WEDNESDAY: One Night

BY ANDREW CLENDENING

Copyright is held by the author.

ANNE TOOK one last look at herself in the mirror. Not bad, she thought. Better than the school uniform, at least. After a final check of her makeup she bounded down the stairs. “Bye mom!” she called as she headed for the front door.

“Wait!” The call from the kitchen was followed by the sounds of her mom stomping towards the front hall. Within a few seconds she appeared, frowning at Anne. “And where do you think you’re going?”

Standing with her hand on the doorknob Anne sighed and turned to face her mother. “Out.” Her mother raised an eyebrow. “I told you yesterday I was meeting a group of friends tonight.”

Her mother scrunched up her face, trying to remember the alleged conversation. “You told me when I was doing my exercises, didn’t you? You know I don’t hear anyone other than Richard Simmons then.” Mom crossed her arms and eyed Anne, who avoided her gaze. “Don’t you think you’re a little old to be playing that game?”

She was one to talk, given what she’d been doing at Anne’s age. Anne bristled and retorted, “Look, I…”

Her mom’s sigh cut her off. “Fine. Go out with your friends. Just be home by…”

“One.” Anne finished the sentence for her mother.

That eyebrow shot back up and Anne bit her lip, fearing she’d miscalculated. The eyebrow was a signal that she was pushing her chances. Anne straightened and met her mother’s eyes.

“Nine,” her mother said. Her tone was of the don’t argue with me variety. Fat chance of that.

“Nine,” Anne repeated incredulously. “You’re joking, right.” The following silence seemed to stretch on for hours. “I’m not a child!” Anne finally half-screamed when she couldn’t beat the silence anymore.

“No, but you act like one. Maybe when you’re a little more mature you can stay out later.”

Anne was fuming now. “Why don’t you admit it? This isn’t about me. It’s about you getting knocked up when you were my age.” Oh boy. There it was. The truth, Anne thought, but a truth that had gone unspoken and now hung between the pair who stared at each other in an uncomfortable silence. A small voice in the back of Anne’s mind begged her to start backtracking, but with her emotions still running red hot, she instead opted to push on full speed ahead. “Well, here’s a news flash for you Jill,” she said, putting emphasis on the use of her mom’s first name just in case she wasn’t treading on thin enough ice as it was. “I’m a lot smarter than you apparently were.”

A dark look crossed her mother’s face, but much to Anne’s surprise, her mother maintained her outward composure and spoke in a calm, though forceful voice. “You really don’t know what you’re talking about, Anne.”

“Oh come on. I know math. I know how old you were when I was born. And I know that you’ve spent the past few years trying to put me in some kind of a bubble. And I’m sick of it. Just cause you couldn’t control yourself in the back of some guy’s car, I get yanked out of public school…”

“That is quite enough.” Anne’s mother was finally showing cracks in her composure, her raised voice cracking as she stepped towards her daughter. Grabbing Anne by the arm, she pushed Anne towards the stairs. “You’re not going anywhere. Except back to your room, that is. Consider yourself grounded until future notice.”

Anne knew she had crossed a line, but still felt that she was largely in the right. “So once again, my life gets screwed over because of your mistakes.” Before her mother could reply, Anne stormed up the stairs with righteous indignation, throwing the door to her bedroom shut. The loud slam did little to calm her down.

Anne paced back and forth, filled with adrenalin, anger, and even a touch of guilt about the way she had spoken to her mother. But I was right, she told herself. She can’t lock me in a cage because of her own stupid mistakes. Anne stopped her pacing and turned to frown at the closed door, shutting her in the room. She was in a cage. This couldn’t happen.

Right, Anne thought with a snort as she flopped down her bed. What am I going to do? Sneak out? The idea seemed to send a jolt of electricity coursing through her body. She bit her lip for a moment, waiting for the momentary surge to die. But it didn’t. Yes, she finally decided. She was going to do it.

And so Anne sat on her bed and waited. And waited. And finally she got the sign she’d been waiting for. The back door of the house slammed shut. Her mom was out on the deck, presumably tending to her flowers. There was nothing between Anne and the car on the driveway.

Anne launched herself to her feet, only for her dramatic escape to hit a speed bump as her legs, having long since fallen asleep, protested the abrupt movement and nearly sent her pitching forward onto her face. Once the blood was flowing through her legs again, Anne tiptoed ahead, cautiously opening the door and shuffling into the hall. Her mom was still on the deck as Anne slowly moved to the top of the stairs.

With a deep breath, Anne hurried down the stairs, nearly tripping and sending herself flying to the bottom. Once at the bottom she ran for the door and tugged on the handle, realizing after a few seconds that it would help if she unlocked the door first.

And so she stepped onto the front porch, shutting the door as quietly as possible, so as to not make any sounds that could alert her mom until Anne was tearing out of the driveway. She moved quickly to the car, her heart pounding in her chest as she kept one eye on the sidewalk around the side of her house, half-expecting her mom to appear at any moment, breathing fire and brimstone.

After an eternity, or about 10 seconds, she reached the car and gently pulled the door open. She settled into the front seat and gingerly pulled the door shut as silently as possible. Next she popped the keys into the ignition. She hesitated before turning them, biting her lip. Please start, she silently begged. How pathetic would it be to come this far and get caught now?

The car did start, and Anne quickly scanned the road behind her. The sound of the engine would bring her mother in no time, there was no turning back. With a deep breath Anne sent the car screaming down the driveway. Bumping into the curb, she switched out of reverse as quickly as possible, and hurried down the street. As she sped off Anne did catch a glimpse of her mother hurrying around the side of the house and onto the driveway, but she was too late. There would be hell to pay later, Anne knew, but she told herself that she was making an important point as her heart rate returned to normal.

Yes, that small voice in the back of her head noted, sneaking out and stealing the car is surely going to convince mom that you deserve more trust. Anne grimaced, wondering why she never stopped to listen to that voice before she acted. Forget being forced into private school, now she was going to be sent to a convent. She turned into a driveway and peered back towards her home, though it was long since out of sight. Maybe she should just go back home now, she thought, and try to make things right with her mom.

But what would that really accomplish? She had already snuck out, already taken the car. Would she really be in any less trouble if she went home immediately than if she followed through on her plans and went to the party? Might as well go and see her friends and have some fun before she faced the music she decided, continuing on her way.

***

Things were in full swing when she finally arrived at the party. She had managed to get lost on the way there, but thankfully had been able to retrace her steps. The idea that, after sneaking out, she would actually have to call her mom for help finding her way back home was far too embarrassing to contemplate.

It was a college party that her old friends from public school had managed to score an invite to. That was something that she had neglected to mention to her mother, even though she had deliberately told her mother about the gathering when she knew her mom was too distracted to hear. Hopping out of the car, Anne felt a touch of guilt about being so upset that her mom didn’t trust her, given that she wasn’t exactly acting all that trustworthy. But it was her mother who had decided to treat her like a prisoner when she had never done anything wrong, so it was her mother’s fault.

Suddenly, Anne was nearly knocked over when another girl slammed into her, rapping her up in a hug so tight that it restricted her ability to breath.

“Anne, you’re here,” came the bubbly voice of Georgia Stevens. Anne fought not to roll her eyes. She didn’t exactly dislike Georgia, but her personality, which seemed to suggest she was permanently overdosed on caffeine, was something of an acquired taste. Like brussel sprouts.

Anne pasted a smile on her face and peeled the tiny blond figure off her body. “Uh, hi Georgia. How’ve you been?”

“Things are great! Can you believe it?! Our first college party! I can’t wait till we’re actually in college! Can you? Or, is your mom even going to let you go to college?” The words came out in one breathless rush.

“I don’t know, I think mom may actually chain me up in the basement so she can keep an eye on me.” Especially after tonight.

“Wow! What is up with her anyway?! She never used to be like this. But then, she let you come here, so things are looking up, right?”

Anne shifted uncomfortably and avoided the question by scanning the party and offering a noncommittal “mmm” to Georgia. She spotted a few familiar faces in the courtyard, but not the one she was most eager to see. Anne stepped past Georgia and headed towards the house. Georgia fell in beside her. Anne sighed, and then covered it up by posing a question.

“What about your parents? They didn’t give you any trouble about the party?”

“Oh, they don’t care where I go. Guess I’m just lucky.” Anne gave Georgia a sidelong glance, not sure quite how to respond to that. Thankfully Georgia hurried on before Anne had a chance to say anything. “But seriously, what’s up with your mom. It’s like she lost her mind or something.”

The pair entered the house, and Anne scanned the area. Numerous people milled around the large area, but there was still no sign of Linda, her old best friend. Anne continued through the room towards the open doorway at the back while half-heartedly continuing the conversation. “Oh, she’s just freaking out because she got pregnant when she was my age. I know it was hard for her raising me alone but…” Anne trailed off as they walked through the doorway, finding themselves in a kitchen area. More people, but still no Linda. Anne continued talking, more to herself than Georgia. “I wonder if she ever even told my father about me. Maybe she slept with so many guys that she didn’t even know who he was.” Anne cheeks felt hot. Not only was Georgia annoying, but her careless sharing of personal information seemed to inspire the same in Anne. Anne turned to the tiny blond girl. “Isn’t Linda here?”

“She’s around somewhere.”

“But where? I don’t see her. Is there some other place she could be?

Georgia frowned, looking around. “She should be in the yard, the living area, or the kitchen. Unless…” Georgia trailed off with a gasp. After a moment she leaned towards Anne and spoke in a lower voice than normal. “Unless she went…upstairs.” Georgia’s bouncing eyebrows told Anne exactly what was on the upper floor, but Georgia still felt the need to verbalize it. “That’s where their…the college guys…where their rooms are.”

Anne stared at the stairs, and then back at Georgia. “No way. Lind wouldn’t… That’s not her style.”

Georgia shrugged. “Then you must have just missed her.”

But Anne felt certain that wasn’t the case either. There was a good number of people here, but with them spread throughout three separate locations, it wasn’t so crowded that she would have missed her best friend if she had been there.

Ok, Anne thought, she’s upstairs. With a guy. It’s none of my business. I should leave her alone. By this time Anne was standing at the bottom of the stairs. She glanced back at Georgia who had taken her abrupt departure as a sign that the conversation was over and seemed to be talking to someone out of Anne’s sight back in the kitchen.

Anne began up the stairs. It’s her life and her decision, not mine. She probably won’t want to see me when she’s…. uh, busy. With a guy. Anne continued up the stairs. I should just mingle with people and wait for her to come down. Anne had reached the top of the stairs, and was greeted by a long hallway with doors on either side. There, see? Even if I wanted to stop her – which I completely don’t – I couldn’t. She could be in any of these rooms. I should go.

Suddenly, Anne’s inner thoughts were interrupted by a scream. “Hey, what are you… I didn’t… Stop!” Stunned, Anne glanced down the stairs, but it seemed that the loud music prevented anyone on the lower floor from hearing. Anne nervously stepped forward. That scream had come from the right. IT wasn’t in one of the closest rooms, but which one…

“No, please! Help!” It was definitely Linda’s voice.

There. Anne hurried to the right door and grabbed the handle. Locked. She pounded on the door. She heard a male voice say something unintelligible, and then another scream from Linda was cut off.

Anne pounded on the door again. “Hey! Open this door!”

“Go away.” It was a male voice.

Anne continued hitting the door, even as her hand began to ache. “If I leave, it’ll only be to bring everyone up here and bust the door down!”

There was a long pause, and then a flurry of movement. The door flew open, and Anne found herself staring at a young man. He was tall, dark and handsome, and glaring at her with red-hot hatred shining in his eyes. And there was Linda, trembling as she tried to hold together her ripped outfit.

Anne reached out and grabbed her friend, pulling her out of the room while glaring at the man. “You… you’re a bastard!”

The man clenched his jaw. “Just a misunderstanding. You should… we should all forget it ever happened.”

Anne clenched her fists and glared at the man. After several long moments, he stepped back and shut the door. Anne pulled her friend into a hug.

Linda spoke in a small, shaky voice. “I just wanted…he said he played the guitar. I… I’m so stupid.”

“Don’t,” Anne whispered in her ear. She finally pulled away, keeping her arms on Linda’s shoulders. “Did he?”

Linda shook her head. “He didn’t get…you stopped him.

“Ok. Let’s get you home.”

Linda looked terrified. “No, I can’t…my parents…not yet.”

“Linda, we should…”

“Please,” Linda begged. “Please Anne. Not tonight. I just can’t face them. I need to…collect myself.”

And so Anne decided to take Linda to Anne’s home. Thankfully it was a direct line from the stairs to the door, so no one saw the ripped front of Linda’s outfit. And once they were outside, the darkness helped shield them. Anne was able to get Linda into her car without anyone noticing that something was out of the ordinary.

Upon arrival, Anne’s mom appeared at the front door, all set for war with her daughter. But the sight of Linda had pushed all that to the back burner. Instead, mother and daughter teamed to help Linda settle into Anne’s bed. Finally, with Anne’s mom promising to call Linda’s parents to let them know where she was, they exited the room.

Anne walked out first and headed down the stairs as her mom made the call. She didn’t want the coming argument to keep Linda up, though that might be a lost cause. Anne heard her mother walk down the stairs and waited. There was only silence.

Unable to bear it anymore, Anne turned to look at her mother. There was none of the anger she expected.

Finally, her mother spoke, in a quiet voice. “I’m proud of you.”

Anne nearly fell over. “What,” she asked, dumbfounded.

“I’m proud of you. We will have to talk about you sneaking out but…you saved Linda. And I’m proud of you.”

“Um…I just…I had to help her.” The words suddenly began tumbling out of her mouth. “And, I get it, mom. I get that you want to protect me. I do. It makes me feel like you don’t trust me but…”

“That was never my…”

“But I know you want to keep me safe. I know, but I just always feel like you don’t want me to repeat your mistakes.” Anne shook her head. “It’s like…I know this sounds horrible, but I think I would be more able to accept your…your protectiveness if you hadn’t just gotten pregnant, like if you had been raped or something.”

A shadow crossed her mother’s face. Anne stared at her, a sick feeling filling her body.
“Mom….You weren’t…?”

“Anne, maybe we should talk tomorrow.”

“Wait…no. Mom, you never told me about my father.” Her mom looked panicked. “Oh god. Oh god. No…” Bile rising in her throat cut off Anne’s words, and she collapsed into the nearest chair.

In a heartbeat her mother was there, holding her as she struggled to keep back the tears… “Anne. You’re my daughter. That’s all that matters.”

“But…”

“That’s all that matters” her mother repeated. Anne’s eyes became sprinklers. Mother and daughter remained in an embrace, as time seemed to stand still.

4 comments

  1. JAZZ

    Andrew,
    It isn’t always easy, as a writer, to take on the voice of the opposite sex, but you did this very well. Congrats..

    Jazz

  2. Pingback: RERUN FRIDAY: One Night |

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