CW: mention of drugs
// A short fictional piece in the style of Shirley Jackson’s ‘We have always lived in the castle’ (1962). //
My mother gave me the look again. I mouthed “Sorry” to her, which she countered with a raised eyebrow. I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t keep my fingers still and continued fiddling with my dress. “Deep breaths”, I told myself. I tried to find my usual I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude but failed miserably. Upset, I downed the rest of the wine. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dad talking to Senator Snow. For the first time in a long time, I looked at Dad and I mean really looked at him. There was a passion about him that only came to light when talking about business and politics with important men. Making good deals was his very own cocaine and he was good at it. He had charisma and was still very handsome for a 50-something year old man. He always got back up from a defeat and was humble enough to let the other party win on occasion. Letting my eyes roam around the living room, I felt empty. Outside, the wind was picking up speed.
“Oh no, it is starting to rain. How odd. A clear sky was mentioned in the weather forecast for today”, Mom exclaimed while looking at the sky turning dark. I felt dread creeping up my spine. Angrily, I shook my head. “I don’t believe in omens”.
“Katherine, did you say something?”, Dad asked me.
“No, nothing Father. I just had in mind to help Mother out with dinner. May I be excused?”. At my formal request, Dad halted the movement of his hand towards his mouth. The whiskey sloshed around in the tumbler. His signet ring cast-off light from the fireplace. On the inside, I jumped. After a pause that might have seemed too long for an intent observer, he finally gave his permission for me to leave. “If my son was as accommodating as your daughter I would worry less about him”, Senator Snow uttered with a hearty chuckle.
“Yes, I am quite fortunate to have such an attending daughter”, replied Dad casually, even though I could hear the curious undertone in his voice. I am sure that my behaviour must seem odd to him since I usually do not offer my help when we have guests, or ever. Without looking back, I stepped into the bathroom in the hall. Slapping myself, I tried to regain control. With new determination, I went into the kitchen to help. By the curious gaze Mom gave me, while I was cutting some bread, I knew that they had definitely noticed my unusual acting. But for the first time in a very long time, I wanted to do something nice for them without anyone ordering me to do so.
Throughout the dinner, I could not help but let dread wash over me. Unclenching my fist, I made a go for my glass of water, hoping the coolness would somehow diminish the upheaval that my emotions and thoughts were going through. And the storm continued to approach.
Image courtesy of Cederic Vandenberghe