Joy’s Story is a work in progress from which I occasionally post snippets here. Cassie is the hero’s daughter.
Cassie parted the kitchen curtains an inch so she could watch the new tenant cross the yard and mount the steps to the apartment. Something didn’t add up. That woman had too much class, and probably too much money, to want to live in a place like Liberty and especially in a shitty apartment like the one over her dad’s garage.
Cassie hadn’t missed the Coach purse and matching wallet or the Polo logo on her blazer. No way was she from around here. Her hair looked like she’d stepped out of a salon earlier, the subtle caramel highlights and the layered bob that fell below her chin but not to her shoulders.
Cassie knew what she was doing, too, when she’d adopted that spunky tone and exaggerated her upbeat responses in direct reaction to Cassie’s lack of effort with the conversation.
The woman disappeared inside the apartment and Cassie looked at the receipt where the new tenant had written her name. Joy Baldwin. She fingered the cash in crisp hundred dollar bills and one fifty. Her dad would notice if it wasn’t all there, of course. Adults could assume many things about her, but Cassie wasn’t a thief. She clipped the cash to the invoice and brought it into her dad’s home office which used to be the guest room. But they never had guests. So when her mom left, Dad got rid of the bed and moved in a desk and filing cabinets.
Actually, the bed had gone into the apartment when Cameron lived there for a short time. Then Cameron graduated college and moved to WHERE?
Cassie wished she were Cameron. An adult with his own life. Freedom. That’s what she wanted more than anything. Not to be under her dad’s thumb, following his dumb rules, cleaning his stupid house and making him dinner.
Sure, in return for her chores, he gave her a generous allowance. Twenty-five dollars a week which was more than any of her friends got. And she was learning life skills. That’s what her dad told her. Grudgingly, she had to admit he was right. She knew more about being self-sufficient than most of her friends who’d never done laundry or cooked a meal. Cassie didn’t mind cooking. She’d got pretty good at it as a matter of fact. She loved Pinterest because there were always interesting recipes. Even though usually she stuck to the basics. Otherwise her dad’s eyebrows would go up and he’d sniff suspiciously at what she put on his plate and say, “What’s this?” He liked to be able to identify his food.
Maybe, she mused as she flopped back on her bed and reached for her phone, she’d go to culinary school. Maybe she’d become a famous chef and have her own web site like the Pioneer Woman. Yeah, maybe. She’d missed a text from Jonah. Practice 2nite. Wanna come?
Cassie sighed. Everything was so complicated. Jonah was in a grunge band with guys who’d already graduated. One was his cousin and that’s how they found Jonah because they needed drummer.
No way would her dad let her go out on a school night. No way would he let her hang around with a bunch of guys, especially guys who were nineteen or twenty. Even though sometimes there were other girls there. There was no adult supervision. Her dad was very big on adult supervision. If she wanted to spend the night somewhere, he called the parents and made sure they were going to be home. He dropped her off and picked her up. If he didn’t know them, sometimes he said no. Her dad had trust issues. And he was super over protective. She guessed that was how dads showed love to their daughters. But mostly she just felt like her dad didn’t trust her either. She’d sneaked out one time. One time. To listen to Jonah’s band. On a school night. She didn’t even know how her dad found out. She was sure he was asleep. She’d been super quiet raising her window. But it was like he had super sensitive hearing or something. Jonah had parked down the street and she’d run to his car and got in. She hadn’t realized her dad had gone out the back and got in his truck and followed them. She’d been drunk on the excitement of sneaking out, of having Jonah, who was a junior, come pick her up. The fact that he’d even invited her was a thrill.
He’d introduced her to the other guys in the band. A couple of them sort of gave her the creeps with their greasy hair and tats and appraising eyes. The girls weren’t much better. Cassie had cringed a little bit when the term white trash had crossed her mind. She tried not to judge. But sometimes it was hard. When a girl had blond hair with black roots and too much eye makeup and a tank top that was too tight and black bra straps showing.
Cassie took one of the beat up lawn chairs and the band started up. It wasn’t even her kind of music and she couldn’t understand the lyrics. The lead singer, Kip, didn’t enunciate. She got the impression the song was about contemplating suicide. Driving off a cliff and letting go. She wasn’t exactly having a good time. But she was doing something. She concentrated on watching Jonah, who didn’t look like he exactly fit in with the rest of the band. His clothes were too clean and his hair was too short. His parents let him be in the band and go practice at night as long as he didn’t oversleep and miss school and as long as he kept his grades up. Plus, practice was at his cousin’s house, so his aunt and uncle were kind of keeping an eye on things. Like if the band shorted out the electrical system and started a fire, they’d call 9-1-1, Cassie guessed.
They’d started on a second song and Cassie tried to get into it. One of the other girls lit a cigarette and offered the pack to Cassie. That’s when her dad had walked in. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. He’d given her the look and then he’d waited for her to get up and follow him out. Her dad was good at waiting.
She’d rolled her eyes. Waved to Jonah because they hadn’t even stopped their song when her dad walked in. Her dad held the door and followed her out. He hadn’t said anything on the way home. Neither did she. She guessed her dad didn’t think it was necessary for him to say anything. She knew the rules. She knew she’d broken a couple of them. She knew she was in trouble. She’d just guaranteed herself even less freedom than she’d had before. God, she was stupid.