Authors: Haley Allison
“Thanks, girl. Well, I have to go to dinner now, but I just wanted a quick chat with you before my family monopolizes me for the evening. Hang in there, okay? I’ll be home soon.”
“All right, love. Have fun.”
“See ya.” She hangs up the phone, and I toss my body back on the bed, wishing teleportation was a thing already.
April 18, 2015
Tomorrow’s the Day
Most teens wouldn’t like hanging out with their parent’s “lame friends,” but Cass is not lame. In fact, I’m fully expecting all sorts of mischief to take place while she’s here. Cass loves playing pranks on Dad, and occasionally she’ll attempt one on Nana, and she always enlists me as her partner in crime. Of course, when she’s mourning a lost love, she’s usually a little less energetic, but if she stays long enough, her usual self might creep out.
It’s also nice to have Dad preoccupied so I can have more Internet time. Usually, I only get half an hour on the Internet a day, not including time spent on gaming. With Cass around, he doesn’t pay any attention to the fact I’m holed up in my room, and Nana’s busy playing hostess, so I get off with stretching the rules a little bit.
Cass likes to drink too, so I bet she’s going to get hammered at some point while she’s here. Nana doesn’t allow liquor in the house, but Dad and Cass usually sneak out to a shed at the far end of the property with bottles of whiskey and rum. They won’t go out to drink, for some reason, and if we all go out together, they always wear sunglasses, even in a dark restaurant. They say the lighting in restaurants and bars hurts their eyes, but as far as I know, neither of them have any sort of eye condition. Whatever, weirdos. As long as you get out of the house and busy doing other things, I’m happy.
There’s not much else to write about today. Life is still boring as hell. At least I’m getting close to being done with this school year, and the count of songs I’ve mastered on guitar just hit seventy-five. I keep a running list, which I’ll probably post on this blog the day that number hits one hundred.
Here’s hoping the next week will be fun and not a total sob-fest.
The next afternoon, Dad and I pick Cass up at Blue Grass Airport. Usually, Cass looks picture-perfect even after a long plane ride, but when she trudges out of the gate this time, she looks like hell. Her long, blonde hair is rumpled, and gray sweatpants and a royal blue hoodie swallow up her trim figure. Without her makeup, I’m not even sure I’m looking at the same rich, beautiful, put-together person I once knew as Cassidy Meriwether.
“Hey, Mike,” she mutters as she approaches us.
“Aw, come here.” Dad doesn’t waste time with a greeting. He takes Cass in his arms, and she clings to him.
“Am I gonna die alone?” she asks with a sniffle.
“Absolutely not. You still have us,” Dad says. She pulls back from the hug after a few seconds, wipes her eyes and nose on her sleeve, and then turns to me and holds out her arms.
“Hey, sweetie,” she says.
I cringe at the thought of getting her bodily fluids on me, but I’m nice and hug her anyway. “Hey, Cass. I’m sorry about you and Tom.”
“Honey, word of advice—don’t bother with men,” Cass says with a rueful laugh. She pulls back and wipes her eyes again.
“Not like Dad would allow that, anyway.”
Dad grins at my smirk and shakes his head. “Not a chance. You’re
girl until you’re eighteen.”
“Well, let’s get out of here,” Cass says. “I could really use some equine therapy right now.” The three of us go to the baggage claim to get her luggage, and then we ride home in Dad’s truck.
All the way back, Cass moans to Dad about how Tom “didn’t understand her” and all this shit, and all I keep thinking is,
Just be glad you even had the chance to go out with someone.
Seriously, sometimes it feels like no one understands what it’s like to not even have the option of love. My body pillow is nice to snuggle at night, but it’s a little humiliating that’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to a boyfriend at seventeen and a half years of age.
Thirty minutes later, we pull into our gravel driveway, which is such a rough, uneven ride that it always makes me feel like my teeth are chipping themselves off. Dad helps Cass with her luggage, and I go on to the stables to get three of our horses ready to ride. Prepping Maggie, my chestnut mare, is easy because she’s so sweet and laid-back, but Jackie, her sister, is a pain in the ass. She always tries to buck while I’m strapping the saddle on her, which makes it nearly impossible to secure it. This time, after just a couple of bucks, Jackie takes mercy on me and stands still, so I reward her with an apple and a pat on the back. Dad never lets me mess with Weston, his black stallion, so I simply offer treats to him and Maggie, and they both nuzzle me for it.
When Dad and Cass walk in the stables twenty minutes later, Cass is looking a little more presentable with a bleach-blonde braid, a plaid button-up shirt, jeans, and boots. Her clothes are almost an exact female version of Dad’s. I’m not into the plaid shirt thing like they are. I like band tees and Converse better.
The three of us take a long ride out to a giant oak tree, which we love to sit under in the spring. We all tie our horses to it, and Dad lays out a blanket for us to sit on. After chatting for a while about the farm, Dad and Cass get into the business end of it, and I completely tune them out. I couldn’t care less about what it costs to run a farm. All I care about is riding the horses.
My other senses come alive as I’m lying down on the blanket waiting for them to move on to another subject. The grass is starting to green up, and the smell of fresh new life—and manure—wafts up all around us. Birds chirp above us in the tree, and I smile at the sight of a couple of tree swallows nesting. I’d love to climb this tree and spy on them, but Dad always says it’s rude to climb the tree while I’m supposed to be hanging out with someone on the ground. It’s a shame…those limbs up there are really tempting.
My ears start operating again when Cass says, “Well, if you ever run out of money, you know you’ve got hundreds of valuables at the mansion you could sell.”
“You’ve got valuables in a mansion?” I ask, and then I notice both of their faces have turned ashen.
“Oh…my…God…” Cass clamps her hand over her mouth. Her eyeballs are bulging out of their sockets. Clearly, she just said something she wasn’t supposed to say. “Mike, I am so sorry—”
“Seventeen years and you choose
to slip up,” Dad growls, glaring daggers at her. His nostrils start to flare like Maggie’s when she’s just run an obstacle course, which only happens when he’s mad as hell.
“What’s going on?” I ask, utterly confused. They’ve been hiding the fact that Dad has valuables in a mansion for seventeen years?
“I’ve got some things in storage in California…it’s really not a big deal,” Dad says.
“How did you get them in the first place?” I ask, realizing there’s a big chunk of Dad’s past I know absolutely nothing about. I’ve always wondered how he met Cass, and now I’m finding out he has hundreds of valuables sitting in a mansion in California. Something tells me there’s a connection here. “Are you rich or something?”
“I am so sorry,” Cass whispers to Dad again, and with one look between them, she knows it’s time to leave us alone. She stands and unties Jackie, mounts her in two expert movements, and urges her to a gallop in the direction of the stables.
My voice rises two octaves in my excitement. “You
rich, aren’t you?”
Dad lets a long exhale seep into his palms, clenching his eyes shut and shaking his head. “I don’t know how I’m gonna keep this from you now.” He takes a good, long look at me, and then he stands up, helps me up from the blanket, and nods in the direction of our horses. “Come on, baby girl, I…I need to show you somethin’.”
We drop the horses off at the stables, and Cass takes them from us without a word and ushers them back into their stalls. Dad leads me inside to our main desktop computer, pulls two chairs up to it, and goes to YouTube in a web browser.
“Why are we watching YouTube videos right now?” I ask with a nervous chuckle.
“You’ll see.” Dad searches “W3 documentary” and chooses one of the results on the first page. Before he plays the video, he pauses it and turns to me. “Sweetheart…I’m about to show you somethin’ I’ve been keepin’ from you for a long time. I figured I’d tell you this when you turned eighteen, but I guess seventeen and a half is close enough. The truth is, I do have a lot of money and valuables, but that’s not the whole story. I’m…I’m not really who you think I am.”
My eyebrows scrunch in confusion. “What?”
“Just listen. Before we watch this, I need you to know I kept this from you for a reason. You may not understand at first, but just know that I love you, and I would never purposely hurt you. You’re not gonna be happy about this, and I’m not expectin’ you to forgive me right away, but just…promise me you’ll forgive me. You know…eventually.”
“Um…I promise,” I stutter, and Dad clicks the Play icon on the video.
The video starts in the typical rock band documentary fashion, with clips of the band in action and people talking over the music. The look of this particular band is really strange and melodramatic in nature. It seems like they took their name, Weep With the Willows, really seriously and may have even been one of the catalysts for the emo movement. Their faces are painted white with black eyeliner and drawn-in black tear streaks to drive the point home. I can’t help but snicker at the cheesiness. The frontman goes by the stage name ‘the Grim Weeper,’ which makes it even funnier.
“What are you laughin’ at?” Dad asks.
“I’m sorry, this is just weird. And I’m not really sure what you’re trying to tell me.”
Dad skips forward in the video to the part where the narrators speak a little bit more in depth about the band. According to the narrators, W3, as they shorten it, was last active in 1997, and they wrote songs that made it onto the Top 40 list. Listening to the music in the background, I can see why they got popular. The music itself is really good. It’s something I might even listen to by choice, which is why I’m a little surprised Dad never mentioned this band.
He skips forward some more to the point in the video where the tone changes dramatically. Before, it was all aglow with worship for W3, but now there’s darker music in the background and they’re talking about the band split.
One commenter says, “You know, I really thought W3 was going to be huge forever. Their music played everywhere, and the Grim Weeper himself couldn’t go anywhere without being thronged by fans. Then that baby got dropped off on his doorstep, and he just…he was a goner. He fell in love with her instead of the music.”
My eyebrow goes up, and I turn to Dad, whose lips are tucked under with nerves. I give him a questioning look, but he shakes his head and points back to the video.
Another commenter was talking during my little moment with Dad, and I hear, “…he knew instantly she was his. As soon as Michael Daley saw that baby, he became a ‘dad first, musician second,’ as he put it in his interviews.”
Michael Daley…that must be the Grim Weeper’s real name. He’s been on the screen a few times, and I had a vague sense of him looking familiar. Then they show a clip of him holding a baby in a TV interview, and my mouth swings wide open.
That’s my dad!
Younger Dad says, “‘Dad first, musician second’ is my new mantra. Madison here is my number one love in life now.”
“Madison?” I choke out. I look over at Dad, and he nods slowly. My gaze returns to the baby as Younger Dad turns her face forward toward the camera, and my moment of truth crashes into me.
Oh. My. God.
Dad pauses the video to give me a chance to breathe and looks up the Grim Weeper’s page on Wikipedia while I’m processing everything. He scrolls down and points to the ‘Born’ section, which reads:
Michael Andrew Daley
August 4, 1970 (age 44)
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
The current residence line is left blank. All of that information is right about Dad except for the last name.
“Our last name is Landers,” I protest. “We’re Mike and Madison Landers, not Mike and Madison Daley.”
“Landers is Nana’s maiden name. I haven’t told you much about my father, but his name was Charles Daley, and he left your Nana and me thirty-five years ago. You and I started going by Landers when we came back to Kentucky.”
“W-wha…” I can barely even make words. “But…our last name is Daley?”
“Not legally anymore, but yes, we were born Daleys.”
I sputter and scoff, feeling a disconnection between my brain and my mouth. I shake my head and laugh. “No! No way. You’ve got to be messing with me here.”
“I’m not messin’,” Dad says with a solemn gaze that reminds me of all the times he’s had to keep my jokester side under control before.
This can’t be real. It has to be some kind of late April Fool’s joke, or maybe a dream.
Dad goes back to the video again, and a narrator says, “Not long after presenting his little girl to America, Grim disappeared into thin air. He gave his mansion in L.A. to Black Angel, and just…” The grizzly man on the screen imitates a magic trick with his hands. “Poof! Gone.”