“I don’t want to see you ever darken this door again,” her father shouted at Delilah as she stood dazed in the front yard, dead grass crunching under her footsteps in the autumn chill. He apparently didn’t care if the whole neighborhood heard their family row.
She stooped to pick up all the clothing she could carry, a couple t-shirts, a jacket, and two pairs of jeans that wouldn’t fit her much longer. Her mother must have at least put together the overnight bag beside the front door that held her makeup bag and some underwear. For that, the 16-year old was grateful. The girl stuffed everything she could fit inside the bag and sunk down to her knees on the lawn, not knowing where to go.
Her dad glared at her with disdain and said, “No daughter of mine is going to get knocked up and expect to come live back here. Go back to that boy who done got ya in trouble!” The glass shook when he violently slammed the door to finalize his point.
Delilah looked up from her spot on the ground, searched the sky to beg God’s help in deciding what to do, and spied the tiny brown ceramic squirrels perched on the roof’s eave. Her dad had affixed the puffy-tailed mother and baby rodents there, and she always feared they’d fall down in a strong wind and break. Instead, they now stared accusingly down at her.
A crow in a tree behind the girl squawked its own disapproval at the scene. Delilah had known no other home than the dingy single-story structure before her. A bevy of children existed within those walls. Too many for their parents to control.
Delilah thought back to the halcyon of growing up there with her sisters, playing outside with Barbies, and using cardboard for dollhouses and tissue boxes for little beds. They used any scrap of fabric salvaged from Mom’s sewing basket as a makeshift outfit or blanket, resourceful as they were with few toys. She reminisced over good times they experienced as innocent kids.
She remembered her tea parties with discarded cups and chipped saucers begged for before those wares went to the garbage. Pinkies raised, the girls sat in the garden with the squirrel duo envying the gathering from atop the house. The sisters sipped water while wearing old hats, straw ones with holes or a brother’s ball cap to portray the only man interested in attending such an affair, pretending their soiree included canapes and creamy petit fours.
The brothers bothered them little if roaming the neighborhood or playing stickball in the street. Harassment occurred in the dark of night with Mother unaware. Three sisters shared a single bed, but Norman would slip his hand up beneath the covers without waking up Frannie, Delilah’s older sister. She’d never have let Norman bother Delilah like that had she known.
Delilah learned to distrust Norman and other boys like him. He threatened to hurt their youngest sister if she told, so Delilah lived silently with the abuse to keep the little one safe from him. Her father never suspected a thing. He didn’t realize what Norman did to her when their parents weren’t home.
Her dad didn’t know much of anything, because he never paid any attention. All the girls begged for his affection but only got it on Christmas morning with a slight hug, a peck on the cheek and the slightest smile the man could muster at them. Delilah often wondered why he even wanted to have kids at all if he could only stand to be around the boys.
Those boys were hardly ever disciplined. He didn’t keep Norman from hurting her. And now he wondered why she gone to her boyfriend for love and attention?
“You never cease to amaze me, Daddy,” Delilah muttered defeatedly even though he didn’t hear her. He’d gone back to his television and turned up the volume to shut out the world and signify to any nosey neighbors that the show was over.
She had no other choice but to move on and hoped her friend Jenny’s mother would allow her to stay at their house for awhile. Her boyfriend’s parents were against them dating, much less her expecting his baby. They would freak when they found out, so she didn’t dare ask for hospitality there.
Delilah searched the ground around her to see if anything else she owned was scattered about it, discarded like so much trash, and found a rock within arm’s reach. She picked it up and chucked it toward the Mother squirrel on the edge of the roof. “I hope you fall,” she told it. She sobbed into her sleeve and thought, “You should’ve noticed, Mother. You should’ve seen.”
*Click the link above to read previous installments in Delilah’s Dilemma.
Studio 30+ writing prompt – halcyon
“What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?”
— Elizabeth Bishop