**This was written after MamaKat’s writing prompt suggestion of “Write about a time you were startled.” Thanks, MamaKat, as always for the great prompts each week!**
I am stomping around my room, shoving clothes into my duffel bag and muttering under my breath like only a 13-year-old girl can. It is Friday and time to go to my Dad’s for the weekend. Fuckin’ A. I don’t want to go. I hate going there, I miss my Mom and my friends and I don’t want to go. He lives out in the middle of nowhere, won’t let me have friends over and he’s a fucking grouch. The only good part is my sister’s there too; that’s mostly the reason why I don’t raise a bigger fuss about going. Then she’d be all alone. I’m 13, I could probably get my way if I really screamed loud enough. He doesn’t really want me there anyway.
We get there and it’s the usual discomfort of being in a house that used to hold a family and how holds a sad, bitter man and his two daughters that don’t want to be there. I don’t even like my room there anymore. None of my real stuff is here, just weekend stuff. It feels weird to be without my Mom and with my Dad instead. It’s that terrible middle place that only divorced kids know: You feel disloyal to your Mom if you have a good time with your Dad, but you feel like a bitch if you’re mean to your Dad the whole weekend too. You’re always in the middle and you just can win. Ever.
I unpack my bag because that’s always what I do first. Not that I’ve ever traveled anywhere in my life, but I imagine I would always have to unpack first. I can’t live out of a bag. I want my stuff where it goes so I feel some semblance of normalcy in this God-forsaken weekend. My sister drops her bag on her bed and pulls out a book. That’s where we both go to escape: fiction. We’ll eat dinner and then watch TV. What He wants to watch, of course, not what we want. I’d love to turn on Breakfast Club and watch his mouth drop open at the number of “fucks” and weed and french kissing that he’d see. I love that movie. He’d hate it. Maybe that’s why I love it so much.
I spend the night tossing and turning in this uncomfortable bed that was bought at a garage sale and smells like the last people who owned it. Just because I knew it’d piss Him off, I carved my name in the headboard. He never comes in my room, so it will be a while before he notices. I wish I could be there when he sees it. We eat breakfast the next morning and then it starts. We’re just fucking workhorses when we come here; especially now because he broke his wrist and he’s in a big arm cast. Can’t his new girlfriend help with this shit? It’s time to iron his shirts and work pants; he just got a new job where he actually has to wear nice clothes. It’s time to clean. But then it’s time to re-clean because, of course, we didn’t do it right the first time. I mean, doesn’t every 9 and 13-year-old know how to properly and perfectly clean a shower? Then it’s time to wash his car. And then re-wash it because the black part has to be washed last so the drops don’t dry and show. Then it’s time to mow the lawn. And then listen to him yell because your lines aren’t perfectly straight. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to shuck some fresh sweet corn for dinner. The taste will be worth the bitching about how you missed a few of those hair-thingys that are inside sweet corn.
After dinner, my sister and I are exhausted and ready to relax for a minute. We sit down to watch TV. She goes up to her room to get something and I’m sitting there alone. He comes in and changes the channel to pro-bowling. Who the fuck wants to watch that? Certainly not two girls. So I ask him if we can please watch something else. He says “Hell no. We’re watching this. It’s my house.” And I’m so angry because that’s what he thinks and that’s why we’re all so fucking miserable. It’s HIS house, not our house. We don’t belong here. We’re not welcome here. We’re just little chore-mongers who come every other weekend. So I demand that he change the channel back. “We don’t want to watch the PBA. We just want to watch normal TV.” I don’t swear, I don’t have a tone, I just say it. But I don’t say please. And, apparently, I have my jaw set just like my mother does when she’s angry. At least that’s what he says when he starts yelling at me. And now I know why he hates me so much. It’s because I’m just like her. I look like her, I read books like her, I sit like her and now my jaw is set like her. And he can’t stand it. And he can’t stand me. I just sit there and take it because I know if I open my mouth I’ll cry. And he will not see me cry right now. Because that will mean I’m weak and sad when, in fact, I’m just so fucking angry my head might explode.
He takes my silence for disrespect and gets up out of his recliner and walks over in front of where I’m sitting on the couch. He’s very tall and he absolutely looms over me. I’ve always been scared by him, but not like this. I feel threatened. He looks at me and says between his teeth “We’ll do what I say because it’s my house…or else.”
I’m so angry I can’t take it anymore. I say “Or what? You’re going to hit me?”
And he raises his casted, giant arm and cocks it back. I’m so startled I can barely breathe. I can’t believe he’s actually going to hit me. Part of me is so freaking happy because it means I’ll never have to come back here again. And a bigger part of me is so scared. Not just because it’s going to hurt. But because I’ve never had anyone hate me so much. Especially not someone who’s supposed to love me.
I glance over and see my sister at the bottom of the stairs out of the corner of my eye. Her eyes reflect my fear. I look back at his furious eyes and wait.