A Breakfast Call

by Phaedra Lee, age 13
A Breakfast Call Phaedra is a writer who lives in Brooklyn. She is in middle school and likes to read.

““Oh, I got it, sweety,” he says and takes it from her small hand. He tries to grab mine but I quickly clench my fist around it. His eyes meet mine and they are black, and scary.”

1.

Friday is always the best, I have art class in school and a longer lunch. Although today it will be devoted to 7th grade geometry. I always study last minute for tests. Breakfast as usual will be cereal. My mom has already left for work and took Katie to kindergarten. I sit at our four seat table that is squished between a staircase and the oven. Our small NYC apartment can only hold us three.

My bag is already standing by the door and my shoes are on. I quickly gulp down the extra milk and am interrupted by a bring bring. The phone never rings. We aren’t very social people. Katie’s birthday party consists of us and her two other friends. Mine are just me and Mia, but we’ve been friends since we were three years old. I bring my hand up to my ear. 

“Hello?” I squeak. My voice is shaky but I don’t know why I’m nervous.

“Ms. Williams?” A deep voice says. “I am from the local police station. Are you the daughter of Sarah Williams?”

“Yes.” My hands start getting clammy. Now I know why my breath is shaky.

“She and Katie got into an accident. They are at the D.C.R Hospital, come immediately.”

I don’t know what I should do but I know for sure that I will be missing art class and our longer lunch. My only solution is to take the subway and I know that will take at least an hour. “Sir, Mr., um, officer, I can be there in an hour minimum?”

“We have to do x-rays now.”

“Oh um… how bad are they hurt?” I say but notice he hung up. My mind starts racing through everything that has happened. How? Why? Where? I run down the street, through the places I have grown up. My strides reach over two steps as I run down the stairs into the train station. As I get into the station I see a train, the R train. Just the one I need. As I run up to it, the door closes in my face and the wind rushes through my hair. The air almost feels damp and I can feel the dirt. 

“20 minutes till the next R train.”

The station is almost empty so I let myself slip down into a ball on the floor. Thankfully the twenty minutes is only 7 and I’m headed in the right direction. I tell myself not to think about what could happen but my mind finds every way to think about it. I wonder if they will get back to normal or how hurt they are. I get off a stop early and decide to run the rest of the way there, telling myself it will be quicker.

They said there was an accident and so there would be traffic. I try not to think who was in that accident. Rain splatters the street and dampens my hair as I run through the crowded streets but I don’t care. Cars zoom past me and I look away, knowing that my sister might never ride in her car seat again.

The one other time I’d been to the hospital was when we were all playing frisbee. I fell and had to get stitches. I cried the whole way there and back. I remembered the same white hallways and plastic chairs. I remembered the smell of medicine and cleaning spray and it whacks me in the face now as I rush through the double doors. Everybody looks so calm but I am scared and way more than nervous. My hands are shaking and clammy. I feel a tap on my shoulder.

“Are you looking for anybody?” a nurse asks me.

“My mom and sister were brought here about two hours ago. I… I need to see them.”

She wraps her arms around me and leads me farther into the white. I am met by another woman dressed in the same white robe. She leads me down a white hallway and stops in front of a white door. It has a paper on it that says “Williams.” I look up at the nurse’s face and she nods towards the door.

Inside is a white bed with white pillows and white walls with a white chair. The doctor greets me and I feel relieved. Katie is in the bed and I don’t want to overwhelm her so I take her 6-year-old hand. Her eyes are closed and she has a tube attached to her wrist. I haven’t noticed that the doctor has been talking to me so I tune in.

“Basically, Katie is going to heal in the next two days.”

“What about my mom?” I cautiously ask.

“Well, she is in a worse state.” He looks down to his clipboard and starts writing again. 

“How bad?” I ask.

He glances up at me through his glasses. I hear him gulp and he turns and walks out of the door. If I wasn’t as shy, I would walk up to him and demand to know. But I just walk back over to Katie and take her hand.

The doctor knows Mom is in a bad state but I just wonder if maybe it could be worse than “a bad state.” As I’m thinking, I notice Katie’s eyes open.

“Katie!” I say. She looks at me through her glazed eyes. Her hair is thrown around her and her lips are dry and scratched. 

“Ella?”

“Oh my god, are you okay? Does anything hurt?”

“Mmm. No,” she mumbles. I can tell from her voice that she doesn’t have much in her so I don’t say more just let her drift into sleep. 

2.

I wake up to find the sun screaming at me through the dusty windows, and the walls seeming so much brighter than they were yesterday. A nurse is already writing something down in her notebook and Katie is sitting up in bed with a glass of water in her hand.

“She should be able to leave tonight,” the nurse tells me.

I nod happily but once the nod is over, everything starts to fill my head. Where should we go? Back home? To Dad? We only call him once a month. He doesn’t have a family yet and he does not have a stable life. He leaves where he lives every month or so and his apartment is always bare. Our only other option would be Aunt Suzy, but her crazy house and 7 dogs make it unlivable. 

By three, I’m stuffed with hospital food and apple juice. Katie is finishing up on x-rays and then we can leave. I haven’t seen Mom yet but the nurse tells me she will be here for a long time so I take her out of the picture. I tell Dad to pick us up at three which for him means four. The one thing Mom always tells us is how late he is.

By the time Katie gets out, it’s 3:30. By the time we start getting bored, it’s 4:00.

4:30 comes quickly and 5:00 passes slowly. When 6:00 comes, there’s no hope left. Katie falls asleep on my shoulder and by 7:00, I’m asleep too. I wake up at 4 in the morning to find a car swerving onto the driveway. It is very old and I can see the once black paint has now turned into a mess of scratches. I scramble up and shake Katie until she is up and yelling at me. 

“He’s here!” I tell her and thrust my finger in the direction of the car.

“Oh my god, oh my god!” she screams and runs towards the driveway. 

I pull her away for a second.

“We don’t know what he is going to be like so take it easy and try not to be too beggy or anything,” I say. She looks up at me and gives me her pouty face. But before she can say anything, he comes up to us.

“Hey girls!” he says. Katie distracts him with her cute remarks and endless hugs, which gives me enough time to look over him. His voice is deep and his beard reaches just below his chin. I can tell his jacket has been through a lot and his shoes are one step away from falling apart. His car growls and puffs. 

“Well, I guess we should get going, is this all you have?” He glances at our bags neatly placed by the bench.

“Yep.” Katie squeals and runs over to them. 

“Oh, I got it, sweety,” he says and takes it from her small hand. He tries to grab mine but I quickly clench my fist around it. His eyes meet mine and they are black, and scary.

3.

When we get to his apartment, it is already seven in the morning. Katie and I fall asleep but I wake up as our car shakes as we run over a pothole. I know as soon as I open my eyes that this is the rundown part of town. The houses are missing shingles and lawns are dry. Windows are duck taped together and clothes are put on racks outside to dry. I look up to find Dad with one hand on the wheel and the other one holding a beer. 

“What are you doing?” I ask.

“Taking you kids home,” he says. 

“I know this is my fault, but you at least could have tried to help.”

“Honey, I’m doing my best.”

“Well, showing up at four in the morning with a battered car seems like you didn’t try at all,” I yell, but try to keep my voice down. 

Katie starts to stir and I quickly shut my mouth.

“Monrin’,” Dad tells her. She yawns and stretches out her arms. “We’re here guys.”

The car slowly pulls to a stop in front of a ten story building. The once white paint has been chipped off of more than half of the building and the part that is left has now turned to a matted grey and I can tell that it is not right, that some windows are missing. I find Katie’s hand and grasp it. She looks up at me through her big eyes and I know I should have kept her more safe. Dad throws his beer can in the nearest trash. He’s never gonna change is he? Why did I trust him? Why did I think that for once he could be a Dad? Our Dad.

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