j_muniz292747 Juan Muñiz

A story about a father and a daughter and about how the monsters inside us are our worst enemies.

Short Story All public.

#family #reality #dark
Short tale
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Their Sorrow

Sometimes I just don’t feel like getting out of bed. And other times, sometimes is always. Today is one of those days. I open my eyes reluctantly and stare at the empty space in the ceiling trying to decide whether it’s worth getting up or not. I turn over to my side.

When is it ever worth it?

“Wake up, honey.”

My consciousness fades multiple times. I wake up again. I look at my phone. It’s already 3pm. Oh no… I did it again. I get up. Take a bath, shave (It’s been at least two months since the last time), comb my hair and put on some decent clothes. I manage to walk all the way up to the door. I can’t spare any more time. I’m beyond late for work. I get in my car and drive to the school.

Sometimes I can hear her voice nagging at me. Like she always did. “Be there for our daughter, Kaden.” She says. I know I think to myself. But honestly, it’s hard.

Especially without you.

I check my phone, 3 missed calls from Aaron. A co-worker of mine. He tries to help me out sometimes. Nags a lot just like Katie. I turn the corner and park the car on the sideway just in front of the school entrance. I see Robin sitting in the bench with her headphones on. She’s been doing that a lot more often. I unlock the door for her.

“Hey darling, how was your first day as a freshman?”

I feel tense. Around my own daughter.

That’s my fault.

“Dad, did you skip work again?”

Straight to the point that Robin. Clever since she was 5. I remember one time she tricked me into buying her more candy because she “lost” it… Turns out she just hid it in a pocket in her tiny jacket. And how would one suspect a 5 year old of hiding evidence that well? Not me at least.

“What? Of course not, sweetie.”

“Then why aren’t you wearing your work clothes?”

A clever girl, she is. Too clever sometimes…

“You got me there.”

I hear her sigh. A sigh so heavy that it sounds like it coming from an old man who’s tired of hearing the same old crap. She deserves better. Much better than me.

“Let’s just go home.”

My Daughter, Robin, is 15 years old. She’s currently in her freshman year of high school and with that comes many challenges which a parent must prepare for. Boys, sex, rebellion, you know, the usual teenage angst. But Robin didn’t show interest in any of those things. At least not in any obvious manner. She didn’t rebel against me. She was pretty obedient for the most part. And, up until a year ago, she was very caring and helped me when I was down. Lately, however, her attitude has changed. She becomes irritable easily and loses her temper. Although that mostly happens when I slip back into the bad habits that have shaped of my life as of 3 years ago.
She begins.
“Dad. You really shouldn’t skip out on work so much. You can’t get fired again. It took you forever to find this new job after mom di—”

“Don’t say another word, Robin.” The words came out a bit more aggressive than I intended.

“After Mom die—”

“I said no, Robin.”


“After MOM DIED!”

My foot slams onto the break. At this point I can’t stop myself.

“Robin. Do not bring this up again!

Just don’t.” I’m breathing heavy. I hear the sounds of car horns blasting outside. The words snap any sort of control I have over my words and now I find myself back to step one. Robin flinches for a second but quickly slips back into her calm, but distant demeanor. Her eyes evade mine.


I’m so pathetic…


I really hope he doesn’t skip today. He was showing the “signs” yesterday and if he slips back…
No, trust him.

He’s been doing well for months now.


It is Robin isn’t it?”

“Huh?” I’m sorry, what was the question again Miss Dandelion?”

She sighs and pushes her glasses back. “I was asking you if your father could volunteer to help in setting up the upcoming school festival in October?”

In my head I was sure that this was a bad idea. And yet somehow I managed to convince myself that it would actually be beneficial for him. He barely goes out besides work and maybe this festival could further let him break out of the chains that hold him down. I might come to regret it later…

“Yes, he can.”

“Good. Anyone else? How about you, uuuuh… Connor is it?”

Miss Dandelion kept interrogating the classroom about their parents for the remainder of home room while simultaneously trying to learn everybody’s name. I get the feeling she won’t forget mine. “Day-Dream Girl” She’ll call me. I kinda like it. After home-room I took two other classes, science and sex-ed, of which only one was productive in any way. You take a wild guess which one hit the fan. No-one could keep a straight face at the mention of the word penis even if you pinned them down. I might have too, but Dad… Well he’s clumsy and somehow kept getting hit in that area while screaming “My penis!” at the top of his lungs in an apartment complex. Which is arguably much funnier than just saying penis.

The bell rings once more. It’s lunch time.

Not my favorite time, that’s for sure. Not only was I a new kid, but my ability to get along with others is sub-par at best. Either I think that they’re immensely stupid, or they just don’t like me. As to why? That’s probably my mother’s fault. She was a huge book-nerd, and so she imparted that love of reading to me from a young age. I’ve read more books in my 15 years of life than most people have in their entire lifetime.

I pick a nice empty table by a window and take out my home-made meal courtesy of Dad. He’s so good at cooking that he would put most housewives to shame.

Pasta? What a heavenly meal!

I being to devour my lunch like a beast. No “lady-like” manners for this lady. Screw that. While I’m in the middle of my feast, two other students sit down at my table. A boy and a girl. Twins. But not like creepy, clone-like twins. They look very similar but not hard to tell apart. Besides the fact that their sexes are different.

“Hi, I’m Annie.”

“I’m Louis.”

I’m surprised that not one, but two people approached me on my first day. Maybe they’re new just like me?

“Hey.. My name’s Robin. Are you guys new here too?”

“Well” They both said in perfect twin harmony. Then Annie looked at Louis with an annoyed look that said Let’s not do this now.

“Well, no, but we couldn’t help but notice that you were sitting alone and a lot of the other kids are assholes who shun the new ones… Me and Louis know what it’s like to be outcasts.” It looked like she was going to say more, but she simply kept quiet.

“Oh, well thanks I guess.” I caught myself staring at Louis a bit too much. He was kinda cute… Which in turn I guess means that I also find Annie attractive. Twins are dangerous. The three had a decent conversation throughout the rest of lunch period before going our separate ways since we were in different groups. I was part of the Advanced group and the twins were in the regular group. I did ask them what was up with the whole festival thing. No other high-school that I know of does that sort of thing. Turns out that the principal is a huge anime nerd who loves japan and decided that school festivals should be a thing in America. Nothing wrong with it, but the back-story behind the intentions is just incredibly funny.


I still had my reservations about whether or not involving dad in the festival was such a good idea, but I’ll decide after I mention the idea. I should probably ease into it. He’s been very evasive about new experiences ever since mom left us. And I understand, or more like I had to understand. I didn’t want to lose him too. The last bell ring of the day. My first day of freshman year has gone by and it went quite well I would say. Even met some potential friends. There is that whole dilemma with me being attracted to both of them, but I’d rather not dwell on that. I went outside and sat on the bench where Dad agreed to pick me up. I was excited to tell him about my new friends and the festival. Maybe we could have a normal conversation. But when I saw him drive up in those ragged clothes, messy hair and poorly shaved face…

I couldn’t control my emotions. His face full of guilt. Lying about not going to work. Lies. Excuses. I’ve gotten sick of it. I had the words just dwelling in my tongue for 3 years. Holding back. Worrying about him. Afraid to lose my father. But, if only for a moment, I just didn’t care.

“After MOM DIED!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.

He slammed on the brakes.


The whole ride home, not one of us said a single word. We parked the car and averted our gazes even as we climbed the stairs to our small apartment. Robin stormed directly to her room and played loud music, presumably so I wouldn’t come inside. Not that I could face her anyways.


Once we got home I went into my room. Locked the door(or at least pretended to), and played sad songs, as you do to help lift your spirits when you’re down, and stared into the blank ceiling above.

I waited.

He would never try to talk.


I sit down on the sofa and sigh the whole way down. It was almost second nature to sigh as if sadness had hardwired itself into my whole being. And it some ways, it did. I looked at my phone, big mistake, only to be greeted by an email from my boss. It was mostly a lot of business jargon nonsense, but the takeaway is that if I miss another day of work unexcused my ass is getting kicked to the curb.

I sigh again.

Next message. It’s from Aaron. It reads:

“Hey, it’s me Aaron.—” I kinda figured as much. “I just wanted to let you know that the boss is furious at you. He said that he was going to fire you on the spot when you showed up to work tomorrow. But no worries, I calmed him down, said that you told me that you had to pick up your daughter at school because she wasn’t feeling well and that you were at the doctor’s the whole day. It took some effort, but I think he bought it. Anyways, come to work tomorrow Kaden. If you’re feeling down you know I’m here for you. Later.” He signed off with the peace sign emoji.
Thanks Aaron. I don’t know why you consider someone as hopeless as me a friend, but I appreciate it.
I toss the phone aside. But before I do, I take a glimpse at the date.

September 4th. Just three weeks away.


I don’t believe in God, or the afterlife or whatever, but sometimes when I feel like down I tend to talk with mom. Mostly about Dad. Usually I would talk to her about how he’s doing and that he misses her so much. As do I. Mom’s death was not Dad’s fault. It was no one’s fault. She got sick, and it got the best of her. That was three years ago on October 1st.

“Hey Mom, it’s Robin again. I know that the last time we talked I was telling you all about how Dad was getting better and how he got a new job and all that. But he’s slipping again.

Because of you.”

No response.

“I just— I just want him to be ok. But I’m so tired. I miss you too. It’s unfair. Why can’t he just get better?!”

I try to hold back my tears, but it’s too late. I’m an uncontrollable fountain of tears and mucus. I turn the music louder. I don’t want Dad to worry.

“Why did you have to take Dad when you died too?”


It was nearing midnight. I was worried about Robin so I went over to her door and see if she was ok. I was about to knock but noticed that the door was already open.
Was she expecting me?
I opened the door gently, and saw her lying sideways on her bed asleep. I turned off the blue-tooth speaker as it was still blasting full volume. Robin was a heavy sleeper. I sat bedside and stroked her long, silky brown hair. It was even more beautiful than her mother’s. It’s unfair Kaden. Why did Robin get stuck with only our good parts? She would often say in a joking manner. Katie was a joker, and Robin continues her tradition. Lately she hasn’t told many jokes, at least not when I’m around.
“I’m sorry, Robin. I didn’t want to yell at you like that. I never do. I just… It’s like there’s a monster inside me. A big, depressed monster who only knows how to destroy and wither the love I share with others. And sometimes, I can’t control it. I’m sorry darling. Goodnight.” I kiss her forehead and leave the room.

I know, I know. Be there for her.

“I wouldn’t nag if you just listen.”

I know. I’m trying.

The next morning, at work.

“Kaden!” Aaron’s face lights up the moment I show up.

Could he be gay? Is he hitting on me? The thought is fleeting however. I tend to my desk and try not to pay much attention to him. My energy is low as a standard, more so in early mornings. Despite my best efforts, Aaron advances.

“Kaden, thank god you came around. It is excruciatingly boring without you around. It’s like all these people are lifeless.”

Lifeless huh?

“Yea, I guess. Well, anyways, thanks Aaron for covering for me. I have a lot of work to do so, we’ll catch up later or something.” I try to sound sincere, but truly I don’t want to talk after work with anyone. I don’t wish to hurt his feelings.

“I understand— Hey, I think you dropped something.

A note. Dear Dad,”

“Alright alright that’s enough, that’s from my daughter.”

Robin must’ve put in my coat pocket when she set out. I attempt to snatch the note away from Aaron, but he seems keen on reading it. I didn’t figure him to be such an assertive guy… Then again…

“Here, here I’m just messing.”

I snatch it away from his hand rather forcefully. More so than I intended. Aaron thinks nothing of it and just goes off to his own desk. He had a smug look on his face that worried me.

“Thank you.”

I dive deep into my work.

During Lunch Break

I always bring Lunch from home with me. Usually some pasta I can whip up quickly. Robin loves it. It’s one of the few things I do that still make her happy. It’s small, but it keeps me going. I keep to myself even at lunch, and most of the others do as well. And the ones that are in a circle of friends don’t pay any attention to me. But, of course, there are always exceptions to that rule.

“Kaden, we need to hang out.”

“As I’ve said all other times… I just don’t hang out Aaron. It’s not my thing.”
He rolls his eyes at me. He grabs a chair from the desk beside mine and leans in close.

“Yes, I’m aware. But, it seems to me that you need it. I don’t care if you want it or not, we are going to go to the local pub down the street, crack open a few beers and talk like people do. Come on Kaden, just this once. Plus you have a teenage daughter, she can be alone for one night. Tell her to stay over with her friend or something.”

He’s really pushing this time. More so than the other times. Aaron’s a nice man. I think we could even be friends. But do I deserve his friendship? After what I did? I ready my heart to say no, but just then I think about Robin’s note. “My school is gonna do a festival at around October, I’ll tell you the date later. They need some parents to help out in the organizing committee and with other things that need to be done so I volunteered you to help. I hope you’re not mad for not asking first.”
“Be there for her Kaden.” Echoes in my head again.
Robin needs me. But talking with so many other people… The thought alone make my chest tighten up and my breathing becomes heavy. I see my friends. Old friends. The ones I killed after Katie died. I killed them with my overbearing gried. My sadness. This feeling of helplessness that fed off their love for me until there was nothing but resentment. Their eyes burrow unto my being with pity. I’m alone. Katie, why did you go? I can’t go on. I’m losing our daughter.
The monster stands tall in front of me. He grips me in his enormous claws and squeezes my wntire body as I cry out in an empty void of darkness. No one can hear me. I have no one…



“Are you ok, man?”

I look around me. I’m at the office. I take a deep breath. Aaron sits there, awaiting my response.

I’ll go.”

Saturday Evening, 8pm




“Did you make up your mind on the thing I asked you about the festival?”

I didn’t expect him to accept anyways, but I figured it’s worth a shot.

He pauses.

“No, not yet. You know what that day means.”

Of course I do. Stop talking like I don’t.

“Yea… Anyways, it’s this one at the end of the street. The house marked N-15.”

He parks near the mail-box and honks the horn twice. In around a minute or so, I see Annie come out and Louis right behind her. I see Dad’s brows furl up in tension at the sight of Louis. I guess even he can get all over-protective sometimes. It sort of makes me happy. I give him a kiss on his cheek and a hug and he relaxes a bit.

“Bye, Dad. Have fun with your work buddy.”

“See you tomorrow sweetheart.”

He drives off.


After dropping Robin off at her friend’s house, I made way to the bar which Aaron and I had agreed to meet up in. I still had my reservations about hanging out after… After so much time, but somehow Aaron convinced me otherwise and there I was. I was uneasy. I felt undeserving of Aaron’s friendship. I know I shouldn’t think that way.

But the monster’s grip is iron-clad.

As I’m walking towards the entrance, I see Aaron waiting for me. He dresses well. A light blue long sleeve casual dress shirt, no tie, and black pants topped off with casual dress shoes. A little over the top, I think. I can’t help but feel sort of under-dressed at the sight of my plain shirt and jean combo. He catches glimpse of me.

“Kaden! I honestly did not expect you to come.”

Neither did I honestly.

“Yea, I guess a change of pace isn’t that bad.”

Aaron smiles. As if hearing those words come out of my mouth reassured him of something. We make our way inside. The place is nicely decorated. Dim, colorful lights drown the room in a sort of dark yet fun atmosphere. It’s not terribly full, but it was full enough. A good day for the bar I would say. I haven’t had a drink since Katie died. Lost the interest in it. Lost interest in a lot of things. I didn’t want to seem rude to Aaron, but I was unsure if the taste of alcohol was something I wanted that night. But, oddly enough, Aaron only ordered a drink for himself. Maybe he read my mood? I couldn’t get a good read on Aaron’s intentions.

“So, my sister. She umm… She died last year. She took her own life. Gunshot to the head. It was almost instantaneous. I found her dead, the morning after I got home from work.”


“Look, I know those eyes. I’ve had them. My sister had them. Kaden you have the eyes of loss. The eyes that see a great sadness that only you can see. It’s invisible to all others. No one sees it like you do, right? It takes hold of you like a hostage. I get it, I do.”

I start to feel something well up inside of me. It’s burning. It’s making my hands shake and my brain go white.

“Aaron, stop. Don’t keep talking.”

Aaron barely reacts and he keeps going.

“Kaden, I know the pain of loss. But even worse, I’ve seen what the sadness that comes with it can lead to. The sadness that overpowers you? It took my sister. And I should have paid attention.”

“Aaron, stop! I didn’t come hear for this!”

The whole bar is looking at me. I hate this. I thought you wanted to be my friend. You’re just making it worse.

“No, you didn’t. But somebody has to say something because clearly nobody has. I want to be your friend, Kaden. I want to be there for you. You’re a good guy. Even though you try to stay out of everyone’s way, you always waited for me when I asked you too. You always spoke back to me even when I clearly annoyed you. You don’t want this to be you. You want to…

You don’t want to be defined by your sadness. If not for you…

Then for your daughter.”




“I’m done for tonight.”


Me and Annie are lying on the floor. Louis is in his room because their mom determined him “unsafe” for me. I’m guessing she meant that Louis is horny and that she doesn’t trust in him to not do something. The thought amuses me but I think little of it as I’m enjoying a long conversation with Annie. I learned that her actual name is Annabeth, but she likes to keep it short with Annie. Apparently she got the nickname back in first grade when the teacher was roll-calling and when they got to hers some kid yelled “That’s too long, how about Annie instead?” I found the boy’s attitude rather entitled and told Annie that she shouldn’t have kept a nickname given by such an insensitive boy. But she insisted that she just found it so funny that she ended up keeping the nickname given by the lazy little boy. We also talked about boys. That was the first time I had talked about guys with a friend. I didn’t have any friends like Annie or Louis. They were both just easy to talk to and apparently that was true for them as well. I was happy.

“So you don’t have anyone you like then?” Annie asked.

For some reason Louis had come to mind when she asked that, but I didn’t want to admit it. She would definitely tell him. Their twins. Twins are evil! Well, not really, but I felt that if I had a twin I would tell them everything. Despite my best attempts, I feel myself blushing immensely. I hoped she wouldn’t catch on.

“You totally do Robin!!!” She squeals and laughs thunderously.

“Girls, keep it down! Annabeth, your father is sleeping, try not to be so loud alright?” Annie’s mom yells from the living room. Quite unorthodox since she said not to talk loud.

“Sure mom!” Annie yells back.

I laugh.

“You two are a lot alike.”

“Yea, she’s kind of annoying sometimes, but she’s a good mom. I just wish she wouldn’t try so hard to relate to me and Louis. It’s always so awkward.”

She rolls over to face me. She and Louis are so alike. And it strikes me even more when I see her face up close. Their eyes. Their pointy noses. The small freckles on the right cheek.

“It’s like, I appreciate it, but it just doesn’t work.”


“What’s wrong?”

I don’t want to tell her anything but at the same time I want to tell her everything. The idea of having someone to share this pain that I carry… It felt comforting. Selfish, maybe. But I just couldn’t really keep it all in anymore.

“I wish my Dad tried at least.”

Annie saw the sadness in my eyes. It wasn’t a look pity. It was a longing to understand me. It was a hand that reached out to me so I could grab onto. A friend to trust. A shoulder to cry on.

So, I told her everything. The Death of my mother. The Death of my father. And my own death. A family made up of shells of their former selves. A couple of un-dead trying to remember the feeling of being alive. I started crying.

And once the tears came, I couldn’t stop. Annie embraced me and cradled me in her arms throughout the rest of the night.


My mind was in a flurry. As I got in the car, Aaron’s words still spun fresh around my head. Whistling about, prodding and poking at my intestines. The anger I felt had subsided yet the discord in my thoughts was only growing ever stronger. I turned on the radio. I like putting on the music in a medium volume, as high volumes tend to irritate me further. I felt bad about leaving Aaron so suddenly in the bar alone like that. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t even say hi at work the next Monday morning. Aaron was right. I do have to be more. I know that. I’ve known this for a long time.

“Be there for her Kaden. And for yourself.”

Katie pops up again. Everything is spinning. My heart is racing across the track at full speed. Then red light in front of me starts to blur while the tears shed down into the rubber covers of the front seat.

I can’t Katie. I miss you too much. I can’t do it alone.

I was a pathetic man driving around the city at midnight.

I had nothing.

No one.

You have Robin.

Robin hates me.

Her father died a long time ago.

Then the spinning came to an abrupt halt. I was laying face up in the concrete. I felt the blood pouring out of me.

And for a brief moment, the monster was gone.


After that night at Annie and Louis’ house, I called Dad to come pick me up. Instead I got a call from his work buddy, Aaron. My father had been in a car accident last night and he was now under intensive care at the hospital. They weren’t sure if he was going to make it as he had lost quite a bit of blood before the ambulance had gotten there.

No, not him too.

When I got to his room and saw my dad lay unconscious in that bed the disappointment I felt for him had all but dissipated in an instant. All I wanted was for him to come back. I needed him alive.

“Will he wake up soon?” I asked the doctor. Her face was not reassuring but she tried to hide her true judgment by keeping herself mostly expressionless.

“We don’t know.”

It sounded as if she wanted to say “No, he simply won’t. He’s gone.” But I refused to let that get to me. I stayed at his bedside for weeks. For months. At first I didn’t want to go back to school so I could watch over him, but Aaron told me that if Dad woke up and learned that I gave up everything to take care of him that it wouldn’t make him happy. So I did. I would come around to the Hospital every other night to stay with him in hopes that his eyes would give a sign of life once more. Aaron stayed over as much as he could even though Dad tried to be distant with him. I told him that he was basically his best friend. Aaron laughed. Annie and Louis helped me cope a lot too. They let me stay at their house so I wouldn’t have to switch schools. The nearest family member live 3 hours away from the school so it wouldn’t have been possible for me to stay. And I wasn’t about to leave. Dad was there, and the twins as well.

“Mom, please bring him back. You can’t just hog him all to yourself.” I joked around from time to time when I talked to mom on the lonely nights at the hospital. The nights were long, and they only kept getting longer. But after 6 months, dad spoke for the first time. It wasn’t a conscious action, the doctors told us, but more something like his brain activity spiking from time to time. It was not uncommon for this to happen, and they told us that it didn’t mean he would wake up soon. Still, for me, it was all I needed to hear.

“I’m sorry Robin… Monster… Inside of me…”

That was all he said that night and nobody could ever figure out what on earth it all meant. But I did. That time we had fought in the car after school he did come by to my room. I was half-asleep but hearing him say those words was enough to spark the old memory engine. I couldn’t help but start sobbing like a newborn child in the middle of the night. My depressed father had tried. He tried, and even if it was something as simple as caressing his daughter’s hair in the middle of the night and not knowing if she would ever know of the deed, it was enough for me.

“I know, dad. Thank you.”

Be there for her, Kaden.

{P.S: Comment if you liked it! Or tell me why you didn't! Any feedback is welcome as long as it's constructive.}

July 6, 2018, 1:22 a.m. 0 Report Embed Follow story
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