Frankie’s Delimma

by Joni Abilene

Frankie’s parents are divorced, but neither of them have ever told her why. Why did they break up? What was it that caused them to stop loving each other? Did they ever love each other . . .

Usually she sees Dad at the local movie theater, a crackerjack box deal that’s empty most of time. He shows old movies: silents with Charlie and Buster and Joan. But now he wants to see her more often, he wants her to see Reba more often. Begrudgingly, Frankie agrees to a Sunday dinner at their new house, but only because she wants to see Dad. Not Reba. Anyway, Mom said that Reba might go for the kill, and Mom’s usually right.

From My Zygotic Creation:

“Dinner’s about ready,” Reba says. “Why don’t you two go sit down in the dining room and I’ll get your plates made up?”

“Dining room?” I whisper to Dad while following him under an arched doorway into a room painted rose red with gold-framed paintings and fresh flowers on a useless looking table in the corner. “It’s like a hotel.”

He ignores me and takes a seat in an ornate, fabric-covered chair of dark red silk. I plop down into one on the opposite side of the table. “Reba decorated this room all by herself,” he says, tapping his fingers. He looks at everything for the longest time. “I never actually sit in here.”

“Mom’s probably on the couch at home eating a corn dog,” I let out, sort of not thinking, but part of me wants him to remember that the life he was once part of still exists. Mom can’t be forgotten and left behind. He was the one who screwed up, not her. Okay, Mom has her problems too; she isn’t the friendliest person on the planet. She hates people . . . and things. Okay, she’s a bitch sometimes. But she’s funny, and she used to make him laugh—he has to admit that. He must have loved something about her, to create me. For one moment in time they had feelings for each other. Right?

“Dad?” I ask quietly. “Did you love Mom?”

“Frankie . . .”

I wait for him to say, Of course I loved her, but he doesn’t, he taps his fingers and gives me a look of apology. “I loved her as much as I could.” Then his face turns sour. “But remember, she threw me out. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay there for you, even if our marriage wasn’t the greatest. What does she do with those checks I send? She’d better be spending them on you. That’s what it’s for.”

Oh God, no. I don’t want to talk about money. I want to talk about love. Did they ever really love each other? For real. No one seems to be able to answer this, and it’s a really simple question.

I’ll take ‘Questions Kids Ask Their Parents,’ Alex.

For five hundred dollars, it’s the answer Frankie Weaver’s parents give when asked if they ever really loved each other.

Beep. What is . . . I don’t know?

Ding. Ding. Ding.

Correct. That puts you in the lead.

“I think she spends it on groceries, Dad.”

He gives a laugh. “And eBay. A whole bunch of crap nobody else wants. That’s what she buys. She’s a hoarder.” His hands start to shake real bad.

Reba walks into the room holding fancy plates piled with food.

“Don’t talk about her like that.” I feel like leaving. It’s so shitty of him to talk about her like she isn’t human. I bet he and Reba talk about her, and me, all the time. How our house is always a mess with all the cats, and how we don’t have a car anymore because it stopped working and it was easier to sell than fix. Anyway, it was a Ford Delusion. We practically owned stock in Exxon and jumper cables. I look down at my bedazzled shirt and see a couple of holes and tons of cat hair.

Reba lowers a plate in front of me, and all I can do is sit there and stare at its arrangement of layered chicken with glossy peas and little almonds on top. I can’t eat. I just pick, looking for bacteria, like Mom said, that might kill me. I don’t really think Reba would kill me on purpose, but maybe she’d do it on a Freudian level, so I won’t be around anymore to clutter her life with Dad. Of course, she’s the one who wants me to come over. Why?

Beep. What is . . . ‘Because she wants to embarrass you?’