Dialogue Essays: Libby's Last Stand

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Libby 's Last Stand

“Why did you leave early today?” Libby asked her mother across the round oak table. It had taken all day to work up the courage to confront her at dinner, when her father would be there and could say something to make her mother see she was wrong.

The headaches that had plagued Libby for months had stopped suddenly a week ago, when she realized their source. It had been her mother 's turn to carpool, and Libby felt fine all day until she climbed into the Caprice and looked at her mother 's painted face. Pain tore at her head as the realization slammed her in the gut. Her mother was making her sick. This morning 's episode was yet another betrayal. Libby had to stop it.

“Eat your dinner,” her mother replied,
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“Yes,” she said, shrinking away from his acrid breath. He shoved the whole thing into his mouth. “Daaad.”

“Stop whining and finish your dinner,” Sue said, tucking a dark feather of hair behind her ear.

“So, where did you go?” Marcus asked Sue. Finally.

“Nowhere.” Sue took a sip of water. “I ran some errands. There was a sale at Neiman 's.” She fingered the gold rope bracelet Marcus had given her for their last anniversary. “How was the office?”

Libby 's father swallowed a gulp of wine and set the glass down hard. “That shitheel Jimmy Meisner isn 't going to use my song in the picture. He says it 's not his decision, it 's the director 's. He could 've pushed harder. ” He tore off a piece of French bread and slathered margarine on it. “I 'm done with him. Shitheel.”

“Watch your language at the table, please. Dear.”

“Fuck you, Sweetheart.” He snorted at his wit, then devoured the bread.

“I 'm done,” Colton said, sitting upright. “Can I be excused?”

“You haven 't eaten,” Sue said.

“I hate fish. You know I hate fish.”

“It 's good for
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“You don 't need more,” Sue replied. “You 're too fat as it is.”

Libby 's awareness shifted to her school uniform, tight across her middle like skin on a blister. “I 'm still hungry.”

“You can 't be hungry. You just ate.”

“But I am!”

Sue sighed. “Just go get some more peas.”

In the kitchen, Libby scraped cold peas out of the pot. Colton sneaked up beside her and shot his fist into her arm. “Ow!” she cried. “Mom, he hit me.” She went back to the table.

“No, I didn 't.” He sounded surprised.

“Yes you did!”

“Jesus Christ, Libby,” her father bellowed. “Stop shrieking. Sit down and shut up.” She was already sitting down. He mopped up the oily residue on his plate with a fistful of bread, his lips pursing with each swipe. Soon, he would totter into the den and pass out in the recliner.

Leaning against the door jamb behind Sue, Colton waved his sandwich tauntingly at Libby. Libby swallowed the mushy peas.

Finished, Sue set her fork down on the plate, then laid her napkin over it.

“Bickering,” Marcus muttered, sloshing the rest of the wine into his glass. “Why are the children always

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