Home > Where We Belong(8)

Where We Belong(8)
Catherine Ryan Hyde

“I’ll help,” the woman said.

We stood over Sophie, and I took a deep breath and then just grabbed her up in a bear hug, pinning her arms to her sides. I kept my hands pretty low, toward her waist, in case she tried to bite. The lady cop grabbed her bare ankles, but Sophie pulled them right away again and got me a good shot in the right thigh, and then the lady grabbed on and held tighter this time. Now that she knew what she was up against.

I made a rookie mistake, though. And I of all people should’ve known better. I was holding her up too high, so her head was almost as high as mine, so that if she threw her head back…

Just as I had the thought, she bucked hard, trying to straighten out, and her head came back and hit me, slamming my lower lip against my teeth. Enough to really stun me.

The lady cop’s head came up. “You okay?”

I just gave her this desperate point toward the house with my head, because all I wanted was to get in, so that this could be over. We moved fast across the grass and up the three little concrete steps into the kitchen. Aunt Vi slammed the door behind all of us, and I set Sophie down on the linoleum as gently as I could.

One of the cops handed me a paper towel, but I couldn’t even see which one was doing the handing. It just appeared in front of me at the end of a blue-sleeved arm. At first, I didn’t know why a paper towel. Then I got it that my lip was bleeding.

That was when Sophie started throwing herself against the door. Hard.

See, that was bad. That was self-injury behavior. Most of the time, we didn’t have to worry too much about self-injury with Sophie, but we always knew things could get very bad if she ever crossed that line. It was this thing that was always out there, maybe waiting for us. And I really didn’t want that to be the moment it showed up.

I grabbed her and brought us both down to the floor and just sort of lay on her, wrapping up her arms and wrapping my legs over and around hers. My earplugs were still out, and she was shrieking right in my ear, but that seemed like the least of my worries.

Her voice was still pretty strong.

I don’t know much of what went on behind me after that. I heard Aunt Vi talking to the cops by the front door, but not what they said. After I thought they were gone, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I thought it was Aunt Vi, but when I turned my head, it was the lady cop. She took my chin in her hand and wiped the blood off my lip and my neck and my shirt as best she could with some kind of damp cloth, and then she held the split together and put a little butterfly bandage on it.

She gave my shoulder a squeeze before she left. I could probably interpret it as either meaning I was doing a good job or wishing me luck, because I’d need it. Or maybe both.

Then I didn’t hear any more talking, and nobody seemed to be around.

I’m guessing it was about another thirty minutes before Sophie screamed herself to sleep.

After I put her to bed, I locked myself in the bathroom. I took a long, long shower, almost until the hot water was gone. Like everything that had just happened would wash off. It did make me feel better, though. Some better.

I got out and wrapped up in a towel and wiped steam off the mirror with my hand.

My lip was swollen under the butterfly bandage, and it still looked a little bloody. I wiggled the tooth right behind it with my tongue, and then with my finger, and it scared me how loose it was. I didn’t know if it would tighten up again on its own or if I’d lose it. That would be a major disaster. It’s not like we could afford cosmetic dentist visits.

I heard a light knock on the bathroom door.

“I’ll be right out, Aunt Vi.”

“It’s me,” my mom said.

“Oh. Hi.”

“Did you have an okay day?”

“Pretty much like most of them,” I said.

We sort of had a deal that we each wouldn’t tell the other any more than necessary about any bad days. We’d never said such a thing out loud, but it was a deal all the same.

“I have some great news for you.”

“Good. I could use some.”

“I got a job. I’m going to be working dinners at that nice Italian restaurant on Sixth Street. It’s kind of expensive. And you know what that means.”

Good tips. That’s what it meant. The higher the bill, the bigger the tips.

“That’s great,” I said. “Maybe we can afford our own place.”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, hon. Anyway, I start next week.”

“That’s good, Mom.”

“You sound—”

“I’m fine. I’ll be right out, okay?”

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