Afterwards, he went back to his new wife and new daughter in New Jersey, and I packed my bags for ninth grade at Treadwell.
There were a few brief phone calls after that lunch in Los Angeles (mostly long stretches of deadly silence and nervous chit-chat about the weather and my subjects at school), but for the most part my dad was another periphery character in my life. He was just a ghost who lived on the East Coast. I figured out that the town where he lived was a four-hour drive from the Treadwell campus. Never once did he visit.
Don't get me wrong, I was never hurt or angry. My mother had told me a long time ago that she and my dad had just been an item, they were just having fun, and I was the end result. They had been engaged but never married. Neither of them especially wanted to be a parent when I came along. When I had to talk to him on the phone the summer that I was fifteen, I honestly couldn't remember the last time we had spoken.
What I do remember pretty clearly is that one night in early June before my junior year of high school, I was a few chapters into Jane Eyre (mandatory summer reading) when I heard glasses clinking out by the pool. Mom was throwing one of her trademark impromptu parties. I guess it's weird to think of your own mom being kind of a party animal, but my mom was. Her party friends included sleazy Hollywood executives, her good-time girlfriends from her wild days on the Sunset Strip, every once in a while a movie star, and a lot of guys who were a bit younger than my mom who seemed to especially like our pool and fridge full of food. Sure enough, an hour later there was funk music blasting and I could hear my mother's guests laughing and doing cannonballs into the deep end. Our next-door neighbor, Mrs. Earle, called to complain around eleven. She was at least a hundred years old and was the widow of an old time television star who had been in a popular Western show.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Earle," I told her. Most elderly neighbors might assume that a ruckus next door was the fault of the teenager in residence, but Mrs. Earle knew that it was never me who was the source of the racket at our house.
"I'm going to call the police, Taylor," Mrs. Earle warned.
"Please do," I insisted. I knew from experience that nothing short of a uniformed cop knocking on the door was going to end the party before dawn. I could smell charcoal burning in the grill on the deck.
I hung up with Mrs. Earle and knocked loudly on my bedroom window, which overlooked the back yard and pool. I searched the crowd for my mother's cascade of blond hair and finally spied her sitting on the lap of a man from a TV show about cops that I was pretty sure had been cancelled.
My mother waved at me, over-enthusiastically (possibly drunk), and I raised my window.
"Keep it down!" I commanded.
I don't even think she heard me over the music.
"Come down and have some salmon!" she called up to me. "Rocco's firing up the grill!"
I rolled my eyes, shut my window, changed into my oversized Japanther t-shirt, and got under my covers. This was a typical summer night in our household and I was too distracted with the pathetic details of my fledgling love life to get worked up about my mother's pool party. Earlier that afternoon I had been over at Allison's and Todd had offered me a small glass of the wheat grass juice that he prepared for himself daily. I had been out of my mind with excitement that he had even asked me if I wanted to try it. It had taken me ten years of lounging around in the Burch family's kitchen to finally catch his attention.
I don't know how many hours passed before I sat straight up in bed. I heard the sirens of an ambulance in our driveway and heavy footsteps racing from the front of the house to the back. If I had looked out my window at that moment I might have seen someone pulling my mother's lifeless body out of the pool. But I didn't. Instead I crept downstairs in a daze and saw a lot of adults gathering around the sliding doors in the kitchen that led out to the back.
My mother's best friend Julia, a buxom brunette wearing a pink bikini that put her liposuction scars on full display, was wringing her hands in the kitchen.
"What's going on, Julia?" I asked.
"Don't worry, Taylor, everything is going to be OK," she assured me. Her breath smelled like rum and her voice was hoarse. She reached for my hair and smoothed it.
|Travis Fimmel||as Jake|