Read An Excerpt
New Adult, Young Adult
Kel and I load the last two boxes into the U-Haul.
I slide the door down and pull the latch shut, locking up eighteen years of memories, all of which include my dad. It’s been six months since he passed away. Long enough that my nine-year-old brother, Kel, doesn’t cry every time we talk about him, but recent enough that we’re being forced to accept the financial aftermath that comes to a newly single-parented household. A household that can’t afford to remain in Texas and in the only home I’ve ever known.
“Lake, stop being such a downer,” my mom says, handing me the keys to the house. “I think you’ll love Michigan.”
She never calls me by the name she legally gave me.
She and my dad argued for nine months over what I would be named. She loved the name Layla, after the Eric Clapton song. Dad loved the name Kennedy, after a Kennedy.
“It doesn’t matter which Kennedy,” he would say. “I love them all!”
I was almost three days old before the hospital forced them to decide. They agreed to take the first three letters of both names and compromised on Layken, but neither of them has ever once referred to me as such.
I mimic my mother’s tone, “Mom, stop being such an upper! I’m going to hate Michigan.”
My mother has always had an ability to deliver an entire lecture with a single glance. I get the glance. I walk up the porch steps and head inside the house to make a walk-through before the final turn of the key. All of the rooms are eerily empty. It doesn’t seem as though I’m walking through the house where I’ve lived since the day I was born. These last six months have been a whirlwind of emotions, all of them bad. Moving out of this home was inevitable—I realize that. I just expected it to happen after the end of my senior year.
I’m standing in what is no longer our kitchen when I catch a glimpse of a purple plastic hair clip under the cabinet in the space where the refrigerator once stood. I pick it up, wipe the dust off of it, and run it back and forth between my fingers.
“It’ll grow back,” Dad said.
I was five years old, and my mother had left her trimming scissors on the bathroom counter. Apparently, I had done what most kids of that age do. I cut my own hair.
“Mommy’s going to be so mad at me,” I cried. I thought that if I cut my hair, it would immediately grow back, and no one would notice. I cut a pretty wide chunk out of my bangs and sat in front of the mirror for probably an hour, waiting for the hair to grow back.