He slammed the door when he got back in from the garage. Nola knew she was in trouble.
“Goddammit, Nola, how many times have I told you not to leave your stuff lying around the yard? Huh, how many times, huh?”
“I’m sorry Daddy.”
“You’re sorry? Jesus Christ,” he spit out these last words through gritted teeth.
“What stuff, Daddy, what did I leave lying around?”
“You know Goddamn well what you left lying around. You know Goddamn well.”
“I don’t, I really don’t.” Nola could hear herself whining and tried not to cry.
“You figure it out,” and with that he slammed the drawer where he’d been searching for a knife. He’d found it and began to spread butter on his bread. “You know Goddamn well,” he added one more time for good measure. “If you know what’s good for you you’ll get out there and put that stuff away.”
“But Daddy, it’s raining, can’t…”
“Do what you want!” And with that he threw the used knife into the sink where it clattered loudly against the plates waiting to be rinsed. “Make sure you do the dishes before you leave this room.” Graham stormed through the butler’s pantry and into his study.
Nola looked out the window over the sink. She couldn’t see anything lying around. She went to the back door and looked. Nothing. She listened to see if she could hear her father in the study. Yes, he was in there. She walked into the foyer and looked out first the front window and then the side one. Still nothing. She would have to go outside.
Nola headed back into the kitchen and over to the sink. She rinsed the plates and silverware piece by piece, making sure to leave no traces of food, and put everything into the dishwasher. Then she went to the foyer closet and put on her slicker and boots and headed outside.
She scrutinized the front yard, trying to jog her memory as she stood in the drizzle feeling the panic rise up in her. What if she couldn’t figure it out? Once she was sure she’d sufficiently checked the front yard she headed around the side away from her father’s study scanning the grass as she walked very slowly. By the time she reached the back yard she saw it, sitting there in front of the shed.
She’d left the watering can there instead of putting back. That must be it. But what if it weren’t? What if he hadn’t even noticed that and it was something else she’d left out? Nola would have to keep looking, just in case. She walked over to the old shed and unlatched the door, placed the watering can inside on the shelf, made double sure to re-latch the door, and stood there in the rain, scanning the back yard for clues.
By the time she came back inside it was almost dark. There were no lights on in the house, except the one in her father’s study. That meant he hadn’t recently come out. She took off her slicker and hung it carefully on the hook over the radiator and placed her wet boots on the shoe tray in front of it. She decided to head upstairs and stay in her room until her mom got home.
As she went up the first steps the study door opened and her father’s voice stopped her, “Did you do what you were supposed to do?”
“Yes Daddy, I mean, I think so, yes. It was the watering can, right? That’s what I left laying around, right?”
“Jesus Christ, do I have to tell you everything? Yes, it was the watering can, ok, are you happy? I don’t want you going in that shed unless you put stuff away, got it?”
“I’m sorry Daddy, I forgot it because…”
“Did you hear me? I don’t want you going in there anymore unless you put what you take out back where it belongs, got it?”
“Yes, I’ve got it.”
“Did you load the dishwasher?”
“Yes, I did it before I went outside.”
“I better not find any crap on the dishes when it’s done.”
“I better not. Go up stairs to your room till your mother gets home. I don’t want any noise going on around here.”
Nola went up the stairs to her room and closed the door. At least that was over with. She pulled out her schoolbooks from her backpack and spread them over the floor. Then she took a bed pillow and placed it against the wall, leaned back and closed her eyes. "This sucks, this sucks, this sucks, this sucks." She chanted the words over and over as the tears flowed down her cheeks and poured down her neck. After a few minutes she began to take deep breaths trying to steady her nerves, trying not to think about how trapped she felt, how inescapable this life was. She tried to numb herself and breath, just breathe in and out, one breath after the other without thinking about anything, anything at all.
After a short time she calmed down. She slowly opened her door and listened. All clear. She went to the bathroom and splashed water on her face. Carefully she wiped down the vanity and the faucet with the hand towel, replacing it with care on the towel rack. She walked quickly back to her room and quietly closed the door, safe once again. This was the one place he never came in to, this was her sanctuary. He didn’t care what condition her room was in as long as she kept the door closed. He didn’t care about anything in there as long as the door was closed. Nola never forgot to close her door. She protected her room from him and in turn it protected her back.
six words: see ya soon - minor eye injury still needs healing