by Anna Vita
"Glass breaks so easily," she read, "no matter how careful you are."
| Daniel Reed knocked gently on his daughter’s door before opening it enough to look in at where she was sitting on her bed in her pajamas and watching House. She muted the television and turned to look at him, tilting her head politely as if to say, can I help you with anything?
“I just came to say good night.”
“Good night.” Olivia Reed nodded, smiled a small smile, and averted her gaze to her bedspread.
Daniel mirrored her smile, hesitated in the doorway, then took a few steps inside and cleared his throat. “Are you going to be okay tomorrow?”
Daniel was a major in the Air Force; an intelligence officer. The Reeds had arrived in Glendale earlier that week, at the very end of summer vacation, and Olivia would begin her junior year of high school at Glendale High the following morning. This was an unspoken routine of theirs: every two years, on the day before Olivia started a new school—a new life—Daniel would come check on her, to make sure she was comfortable with the transition. Olivia wondered sometimes what he would do if she ever said she wasn’t OK.
“I’ll be fine.”
“Okay.” Daniel shifted his weight, awkward in the middle of the room. “I just, you know, I know it’s hard starting over, again…I know you liked Jennifer and Mallie.”
“I’ll be fine,” Olivia repeated reassuringly. And she would be. The fact that Daniel remembered any of her friends’ names at all was impressive enough for Olivia; she did not feel a need to mention that Jennifer and Mallie were her friends in Shreveport four years ago, that Sarah and Meg had been her friends in Andrews. It didn’t matter much to her, so it didn’t need to matter to him. She would be fine.
“Okay.” Daniel glanced toward the muted television, where some weepy-eyed mother was clutching her newly healed son to her chest. Dr. House looked on in something like contempt for the display of affection, and Daniel shook his head very slightly, backing toward the door. “Well, I… Good night then, Liv.”
“Night.” Olivia watched her father go, listened to his footsteps on the stairs, heard him pour himself his nightly glass of milk and retreat to his bedroom. She preferred Olivia to Liv. Her mother had called her Liv. But so had her father, then, so she felt she shouldn’t say anything about it. She turned the television volume back up, but House had just ended and she had never been able to take an interest in Bones. And anyway, it was 11:00, and it was a school night, after all. She turned off the TV, curled up on her side, and stared into the darkness of her new room for the minutes or hours before she drifted off to sleep.
Olivia heard the downstairs door open with a squeak and close with a soft click as she screwed the lid back on a jar of peanut butter.
“Hi,” she heard her dad call into her room.
“Up here, Dad.”
Daniel followed her voice up the stairs, slowed a bit by the added bulk of the extra work he had brought home to do over the weekend and the inconvenience of an extra large pizza box inhibiting his line of sight. “Happy Friday, Liv.”
Olivia shook her head at the nickname as her father joined her in the kitchen. “TGIF,” she replied with a small smile. Seeing the pizza box, she frowned a little. “I didn’t know you were bringing anything home.”
“Yeah, I thought, you know, to celebrate the end of our first week…I got pepperoni because I know it’s your favorite.” He dropped his work things on the table and glanced toward Olivia, who sheepishly held a sandwich in one hand and the peanut butter in the other.
“Oh that’s fine, I should have told you.” He set the pizza box on the countertop with an uncomfortable hesitance, but quickly recovered and turned back to Olivia with a smile. “A PB&J is barely a snack anyway, as far as I’m concerned…and I’ll wait a while to eat, it’s only a little after five, so if you decide you want to eat some later, we can just eat then.”
“Sounds good.” Olivia nodded a little and bit into her sandwich, exchanging a slightly awkward glance with her father; now what?
“Well, how was your week?”
“Fine. I like my English teacher. We’re reading The Glass Menagerie. My history teacher doesn’t like me very much, I don’t think.”
“I liked The Glass Menagerie when I was in school.” Daniel moved to the refrigerator and poured himself and Olivia each a glass of Coke. “Met any new friends?”
Olivia shrugged. “I sat with Tyler and Nicole at lunch this week. They’re pretty nice. And Elizabeth in my pre-calculus class seems okay.”
“You guys can be Liv and Liz,” Daniel suggested and started to chuckle, but stopped when he saw his daughter roll her eyes. “Well…my week went well also. The base is clean, cleaner than Andrews, and my superiors greeted me like adults rather than frat boys, so that’s a nice change.”
Olivia nodded, mildly interested—that is, just enough to be polite. “That’s cool, Dad.”
“Mmhmm.” Daniel’s stomach gurgled at him and he glanced toward the ignored pizza box. “You hungry yet, kid?” Olivia held up her half-eaten sandwich, the sheepish look returning to her face. “Oh, right. Well…I think I’m going to eat some pizza. There’s a Bones marathon on, do you want to watch some of it with me?”
“I actually think I’m going to go downstairs. I’ve got some House on DVD, so.”
“Oh, okay. Goodnight, then, Liv.” He shifted towards her, half-lifting his arms as if in preparation for an embrace, but he quickly dropped his arms and leaned away again; hugs were not exactly Olivia’s favorite thing. In fact, he couldn’t remember hugging her since her mother had…well. “Goodnight, “ he repeated quietly.
Olivia sighed inwardly. “Night Dad.”
A week later, Daniel knocked on his daughter’s door before letting himself in, presenting her with a gift of Burger King’s double cheeseburger combo. “Hey Liv. How are ya?”
Olivia looked up from her book. “Okay. What about you?”
“Pretty good. Work this week was…interesting. This base is turning out to be quite a bit different from Andrews, actually. In a good way, I think. I mean, I think it’s a good fit for me. Better, maybe. And it’s…well, I can’t really tell you the details, you know…” He trailed off, coughed apologetically, and mentally regrouped. “I brought you dinner. I wanted to get Wendy’s, but the line was twice as long.”
Olivia reached for the bag with a smile. “That’s fine. Burger King is good. Thanks.”
“Sure.” He handed her her dinner and noticed The Glass Menagerie dangling in her other hand. “Are you liking that, still?”
“Yeah, I am,” she replied, but her smile faded and a troubled look crossed her face. “Laura is… Well, I like Laura.”
“Is she the sad one?”
“Yeah, she is,” Olivia replied quietly, setting the book down and glancing away.
Oblivious to his daughter’s discomfort, Daniel continued. “Are you still eating lunch with…with the same kids?”
“No, not this week. I think they might have switched their schedules and have a different lunch now.” The truth was that Olivia had chosen to eat alone on Monday, and on Wednesday when Tyler passed her in the hall and tried to stop her and ask where she’d been she told him she was late to class, and on Thursday she had heard Nicole telling a friend about “the strange lonely girl,” but Daniel didn’t need to know any of that. And besides, she still talked to Elizabeth in pre-calculus. Sometimes. When she needed help understanding a problem.
“Oh, well that’s a shame honey. I hope you find new lunch friends soon. But the rest of school’s going okay? Classes?”
“Yeah, fine so far.” Fine except for the 30s and 40s she had been receiving on quizzes in history and physics, and the way her pre-calculus and French teachers complained that she did not seem to be applying herself. Even her English teacher had asked her why she didn’t try in class; “I know from the quizzes that you read, and you seem to be interested,” Mrs. Highland had said, “so what keeps you from participating in discussion?” But this was the way school worked for Olivia. She did well enough, and she would come to the end of her classes with Bs, or sometimes Cs, and that was good enough. She had flourished in elementary school, had showed great potential but that was before…well, anyway, it wasn’t something she and her father discussed. “Fine,” she repeated, meeting his gaze again briefly.
“Good, Liv.” Daniel put a hand on his daughter’s shoulder and felt her immediately tense, her eyes fixing straight ahead and widen slightly. He quickly pulled his hand back, wanting to apologize, not knowing how, not knowing what to say. “Okay. Well, good. Good to hear. I think I’m going to eat upstairs, maybe watch some TV…Are you okay here or do you want to come up with me?”
“I…I’m okay. But thanks, though. I might come up later.”
“Alright. Well I’ll see you later then.”
“Yeah, see you later. Bye Dad.”
“Bye L-- Olivia.”
Daniel closed the door behind him and Olivia picked the book up again. Glass breaks so easily, she read, no matter how careful you are. She registered suddenly that her dad hadn’t called her Liv. The realization caught her off guard and she expected the next emotion to be happiness, relief; instead, a single tear inexplicably welled in her eye.
The following Friday, Daniel Reed came home to an empty house at 5:00. Forcing himself not to panic, he called Olivia’s cell phone to find that it was turned off. Ten minutes later, before he had time to decide whether or not to go looking for her or call the police, the phone rang, and he sprinted for it. “Olivia?”
“Hi Dad. Sorry I missed your call, I just turned my phone back on. I’m fine, and I’ll be home in fifteen, okay?”
Daniel breathed a sigh of relief. “Of course. See you in fifteen.”
Seventeen minutes later, Olivia breezed in through the upstairs door. “I’m sorry I’m home late, I hope you weren’t worried.”
Daniel laughed, not comically. “Only a little. Thanks for calling me back. Where were you?”
“With Liz,” she replied, dropping her book bag on the table and joining Daniel in the living room.
“Liz? From pre-calculus?”
“Yeah, Liz. I asked if she wanted to go get ice cream with me, and then we went to this park she knew of. I thought I’d be back before you, I really am sorry about not calling.”
“Really, it’s okay.” Daniel looked closer and noticed something different in his daughter, something more than the simple fact that she had chosen to sit with him if only for a minute. “That’s great Olivia, I’m glad you had a good time. How was school today?”
“School was…good. We had our Glass Menagerie test today. It was an essay. About Laura, about how she…about her life. About if it really was one. I think I…I think I wrote it pretty well.”
“Well, good. It sounds like a great day.”
“Yeah, it was a pretty great day.” Olivia bit her lip and stared at her dad as he smiled and turned away, feeling breathless, hopeless. There was so much she’d thought of today, so much she wanted to share with her dad, so many things she wanted to say; I really like Liz. I think she likes me, too. I think she might be worth keeping in touch with when we leave. I think I can make an A in pre-calculus, maybe in history too, definitely in English. I think I’m going to. I’m sorry I haven’t tried since Mom… I’m sorry I didn’t let you touch my shoulder. I think I’ve been afraid to break; I think it’s made me afraid to breathe, I think I’m afraid to…to be… Dad, do you know what I’m saying?
Daniel turned back towards her, surprised. “Yes, Olivia?”
I’m not going to be afraid anymore, Dad, I’m not glass, I won’t be glass anymore. Dad it’s fine if you call me Liv, I really like it. You should touch my shoulder again; I’ll let you this time Dad. I know you think I don’t, and I think I didn’t, but I want a hug, Dad, Daddy, and I’m sorry about Mom, and I’m sorry about me, but I’m going to try… “Do you think… Do you want to watch Bones with me?”
“Oh.” Daniel cleared his throat and blinked before answering. “Yeah, sure. Of course. Are you sure? If you don’t want to…”
“No. I want to.” Olivia reached for the remote and turned to the weekly Bones marathon, inching closer to Daniel as she did so. It wasn’t much, she knew. But she also knew, as Daniel relaxed and smiled softly from her to the television, that it was a start.
I love you, Dad.