Melissa Green is 16; Cory Green is 48; Allie Phoenix is 44
Part 1; Part 2
Sharla glared angrily from Cory to Melissa and back, as he tried to explain what had happened with Melissa the night before.
He'd barely finished when she turned to the girl and snapped, "Get up to your room!"
"But - "
"Go!" When Melissa didn't move fast enough, Sharla grabbed her arm and pushed her roughly in the direction of the stairs.
"Ow! Ok, ok!" She turned and ran up the stairs.
"You didn't need to do that," Cory said, when Melissa had gone.
"Don't tell me what to do with my daughter."
"Someone needs to! Doesn't it even bother you that she was gone all night and you didn't even know?"
"She sleeps over with friends all the time. How am I supposed to know where she is if she lies to me? Do you know where Sam is every night? Do you really know that you can believe everything she tells you?"
"This- this isn't about Sam," Cory stammered.
Aaron was right, he was a terrible lier. The worst part was, before last night, he wouldn't have had to lie. Before last night, he would have trusted Sam completely. But now...
"The hell it isn't about Sam! She's the one who had Melissa out drinking at some - "
"Wait, you're blaming this on Sam?"
"She's the eldest! She should know better. And I should have known how she'd turn out, growing up with you." She shook her head. "I think its best the girls stop spending so much time together. Melissa's enough trouble without any more bad influences around her."
"...bad... What?! Maybe if you paid her a little more attention..."
Attention? She's had too much attention! Everything she's ever wanted, she's had! Just look at this room," Sharla said, gesturing him to follow her up the stairs. "Come on, look. She pushed Melissa's door open without bothering to knock.
"It's... it's a nice room," Cory muttered, looking vaguely around.
He didn't really see the room, though - only the girl sitting silently in the corner. He could swear she was looking at him accusingly... and he could swear he'd seen that look before, a long time ago.
It was his imagination, of course. She'd been too small back then, to young to understand that he was leaving her for good. And why, now, would she expect him to do anything other than leave? He was a stranger now, just her sister's father, who'd let her stay the night then bought her back home where she belonged.
He stood in the street for a long time after Sharla showed him out.
It was his imagination, of course.
He'd left her before...
"Cory... hey, Cory!"
He spun around to see who was calling him.
"Cory, it's me, Allie. What are you doing here?"
"I... my... my ex-wife is your neighbour... " he stammered. He'd known that she lived here, but somehow he still wasn't expecting to bump into his half-sister.
"I know," she said. "Are you ok? You look kind of - "
"I'm fine," he said. "I was just... um... "
"Come in," she said, gesturing to her door.
"I don't think I should - "
"It's ok, come in," she said. "You look like you need to sit down."
"So, to you have much to do with Sharla's family?" he asked Allie, as she set a cup of coffee in front of him.
"Not really," she said. "I know that she and Melissa argue a lot." Allie paused. "Because, this does have to do with Melissa, right? I saw you bringing her home..."
"Yeah, it does," said Cory. "She went into the city with Sam last night, got really drunk... I'm worried about her."
"Yeah, but kids - Wait, Cory, you're not thinking... "
"No! Well, maybe, yes. I don't know!" He jumped up and walked across the room. "I don't even know what I'm thinking," he said.
"Ok, so she got drunk last night... that doesn't necessary mean that she's going to have a problem like... I mean... everyone drinks a lot when they're young. I did, your brothers probably did - "
"Well, yeah, but - "
" - and they didn't end up... I mean, I'm assuming they didn't... " she trailed off awkwardly, realising how little she really did know about her half-brothers.
Cory shook his head. "No," he said. "No, I'm the only one who had a problem with it, if that's what you're asking. But... but they didn't really start drinking until they were in college. Melissa's sixteen... "
"Kids are different now. They start things younger."
"... and all the more reason why someone should at least be paying some attention to what she's doing! Sharla didn't even know she was away all night. When she got home, she thought Melissa had gone out this morning." He turned away to the window, looking out in the direction of Sharla's front door.
"Cory - "
"What about her father?" he said suddenly. "You're friends with her father's wife, can you talk to him?"
"I don't know... I mean, David doesn't have a lot to do with Melissa."
"He's her father!"
"I know. But it's not really my business. Maybe you should talk to him."
"The last time I 'talked' to him, I broke his nose for sleeping with my wife. I don't think he's going to be very receptive, even after this long... "
Allie sighed. "Point taken," she said. "Ok, fine, I'll talk to David. And I'll try to keep an eye on what's going on with Melissa... to be honest, I feel sorry for her, too. Like I said, they argue a lot."
"There's something wrong there," Cory said. "I just got a really bad feeling in that house... " he trailed off thoughtfully. After a few moments, he looked up at Allie. "Do you remember our mother?" he asked.
"What?" She stared at him, surprised by the sudden change of subject.
"Our mother. Do you remember her at all?"
"Um... I'm not sure," Allie said.
"What to you mean?"
"Well, sometimes I think I do... but I was really young, she and my foster mother both had red hair, both lived in the same house for a time... sometimes I'm not sure which one I'm actually remembering. Why do you ask?"
Cory shrugged. "I've just been thinking about her lately... just kind of... kind of wishing I remembered a little more about her.
"I have some photos," Allie volunteered, disappearing briefly into the living room to get them.
"I think Dad has most of these," Cory said, shuffling through the pile. "Maybe not this one... "
"Oh, I know something else you might be interested in!" She left again, and came back with a framed diploma. "Her college degree, " she said.
Cory stared at it. "She had a degree in Business Studies?"
"Yeah... not what you expected?"
"Not at all! It just doesn't fit with what I'd heard about her..." He shook his head. "What on earth was she planning to do with a degree in Business Studies?!"
"I don't know," Allie said. "Whatever it was, it never happened..."
"Was she ever happy?" he asked.
"Why are you asking me this?" Allie said. "You're older than me, you should remember more... "
"But I don't, that's the thing. And I never even realised that until now... " He thought again for a moment. "Do you blame her for leaving you?"
"I don't know. I just wish I could ask her why. I mean, people always say that it was because she thought she was a bad mother, and I would be better off with the Centowskis, but maybe that wasn't it. Maybe she just wanted to be free of the burden of a kid or something. I don't even know how someone can just walk away and leave their own child."
"The walking away is easy," Cory said softly. "It's only after, when you realise what you've done... "
Allie groaned. "I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean... I didn't even think. I'm sorry"
"It doesn't matter," Cory said.
"But it does... I mean, I know you left Sam, but it wasn't like - "
"It wasn't just Sam that I was thinking about," he admitted, getting up again.
"Melissa?" Allie looked confused. "But Melissa isn't your child. You knew that when - "
"But that's the thing, she was. She was my daughter from the time she was born, and she was my daughter until Sharla told me otherwise. You don't just forget that, no matter what some blood test says... that's not what makes you someone's child..."
"I know that," said Allie.
"Yeah," said Cory, "I guess you do."
The long silence was broken by the front door opening. "Mum, I'm home!" Nicky yelled.
"I should be going," Cory said, starting for the door. "I've taken up enough of your time."
"No, it's been good to talk," Allie said, following him. "I'm kind of glad... I mean, I'm not glad about Melissa, but... I'll talk to David, I'll see what I can do..."
"Thank you," said Cory.
"You're welcome," Allie said. "Any time..."