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November 18, 2014 23 Comments
My book, I Am the Lion, is free to download onto your Kindle until tomorrow. Please enjoy a sample from the book below.
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From Chapter 3…
As usual, the dinner table was devoid of any conversation. The only sounds that could be heard in the 1.6 million-dollar 6,700 square-foot home was their forks clinking on their plates as they scooped bites into their mouths and Alex Trebek reading off clues to something about Berlin on the TV.
“You’re reorganizing your room again,” said Lydia’s dad out of nowhere.
Lydia rolled her eyes as though he had just made the most obvious statement in the world, which went unnoticed by him.
“Your teacher doesn’t want me taking you out of counseling, but I told him you’re just fine and don’t need any more. Nothing’s wrong with you, Lydia.” Her dad said this blankly, staring at the television screen.
When he took his last bite, he went through the stack of mail he had brought to the table, routinely separating each item into a junk pile and a priority pile. He cursed under his breath when he came across one envelope. Lydia didn’t need to look, but she did. It was some credit card ad addressed to her mother. Her dad buried it under another envelope as quickly as he could to get it out of sight.
Lydia just kept eating and looked back at the TV as if she hadn’t seen a thing. To mention it, if she could have, would have been detrimental.
“Do you want dessert?” asked her dad, which usually meant some Skittles from a bag.
Lydia shook her head no. She much preferred to be back in her room finishing her new arrangements. It’s not that she didn’t want to be with her dad; she didn’t want to be with this version of him. Before her mother died, the stone-cold man sitting with her at the table was warm and funny and engaging. He seemed to have no shortage of generosity of his self and his time. It was a time when laughter frequently echoed through the walls of the house. Music was either sung, whistled, or coming from the stereo; the curtains were almost always open, letting in the sunlight; Lydia was known to both of her parents as Lydi-bug; life was almost perfect. And it looked even better through the eyes of the damp and dark present to which there seemed to be no end.
“Okay. Go on up. I’ll do the dishes,” her dad said. And even though Lydia hadn’t cooked dinner, he added in a flat voice, “You worked hard on dinner and it was very good. You just go take your shower and we’ll have dessert when you’re done.”
Lydia froze. She had already showered. This only meant one thing: another episode was upon her dad. It had to have been the misaddressed credit card ad that threw him off guard.
No matter how many times she saw this behavior in him, she could never quite get used to it. But still, deep down, she was intrigued. It was the only time she got to relive having her mother around, if only through her dad’s mind. He continued talking while staring at nothing in particular, except maybe an imaginary ghost of her mother sitting in the empty chair next to him.
“No, it’s fine,” he continued. “Just let me do the dishes. Lydia’ll join us for dessert. Right, Lydia?”
She didn’t bother to nod or shake her head; he wasn’t talking to her anyway. He was addressing a little girl from the past who had a mother to hug.
Henry grabbed the dirty dishes and circled them around to the kitchen where he threw hot water on them and started scrubbing away. Lydia sat in her seat just staring at him. She knew what would happen next. She sat as she watched him try to hold back his tears as he slowly came out of his delusion. He swapped at his eyes, trying to force back the moistness, but his face couldn’t stay in control, and before she knew it, he was weeping bitterly as he scrubbed the plates in the sink well past their cleanliness.
If she were to gesture to him to see if she could do anything to help he would just yell at her because he didn’t want her to ever see him talk about her mother or see him crying over her. But he was in such a stage of confusion that he wouldn’t even know Lydia was there if she slapped him in the face. It seemed as though he considered it his mission to keep any trace of her mother out of her life, but this, these episodes, he could not control. These relapses into memories long past he couldn’t keep from her.
Lydia had seen enough. She stood from the table and returned to her room. She marched to her nightstand still idling in the center of her room and pushed it up against the door. At least here, in the safety of her room, she had a say in her surroundings, and she was able to take control.