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The Devil Behind Me(4)


“How are we going to pay for it, Addie?” My father said so sadly. “I want to send her. I want the best for my little girl. I don’t want to fail her like I did you.” He shook his head as small tears began to line his eyes.

“You didn’t fail me, Daddy. This was my choice. I chose to not go to Yale. I was the one who said I’d stay and help.” I offered him a reassuring smile. I took his hand and held it. My parents didn’t have much money growing up and the insurance policy my father had for my mother, well, it didn’t pay out as it should have.

Everything was a mess and I didn’t even have the heart to tell my father. How could I? The man worked so hard all these years and had my mother not died, we would have been in a better place.

The night my mother passed, was the night my family lost the one person who held us together. She was the one who was good with money and knew how to save. It was harder for me; not that I didn’t know how to save, but I had my hard working father to deal with. In his mind, he was the head of the family, therefore, he had the last say and I wasn’t about to tell him how he should run his business.

I did at least find the time to go to community college and earn a business degree. It wasn’t my dream, but at least I had something. Sofia excelled in school even though she worked the weekends with us at the restaurant.

The first few years at the restaurant were good. We were busy and made good money. It kept us from thinking about my mother and the void she had left behind. The breakfast and dinner rushes were fun and at times stressful, but as long as we were making money, both my father and I were happy.

My dad’s cooking was exceptional and the whole neighborhood raved about it. He loved his customers, and how much pleasure they took in eating at the restaurant. He was the talk of the town, the place to go to have authentic Greek food. But as the years went on, his disease got the better of him and the restaurant started to suffer. I slowly began to lay off our employees, until only my father and I were left. Because of his disease, my father would often be forced to stay at home or worse, be confined to the bathroom leaving the diner mostly in my hands.

You see, Crohn’s disease attacks the bowels. It’s an inflammatory bowel disease that caused my father to lose weight drastically. The severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain were at times too much for him, leaving him exhausted and malnourished. Anything he ate could and would affect him, triggering episodes of pain and exhaustion.

Things became tougher with each passing year at the restaurant. Customers started to decline and so did our profits. We were once known as the best Greek diner, but now hardly anyone ever stopped by.

There were many days I had to work triple shifts, only because I wouldn’t let him out of the house. It hasn’t been easy the last ten years watching my father deteriorate. I cried a lot, but I made sure I cried when no one was around. I couldn’t show them how much I was suffering. My mother’s death hit both of them harder than it did me. I knew it was my fault she had died, had I not been so selfish, she would have been here with us today.

The only routine I held onto was my running. Nothing was going to stop me from running in Central Park. Every chance I had I would be there. Even early in the morning when most would be asleep. The only silver lining about our restaurant was it closed by nine at night. At least we had our nights together.

“I'm not going!” Sofia yelled.

“Ah, let me think about it?” I said sarcastically, placing my finger to my chin. “Yes, you’re going! You applied for this scholarship,” I yelled back.

“Yeah, thinking I would get a full scholarship, not a partial! We can’t afford it!” she cried out.

“Let me decide what we can and cannot afford, you’re not even eighteen yet,” I barked at her.

“Ahh! You’re so bossy,” she cried back.

“I don’t care what I am, you’re going to that school and I don’t want to hear otherwise,” I screamed over my shoulder as she ran up the stairs. I knew my sister. I was the one who raised her. She was feeling guilty. I didn’t care what I had to do, but I was going to send her to that fucking school.

“What’s wrong with her?” My father said with his broken English, as he carefully sat down on the couch, holding his belly. I sighed looking at my father, my heart breaking.

“Sofia is being stubborn. Don’t worry about it, Dad.” I smiled at him and he smiled back. God, he had lost a lot of weight and the steroid pills weren’t helping him. The doctor kept saying we would have to wait and see. So I waited.

“Where are you going?” my father asked the moment I got up.