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Gotcha (Pt. 3)

Part 3

Chapter 5

What is that noise? Yelling…it’s yelling. Who’s yelling?

“You’re a complete selfish prick! I hope that you know what you’re doing because I’m done with you. I’m done with your bullshit and done with you treating me like shit!”

Claire stomped up the stairs with her fully packed suitcase in tow. Given Blaire and I were sleeping in the middle of the living room, Claire essentially stomped through the middle of our bedroom.

She knew that there was no way she could dramatically stomp out of the house without going straight through our area, but that did not seem to stop her. I sat up and looked at her. She had her hair perfectly done up in a ponytail with plenty of hairspray. She had tears coming out of her eyes, but her makeup looked like it hadn’t been bothered one bit. Luke came running up the stairs after her with his face red. He was pissed for sure.

“Claire, we are not doing this right now. You’ve woken the kids, this is ridiculous. I can’t believe you right now!” he yelled after her as she headed towards the front door.

“I have called my dad and he’s coming up to get me. I’m fucking done with you!” she screamed over her shoulder.

I looked between Luke and Claire and glanced over at Blaire. She didn’t even sit up. She laid there and looked at the ceiling like this was a bad dream that would go away if she didn’t acknowledge it.

I stare with my mouth open at the whole scene. I feel myself start to lose my cool and I realize I’m slowing getting up out of the bed. I look towards Claire and she meets my gaze.

“I can’t do this anymore Lindsey. I’m so sorry, honey,” she says while she cries.

I look at Luke and he’s standing at the top of the stairs with this look of utter disgust on his face. Then, I realize, behind him is Mike and Hunter watching this whole thing play out. I have no idea what time it is. I can’t believe this is happening. My sweet younger brother looks so tired and so confused.

Luke finally seems to realize he’s surrounded by children and knows he has to save face.

“Guys, I’m sorry about this, I’m sorry. Please go back to bed,” he says.

Obviously, the only people who could go back to bed would be the boys, if that was even possible. I still stood in the same spot I did when Claire met my eyes. I realized that at this point, I was crying. Tears streaming down my face, I looked at Luke who finally gave in to what was happening. Claire moved out the door and shut it behind her to go stand out in the snow waiting for her dad to come pick her up.

Luke took a few steps towards me, looking unsure as to what to do next. I think that he was trying to figure out how to move forward. I didn’t give him the opportunity. I ran right past him, down the stairs, and rushed past the rooms straight into the bathroom. I slammed the door behind me, clicking the lock into place and sunk to the floor, letting the tears fall. They fell onto my shirt and my nose started to run. With my brain spinning, I started listening to everything around me. I realized what I was hearing was Claire in the boys’ room next door attempting to put the boys back to bed. I had no idea when she had gotten back into the house or why she had come back.

I did not want her here. I didn’t want to be here. I didn’t want to be surrounded by this. That feeling that something was not right consumed me. This whole thing seemed surreal like this was the thing of scary stories you hear about other people. Then I heard a soft knock on the door.

“Lu, please open the door. It’s dad. Please Lu. I’m so sorry,” Luke quietly said through the closed door. I felt completely alone and I was exhausted.

“Please Lindsey, please open the door,” Luke tried again.

I reach up and twist the knob just enough for the lock to click and door unlocks. Luke slowly turned the knob and entered the small room. Given that I was hidden mostly behind the door, he had to squeeze in and perched himself on the counter next to the sink looking down at me huddled on the floor with my knees pulled tightly to my chest.

“Lu, I’m so sorry. So so sorry. I don’t understand what she was thinking. I don’t know why she gets this way when we go on trips. It’s ridiculous. I can’t figure out how to make this stop,” he pauses to take a breath to continue talking and my look stops him in his tracks.

“Fighting doesn’t happen with just one person. It takes two people to fight. It takes two people to do this, to ruin a vacation, to wake a whole house full of people,” I say to him with a completely straight face.

I want him to know that this is serious and I’m done. I’ve made up my mind that if he can’t be an adult, then I will. I will be the adult because he can’t seem to figure out how to do it correctly. I’m 15 years old. He blinks at me almost in an attempt to process what I am saying.

I look at him, wiping my nose on my shirt and say, “Listen, if this doesn’t stop, I’m not coming back. Do you understand? I’m done with this. I don’t want to spend all my time on these trips absolutely miserable because you guys can’t get along. It needs to stop.”

He slowly nods his head and says almost in a whisper, “I know, Lu, I know. I don’t want to ruin your vacation either. I look forward to seeing you and Hunter and I just want our time to be special. I’m sorry.”

I quickly retort, “You’re sorry, I get it. You’re sorry. That’s fine and dandy. Don’t say it to me. Show me. And I’m serious, if this happens again, I’m not coming back.”

I’m starting to get angry with him and I think he realizes it. He takes some toilet paper and hands it to me to wipe my face, which I do. I realize I’m a wreck. This whole place is a wreck. And I’m completely exhausted.

“I would really like to go back to bed now, but I need to pee, so can you go?” I quietly ask him.

“Sure,” he says as he slips out the door the same way he entered.

I didn’t have to pee. I just wanted a minute of silence in a room that I didn’t have to share with anyone. I slowly stand up and glance in the mirror. This is bullshit. I splash some water on my face and listen around me again. Everything seems to be quiet and calm. It’s time to go back to bed.

Chapter 6

The next morning, I wake to pans hitting the stovetop and the smell of coffee brewing. I was not ready to get up. I pull my cell phone from off the floor where it was plugged into the wall to check the time. It’s 9 AM. That’s weird. On normal ski trips, we would be up and out the door by now.

I finally decided to sit up and look around to see what was going on. Claire was in the kitchen with her back turned to me prepping something on the counter. The kitchen had a bar top with bar stools on the side closest to me. The bed squeaked as I got out of it and Claire turned to see who was getting up. She gave me a small smile and I shuffled over to the barstools to sit down.

“Good morning sweetie. Did you get some rest?” she asked me quietly, trying not to wake Blaire.

It was a weird question to ask someone after the evening we had. I wasn’t sure what to do or even say at this point. I pulled out the barstool and sat down.

“Yeah. I was able to get some rest.”

“Your dad went out to get some gas in the car and check the mountain to see how busy it is,” she says to me.

“Okay. So what are we doing today then?” I respond to her, confused. This is not the normal way we do ski trips. There is usually a strict timeline that we stick to with when we go to the mountain and when we break for lunch and when we get to wrap up for the day. The whole flexibly thing was throwing me off major, especially because I was honestly still half asleep.

“I figured we’d let everyone sleep in for a bit this morning and do either a half day of skiing or find something else to do today and we’ll hit the mountains tomorrow and the next day for full days of skiing,” she says while she mixed eggs and milk in a bowl.

“Okay. That’s fine. When is my dad going to be back?”

“He left about 30 minutes ago so he should be back anytime now,” she says as the door knob turned and the door creaked open slowly.

Luke walked into the cabin and knocking his boot on the doorframe to get the excess snow off them.

“Morning Lu,” he said with a smile.

“Hey, dad. How’s the mountain?”

“It looks great! It’s actually not too busy, so I think we will have a good few days once we get ourselves in gear here,” he says to me with a wink. I know that he’s the stickler with the timeline, but I appreciate the flexibility this morning given the massive blowout we had last night.

“Cool. Sounds good.”

At this point, I can feel the rest of the house start to wake. The rest of the day is pretty low-key. Everyone is tired and ready to just go back to bed and start another day over fresh.

And that’s exactly how it turned out. The next two days, we stuck to the strict schedule Luke normally kept us on and had two beautiful days at Copper Mountain. We skied all over the mountain and found the hidden trails through the trees with small jumps. We stopped for lunch and ate cheeseburgers and had hot chocolate. This is exactly how I wanted my vacation to go.

The thing that I couldn’t shake was the fact that there was still something wrong. Claire and Luke behaved themselves for the rest of the trip, but it was all fake. They even did the whole lovey dovey thing where they hugged and walked hand in hand when we’d go places. It just seemed so weird and wrong to me.

The few days flew past and we were on our way back down the mountain in no time. Heading back to Claire’s house gave me anxiety. That was where everyone was really themselves and we all knew that the adults being themselves meant they were going to go to war again. I wasn’t sure that I was prepared for that.

Lucky enough for me, Blaire was there with me. We spent the rest of that evening back from the mountain watching silly movies and laughing at all the silly characters. Blaire was on a good one that night.

“Crouching tiger, hidden BLAIRE,” she yelled while she ran across the room trying to swat a fly that had gotten in the house.

I burst out laughing because her accent was horrible and her facial was torn between being angry and trying not to laugh. Claire popped her head into the room hearing us laugh with a big grin on her face.

“Going to bed you silly girls! Please simmer down in here, you’re laughing is going to wake the neighborhood,” she said as she laughed and shut the door behind her.

“Blaire, is this what happens all the time? Like are they always fighting and going at it like they did at the cabin?” I asked her quietly, hoping that Claire had walked far enough down the hallway to not be able to hear me.

“Yup. This is what it is always like. Part of me doesn’t even hear them anymore. But to be honest, it is always worse when you and Hunter are here. I don’t know what the deal is with your dad but he can be a super jerk when he wants to be.’

“Yeah, I know that about him. But it’s like they just love fighting or something. I just don’t understand it,” I said with a frown.

“Well, welcome to the club. I wish I could give you a reason, but I have no idea why they do what they do. I honestly wish it would just stop. It’s too much,” she said as she shrugged. Her face had turned dark and her eyes cloudy with emotion.

I wasn’t sure what to do to get us out of this conversation, so I just said I was going to go get ready for bed. We were going back to California tomorrow and part of me was so relieved and the other part of me was sad and upset to be leaving. For some reason, I just had this feeling that this was not going to get better. It just wasn’t.

Chapter 7

Four Months Later

After the winter Colorado trip, Hunter and I went back to our normal routine of school and life. We were still living in our big house that our parents had purchased pre-divorce, but it was much emptier than it used to be given that Luke had taken a bunch of the furniture when he moved out. The neighborhood that came with the house was worth every penny. We essentially ended up in a commune of families who loved each other and we were best friends with all the kids and walked in and out of each other’s houses without invitation.

As spring break approached, Hunter was flying out to Colorado without me because Claire and Blaire were going to be flying to San Diego to attend a cheer event at Disneyland and invited me to come along. Once the cheer event was over, we were going to fly out to Colorado to do a few days skiing. Spring skiing was my absolute favorite because we could wear way fewer winter clothes and the snow was usually perfect.

I was packing up my stuff for the Disney trip and my mom came into my room after taking Hunter to the airport and getting him on the plane.

“Hey Lu, are you excited for your trip?” she asked me.

“Actually yes, I mean I could do without the teams of cheer girls, but you know how that goes,” I said to her with a grin.

I was the complete opposite of a cheer girl. My friends were just normal kids who did not really belong to any one group. We loved to go to the beach and hang out and do stupid things that high school kids did. Given that I had just turned 16 in January, I had my license so I could now drive which made our adventures that more exciting, even though I wasn’t supposed to have people in the car with me. I didn’t tell my mom that though.

“Please call me when you get there and keep in touch. I worry about you and Hunter when you guys go on these trips,” she said to me with a straight face.

I could tell that when we left her to go on these trips with Luke, she was sad. It made my heart ache to think that I was betraying her like this, but she seemed to be okay with it more these days. After all, it had been years since she and Luke had split up. Not that it makes it any easier to move past something when your see your ex and the women he left you for in photos with your children. I can’t even imagine how she felt about it. I think sometimes she got mad that Luke pulled us into this mashed up version of a family, but she hid it pretty well.

“I know mom, we will be fine. I promise. And you know I’ll call you if I need anything. I’m just excited to go to Disney and then skiing. It should be really nice weather while we are there, so I might be able to get by without having to wear my big ski jacket,” I said to her while throwing a few items into my suitcase.

“Please make sure that Hunter wears his helmet,” she said to me while shaking her head.

I’m sure she was thinking about Hunter flying down the mountain on his skis like he normally did whenever we went skiing. Both Hunter and I were taught how to ski when we were three years old, so it was like riding a bike for us now that we were older. However, Hunter did not like to ski at normal speed. He was either completely stopped or flying. A few years ago, he almost ran into someone and ever since then, my mom made him wear a helmet because she knew one day he might crash into something or someone.

A few hours later, Claire and Blaire showed up to the house. Blaire was so excited to be in San Diego. She absolutely loved the coast and always told me that the second she can, she’s escaping the snow to come to sunny southern California. Claire and my mom exchanged polite hellos and I threw my luggage into the rental car and off we went. It was about an hour and a half drive up to Anaheim from our house, so Blaire went through the radio stations as we drove and we sang along to all the popular pop songs that came on.

When we got to the hotel up in Anaheim, we checked in and Blaire saw all of her cheer friends and off she went, so it was really just me and Claire at this point. I was not used to being around so many pepping, loud girls. They were all about a few years younger than me, and given that I had an old soul to begin with, this was way out of my comfort zone. I mostly just stayed with Claire and watched everyone else. We went out for dinner with a bunch of the cheer girls and their parents that night and I was the odd man out. It was fine, but I was a bit anxious and uncomfortable to not know anyone. I didn’t factor this in when I had agreed to come along on this trip and I was a little sad thinking that I could be hanging with Luke and Hunter in Colorado instead of here with all these people I didn’t know.

We went to bed early that night because the cheer competition was early the next morning and we had to get up early to make sure that Blaire was all ready to go. In the morning, I woke up with everyone else and then all of a sudden we had five other cheer girls in our room while Claire did their hair up in ponytails with curls and plenty of hairspray. I’m pretty sure Claire could buy stock in her hairspray because between her and the cheer team, she used plenty of it. At one point, I had to go out onto the balcony of the room because the room was so full of hairspray I couldn’t breathe. It was absolute chaos with the number of people coming in and out of the room and everyone was excited and bouncing around and I just wanted to go back home.

Once all the girls were ready, we walked over the Disneyland Convention Center where the competition was being held. Claire and I walked behind Blaire and her group of cheer friends and I just felt like the weird outsider. I was not like these girls and they knew it. They were nice enough to me but it was mostly because I was always with Claire.

The cheer competition lasted for what felt like years. If I have to listen to that song “Pump Up the Jam” one more time I was going to throw up. I was ready to fast forward through this day to get to tomorrow so we could finally go to Disneyland and move on. Eventually, we got to Blaire’s team and they did a great job, I think. I honestly have no idea. They looked the same as every other team before them, but I don’t know cheer and how that all works.

Finally, we got the awards portion of the show. I was starving and wanted something besides soda and popcorn. They sold food in this place like it was a movie theater. The awards took another hour and finally, we found out that Blaire’s team had won second place. They were so excited and everyone was screaming, even the parents and I just really wanted some earplugs. I am not a negative person, but this was too much pep and excitement and adrenaline for me. It overwhelmed my system and made me grouchy.

I was never as happy as I was walking out of that convention center. The rest of the evening flew by and before I knew it, we were getting ready to head to Disneyland. I was beyond excited as Disneyland is one of my favorite places in the whole world. Blaire went off with some of her friends, so Claire and I were able to walk around and go on some of my favorite rides: The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Indiana Jones. We chatted while we waited in line and just had a really nice time.

“Are you excited for Copper?” Claire asked me as we took a few steps in line at Indiana Jones. The wait for the ride was 45 minutes so we had plenty of time to chat and hang out.

“Yes! I love Copper in the springtime. The snow should be really good and I’m just excited to get back on my new skis again.”

“Oh yeah, those are waiting for you back at the house. We have to figure out how to make your boots easier to put on. It was weird that it took two of us to get those on you in December,” she continued.

My new ski boots were practically impossible to get on. Once I put my foot in them, someone had to squeeze both sides together so we could get the top buckle to click into place and then we could buckle the rest of the boot up. It was exhausting to just get ready to go skiing in the morning.

“That’s right! I forgot about that with those boots. Yeah, I wonder what we can do to fix that.”

“We will have to take them to a ski shop once we get up at the mountain to see if they can do anything to sort that out. Don’t let me forget to ask your dad when I talk to him on the phone later.”

“Have you talked to him today?”

“No, not yet today. He and Hunter were going to go do something, I’m sure. You know your dad, he can’t go a day without having something to do.”

“Yeah, that’s true.”

Later on, we met up with Blaire and her group of friends later and had lunch. The day flew by and then it was time to leave my favorite place. We went back to the hotel and made sure to pack up our stuff because the next day we were going to drive back down to San Diego and then hop on our plane to Colorado for the skiing portion of this spring break adventure. I was looking forward to getting away from the cheer folks and just spend time with Luke and Hunter.