It was late by the time I got back home from band practice. The night air was damp and cool, making me shiver and wrap my arms around myself. I glanced at my watch and groaned when I saw the time. I was supposed to be home forty minutes ago, but Mr. Hillman insisted that we run through our sets until he was satisfied that we wouldn’t make the same mistakes again during the competition on Saturday. I was exhausted after spending the last three and a half hours marching, and even though it was a cool night out, I was covered in sweat.
I walked up to the door and dug around in my purse for my keys. The porch light was usually left on for me when I had Thursday night rehearsals, but it was out for some reason tonight, and no lights were shining through the window. After a couple of minutes of searching I found them and unlocked the door. I closed my eyes when the overpowering scent of beer wafted through the doorway, and sighed softly. Alright then…it’s a bad night tonight. With any luck nothing will have to be taken care of, and I can make it to my room without any trouble. With that in mind, I turned and shut the door softly behind me, locking it and throwing the keys back in my purse.
A light flicked on behind me. Resigned, I turned around, keeping a neutral expression on my face. My gaze landed on the empty beer cans littering the floor around the recliner and on the table before flicking up and reading the expression on his face. It was obvious he was just waking up, and that he was thoroughly pissed off. Dread spread through my body before settling in my stomach, cold and heavy. I felt myself pale, and breathed in deeply, steeling myself for his reaction. I looked down at the floor and waited for him to say something. When he remained silent, I looked back up at him in confusion.
“Where have you been, Abigail?” Abigail? Why did he…shit. No. Please, God, no. I could feel the panic setting in, and fought to keep my breathing under control and my terror from showing on my face. I glanced towards the doorway before looking back at him, calculating whether I would be able to make it past him and to my room without him catching me. “Where. Have. You. BEEN?!”
Shakily, I held up my flute case. “I was at band rehearsal. Mr. Hillman kept us late.” I cringed at how weak I sounded. My voice was tiny and choked. My throat felt tight. My eyes were burning. Heart Racing. Can’t breathe. Can’t…No! Stay in control…don’t lose it yet. Breathe deeply, lock away the panic. You can deal with that later, stay in control for now.
“Who the hell is Mr. Hillman? You fuckin’ ‘im, Abby? You cheatin’ on me?” Despite my attempts to keep my emotions under control, I felt tears start streaming down my face when the meaning of his slurred speech registered.
“Dad…I’m Rachel. Mom doesn’t live here anymore. Remember, she left a year ago.” I started edging along the wall towards the doorway. I got halfway there when he lurched out of his chair and started stumbling towards me. All pretenses of staying calm and in control were gone. The terror that I had kept bottled up rushed through my body. I started shaking and felt nauseous. The world was closing in on me, and I knew I had to get out of the room. Memories of what happened the last time this happened flashed through my mind, and I started running towards my room, cringing at his shouted threats and the sound of something crashing to the floor. I was almost there when a hand clamped around my arm, and I shrieked as he spun me around and shook me.
“How dare you walk away from me, Abby? How dare you do this to me?”
“Daddy…please…I’m your daughter! I’m Rachel!”
He shoved me away from him and slapped me in the face. The pain made my vision black out briefly, and I stumbled backwards. I stared at him in shock, before I turned and ran the rest of the way to my room, slamming the door behind me and locking it. I sank down to the floor in front of my door and brought my knees up to my chest, finally allowing myself to break down.
The next morning, I woke up feeling drained and sore. My head was pounding and my eyes felt swollen. I glanced over at my alarm clock and sighed. There was only half an hour left before it went off. I crawled out of bed and walked over to my dresser, glancing up into the mirror. There was a bruise on my cheek and my eyes were bloodshot. I looked down at my arm and winced at the fingerprint bruises circling my arm. I turned away from the mirror, not wanting to see the evidence from the night before. Ignoring it may not mean it didn’t happen, but it makes it easier to deal with.
After getting dressed I went to the kitchen to grab some breakfast. I froze when I got into the kitchen and saw my dad sitting at the table reading the paper. “Good morning, baby. What time did you get in last night?” I was too stunned to say anything. He usually slept until after I left the house the day after his bad nights. He looked up me when I didn’t answer, his eyes immediately falling on my cheek. “Rachel? What happened to your face? Are you ok?” He stood up and walked over to me, and raised his hand to touch my face. I flinched, and he paused briefly before gently taking my chin and tilting my face up to catch the light better. “Who did this, baby?”
“Dad…I…you…it’s nothing.” I looked down at the floor and willed myself not to cry. He just misses mom. He didn’t mean to do anything. He just…wasn’t himself last night.
“Of course it’s something, Rachel. Nobody hurts my baby and gets away with it, ok?” He pulled me into a hug, and for that moment I wanted to forget about last night, and all of the other nights. I just…wanted my dad back.
“I…I gotta go, Dad. Mr. Hellman wants us to get to school early to tell us something about the competition Saturday. I have to go finish getting ready.” I turned and walked out of the room without waiting for him to respond. I moved through the house like a robot. I felt completely numb, and disconnected.
He doesn’t even remember. I walked over to my dresser and grabbed my makeup bag, reaching into it and grabbing my foundation with shaking hands. He wasn’t the same person last night. He didn’t mean to do it. I stared into my reflection, hating my appearance for the first time in my life. I hated how much I resembled mom. We always used to joke about me being a mini version of her. Now it was far from a joke. He misses her so much. It must be so hard for him to look at me and see her. I brushed the foundation over the bruise, blending and smoothing until the bruise didn’t show. Nobody can find out about this. Nothing happened last night. I schooled my expression into a carefree smile, locking away the pain. Everything is perfect.