His hands came down on the front of my shirt, and when he jerked me close to his face, I could smell his toothpaste. “What else has this little bitch told you?”
“Don’t call her that.” I growled.
He laughed bitterly. “What, are you in love? Did you fall in love with the trash?”
“You don’t even know her,” I said. My voice shook. I’d never stood up to him like this before. “You can’t control who I date. I’m eighteen. You have no say in anything I do anymore.”
“If you want to live in this house, I do.” He gave me a shake. “If you want to drive around in that nice car and use the nice credit card I gave you, I do.”
I dug in my pocket for my wallet, pulled it out and tossed it on the cement floor. “Take it. Take it all. I don’t want it. I just want you to leave me alone.”
“You just want me to leave you alone?” My dad imitated my words, raising his voice like a whiney child. His grip tightened, and he raised me onto my toes. “Bull. You want to piss your life away. You want this whole town to see the mayor’s kid throwing his life away. You want to embarrass your old man because of some damned rebellious streak.”
“It’s not a rebellious streak,” I croaked. His grip on the collar of my shirt tightened even further, and sweat beaded on my forehead. “I don’t care whether you’re embarrassed or not. I don’t give a damn about you or your reputation. I just want to get the hell away from you.”
His eyes searched mine. The tension in the garage hung in the air like smog, and I damn near choked on it.
“You pretentious little bastard,” Dad spat, giving my shirt another jerk and making me cough. “You wouldn’t last one day without your mother and me wiping your ass.”
“Why bring Mom into this?” I managed to say, tears stinging the back of my eyes. No turning back now. I’d already gone further than I ever had with him. “She might be a drunk, but at least she doesn’t beat up her kid. I wonder what people would think if I started telling the truth?”
He threw me onto the hood of my car and the metal bent underneath my weight. His fist collided into my ribs once. Twice. Three times, before he stood back upright, panting. “You sanctimonious little brat. You won’t ruin my reputation. You won’t. Do you understand me!?”
Rage rolled in my stomach, pricking my skin with sweat as adrenaline coursed through my veins. I was off the car hood in a flash, drawing my fist back, then smashing it full force into my dad’s face with a belly-turning thwack. He stumbled backward, his hand on his mouth as blood seeped from the split in his lip.
We stood there for a long time, the silence only broken by our ragged breathing.
His eyes widened.
My heart pounded so hard it echoed in my ears. I spread my feet apart, and clenched my hands again, ready to fight some more. My heart was torn. Part of me wanted to throw another punch, this time landing it right on the eye, so he would have to go into his office the next day with a shiner. But the other part of me felt like a freaked out little kid who just wanted to curl up underneath the car and cry.
I’d punched my dad in the face. My dad.
He stood upright, wiping the blood from his skin, then scowling down at his dirty fingers. I could see his pulse jumping in his neck as he considered what to do next. I waited for him to talk. To say whatever he wanted to say after being clocked by his only kid, but instead he clenched his bloodied fingers and lunged at me.