Story a Day May #2 – “After Supper”

“I will harbor it, and shelter it, as the shrub outside my bathroom window harbors the sparrows and chickadees and cardinals that take refuge there…..”

“I don’t even know what that means,” snapped my mother in irritation, and her lips tightened and thinned as her jaw set. Her teeth were clenched when she spoke again. “I know what will happen. You will end up forgetting it, and leaving it somewhere, like outside, in the rain. I am NOT paying a hundred dollars for some damned book about Shakespeare. You’ve got plenty to read, right here, and, if you want more, go to the school library.”

“Neither of them have this book, Mommy.” People have told me all my life that I am a born optimist, like my father – but i never met my father, so I don’t know whether that’s true or not. But I figured calling her Mommy might -just might – get her to allow me to use my own income, garnered from watering a neighbor’s collection of fowl, from babysitting, from a summer job I would soon begin, and from cleaning my grandfather’s house – to buy the book. “And the book isn’t just about Shakespeare. It has ALL of his plays, all of the sonnets, and a lot of history. It’s a book I could treasure for the rest of my life.

“Besides, I don’t want you to pay for it. I just want permission to use my own money to – ”

CRACK! I registered the drawing back and surging forward of her hand too late to do anything at all to avoid the backhanded slap that rocked my head and, although i couldn’t see it, a fire-red, heated imprint on my right cheek.

“YOU don’t have your own money, you ungrateful little BITCH! So long as I feed you and pay for your clothes and put a roof over your head, I am entitled to decide what you get and what you don’t. And you are not getting some stupid book by that idiotic Shakespeare. Besides, you would just sit there, sucking your finger and twisting your hair, reading THAT BOOK instead of doing your homework. And you are supposed to be so smart! HA! You’ve got no common sense at all.”

She stalked away, and I thought that might be the end of that – but, before I could draw two breaths, she was back. “Now, clean up this kitchen, take out the trash, and do the laundry. Then get your disgusting little self clean, and DO YOUR HOMEWORK, and go to bed. I don’t want to hear another peep from you until morning…..but I know how you like to run your mouth and act like you’re smarter than everybody else, with your fancy Shakespeare, so I’m going out.”

She said it like it was a surprise. Like she didn’t go out every night. Like she hadn’t been wearing that slutty scrap of fabric she called, “my little red dress.”

I didn’t say anything, just put my head down and started cleaning up the half-burnt Hamburger Helper pan, and emptying her ashtray. She would want it to gleam like crystal when she got home, as though her ashes and butts must be cradled in luxury.

When the door slammed behind her, I counted to a thousand – better safe than sorry – before I allowed myself to whisper my thoughts very softly. “I’m pretty damned sure I’m smarter than YOU, you bitch.”

I had long ago developed a system to get the work done as quickly as possible. I flew about quickly, tending to all that she had asked, making sure everything was just as she expected it. I made sure her bourbon and glass were set at her place at the table, so she could have her “liquid breakfast” when she got back – long after I was in school, usually, and then she would sleep until just before dinner, the one meal she insisted on feeding me. I thought she did it just so she could complain bitterly about it until she left again….

It only took an hour and a half, and then I went to my room, where my laptop sat. It had been a prize in a local poetry slam, and Mother liked to brag about how I had won it – not to me, but to the other barflies and whores she hung out with. She even paid for the Wi-fi, just so she could tell them all what a generous mom she was…

And, best of all, she never touched my computer; she didn;t even know how to turn it on.

I went to the site I had found last night, my fingers trembling and an excited sweatiness shivering over me.

I had already drawn up my profile; and used my webcam to take a few shots of me in what I hoped were “fetching” poses.

Now, I opened my file – and saw that I had been searched six times, already.

And, fifteen minutes later, I was slipping out of my window, past the bush that sheltered the songbirds my mother never noticed, my backpack filled with my few precious things…..certain I would find joy and peace at the other end of my journey.

As I looked up at the night sky, a star fell….

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