David Huddle’s story, “Scotland,” was published in NER 13.2 (1990).
When I came home from school, I knew my dad was in the house, even though there was absolute quiet everywhere. This was years ago, when we lived in London and I was twelve and trying to get used to going to school at St. Catherine’s Academy where they made us wear flannel skirts and knee socks. My dad was mostly living with his mistress, as my mom called her. He had stopped paying our cook and maid; so that day there wasn’t even any noise coming from the kitchen. My dad drank, and he had always been a very tense man. Even when he was in a good mood, you didn’t want to startle him, or come up on him by surprise. So after I got myself a snack, I went very quietly to my room, which was down the hall from my mom’s room, and took off my skirt and blouse and dropped them to the floor as I always did but still being careful not to make much noise.
All the while I was putting on my jeans and sweat shirt and eating my crackers and cheese, I kept imagining that I could hear murmuring voices from her room. I lay down on the bed to read and maybe take a nap, but I also wanted to be as quiet as I could to see if I really was hearing them talking. I even held my breath, but the quieter I was, the more my imagination seemed to be playing tricks on me. One minute I’d be certain I heard my father speaking actual words, things like “I have every right” and “You don’t know” and once I even thought I heard my mom say my name, “Angela,”in this real tight voice. But then the next minute I’d be just as certain that I wasn’t hearing anything except my own blood beating in my ears.
After awhile I think I must have dozed off or gone into this trance or something, but I seemed to know that it was getting dark outside. Then I was aware of my dad standing in the hallway just outside my door. He stood there for an unusually long time, and while he did, I became more and more alert. By the time he had started down the steps, a little sweat had broken onto my forehead.
Probably he opened and closed the front door as softly as he could, but I was so tense waiting for him to leave that it sounded like a small explosion when he finally did shut it behind him. A second later,my mom screamed for me to come to her room.[read more]