The dining room door crashed open and a girl stood outside panting. Her chestnut hair was bedraggled, and she looked physically exhausted. She had run all the way home from school and felt knackered, but excitement danced merrily in her emerald eyes.
The man was sprawled out on a black leather sofa, eyes riveted on the 5 ’o’ clock news. The back of his hair was thinning, and he now had a bald patch of bare scalp in the middle where his once brunette hair used to be.
“Dad! Dad!” Panting, she frantically rummaged through her khaki backpack and pulled out a piece of paper carefully folded into four sections. Proudly, she waved it high in the air, her face beaming.
She stepped boldly into the room. His balding head loomed larger.
“Dad, I’ve got some really great -” He held up his hand, signalling for her to stop. His eyes were still stuck to the screen.
“Can’t you see I’m watching something important?” he snapped.
Jenna glanced at the screen bewildered. The news commentator was interviewing Frank Darby about a film he was starring in. ‘Gone Forever’ was the next instalment in a major franchise that everyone was going mad about. Everyone that was, except for her father. He loathed films.
“But you don’t even like -”
“Just shut up, will you?” His glassy eyes ripped themselves from the TV and found hers in annoyance. He resumed his favourite position and his back was towards her once again.
Feeling deflated, she slowly and deliberately placed the paper on the sofa beside him and quietly left the room.
He would look at it when she left. She knew he would! And he’d be so happy! He would acknowledge what a great daughter he had.
She climbed the stairs, taking care to make as her steps as heavy as possible without being annoying. Best to make him think she was out of sight! Then, like a ninja, she crept halfway down again, taking care not to disturb any creaking areas. She sat midway on the steps, craning her head to watch her dad’s movements in the dining room. It hurt her neck a little, but it would be worth it to see the satisfaction in his face when he read the contents.
Half an hour passed. No matter. He would pick up the paper soon.
Then one hour. Then two.
It was just after seven ‘o’ clock and Jenna really should have started her homework and made dinner. The muscles in her neck throbbed and she kneaded them lightly with her hand. Over two hours had passed and he hadn’t even so much as glanced in its direction. Plucking up courage, she descended down the rest of the steps and re-entered the dining room.
A different news channel. A different commentator.
“Dad?” she whispered.
“Have you looked at the paper yet?”
“Can’t you see that I’m busy?” he boomed, exasperated.
Cautiously, she shuffled to the front of the sofa, picked up the paper and held it out to him. He snatched it out of her fingers, put on his reading glasses and began to read. Carefully.
Jenna waited with baited breath for what seemed an eternity. What was taking him so long? She could have read it at least three times over and counting. She continued to massage her neck to pass the time. His expression should change to delight. Eventually. But it never did.
Finally he stood up, towering over her.
“So what’s this fuss about, Jenna?”
What was he going on about? The report contained everything! It was best not to make him anymore annoyed. So she would keep the peace.
“I came second in my exams overall, out of the whole year. Can you believe it dad, I beat over fifty-seven other pupils!” The excitement welled in her expressive eyes.
“I ask again, Jenna. So what’s this fuss about?” He advanced forward, encroaching on her personal space. She could feel his breath on her skin.
She shrank back, flummoxed. “But…I just told you!”
“Let me put it another way for you to understand. In this house, we don’t make a fuss over something as trivial as second place. I take it your friend Casey came first?”
Reluctantly, Jenna nodded her head.
“Why can’t you be more like Casey?”
The words reverberated in her head and the warm tears that pricked her eyes threatened to flow…
MEANWHILE…JOIN IN THE DISCUSSION (comments section below)…
- How is Jenna’s dad belittling her?
- Can parents who demand the best from you shatter your confidence?
- How do you cope, when your best just isn’t good enough for others?
- Is it good to compare people to others?