What other Del would be there? I wanted to snap at him.
“He couldn’t come in today. He had problems,” the man
“What kind of problems?”
“What do you mean? Anything happen to his little brother or sister?”
“What do I look like, the Albany newspaper?” he griped, and hung up.
Couldn’t come in? Family problems? What could have happened? How was I supposed to go back up to my room and sleep? The very thought of having to beg lisa for use of her phone again tomorrow sickened me. I’ve had enough of this, I thought. I don’t care what happens to me now.
I went back into the house and found the SUV keys where they always were. Daddy didn’t hide them. He couldn’t even imagine my taking that car again, I thought. He was so confident I was too afraid. Well, I was, but this was more important to me. I wasn’t going to let my fear stop me.
Our house was so big and my parents’ bedroom was at the far end in the rear, so there was little chance of their hearing the SUV being started. Nevertheless, I drove out very slowly and kept the headlights off until I was out of our driveway and had turned onto the road. Then I gunned the engine and drove as quickly as I could to Del’s house.
All the lights were out when I arrived. It was late now, close to midnight, so I shouldn’t have been surprised, but after hearing what the man at the pizza parlor had said, darkness frightened me. I wasn’t sure what I should do. What if it wasn’t as serious a situation as the man had made it sound? Wouldn’t I cause more trouble by appearing at Del’s front door now? His mother might become very angry, and I might be responsible for bringing unpleasantness just when things were going well for Del and his little brother and sister.
I sat there, trying to decide, and finally concluded that since I had come this far and taken this great a chance, I had to do something. I couldn’t just drive off and forget about it. As quietly as I could, I got out and approached the front door. Hopefully, Del will wake first and come to the door, I thought, and tapped lightly. No lights went on, and I didn’t hear any sounds from within. I knocked harder and waited. Still, no light went on and no one came.
“Del!” I called. “It’s me.”
A dog began barking next door. I heard someone scream, “Be quiet!”
Disappointed, I turned away and started back to the car, but just before I reached it, a taxicab pulled up behind it and Del stepped out of the rear, holding Patty Girl in his arms. Shawn got out after him and immediately took hold of his jacket.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, the moment he saw me.
“I called the pizza parlor and some man told me you had family problems.”
“You could say that,” he remarked, and paid the taxi driver.
“Hi, Shawn,” I said. “Can I take your hand?”
He looked at Del, and then he offered his hand to me.
“What’s happening? What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I’ll tell you all about it after we get them to bed,” Del told me.
They were both so exhausted, it didn’t take long. The expressions on their little faces told me the exhaustion wasn’t only physical. They were overwhelmed with fear and emotional trauma as well. As soon as we closed the door on their room, Del lowered his head.
“She overdosed,” he muttered.
“She’s in the hospital, still in a coma. I stayed as long as I could with the kids.” He shook his head. “I’m disgusted with her. I don’t even feel sorry for her. She went off with that LaShay after work and she mixed a few things, including a lot of cocaine. I got the call just before I was supposed to leave for work myself and she was supposed to be home to watch the kids.”
“Oh, Del, I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah. It’s just a matter of time now before the social service worker will be back at that door, this time to tell me they’re going to foster homes,” he said sadly, and flopped onto the chair at the kitchen table.
“You want me to make you something to eat?”
“No. I had a cheese sandwich at the hospital, and my stomach regrets even that,” he replied. He stared so coldly at the wall, I felt my heart ache for him. “I don’t know why I let myself believe her.”