Anarita came home from school and saw that the big black box containing Dad's telescope was gone. But she didn't think much of it at first. Later, Alice came home and was making shells and cheese for dinner. She went upstairs to her bedroom and came down obviously upset.
She told Victor and Anarita that Dad's clothes were gone. Everyone cried, but Alice forced the kids to eat dinner. No one had seen this coming. Later that night, maybe around 11, Dad called. He was in Nevada, on the way to California, with a woman from his work and her daughter. He would sell his red Ford pickup and the telescope to start his new life with a new family.
Anarita was angry, bewildered, sad and jealous. She loved that red pickup truck and she loved the telescope; pieces of her dad. And why did that daughter get to be with dad but not Victor, Mom and she? What had they done wrong? The next day, Victor stayed home but Anarita decided to go to school. She sat on the swings and told her friend Julie that her dad had left. Her friend was sad, but Anarita thought, "This happens to almost everyone these days, what right do I have to hurt? It's normal." But she felt so sorry for her mom who would spend days and nights crying and worrying about how not to lose the house while trying to hide her worry from the kids.
Anarita and Victor were sent to a psychiatrist to talk about it, but neither of them wanted to talk. So sometimes they played games there, but Anarita thought that was a waste of time and money they didn't have. No one wanted to go anymore, so after a few visits, they didn't.
Some time later, Joe came back into town, but with the woman and her daughter. Mom took her and Victor to see him at their grandparents' house. Alice refused to go in, and so Anarita and Victor didn't want to go in either. However, they were told they had to go. Dad had 5 o'clock shadow and cried and hugged and kissed them and said things about missing them.
Anarita was dumbfounded. Why did he miss them, wasn't he the one that left? She met the other little girl who was about the same age as her, and tried to make the best of things by being friends with her. She was a nice girl. That turned out to be a mistake because Mom got angry when Anarita wanted to play with the other girl. She learned she wasn't supposed to be friendly with the woman or the daughter because they were the enemies, she should only just be polite. But as she saw it, they were in a worse situation than she. That woman had thrown the lots of she and her daughter in with Dad, and now Dad was back in town and second-guessing. They were being thrown around in the wind.
One day, Dad came back home. From that day on, everyone had to play a game that nothing had ever happened. No one was allowed to talk about the leaving, the betrayal. But it was always there, and it ate the hearts of all of them. It would drive Joe to depression,and being a mean drunk. It would make Victor hate his father for leaving and his mother for taking him back. It would make Alice have no self confidence or self love. And Anarita would spend the rest of her youth trying to be perfect so that she could earn her father's love that he had been so hasty to give away to strangers once upon a time. But being perfect isn't possible, and neither is pleasing a mean drunk.