deal with. I hadn’t left home to escape the drinking and unpleasant aftereffects—I was surrounded by plenty of reminders here. I’d left Mom and her vodka infatuation behind because I thought life would be easier for Grandma if I wasn’t there reminding Mom of everything she’d lost. But maybe I was wrong.
My stomach rolled with worry over Grandma, but she’d been handling Mom for years and knew what she was doing. Of course, I feared it would eventually take its toll on her. I shook my head clear and stared at my calculus book. I’d found focusing on school to be the most effective way to handle the stress. I couldn’t change what was happening in the present, but as long as I remained driven, one day I’d have complete control of my future.
In class on Monday I pretended to take notes. It was better than acknowledging Noah. His gaze had burned into me for the last fifteen minutes. When I’d reached into my bag for my water bottle, I’d made the mistake of looking in his general direction. He smiled and I forced one in return.
I faced forward, engrossed in the lecture. Dali paintings flashed across the screen. Melting watches, naked women, elephants on stilts. I should have paid attention to the lecture. It’d be nice to make sense of the images. Then again, maybe the point wasn’t to make sense.
When class ended, Mason turned to me. “I have a study group after work tonight. It might run late.”
“Do you have any plans tonight?” He shoved his laptop in his bag then slipped the straps over his shoulders.
“No. I’ll probably study in my room.”
Mason watched me. “Do you want me to come over?”
“You just said you have a study group.” I stood and pulled my backpack on. “Look, Mason, I’m not sure what happened but you’ve been acting weird since the other night.”