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Negative Space XIII
Continuation of our Tuesday serial
from the fountain pen of Myra Love
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 Chapter XIII

In the twenty minutes between Diana's departure and closing time I decided I would indeed see her again and show her my sketches. Why not? She had been much nicer than I could ever have expected and it felt wrong to blame her for Jason's behavior. In the back of my mind, I thought it likely that Diana would need my company during her stay with Jason's family. Though Amanda and Jason were decent enough people, I could not imagine a young Chinese-American woman comfortable in a home where Lore Harnisch popped up daily to insult her and no one had the backbone to do more than say, "Mother, please!" or roll his or her eyes in exasperation.
I had heard Jason's grandmother hold forth on every racial, ethnic, and religious group in the country of which she was not a member, and her comments were truly offensive. She made Mike McLaren seem like a paragon of openness by comparison. I was sure that a dirt farmer's daughter would start to look good to her as a Jason's girlfriend when compared with someone from a different race. I have to admit that I was surprised at how much I looked forward to allying myself with Diana and taking on the old woman.
Partly too, I was flattered by Diana's response to me. And she had impressed me with the way she'd announced that she wrote children's books, as if she had a whole string of publishers lined up and waiting to put out her work as soon as she found an illustrator. At the time I thought her certainty was mostly bravado, but I liked it. It seemed so powerful.
So between feeling as if Diana needed me and admired me, I'd taken enough of a liking to her to overlook the fact that I'd been thinking of her for quite a while as the girl who stole my boyfriend. And I admit that in the back of my mind I hoped that my befriending her would send a message to Jason as well, though I had no idea what kind of a message I wanted that to be.
I was still on edge about how to tell my parents about Donald's drug dealing, but I felt so much more settled in my mind about Jason and Diana that I was in a good mood when I got home. I should have known better than to expect it to last.
When I walked in through the front door, I hung up my coat and walked down the hall towards the kitchen. That's where I usually found a note from my mother telling me how much of dinner she'd made and what else I needed to do that evening. Sometimes I found my mother herself, usually dressed for work and in a hurry to leave. But this evening she sat at the kitchen table, a cold cup of coffee in front of her. She was dressed in the old sweater and stretchy pants that she wore to clean house. And she had an unlit cigarette in her hand. The house didn't smell of smoke, and I was glad because my mom had quit smoking shortly before Donald was born, but I wondered why she was holding that cigarette, staring into space.
"Mom?" I said tentatively. "Is something wrong?"
She turned her head and looked at me almost as if she didn't know me. Then she took a deep breath and said very clearly, "I hope you're proud of yourself."
As was so often the case when I was being blamed for something, I had no idea what I was supposed to have done. In the past I'd often reverted to a childish whine of "what did I do?" when spoken to in that way, but this time I didn't.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Donald was arrested again," she replied, glaring at me, "for driving around in the stolen car you gave him the money to buy. How could you. Lisa? What were you thinking of?"
I resisted the temptation to laugh out loud since I was as likely to buy Donald a car as I was to fly under my own wing power. I shook my head. "I never gave Donald money for a hamburger, let alone a car."
"Well," she said briskly, "that's not what he says. If you didn't give him the money, where did he get it?"
I took a deep breath and spilled the beans, "Drugs," I said. "He's been selling drugs."
She shook her head. "That's just ridiculous," she insisted. "He doesn't even use drugs. He swore that to me. He was just naïve enough to hold something for one of his friends, that's all. He didn't know he had drugs."
I made eye contact with her and held it. "Mom, he uses and he sells."
She shook her head more violently this time and went back on the attack. "You know that we need money and that your father wants to limit Donald's access to those rotten kids he likes to hang around with. How could you do it, Lisa? How could you be so thoughtless?"
I knew it was time to change the subject and get some real information. I'd noticed when I walked up to the door that the truck was missing and had assumed my father had gotten another hauling job, but now it seemed more likely he'd gone to get my brother out of custody.
"Did dad go down to the juvie to get Donald?" I asked.
She shook her head. "Second offense. He's at the police station being processed for jail. Seems a shame at sixteen. But you know how it is today."
I wondered, not for the first time, if Donald had really gotten rid of all the drugs he'd kept in that Crane's jar or if he'd just told me that to pacify me and get me off his back. If the police had found him transporting illegal substances in a stolen car, he'd be in real trouble. I was pretty mad at him for claiming that I'd given him the money for his car, but I felt sorry for him at the same time. He'd wanted wheels so badly, and when he finally got them, they were hot and landed him in jail. I wondered if he'd told the police I'd given him the money or just my parents.
My mom kept sitting at the kitchen table, just staring at turns out into space and over at me.
"Did you get someone to cover for you at the home?" I asked.
She nodded. "Syl said we could trade off on the weekend. She needs to go down to Texas to see her daughter."
"Well, maybe you better try to get some sleep," I suggested.
She shook her head and pouted. "How can you think I'd sleep with my baby in jail?"
"Well," I said, "I need to work tomorrow and I have a test to prepare for, so I'm going upstairs."
"Do what you want," she mumbled.

In my room I stared at my textbook for a few minutes and then gave up. I paced for a while and then went out into the hall where the phone was and dialed Miss Carswell's number. There was no answer and she didn't have her answering machine on. I really wanted her advice, but since I couldn't reach her, I had to make my own decision. Before I could think too much or talk myself out of taking action, I found the number for the police station.. I would see if I could catch my father and find out exactly what was going on. I didn't want to tell him about Donald's drug dealing over the phone, especially not when he was at the police station, but I would let him know there was more to the story than what Donald was telling him.
I dialed, but the officer at the desk told me my father had left for home.
"Did my brother, Donald Dunn, go with him?" I asked.
The officer shuffled some papers and then laughed. "No, your brother is spending the night with us. Bail will be set some time tomorrow morning."
"Uh, could you tell me exactly what he's charged with?" I asked hesitantly.
"Operating a stolen vehicle while under the influence of an illegal substance, namely marijuana," the officer replied. "I think your brother has a substance abuse problem. And he really shouldn't go off and buy himself a car without making sure the seller really owns it. Kids!"
I finally recognized the voice on the other end of the line. "This is Officer Searle, isn't it?" I asked.
His younger sister had graduated when I did, only from the high school in town instead of the county high school. I knew her because she sometimes subbed at work when one of the tellers was sick.
"Yes, it is," he replied with a chuckle. "And you're Lisa, right?"
I nodded, then remembered that he couldn't see me. "That's right."
"Well, your brother should not go telling tall tales about your financing his purchases."
"Oh no!" I moaned. "I'd hoped he'd only said that to my parents."
The voice on the other end was kind. "No, he was very eager to claim you'd helped him out so as not to have to explain to your father where he got the money. Your father didn't believe him, and neither did anyone here. But he sure has a friend who's a good forger."
"What?"
"He had your signature on the vehicle registration form. It was nearly a perfect match to the one you have on file at the motor vehicles registry, but not quite. If he'd tell us who did it, things might go easier with him. He hasn't been charged for that yet. But he will be if he doesn't identify the forger."
I groaned again. Probably he'd given Brenda something that I'd signed, not expecting the signature to be scrutinized so closely.
"Thank you, Officer Searle," I said, eager to get off the phone before I gave him Brenda's name.
"You're welcome, Lisa," he replied, and I hung up.

It was almost midnight when my father came home. I had tried to study and ended up napping, but the sound of my mother yelling at him downstairs woke me.
"What do you mean, they wouldn't release him? You just left him there to rot in jail? What kind of father are you anyway?"
I heard my father grumble something in response, but I couldn't make out the words. I knew I really didn't want to get in the middle of their argument, but I felt that I had to go down and find out what was going on and fill my father in on what I knew. Since I'd fallen asleep with my clothes on, it didn't take a minute for me to get downstairs and into the kitchen where my mother still sat where I'd left her. My father stood by the stove, watching a pot of water boil. Usually my mother had coffee or tea ready for him when he came home, but this time he was on his own. He turned quickly when he heard my footsteps. I walked over to him and gave him a hug, which seemed to surprise him.
"I'll make your tea, dad," I said. "Why don't you sit down?"
He nodded and seated himself at the table but as far away from my mother as possible. He just kept looking at me with a perplexed expression on his face.
"I didn't give Donald money for his car," I said, "but he did tell me he was planning to buy one. I didn't know exactly what to do because the money he was using was money he'd earned by selling drugs."
My mother sprang up. "That's a lie, Lisa," she shouted.
My father just grunted. "I figured as much," he said under his breath.
"I should have said something to you right away as soon as I found out," I continued, "I realize that now, but I was trying to protect everyone, you, mom, Donald. I found an old jar with drugs and money in it in the bathroom a few days back and confronted him."
My mother put her hands over her ears and stood up. "I won't listen to this," she shrieked. "Donald needs defenders, not accusers."
My father stood up and took her by the shoulder. "Go to bed, Ruthie," he said firmly. "I need to talk with Lisa."
My mother shook her head, but he propelled her gently towards the stairs. "Yes, Ruthie, you need to sleep."
She kept shaking her head all the way up the stairs.

 

 


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