This is a long one.
There’s a theme in Rocket Summer that touches on child abuse and abandonment… this is Darlene’s perspective.
Kenny whispered. “Then how can you leave me there?”
Darlene’s mouth hung open, like she thought she had an answer then realized she didn’t understand the question.
Except she did understand it. She’d thought the same thing, a long time ago, that morning she woke up and stumbled out of her room to find herself alone in the house with Cal after her mom had driven off in the dark of night with a cookie jar full of mad money and the TV just for spite.
There wasn’t any mourning the loss, her being what Cal called ungrateful and all. It didn’t take too long to find himself a new wife, and less than a year to deliver Darlene a half brother into the house, a tow-headed boy who cried too much and ate too much and absolutely needed to learn how to be seen and not heard.
Kenny’s mom didn’t pay Darlene much attention, and Darlene ignored her right back. Kenny himself was pretty useless too, always underfoot, but as he got older at least he’d been a trouble magnet who attracted most of Cal’s attention, which pretty much left Darlene on her own, and that suited her just fine.
So it wasn’t that she didn’t understand the question, so much as she’d never imagined one day someone would be asking it of her.
And she’d never imagined she’d have nothing to offer.