Chapter Thirteen

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Robbie joined her at the table. "You shouldn't have taken it out on him."

"Mind your own business."

The dishes clattered as she dropped them in the sink, but she didn't give a damn if she broke them all.  It's not like they were nice dishes. It's not like anything she owned was nice.

She didn't look at him as she went back to clean up the cards. "Don't think I don't feel bad about what I said to him. I'd say in about a minute I'll be sick about it. I can already feel the souring in my guts."

He pulled a chair out. "Sit down."

"No. I'm too angry to cry. I just want to scream."

"If that's really what you want to do, I guess I should leave before you do it so I don't get hauled away by the police when they think I'm beating on you, or else I could take you somewhere you could holler and no one would care."

She believed him. He'd drive like the devil out of town to get her somewhere she could shriek until she was raw.

Dorothy sighed and put the cards in the cupboard. "I need another cup of tea like I need a hole in my head, but I want something to do with myself now. Do you want a cup?"

"Yes, and throw a shot of that liquor in there, too."

As she prepped the tea, she noticed the snuffling sounds on the other side of the door had stopped. She'd just returned to the table with her cup and Robbie's when the door opened and a puffy-eyed Charlie emerged.

He didn't look at either of them as he collected his long johns from the trunk at the end of his cot. He retreated back into Dorothy's bedroom and closed the door behind him.

The guilt she had been staving off came in a sickening wave. "I suppose I deserve to lose my bed for the night after what I said to him."

"Agreed, but he wasn't exactly polite to you, either."

"You shouldn't have heard that, Robbie. I'm sorry,"

"It's too late for that now. What did your father say to you down there, other than telling you about Charlie missing school?"

"Weren't you listening at the window?"

He chuckled. "I wasn't fast enough. Come on, tell me what he said."

"He told me to come home, and he said he could take Charlie if he wanted to."

Robbie pursed his lips as he thought about this, then shook his head. "You should leave. You should just leave."

"I can't. Ian needs a home to come to."

"This home? Two rooms and a toilet? You said yourself he'd be mortified you live here."

"It may not be much to you, but  --"

"It's not much to anyone," he said, harsher than she had heard him before.

The chair scraped against the floor as he stood. He took his mug of spiked tea to the window and lit another cigarette.

"You can leave. Don't tell me you can't. I've made one offer and I know you've been thinking about it. Even if you don't come with me, you can go somewhere else. If Ian has to travel another day or two to get to you, so what? If Charlie has to start school in another town, so what? Dorothy, I don't want to make you feed badly, but you said it yourself: at seventeen, how much more can you take?"

"I don't need a lecture," she whispered, though it was futile to try and keep Charlie from hearing. There was no privacy at all in that flat. Still, she kept her voice low. "I'm doing the best I can --"

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