Holy Saturday, 2003
The next morning, as usual, Kayla is making her breakfast of coffee and skim milk as the rest of the family is polishing off lunch. As the pot gurgles its appetite-suppressing brew, she moves towards her father’s armchair just on the edge of his line of sight to the television.
“Dad?” He breaks his gaze and looks up at her. “I’m sorry.”
He nods. “It’s alright, sweetie.” He feels he should do something more, that three words weren’t quite adequate enough. “Erm, here.” He pushes the footstool aside, decides he should set his plate somewhere, pulls himself to standing and outstretches his arms. “Come here.” After what seems an appropriate amount of time, he gives her the universal pats that signal the completion of an embrace, she kisses his cheek, and he is free to go back to his program having only missed a couple lines of dialogue.
Next stop in rounds is Mom’s craft table. “I’m sorry, Mom,” Kayla whimpers, her eyes bloodshot, although it’s not discernible whether it’s from tears or the alcohol. Ann hesitates but follows her husband’s lead and offers a half-hearted hug from her seat.
Caron is at the table, watching the familiar ritual. Kayla approaches her, eyebrows raised and lips pouting, a gesture once endearing but made grotesque in her condition. “We’re okay?” The younger sibling breaks the ritual; she can only stare. The silence is unbearable for Kayla. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry for what?”
“Caron!” Her mother whispers over her shoulder.
“No, I mean it. What part of what you did are you sorry for? You can’t just say two words and it’s like nothing happened.” She is breaking every rule that has never been written. “Are you sorry for coming home late? For the yelling? Do you even remember anything specific you said that you want to apologize for? Are you sorry for being drunk? That I have to take care of you?”
“Caron,” their father growls, “don’t be a bitch.”
Kayla seems confused. So much has never been demanded of her.
“I don’t know why I’m sorry, I’m just sorry.” Now there’s no question about the increasing redness in her eyes. She skips the coffee (think of the calories she’ll save!) and dashes back up the stairs to the safety of her bed.
“God, Caron.” Jim says in disgust. “She’s just being a teenager.”
“She has a problem. This happens four nights a week.”
“Don’t exaggerate. No one likes a fibber.”
“I’m not! She drinks too much. Something’s wrong.”
“Look,” he scowls, finally turning from the television to face her. “She’s a teenager, she’s doing what teenagers do. You’ll understand in a couple years when you’re her age. I don’t want to hear another word about it. Just let it go. Say to yourself ‘people make mistakes, someone has to pay the price,’ and you pay it, and you move on. You let. It. Drop.”
Caron’s throat is closing but she manages one last defense. “Pastor Kline says it’s not my fault. That I shouldn’t have to be the one to pay.”
He glares, and for a moment Caron realizes she’s made a terrible mistake: now her father knows that she’s let out their secrets. “Pastor Kline should stick to his novels.”
She should be relieved he’s letting it slide, but tears are welling up and she can’t stop the correction: “Music.” she chokes out. “Mr Strickland is my lit teacher.”
“Unless you want to take on her punishments? That worked when you were kids. You told on her and I’d give you her punishment. Remember that?”
“Mr Strickland is a teacher. At school. The church orchestra is Pastor Kline. Pastor, like of a church?”
“Do you want her punishments handed to you? I don’t mind.”
The chair screeches against the tile as she pushes away from both the table and the conversation. She never did take on Kayla’s punishments, but then, neither did Kayla. Still, Caron absorbed the debt, taking care of her drunken sister night after night, and she paid the price of a different kind. This is the body, broken for you. It did nothing for Kayla, but Caron released her blood to release the pile of hurt that was being held in her as Kayla’s weight plummeted. This is the blood, shed for you. Eventually Caron became glad for her sister’s alcohol consumption: at least it had enough calories to keep her sister alive.