41 - Where Small Explanations are Given

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41

         Right away, the smell of alcohol hit my nose. There was a threadbare couch occupying most of the living room, and slumped on the left end was who I assumed to be Sam’s dad.

         “Yeah, Dad?” He ambled over to the cluttered coffee table, and cleared away the stacks upon stacks of newspapers and advertisements. He swept a variety of junk food wrappers into a trash bin and dumped the papers into a recycling bin under the table. He started to reach for the unopened cans of beer when his dad slammed the one he was holding onto the table. Sam flinched back, and slowly let his arms drop.

         “Where were you yesterday? Why’re you out so late?”

         “At a friend’s. And we haven’t even had dinner yet,” Sam reminded gently. “Dad, this is Jasslyn, Jasslyn, this is my dad. Pass me the beer.” He reached for them, and this time, his father let him. “Do we still have pizza in the fridge?”

         I watched Sam move quietly around the room, working on tidying the place up. I stood awkwardly near the door, a hand braced against the wall. His dad put his beer can down with a little clank.

         “Nice to meet you, Mister…Mister…”

         “O’Donnell.”

         I nodded, fighting my blush tooth and nail from reigning over my face. “Um…How are you?”

         He stared at me for a little while before saying, “Good. How’re you?”

         “Good.”

         My eyes followed Sam as he finished hanging up his dad’s jacket and wandered into the kitchen. He pulled open the fridge and pawed through the freezer. “How about pizza pops and corndogs, Dad?” he called.

         “Sure. And what about your…friend here?”

         I lost the fight, and my face flamed red. I hoped Mr. O’Donnell wasn’t going to get any ideas. “I’m good with anything.”

         “’Kay. Dinner in twenty.”

         While Sam bustled around the kitchen, I went to perch awkwardly on the armrest his dad gestured at. I’d studied him a little from my position near the door. He had passed his hair and eye colour onto Sam, but the resemblance stopped there. Mr. O’Donnell had rough features, a chin covered in a scruffy beard, a crooked nose, and uneven teeth. His face was narrow, and his eyes didn’t have the same round, boyish quality his son had.

         “So, you’re Sam’s friend?” Alcohol fanned over my face, and I held my breath. The last time I’d had alcohol (a tiny sip with parent supervision, of course) I’d thrown up on the carpet.

         “Um, yeah.” I nodded my head slowly and glanced at Sam. I could tell he took care of his dad, and upon realizing that, I felt a twinge of guilt. Two minutes into meeting his dad and I’d already pegged him as the alcoholic type. Shame and guilt flushed my face red.

         “How’d you two meet?”

         “Just today,” Sam called. His eyes met mine briefly. “We started talking on the bus, and Jasslyn mentioned she’s been wandering around town with no place to stay. Can she sleep here for the night, Dad?”

         I blinked and gawked at how casually he’d brought the topic up. I snuck a glance at his dad and held my breath.

         “Where’s she gonna sleep?”

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