The pit in my stomach has grown to astronomical proportions when I pull my phone from a pocket and see that it’s my father calling. A quick internal struggle happens, in which I decide whether or not to answer the phone. Survey says yes, and I press the green button and take a deep breath.
“Hi, daddy!” I exclaim, forcing myself to sound cheerful.
“Kelsey! I wasn’t expecting you to answer the phone. I was just going to leave you a voice mail,” he says, his laugh coming easy and making me feel guilty all over again about not wanting to talk to him.
“Aren’t voice mails a little out of your league, pops?” I tease. My father isn’t exactly up on technology. He could probably figure it out, though, because as I recall there are prompts.
“Oh you think you’re so funny,” he says, and I can picture him sitting in his desk chair, a permanent staple of my childhood. The chair was always ‘Dad’s chair,’ a leather number on wheels that sat intimidating behind an enormous cherry wood desk. My step mother always had a bouquet of fresh flowers, usually red carnations as they were my dad’s favorite, on the corner of the desk by the phone.
“Not just me, Dad. Everyone else thinks I’m funny too. So what’s up?”
“I was just calling because I got a letter from IU here for you. I hope you don’t mind, but I opened it.” Shit. Shit shit shit. Shit McShit. Shitty Shitty Bang Bang. Should have let him leave a message.
“Oh really, what did it say?” I ask casually, noting that now the pit in my stomach now holds fire, also my soul.
“Kelsey, why didn’t you register for classes?” he replies, getting straight to the point.
“I’m sorry, Dad. I just couldn’t afford to go this semester,” I answer, kicking myself because I know exactly what he’s going to say.
“You know that I have no problem helping you out from time to time, Kels. You’re my daughter. You’re supposed to get cash from the DadTM every now and then. I don’t buy it. Is something wrong?”
Oh, what isn’t wrong at this point. “I’m sorry, Dad. I just… You know, every once in a while you feel like you need a break from your whole life? I don’t really know how to explain it. I’m sorry. I’m going back next semester.. I didn’t drop out or anything.” It is a unique talent of my father’s to be able to turn me into a babbling idiot. The disappointment is dripping from every word he says, and although part of me is tired of having to justify my actions to others, this man is one of the most important people in my life.
“I suppose it’s alright that you needed this break. Next time, though, please consult me beforehand. I wouldn’t have damned you for it, Kelsey. The only reason I was upset was that I had to find out by opening your mail.”
“You know that’s illegal, right?” I quip, hoping to relieve some of the tension.
He sighs. “Well, I guess that’s all. I better get going, I wanted to try to figure out the Blu Ray,” he says.
“Don’t hurt yourself!” I exclaim with a laugh. It feels like a ton of bricks has been taken off my back, now that the guilt of not telling him has been lifted. We exchange I-Love-Yous and hang up, and I settle back into bed, cranking up The Gaslight Anthem and grabbing Beckett, my golden retriever, to nap with me.