The snow fell lightly, pattering against the windshield. Earlier the air had been thick and the streets dirty, but the snow seemed to cleanse things and put a chill back into the air. Leah drove the truck slowly down main street to the brick church where the AA meeting was scheduled for noon. She turned into the parking lot; two cars were parked near an entrance. She pulled up next to them, turned the keys back toward herself and sat for a minute. With one hand she tapped her leg to the subtle beat of the song on the radio, remembering the promise she had made, with the other she held onto her dying cigarette, gently ashing out the window.
Inside the church was silent, and it smelled like antiseptic cleaner. The fluorescent lights along the hallway gave it a greenish glow and the linoleum dimly reflected the ghastly light of the long thin bulbs. Every other one lit to save energy and money. Leah passed classroom after classroom looking in each one, walked down the stairs covered in linoleum tile. At the end of the hall was a room decorated with pieces of kid art. Mobiles hung from the ceiling and pieces of construction paper were taped to the door. They were cut into shapes of animals with cotton balls glued on as tails and black buttons for eyes. In the middle of the door was a sheet of white paper with a big yellow sun on it, with long rays like blond eyelashes. At the bottom of the sheet were three people: a father, a mother and a child, stick arms reaching up, holding hands.
Inside was a circle of chairs, and seven people sitting down, they all turned in their chairs to look at Leah.
“Come on in,” they said almost in unison.
“Is this AA?” Leah asked, poking her head inside the door.
“Yes. Get some coffee and grab a seat.” An older gentleman pointed to a long folding table with a large metal percolator, Styrofoam cups and a basket full of creamers and sugar.
Kath came in three times. The first time, Leah lay on the bed, turned away from the door. Her coat still on, her hat still on, and the leg of her pajamas wrapped around her face. The heavy sour smell of cigarette smoke lingered just above her.
“How did it go?”
“What go? Fucking AA?” Leah turned her pajama covered face toward the door, toward her mother. “I’m eighteen and going to AA. Fine, it went fine.”
“I’m sorry I asked…”
“Whatever.” Leah muffled through the pajamas. She pushed the pajamas up above her eyes with the palm of her hand and played with her fingers. Kath watched her every movement and put her hands together.
“I like your jacket.”
“You got it for me.”
“Mom, God, you bought it for me two years ago for my birthday, remember.”
Kath came in again and brushed the leg of Leah’s pajamas back from her face, kissed her on the cheek, and gently touched her face.
“It’ll be all right babe, everything will be all right.” And she left.
The last time Kath quietly sat down on the bed and placed her hand on Leah’s shoulder, “You know you’re pulling a mother. When I was young and things didn’t go my way I ran into my room, and shut the door.” Kath stood up and let her hand trail the length of Leah’s arm. “But your door is open.”
Leah had fallen asleep, but awoke when she heard the heavy thudding of her father’s thick feet on the carpet. He didn’t say a word. He just knelt by the bed and laid his head against the edge of the bed. He put his hands against the small of her back, as if he were consecrating her to something pure and holy. Abraham sacrificing Isaac. She was still. Moments passed, his head still resting on the bed, and then he rose and went to the window. He pulled the shade, careful not to wake her, and as he left, he shut the door.
When she woke, it was some time later, and all that remained was the vague remembrance of her father’s hands on her back, her mother’s words and her own anger. She got up, wiping sleep from her eyes and walked down the hall, hugging the wall, and went outside for a smoke. The air was biting and the fresh snow looked blue and crisp. Clouds of steam came from her mouth and nose. She walked from the porch out onto the front lawn and stepped toward the trees that bordered the house. The cigarette hung loosely from her fingertips. She stopped and stood quiet for a moment, and in the trees and bushes she heard the snap and rustle of movement.