Jenna hurtled down the stairs to the front door.
A muffled voice came from within the living room. “Can you get that? I’m indisposed at the moment.”
Of course. You always are. She ignored him and composed herself, cupping her fingers around the metallic door latch. Its cold touch was strangely comforting. After a few deep breaths, she slowly pulled the door open. On the doorstep, Casey and David stood, their eyes smiling, yet Jenna could detect a hint of concern in them. “Good morning Jenna!” David attempted to sound cheerful. “Nice to see you both,” Jenna barely managed. She recovered quickly. “Please, come in.” Standing to the side, she allowed them to go past and convene by the bannister.
“Who was it? Jehovah Witnesses? Salespeople?” Her dad was not overly concerned. It had been a very long time, since they had entertained any visitors.
“Then who was it, then?” he pressed.
Casey and David, removed their shoes and coats, and walked into the living room. Jenna’s father was glued to the TV set, enthralled as a pride of lions stalked an unsuspecting zebra, lapping water from the stream. His folded arms rested comfortably on his paunch.
Robert’s head swivelled around slightly, his eyes never fully leaving the screen.
“David!” He spied Casey and hurriedly rose from the sofa, dusting the biscuit crumbs from his clothes. “Hello Casey.” He smiled nervously. The pride crept closer to its prey. Stumbling over to his friend, he shook his hand. “Forgive my appearance. I didn’t know we were expecting any visitors today.” Jenna rolled her eyes.
He glanced accusatorially at his daughter. “Why didn’t you tell me David and Casey were coming over?”
Jenna tried to keep her voice as nonchalant as possible. “Sorry dad. It was a last minute thing.”
“We have a history project to complete for tomorrow,” Casey’s pleasant voice chimed in.
Robert still remained standing. “Ah, yes. Jenna said something about that.”
He turned back to David. “So are you just dropping her off then?”
Now was the time. It was now or never. Jenna gulped down her fear. “No, he’s staying, for a while. I want him to stay.” Casey’s father nodded in agreement.
“Okay, come and watch this documentary with me David.” The zebra was being assaulted from all sides. It didn’t stand a chance.
“No thank you, Robert.”
Jenna strode over to the remote control and switched off the TV. Her father’s expression was one of utter shock. “No!” she yelled. “No more TV, no more news and documentaries! I can’t take it!” She ripped the TV plug from the socket and hurtled the control into the hallway. Robert’s face flushed scarlet and his eyes widened in alarm.
A comforting hand cupped Jenna’s own. “It’s okay,” Casey reassured her.
“What was that -” Robert’s response was cut short.
“We need to talk properly,” David replied.
“About what?” He pretended to sound cheerful.
“Things are not right here,” David mused. “They haven’t been in a long time. We are worried about you. Both of you. Nobody has seen you properly in ages.”
“I’ve been very busy – ”
“With what? Watching TV?” Jenna’s voice grew in a crescendo. “Your lack of being a father? Putting me down?” Her right hand was squeezed.
“I think we all need to just calm down and talk this through,” Casey’s tone was calm and measured.
“That’s good advice” David agreed “First, let’s all sit down. Shall we?”
Robert and David sat on opposite sides of the sofa whilst Casey and Jenna pulled up two wooden chairs from the oval table. Robert stared blankly at the black TV screen.
“Do you want to start?” David coaxed him. “Robert?” His look remained distant.
“Why? He’s not going to say anything to you. Look at him! He’s retreating again!” Jenna was astonished at the amount of rage harboured inside of her. “Well I’ll start.” She rose from her chair, strode over to within a few centimetres of her dad and looked him squarely in the eyes. “I wanted them here. Aren’t you embarrassed to let them see you in this state?” She returned to her seat and tried to calm down. “My last six months has been a living hell. He has been such a lousy father, I don’t even recognise him! Nothing I do is ever good enough, is it?” She started frantically pacing back and forth in the living room. “Nothing! He criticises everything I do.”
Casey looked slightly uncomfortable. Tears now streamed down Jenna’s cheeks. She wheeled around to face her best friend. “And do you know who he constantly compares me to?” her eyes looked fanatical. “Can’t you guess?” Casey fidgeted in her seat. “Why, you of course! ‘Why can’t you be more like Casey? Why can’t you take important subjects like Casey? Why can’t you be as pretty as Casey?’ You’re the child he wishes he had.” She stormed over to her father once again. “You might as well adopt her,” she pointed at Casey, “because I’m just a constant disappointment!”
“Oh, Jenna!” Casey appeared grief-stricken.
“Don’t feel sorry for me, Casey. I hated you for it!” She laughed maniacally. “Do you know what I was going to do to you, Casey?”
Her best friend shook her head nervously.
“I was going to ruin your history presentation, just so I could get the upper-hand for once.”
“I see. But you decided against it.”
“I only changed my mind properly today. And don’t you see?” she raged. “It’s all because of him! He’s poison and he’s poisoned me! My own father!” She muttered, “I don’t even recognise myself anymore!”
David looked tense. “I’m sorry to hear that, Jenna.”
Robert still remained mute. His eyes looked startled and his mouth constantly gaped opened and closed like a fish. Jenna kneeled in front of him, softening her tone. “Don’t you love me anymore?” There was no response. Frustrated, she punched him hard on the right shoulder. He didn’t flinch. “Say something!” she screamed.
“That’s enough, Jenna!” David commanded.
Casey looked mortified. “I knew things were bad, but not that…” Her voice trailed off.
“Can I come and live with you?” Jenna pleaded, grabbing David’s hands. “I don’t want to stay another minute in this house with that.” She spat the words out with venom.
As Jenna looked upon him, her disgust transformed to concern as her father’s face contorted. His distant eyes became glossy. And Jenna looked in wonder as he began to tremble and all the sorrows of the last six months spilled down his scarlet cheeks.
MEANWHILE…JOIN IN THE DISCUSSION (comments section below)…
- Did Jenna handle things correctly?
- Is it always possible to keep things calm when emotions are running high?
- How beneficial is it to talk about your problems with others?
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