“I just want to be happy.”

Jam Hsiao – Prince’s New Clothes [download]

“Why didn’t you open the door for me? Eh?” She can smell the beer in his mouth.

She hurries over to take the coat from him, “you’ve been drinking again.” She states the obvious quietly. “What?” He waves an arm and spills some beer on the carpet — she will have to clean that later. “So what if I’ve been drinking? I’ll bloody do whatever the fuck I want.” He grabs her by the neck and forcefully twists her face to his, “Who the fuck you think you are? Eh?”

She turns her face away from his foul breath and tries to keep her voice steady, “you’re drunk, dad.”

He gives her a push and yells, “I’m not drunk! I see too clearly what you are. What you all are.” — she staggers and crashes onto the floor, bringing a wooden chair and two forks with her — “You’re all a bunch of fuckin’ users! You and that whore…”

“Mom.” she corrects. “How dare you speak to me like that?” He hiccups and waves a fist in the air. “Mom left you because you kept drinking.” She defends her mother, braving her father’s temper. “Shuddup!” He steps up and slaps her loud across the face. Through the stinging cheek and buzzing ears, she can still make out the slurred profanity in her father’s shouting. He’s pointing at her now, blaming her for the misfortune that had befallen on him.

“Damn you, if it weren’t for you…” She curls up against the chair, quivering and sobbing — that sorry, mousy thing. “… I worked hard to feed you, clothe you, what do you do? You worthless piece of shit…” — she buries her nails into her palm — “All you do is cry. Shuddup!” She can hear herself hyperventilating against the sound of his roaring accusation in the background, her breath rapid and wild.

“I told you to shut the fuck up, you hear me?” She’s screamed a thousand times in her head, somehow, it escapes her this time and manifests into a strange, eerie noise that sounds frightening even to her. She covers her ears and screams until the air left her lungs — there is a certain perverse elation about the act — she feels, almost, calm. Then, she lets out a wordless gasp of despair and slumps back like a deflated balloon.

The scream enrages the old man even more. How dare she protest against his patronizing dominance? He cruses at her, throws things at her, kicks her — until he’s exhausted all his energy and staggers to bed — content, relieved, and not guilty.

She gets up slowly and totters to the bathroom to wash her face. The rowdy noise from the street distracts her. She moves forward to the window and presses her tear drenched face against the dirty glass. An instant chill passes through her body, making every hair on her back crawl. She doesn’t care; she only looks on at the street lustily.

The dusk has painted a gentle golden glow over the snow covered streets: vendors are busy wheeling their carts away, ready to return home to a warm hearth fire; kids with their square backpacks and woolen mittens skip and slide on the ice, enjoying a last game in the snow; moms and their bags of fresh baguette, cheese, and zucchini race the clock to prepare a large family dinner before the husbands are back…

She watches for a long time. When she finally looks away from the window, her face has left a crescent-shaped imprint on the glass panel. She draws a deep breath and feels infinitely aged.

She’s too tired for this. Much too tired.

“I just want to be happy,” she decides.

She returns to the living room and cleans up all traces of the recent emotional abuse. She can hear her father snorting smoothly upstairs. “I just want to be happy.” She bites her lower lip and does the first of many bold things she will do in her life:

She smashes all the beer bottles in the house, gathers the shards together, piles them into a small mountain in the middle of the kitchen table. She wipes her hands on the worn apron she’s been wearing since mom left, then she takes it off and throws it into the fireplace. She waits and watches as the fire devours it. Then, taking the only belongings that are rightfully hers — a shabby teddy bear her mother left her and a backpack to put the stuffed animal in — she walks out of the house.

— to be continued, maybe

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