Trouble

The moment I opened the door I saw my father's angry face looking back at me, and I knew I was in trouble.

I froze at the door, not knowing what to do. Fortunately, my father made that decision for me.

"Come here," he said quietly. Despite his calm voice, I heard an undercurrent of tension beneath it and felt a jolt of fear shoot up my spine.

I lowered my head and walked meekly towards him. The excitement and exhilaration I had felt a moment ago was gone, leaving me with nervousness. I had felt cool and dangerous in my faux leather pants and jacket, but now I felt ridiculous in them. My father's penetrating glare made me wish I could fade into the background and disappear forever. Whatever that was looming ahead of me surely could not be good.

"Where have you been?" my father asked, his eyes challenging me to lie. It was almost a rhetorical question, as it was pretty obvious that I had gone to a rock concert, and had the best night of my life. Until now, that was.

I told myself that it was okay, but I knew it was not. How could it be "okay" to sneak out at night to attend a rock concert when my father had firmly told me not to? How could it be "okay" for me to come home early in the morning at four o'clock, when my curfew was at eleven?

Not knowing what else to say, I mumbled, "I was at the silverchair concert."

"Even when I told you you can't go." It was a statement, not a question. My father's calm and monotonic voice betrayed no emotions, but I knew he was terribly disappointed with me.

I did not know what to say to that, so I kept my mouth shut. At the same time I was praying that the ground would open and swallow me whole so that I could escape this interrogation.

Then my stepmother spoke. "Oh Talena, what are we going to do with you?"

For some insane reason, her words made me angry, as if she had driven a spiteful spear into my side just by her words.

I yanked my gaze from my feet and threw it straight at her. I glared coldly into her eyes and spat, "We are not going to do anything with me. My father is, and I am. Not you. So stay out of this."

Upon hearing those words my father snapped. He stood up angrily, his rattan stool toppling backwards. "You are in no position to speak to your mother like that!" he shouted. "You are the one who's in the wrong, not her!"

My anger gave me new-found courage, so I stared defiantly back into his eyes and retorted, "She's not my mother, and never will be." Out of the corner of my eye I saw my stepmother flinch, and felt a little bit of guilt creeping into my bloodstream, but I pushed it away.

His sudden change of emotions shocked me. Instead of scolding and reprimanding me for being rude, the anger in his eyes subsided. He looked tired and old; his present self was merely a shadow of who he was when he was younger. His present self was a clear indication of the life he had given up for me. For this family. And his present self was like a worn out wind-up toy that lacked the energy to continue working.

It was now I realised how old and tired he looked. His job as an engineer had aged him more than it should, and had drained him of youth and vitality. His eyes were fatigued and it made me sad to see him like this.

He sighed wearily, and said, his voice cracking with emotions, "It's not my fault your mother left, you know. She left on her own accord."

"I'm not blaming you," I replied quietly. "And, well, I'm sorry for hurting you and for disobeying you." I turned to my stepmother, who had tears in her eyes. I lifted the corners of my mouth into a weak smile and said, "Sorry for hurting you too."

"Okay," my father answered. He was not a very emotional man. He was silent for a while. Then he looked at me again and said, "But you're still in big trouble for disobeying my decisions. And I'm still angry at you for sneaking out like that."

"Me too," my stepmother piped up.

Somehow, that struck me as funny, so I laughed, relieving the tension in the air. My stepmother joined in, too.

Finally, so did my father.