This piece was originally written this past May from a writing prompt for my writer’s group. I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. Be sure and leave a comment telling me what you think of it, and share it on Facebook and Twitter!
Coming of Age
I knew it was the night my life would change, because of the wounded lilt of my father’s voice. I knelt in my bedroom, my ear pressed firmly against the door, trying to hear my parents’ conversation over the pounding of my heart and my shallow breathing. I held my breath, but I still couldn’t hear their words—only the tone of their voices.
My mother sounded angry at first, then apologetic, and then cold. I knew she had been having an affair. I was just a girl, but at twelve, I was learning to hear the undertones in women’s voices. I was beginning to understand the meanings that were so often completely different than the words that were spoken, and I could read their body language, however haltingly. My mother said I was an old soul. She said I was intuitive. She began to hold me at arm’s length. She knew I knew, and neither of us had to speak a word.
It was the unusual nonchalance in her announcement that she was going to take a “quick trip to the store.” The way she glanced away from our eyes as she prepared to leave for this or that errand, always busying herself with hunting through her purse or checking her lipstick seemed guilty to me. At first, I wasn’t sure what she was hiding. After a while, I figured it out. She couldn’t hide the blush of anticipation that colored her cheeks before she left.
I don’t know how my father found out, but I will always remember the night it happened. I awoke to a darkness so deep I immediately began to panic. Looking back, it seems a proper foreshadowing, the way the clouds hid the moon. My bedroom was blanketed in a thick blackness that seemed to choke me. As the sound that woke me began to make sense to my sleep-muddled brain, I realized my father was crying. Sobbing. He knows, I thought. As surely as I had known what my mother was hiding, I knew when my father found out. There was no anger that night. I had hoped for anger. I had waited for the day my father would discover my mother’s infidelity and he would rail against the injustice of it all, the way I wanted to. No. There was no anger. What I heard from my bed was the sound of a grown man’s heart breaking. I pulled my pillow over my head, and screamed into it. The muffled sound that reached my ears was an insult to my pain, but at least I couldn’t hear my father’s sobs.
Crouching at the door, I could hear the anger had finally arrived. Months had passed since the initial cracking of my father’s heart. There had been many late night “conversations.” Some hushed; some with crying that assaulted my ears with its desperation. Tears began to drip off my chin as I listened to my father scream at my mother, in direct denial of my wish that he tear her apart for her sins. I could hear his words now. Words like “whore” and “betrayal” fell like heavy bricks, breaking up the foundation of my childhood. My father stopped his barrage for a moment, and I took a shuddery breath, hoping it was over. I then heard him say with sickening conviction, “I hate you.” And I heard my mother’s cold indifference as she said, “I hate me, too.”
The front door opened and shut, and I peered out the window as my mother backed her car out of the driveway. I sat on my bed and felt the tears course over my cheeks. To sleep in this night would be impossible. Instead, I sat silently till morning, holding a vigil for the death of my family. As the first rays of sunlight began to spill across the faded blue carpet, I heard a bird begin its morning song. I sighed. Apparently, the world had no intention of ending.
©2015 Rachel Holbrook