Lily sat up sharply, frightened out of a deep sleep brought on by entirely too much alcohol and food and emotions and all those things that piled up on someone when the hordes of family and friends squeezed into your home and attempted to shove grief down under heaping spoonfuls of casserole and cheap wine.
“What?” Lily asked?
Her step-mother was busily moving around the room, her father’s old book bag in her hand. She busied herself with tossing Lily’s clothing into it, digging through the drawers and grabbing small stacks.
“What are you doing?” Lily yelled, sweeping her legs out from under the blankets and running over to slam her underwear drawer shut before Hannah could dig further into it.
“Helping you pack. The cab is here. Get dressed.”
The clipped tone fought its way into Lily’s head and she shook the sleep off before grabbing the book bag from her step-mother’s hands.
“Where am I going?” She asked.
“I don’t care, but you can’t stay here. Your father left me the house. I saw the will last week. You can come for the rest of your things later,” Hannah said, turning on her heel and walking towards the door. She paused and tossed a fifty dollar bill onto the table. “You can go as far as that will take you.”
She left the door open when she left, the sound of her bare feet stomping down the hallway. Lily stared at her disheveled reflection in the mirror and ran a hand through her ragged hair. She slipped into autopilot, shoving clothing and pictures and books into the book bag. Wallet. License. Picture she drew for her father. Two pair of underwear. A t-shirt. Her father’s sweater. A pair of jeans. Socks. The Catcher and the Rye.
What am I doing, she thought. This is my home. She can’t just throw me out. She paused, her hand pushing the bulging pack closed. Maybe she can?
Lily grabbed her jeans off the back of the chair at her desk and rifled through the closet for a tank top and a button down shirt. She was yanking socks on her feet when she heard the car horn beep.
She snatched the cash off the table and stuffed it into her pocket. Clomping down the steps in untied boots, Lily stopped at the bottom landing and looked for her step-mother. The woman was nowhere to be seen.
“This is still my home,” she yelled. She slid down the hallway and peeked in the open doors. Empty bathroom, laundry room, and sounds of the Keurig spitting out coffee in the kitchen. Lily came around the corner and saw Hannah, her blue bathrobe pulled tight around her body, her hands clenching the steaming mug of coffee.
“He was my father,” Lily said. She dropped the book bag to the floor and took a cautious step forward. “One semester and I’ll be in school. I’ll be gone. Please, Hannah.”
Hannah lifted the mug and took a sip before setting it down. She focused on retying the sash around her robe, pulling it until it was snug against her small waist. “This is my house.”
“It’s my father’s house,” Lily ground out.
“No. It’s my house,” Hannah said.
Lily kicked the book bag at her feet. “Where am I supposed to go? Huh?”
Hannah moved over to the junk drawer at the edge of the counter and pulled out the floppy brown leather address book Lily remembered her father keeping in his back pocket constantly. It had a crease down the center from being sat on and pressed against his wallet.
“He had an aunt or something. Over on the eastern shore,” and with that, Hannah slid the book across the table, picked up her mug, and slipped out the back patio door.
Lily grabbed the address book, running her fingers along the soft leather. She grabbed her book bag and headed out. The front door was sitting wide open and outside the sound of an engine roaring softly provided the only soundtrack to her exit. She let the door close behind her and slid across the cracked leather seat of the cab.
The man behind the partition was older, with wisps of gray hair poking out from under a Baltimore Orioles hat. He smiled and lifted his hands in the air as if the sky were the limit.
“Where we going, hun?” He drawled.
Lily, started flipping through the book. “The Bay Bridge. The eastern shore.”