When I woke up the next morning, no one was home. My dad was gone to the cherry warehouse. My mom sometimes stayed late to finish her charts from the night before. I knew that my dad had stayed up, waiting for Rose. I heard him call my mom at work around 2:00, and have a brief, muffled conversation. I lay in their bed, listening, but I didn't feel especially worried, and was even less so now, in the daytime. Whatever Rose's problem was, she would figure it out.
I sat on the vinyl chair, holding a mug that had King Vitamin cereal in it and skim milk. Stale King Vitamin cereal tastes like sawdust and cardboard. No offense to anyone who likes it. Just my opinion. I looked around our kitchen. The small oven with a dish towel hanging over the handle. My mom hated that oven because you couldn't fit a Thanksgiving turkey in it. "What good is an oven that can't even cook a turkey?!" she would bemoan, every November. Yellow marbled laminate was peeling off the counter tops, showing the cheap pressed wood underneath. I looked at everything as if it weren't my own home, but someone else's. If I were a visitor, what would I think of this place?
"But then," I thought, dumping my uneaten cereal and milk down the disposal, "who would ever come to visit?"
I didn't bother to put shoes on as I walked out the door and down the street. I hadn't visited the Finley's in a few days, and maybe Violet would be home and come with me. On the way, I tried to think of every possible trouble Rose could get into. I wondered if she'd shoplifted something from her favorite store at the mall, Wet Seal. Maybe someone at school had given her some drugs. Weren't there drugs at every high school? Maybe one of those drugs that is supposed to make you super thin. I guess it could be about a boy, although I never saw Rose with one boy more than any other. That was part of the problem of having a teacher for a dad--they all knew him, and he knew most of them. Who would want to date a girl if you'd failed her dad's algebra class?
The problems of high schoolers were baffling to me. I knew that high school was important, I had overheard my mom say "But, Rose--in high school, you're playing for keeps" at least twenty times. The grades you made, you kept. The clubs you joined and sports you played would determine what kind of major you had in college. You were playing for keeps.
As I got close to the Finley's, I saw Violet standing on the curb. I was glad. She smiled and waved at me, and I waved back. She fell into step beside me, without saying anything, and we walked up the ramp to the Finley's front door. I knocked on the glass and Mrs. Finley cracked the blinds just a bit, motioning for us to be quiet. She silently slid the door open and beckoned us in.
We slipped in from the sunlight into the darkness of their front room. All the shades were still closed. The swamp cooler was churning out humidity. I could hear Mr. Finley typing at the keyboard in his miniature bedroom, working on his family history. And on the couch, under an intricate and ugly afghan, Rose was sleeping.