The Good Goodbye(7)

By: Carla Buckley



“What?” I say.

“You tell her.” My mom’s twisting her wedding rings around and around her finger. “It’s your fault. You tell her.”

They’re getting a divorce. “Tell me what?” Am I upset? Relieved?

“Stop it, Gabrielle.” My dad’s still in his chef’s jacket and he hasn’t even taken off his clogs and lined them up in the garage by the back door, the way my mom likes us to do. She always makes him shower, too, no matter how late it is. She hates the smell of the restaurant clinging to his clothes, his hair. “That’s not helping.”

“It’s too late to help, isn’t it?” my mother snaps.

“Will you guys cut it out and tell me?”

My father’s face is settled in heavy lines. “Are you sick?” I whisper. I look to my mom, her hair pulled back tightly, making her cheekbones look sharp. “Are you?”

She presses her lips together.

“We’re fine,” my dad says. “Here’s the thing, honey. I made a bad investment.” He says this fast, his face flushed. He and Mom have been going at it for a while, I can tell.

“So?” I say. Dad’s always making bad investments and good ones. There’s champagne and flowers and little gifts when he makes a killing, or silence when he doesn’t. He stays up late, checking his computer; he has an app on his phone that’s constantly chirping. Sometimes I think he loves the stock market more than he loves Double.

“Don’t make it sound like it was just one of those things, Vincent.” My mother stalks over to the dry sink and bends to unlatch the wooden door. I hold my breath. Will she notice the vodka bottle? She pulls out the big green bottle of gin and the glass with the grapes etched on the side. Okay, so she hasn’t noticed.

“But it was. I pored over their financials. I talked to the right people.” My dad rubs his face with the flats of his hands. “Everything was coming together. We all thought the patent would go through.”

“But a million dollars?”

“It was the only way we could buy in.”

“Don’t make me part of this. This is all on you, Vincent.”

I’m beginning to panic. “What million dollars?” I’m always sneaking looks at my parents’ bank account statements. I’ve never seen numbers that large on anything.

“That’s how much your father owes the brokerage company,” my mother tells me. “He borrowed a million dollars to buy this sure-thing tech stock, and this morning it’s worth nothing. Nothing!” She puts down her glass without taking a sip. “They don’t care. They still want their money.”

“Why can’t we just declare bankruptcy?” Other kids’ families do it all the time. It’s like a joke at Bishop.

“We can’t,” my father says tersely.

“We’ll lose everything that has your father’s name on it. The restaurant, our house, my business. We’ll have nothing left.”

“We’re going to have to liquidate what we can,” my dad says. “We’ll persuade the brokerage firm to let us keep the restaurant so we can make payments. And I’m sorry, Rory.” He sucks in a breath, releases it. “But this means using your college fund.”

I stare at him. He won’t look at me. “Seriously?” I say, and hear my voice quiver.

“I’ve called Harvard,” my mother says. “They’ve agreed to keep a place open for you for next year.”

Next year? “But I’m not the one who owes a million dollars!”

“Je sais, ma cherie,” my mother says, and I know this is real. My eyes burn and my palms are sweating.

“Call them again,” I insist.

My mother’s pacing, her heels clicking sharply against the wood. “It’s no use. The scholarship money has been disbursed.”

“Are you kidding me?” Years. I’ve spent years, my whole fucking life, trying to get into Harvard. Maybe my grades weren’t perfect, but I had rocked the personal interview; I had scored the best teacher recommendations. All those AP classes, that horrible volunteer job at the nursing center, the lame cupcake business I started just because it would look good on my résumé, everything.

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