CHILDHOOD’S END

31 Jul

CHILDHOOD’S END

ANGRY GIRL photo: angry*-* Misaki-098.jpg

There can be awkward nights, sleepless nights, wasted nights, and this one was all of them.

Paula found herself in a black place. What had happened had been all her fault, and yet David was getting the blame. And she knew her father: he was a decent man, but when he got the bit between his teeth he held on for grim life. And she also knew that he would go to any lengths to protect her. He had promised as much to her mother before that blessed woman had died, and he was the kind of man to keep his promises whatever might get in the way.

David was confused. He had been asleep and enjoying his favourite train dream. It was one that came upon his sleeping mind every so often and transported him through a fantasy world that was totally and beautifully innocent. He’d been taken along by the same dream since he’d been a small boy (he now thought that, being eighteen, he had left his boyhood behind), and the very familiarity of its world was comforting. And this time he’d been awakened in the middle of it.

The serpent had ventured into his garden of Eden, and the serpent was Paula.

He loved (or lusted after) Paula with an intensity that defied that sad old snake to do his worst, and lose!

Then, in a third bed, Mr Potts was angry. His sweet daughter had been in bed with a boy. The fact that it was the unbelievably decent and naive David didn’t matter – it was a boy. But she’d been in the boy’s bed, not the two of them in hers, and if he had evil intent they would surely both have been in her bed. He would have sneaked past the sleeping father in the caravan and climbed in with Paula, which in every respect made more sense because it was a bigger bed anyway, with more room for two. So his anger was partly with himself for possibly jumping to conclusions that were wrong.

Not that the sweet Paula could have done any sneaking… no, that was unthinkable…

But he knew that, right or wrong, the conclusions he’d jumped to must be adhered to. He mustn’t be seen to waver. He must be firm. He must be the Father in the chaos of teenage angst and … filth.

He shuddered at the word filth. Paula wasn’t … was she? David must be, boys are, but Paula?

Like all awkward nights this one came to an end.

Mr Potts was dreading the end of this particular night because his mind was a chaos of promises to his wonderful but deceased wife, the need to be firm and the absolute certainty that, having made a decision, he must stick with it.

He must not be seen to waver. Wavering was weakness, and he must show strength.

The boy must get out of his sight and never darken his horizon again.

He was first up. He busied himself in the small bathroom, making sure he shaved thoroughly. He might have thought, but didn’t, that tyrants sometimes shave well.

He heard a shuffling, thumping sound, quiet in reality but loud in the silence of the early morning. Then he heard the caravan door open and close, quietly. Then he heard it open and close again. Equally quietly.

Then he heard Paula hissing loud enough to be heard for quite a distance:

“David! David! Wait for me! I’m coming!”

Then one of those brilliant flashes beloved by writers of Italian detective fiction flashed through his mind.

He’d ordered David to go today, to leave on his own, and apparently Paula intended to go with him! Wretched youth! Rapist! Seducer of innocent young girls!

He rushed, in his boxer-shorts and with a foam-covered chin, to the door. There was Paula running towards David, who had paused, carrying his backpack, obviously waiting for her.

“Paula!” he bellowed. Even to himself it sounded all wrong, the way the single word came out, loud, coarse, like the voice of a tyrant.

“Hey! What d’you think you’re doing at this time of the day, making all that noise?” bawled a voice from a nearby holiday caravan, as loud as his one word, but many more.

“What do you want, dad?” demanded Paula. He knew that voice. Feminine, resolute, determined, all those things, and more.

Accusative!

That’s what it was. Accusative.

“Where are you going?” Much quieter. But firm. He had to be firm. She was only seventeen…

Almost eighteen whispered a voice in his head.

“You’ve told David to go, so I’m going too,” she replied.

That might have been her mother’s voice talking … fair, non-judgemental, honest…

“You’re to come home!” he barked, louder again and consequently producing a paragraph of invective from the other caravan.

“No dad. I’m not, if David, who’s done nothing wrong, must go…”

He was closer to her by now. Boxer shorts (union jack and dazzling so early in the day, white foam dripping from his chin, angry eyes).

“You were in bed together in the middle of the night!” he forced through clenched teeth.

“A bit louder, mate, we can’t hear!” mocked the other voice.

“The two of you,” he continued, ignoring the voice “disgusting! He was in your bed!”

“No, dad, he wasn’t in my bed,” she replied, “I was in his. I wanted us to talk without your big flapping ears grabbing hold of every syllable! And if I hadn’t sneaked into it he wouldn’t have woken up!”

“I blame the boy!” He was close to raging and even as he heard his own words he felt ashamed of them. The lack of logic. The dismissal of what he’d already worked out as the truth, the sticking to a misconception because that was the kind of guy he was.

“You’re a bully, dad,” she said, quietly, so quietly he had to strain his ears to hear. “That’s the only word for it: a bully!”

“How dared…” she? How dared she call him a bully, who’d protected her and made sure she was safe from passing youth (he remembered his own youth and the jostling of his hormones), the one who’d brought her up…

“The last thing I said to your mother before she died was that I’d take care of you, and letting you run off with any Tom, Dick or Harry isn’t taking care of you!”

“David’s not a Tom, Dick or Harry, dad . But you’re fond of reminding me of that, dad,” she said, half in tears, “and you know what the last thing mum said to me was, dad..?”

“You weren’t there…” he stumbled on his words.

“Oh, I saw her, dad, all right. You know I did. And the last thing her painful breaths said to me was don’t let him bully you, Paula, like he’s bullied me

“And I won’t!”

© Peter Rogerson 31.07.14

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3 Responses to “CHILDHOOD’S END”

  1. pambrittain July 31, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

    I think any father would jump to the right/wrong conclusion. Well done, Peter.

    • Peter Rogerson August 1, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

      Maybe. I guess I mgiht have done, but then, I’m not quite perfect!!

      • pambrittain August 2, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

        Your wife may disagree with that.

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