Tamika Wood’s Birthday Party

& Other Stories by Le Kendall

1.7 Get in the Car

Content notes are a thing. Stay safe 🙂


“It’s just a time for family,” Dad had said. My half-sister Amy had discovered that her husband was having an affair so she was moving back in with Dad.

Family did not, of course, include me. It made sense I guess. My presence could only be an unhappy reminder of husbands-who-have-affairs and my older half-siblings seemed to consider that much more my fault than Dad’s.

I stayed at Alan Sebastian’s pretty often. At first it had just been easier for Mum to pick me up from there on the Friday nights when I was supposed to go to her place for the weekend. Then it was easier to go to Alan Sebastian’s every Friday after school than try to keep track of which weekend was which… and then Mum didn’t show up one Friday and when I called her she’d said she had been drinking so I just stayed over. Then I was supposed to spend the Easter Holidays at Mum’s place but she didn’t show up to pick me up and it was easier to stay at Alan Sebastian’s than to try and go back to Dad’s.

So when Gillian told me that I was welcome to spend as much time as I liked there during the day but I just couldn’t stay over quite so often. Well… it wasn’t that it hurt so much that I wasn’t wanted there (which it did, actually)… but that I didn’t really have anywhere else to go at all.

“Maybe we can explain,” suggested Alan Sebastian but he couldn’t find the words on my behalf and I was too embarrassed and ashamed.

So I’d gone back to Dad’s to find my bedroom had been re-assigned as Amy’s extra wardrobe and Dad told me he’d told Mum that I was moving in with her.

The thing with Mum is you need to find the right moment to tell her things. She has to be in the right… mood. I guess Dad had told her at a time when she was likely to say yes to anything and not remember it later because she was surprised when I’d shown up.

Michelle’s baby, which is also my baby, is due in July and I don’t know how to think that far ahead. I’ve never been good at thinking ahead and now when I try it’s just too terrifying to think about. I can’t think about the future because it’s too scary and I can’t think about the present because it’s too confusing and I can’t think about the past because I’m too ashamed.

But I sit down and I write a letter to Alan Sebastian because I think, probably, he’s the only person who would even miss me.

And I don’t know if I feel better.

And I can’t give it to him right now but I walk to the top of the hill where I can get mobile reception and I call him. Because I think he’d be even more sad if I didn’t.


“Mummy, I’m worried about Scott,” Says Alan Sebastian and I know it’s serious if he’s calling me Mummy. He doesn’t even call me Mum these days. Just Gillian.

“It’s late,” I tell him. “Can we talk about it tomorrow.”

But he shakes his head and I sigh. Michelle has gone out, some friend is throwing her a Baby shower and Alan Sebastian and I weren’t invited. So it’s just me and my son.

“I don’t know where he is,” Alan Sebastian says. “I’m scared. I’m really scared.”

He’s getting agitated. Alan Sebastian tells me he’s tried Scott’s mobile but it won’t connect. That’s no surprise – the reception isn’t great around here.

Alan Sebastian doesn’t scare easily. He’s solid and unflappable. But right now he’s terrified and I can’t help but take that seriously.

I call Scott’s father.

“He doesn’t live here anymore. He’s his mother’s problem now. Don’t call me again.” He snaps at me.

“He’s not fucking welcome here,” His mother’s boyfriend tells me when I call Scott’s mum.

I look at Alan Sebastian and he looks at me in agony, tears streaming down his face.

“He called me and he was so weird on the phone and he said goodbye and I think he really meant it and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.”

“Get in the car,” I tell him.

We drive and Alan Sebastian sobs. And I think about the last time I saw Scott. How I’d told him that with two of my own children and another baby on the way I just couldn’t have him stay over at the house so much. He’d be welcome to visit any time, of course, when the baby was born. But we just don’t have room him to stay. He’s annoying and messy and he never stops talking and he’s full of this irritating false bravado and arrogance that drives me up the wall. He’s just a kid. But he’s not my kid. He can’t stay over, we don’t even have a spare room.

“He can sleep in my bed, I don’t mind” Alan Sebastian had said when I pointed that out and I know they’re close friends but that does seem a little ridiculous to me.

But… Scott Maher is fifteen years old and the idea that neither of his parents seem to care where he is or what he’s doing is both terrifying and infuriating.

We drive to the beach. It’s the most obvious place.

“SCOTT!!” Alan Sebastian screams himself hoarse. I scan the beach and I don’t know what I’m looking for. Shoes? A pile of clothing? Anything. But the only footprints I see are ours.

We drive to the school. To the library. To the Wood farmhouse.

It starts to rain.

“Anywhere else you can think of?” I ask him and Alan Sebastian just shakes his head. “Where would he go to feel safe?”

Alan Sebastian just cries.

“Let’s go home,” I say at last. “Check the answering machine. Maybe he called back. We can try his parents again.” It’s past 1 am by now.

We pull up toward the house and Alan Sebastian leaps out of the car before I even stop. The car door swings wildly before it slams but in the light of the headlights I can see Alan Sebastian running toward the house and a slim dark figure trying to shelter from the rain under the eaves.

Where would Scott go to feel safe? To Alan Sebastian.

Alan Sebastian

I’d worried Gillian wouldn’t take me seriously. I’d been concerned that she’d dismiss me. That she’d tell me not to worry and to go to sleep and everything would be okay in the morning.

I’d thought that if I could communicate it to her. If I could explain then maybe I’d feel less scared. Like an adult was there to take care of everything.

The look on her face when I’d told her what Scott had said to me on the phone and how it made me feel just made me even more terrified.

I didn’t want to be right. I wanted to be reassured.

By the time we drove back home I was exhausted but I didn’t feel like I could ever sleep again. I imagined him tumbling over and over in the dark, reaching out for me and not being able to reach back.

It started to cry and my tears ran down my cheeks and down the car window inside, and out.

When we got home and I saw Scott, waiting, I ran to him. And I kissed him because I’d thought for so many hours that the last time he’d kissed me it might have been the last, and I didn’t want it to be.

We’d been doing that a bit. Kissing, moving into something more. We’d always kept our clothes on. But you can still do a lot with that. More than kissing. Maybe less than something else. But he’d always started it. He’d always began. He’d always be the one to lean in first. But that time I kissed him and I tried to tell him in that kiss how much I needed him to be okay.

And we held each other in the rain and cried until Gillian called us in.

“He’s okay, Alan Sebastian, he’s okay. Bring him inside, out of the rain.”

She put her hand on Scott’s shoulder and said, “I’m glad you’re here Scott. I really am. Okay?”

She told us to go upstairs and take off our wet clothes, and we did do that.

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