Storytime: Aleeta

Please enjoy this post where I tell you a story about an event from my life. Nothing more, nothing less. Today’s story is the fourth in a series about some of the women my dad dated: Aleeta.

Aleeta is from Atlanta, Georgia and my dad meets her on the internet I guess. She comes up to visit us one weekend after seeing her son off to college in Boston. She is sweet smiles and a soft, drawling accent. The vowels shift around unpredictably in her sentences and I think she must know that her accent is beautiful to me because she always turns on her thick, southern charm for me.

I am 10 now and I’m in middle school and things are weird. Things have happened to make me weird and it feels like Aleeta knows it. I assume she’s been told some of those things or maybe she just figures them out because she seems pretty smart. Sometimes she looks at me like I’m glass too, which only further confirms my suspicions. She visits a handful of times despite living 800 miles away. I’m floored by this. I rarely saw the other women before her, but Aleeta is different from them. I like her. I like her more than I like my father all the time and I like her more than I like my mother sometimes.

She seems old fashioned because of the way she wears her hair and her accent but she isn’t really. She’s full of vigor and ideas and kindnesses. Her face is round and soft with few wrinkles, her hair is longer than most adults but most notably she always wears thick, long false lashes but minimal makeup. All her features stay rounded and youthful on her plump face making her look like a Baroque painting. She cooks like a dream and fries food when I have a bad day. One time we make dinner in the kitchen together and she lets me help her. I feel really blessed by this.

We crochet together, though sometimes I crochet and she knits. We sit knee to knee on couch and she will mischievously smile at me before slamming her knees into mine or putting her working piece over mine. We dissolve into a fit of laughter even though we have to recount the stitches on our projects after. This is a secret joke. The other secret joke we have is that she tells me things will be okay, and I pretend to believe her.

She has such a kind smile that I want to believe her.

A few times we play video games together though she’s no good at any of that, I lap her in Mario Kart one too many times and she gives up on it. Another time she sits in the kitchen with me and just watches me bake cookies. I assume she is going to help me but her mouth becomes a thin line when I ask and she says “You’re doing a great job, I don’t want to mess this up.” I burn myself when I take the cookies out. After that whenever I cook she looks guilty even though it’s not her fault. None of it is her fault.

My dad’s car breaks down one week in March. It’s the day after my mom drops me off to spend the week with him while she goes on a work trip. This is the last time my mom will drop me off at his place for a trip. Aleeta decides to come visit for a few overlapping days of the week so we can all spend some quality time together – like a real family. I tell her to bring her cat and we have a good laugh thinking about taking a cat on a plane. I’m so excited that I lay on the mattress in the living room that night with five cookbooks around me trying to pick a recipe for us to make together.

The middle school I go to now is pretty far away from my dads apartment and it’s sleeting in the morning so my dad doesn’t let me ride my bike there. Instead he calls a cab and I get inside and try not to look at the driver. Two more kids get in the cab with me, all of us jostling our things and trying not to make eye contact with anything in particular. When we pull up to  the school, the other two kids exit the cab and I try to leave but the driver catches my coat and tells me that I owe him for the ride. I tell him to charge my dad but he says the card bounced. I have a two dollars on my person so I give them to him and he frowns but takes pity on me and let’s me go.

My dad’s apartment isn’t in the district so I realize I can’t take the bus home either. I think about going to my mothers house after school, touching the key in my pocket to make sure its still there, but I go home with a friend instead. I call my dad and tell him to pick me up after work but when I hang up, I realize my mistake.

Aleeta rents a car at the airport and they pick me up at my friends house late enough that my dad has to apologize to my friends parents. My dad looks happy to see me but Aleeta is clearly furious. The car ride home is my dad babbling on while I look out the window with my headphones on and Aleeta’s vision fixed dead forward, hands gripping at the wheel until her knuckles turn white.

Aleeta sleeps in a hotel room the entire time she’s in NY and I don’t go to school the rest of the week.

When my mother comes to pick me up, she stands in the basement garage of the apartment complex and yells at my father for a clear 20 minutes. The sound ricochets off the walls. My dad never raises his voice, so I can’t hear what he’s saying in reply. I decide not to tell anyone about the cab ride. It doesn’t seem important any more.

To my surprise, Aleeta comes and visits a few more times after that though things feel weird and disjointed between me and her. Or her and my father. Or me and my father. She is still soft and her smile makes me feel okay. I still like her but I feel like I’ve done something terribly wrong. I’m born out of the wrong person, in the wrong family, at the wrong time, or just the wrong place to be allowed to like her. She feels out of reach and eventually I understand that she is.

My father eventually ruins a good thing. Well, more than it was ruined before. He takes her credit card and runs it up without telling her for some reason. I try to make him apologize and smooth it over with her but he actively fights me about it. He tells me that it’s justified and I don’t understand relationships. He tells me that I need to grow up. I beg him to at least leave on good terms, that Aleeta deserves that much. I don’t know what he says to her but after that all her things disappear from the house within a week and he won’t talk about it.

I hope next time I can do better.

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