A short story inspired by a F.A.T.T.Y. post. If you are having a happy go lucky Disney morning you may want to just skip it.
The sound of his keys entering the front door lock caused her stomach to tighten into bundles of knots. She knew it was her father because she had memorized the sound of his entry. She had also seen enough years to memorize the look of hate and rage etched across her mother’s face as she waited for him to appear.
Her brothers were gone. They knew the rage too well. She wanted to be gone too but she also hoped she could help it be different this time.
His large shoulder banged against the outside surface of the door, opening it wide enough for him to walk through. She could see his profile backlit by the porch light, but not his face or expression. The keys had fallen from the lock as the door opened and the metallic clanking of the keys hitting the floor was the only sound in the fear filled interior of the house. His large frame stumbled across the threshold, falling almost to a knee before he regained his balance and slammed the door shut with a stomach churning force.
She knew he was wearing his dark blue work shirt. She could see the familiar white patch with red embroidery reading “Gulf Refinery – Edward” standing out from the dark blue fabric. His heavy work boots made their way across the hard wooden floors in a halting manner, lightly banging against each side of the wall as he felt his way along the hallway to the bedroom. He had been gone 3 days.
From her spot in the small cramped living room she prayed for him to go to sleep, to fall across the bed in his blue work clothes and boots and just lie there quietly. "Please God", she prayed, with her fingers forming a steeple in front of her face.
She saw her mother rise to her feet and follow the drunken footsteps down the hall. “No mother, please God leave him alone and let him sleep”, she prayed. Palms now tight together and fingers intertwined, she prayed for the knot in her stomach to disappear and the fear to be left for another night.
The high pitched voice of her mother cascaded down the hall in a sickening crescendo of anger and rage. Her fathers voice, just as angry, bellowed back at her in the familiar drunken slurring that made her wonder why her father had to come home at all.
“Please God”, she prayed, “Please.”
The sounds of the thrown objects interrupted what she already knew was another useless prayer. She ran quickly down the hallway just as she had done so many times before hoping to get between the two of them. The naked light bulb above the bed highlighted the stark features of each parents’ face. The hard stucco walls of the room were spinning in front of her eyes as she assessed how best to help. Her father was standing no more than 4 feet from where her diminutive mother stood, but she was throwing any and everything she could find at his face and chest while she screamed in an incoherent rage about where he had been for the last 3 days.
She moved between them hoping to stop what her prayers could not. His large hands grabbed her by the shoulders and with no effort at all he slung her across the tiny bedroom to the base of the doorway where her nose crashed into the hard wooden jamb at the base of the door. Her head spun and her fear made her lie motionless while the war around her raged in fits of thrown objects and screamed obscenities. She felt the warm flow of blood at the base of her nose shortly before she began to taste it, but she didn’t move. She knew it had to be quiet before she moved again.
When the quiet finally came, she pulled herself up from the base of the door and wiped the blood from her nose, spreading it across the sleeve of her pink cotton pajamas.
She knew her mother would be locked in the bathroom fearing the resurrection of the man in the blue work shirt. The man in the 3 day old alcohol saturated work shirt was snoring on his back, eyes closed, but still facing the naked light bulb. A hard stubble of black beard glistened under the harsh light. Sweat rolled off his forehead, down his cheek and dropped silently onto the bed as she stared at him.
She walked down the hall hoping to find some comfort in her bed. She knew how to clean up the blood and get her things ready for the school bus in the morning. She had learned to do lots of things.
After all, she was 7 years old. Tomorrow was her birthday and she would be 8. She hoped it was why her dad had come home.