Flora was sulking. Now past the teary stage she sat, elbows on knees and chin in hands, contemplating her past and immediate future.
“It wasn’t my fault!” Her teeth clenched on the words. Her mind played out the scene on the hockey field yet again. “It was her fault – she got in the way. Anyway, she’s the enemy, isn’t she?”
In memory Mrs. Partridge’s words echoed: “Flora, you’re supposed to hook the ball, not your opponent’s ankles – and NO! She is not the enemy!”
So now she was off the team. Their best winger, and she was off the team! Mrs. Partridge had a list of misdemeanors as long as a hockey stick – why didn’t she pick on anyone else? Why was it always Flora?
And why did Mother and Father have to take her side? Why, whenever anything went wrong, did it have to be Flora’s fault?
Father said, “You got what you deserved, Flora. Hockey is not a war game, and if you don’t play within the rules they don’t need you on the team.”
Mother said, “You made your bed, Flora, now you must lie on it.” Mother had a cupboard full of clichés and she aired them at every opportunity.
Looking up and moving impatiently, Flora swung away from the bottom of the bed. Her swollen, tearstained face was caught in the mirror. As she reached for a tissue she noticed her manicure set and picked that up instead. She pulled out the little curved nail scissors and lifted a lock of her curly auburn hair,
Sometime later after a brief knock her bedroom door opened. Mother came in with a tray. Flora swept a pile of curls from the corner of the dressing table to make room for the tray. Her mother’s eyes swept from her daughter over the now disordered bedroom. She turned and walked away, closing the door behind her. Flora kicked the dressing table leg, hard, instantly regretting her action.
She sat in disbelief. Her mother hadn’t said a word.
Nighttime came. Her mother returned, bringing a bowl of soup, two slices of toast. She removed the tea tray. Again without a word.
Ignored, Flora’s rebellion escalated. She borrowed a cliché from her mother’s crowded shelf. “In for a penny, in for a pound.” She threw her school bag into one corner of the room and kicked the broken books into another. She moved the untouched soup and toast to the floor outside her door. She was hungry, but not that hungry – yet!
She struggled to push her pillows and bedding through the window opening – Father’s burglar proofing was effective! Her clothing followed. None of this was silently accomplished. She kicked and screamed and banged as loudly as she could; to no avail.
Eventually, emotionally drained and physically exhausted, she fell asleep curled on a corner of the bare mattress. It rained during the night and she was cold, but she had left herself nothing for a covering.
When she woke, stiff and sore, there was a bowl of cereal and a glass of milk on the dressing table. The bowl of cereal splattered and shattered the mirror, the broken glass drained milk into the carpet. Flora pulled her knees into her chest and sobbed. No one came.
One day followed another with no weakening of her resolve. On the fourth day Father came. He picked Flora from the corner where she lay and sat her on the bed.
“How long is this to continue?” He ignored her flailing arms.
“You – don’t – care! Nobody – cares!” The words jerked in between the sobs.
“The one who doesn’t care is you, Flora. You care for no one but yourself, and now you are punishing yourself for your selfishness. At sixteen it is time you took responsibility for your actions. Starting right now. Get this room cleaned up first, and then collect your gear from the garden and get that cleaned up too. Now!”
He stepped back, watching her. She dragged herself to her feet and looked around, before beginning to laugh wildly. Recognizing hysteria, her father stepped forward and slapped her cheek sharply. She stopped, shivering.
“I’ve brought a pan and brush, and a garbage bag. They’re by the door.” His voice was softer. He gave her a hug.
“Thank you, Father.” She moved to begin.
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