Click. The meter turns over again. My fingers thump the door handle to the beat of Anchors Away. I clutch my dark blue duffle bag to my chest. If I was smart, I’d let the driver take me to the bus station. I could flee untouched, basking in my cowardice. Then again, if I’d been smart, this never would’ve happened.
One set of big brown eyes in an Annapolis uniform. One little page containing test answers. Who am I kidding? I would’ve passed her a kidney had she asked. I should’ve learned my lesson the last time I was busted for cheating after being seduced by cat-like green eyes. Hazel the time before. Three strikes. I’m hopeless.
My driver glances in the rearview mirror.
“Ain’t this the address?”
“Then why ain’t yeh gettin’ out? Mom and Dad’s place, right?”
“Just give me a moment, okay?” I slouch down in the back seat and look up at the car ceiling. I spy two tiny tears in the cloth lining, twelve thumb tacks, four wads of gum, and one black stain in the shape of Florida. I’d happily watch that ceiling all day.
“Hey, Mister,” I say to the driver in an effort to stall. “Ever done something really stupid because of a pretty girl? One with soft beautiful eyes?”
“Maybe. Never worth it, whatever it is.”
“That’s what I thought.”
My father is going to kill me. A marine since birth, Annapolis born and bred, his prophecy will be fulfilled. My confession will solidify his belief that I’m doomed to be a failure. My mother will twist her apron into a knot, shake her head, and ask the Lord what she did wrong. The guilt she’ll put on me will weigh a ton. The woman was born a mom and lives to worry.
The driver clears his throat. “Look, buddy, it ain’t none of my business, but it’s costin’ you a fortune to sit here. Whatever it is ain’t gonna get any better this way. The music you need to face is out there.”
I sit up and glance at my childhood home. The grass is cut with precision and so green it looks painted. Not one grease stain in the driveway. The red bricks power-washed. The house mirrors the lives of those who live there, by my father’s decree. I vegetated for eighteen years under his command. I brushed my teeth to the beat of his heels pacing behind me, and learned to shave more fearful of him than the cold razor he insisted I use. The last three years at the naval academy provided the only measure of freedom I’d ever known. His Alma Mater. My commission guaranteed, and I blew it for the sake of twinkling eyes and long lashes.
“Hey, buddy,” the driver said. “Is your old man missing his neck and wearing a crew cut you can hear?”
A circular vice squeezes my throat. “Yeah.”
I look out the opposite window and there stands my father, arms crossed, brows furrowed. My heart leaps from my chest and runs down the block screaming in terror. My toes curl and hide. He opens the door with sonic vibrations and compels me to leave the vehicle. He reaches in and pays my driver who immediately speeds away. Coward.
I stand before him, mentally willing myself not to wither into a six-foot raisin. I open my mouth to speak, but before I get a chance, he punches my shoulder and smiles.
My brain spasms.
“Commander Lewis called. He explained everything.”
“Dad, I’m sorry. I know I disappointed you. I honestly wanted to graduate from Annapolis, just like you.”
My father places his massive hands on his hips, which is a lot better than across my head. He cocks his head and winks. “I went to Annapolis, son, but I never said I graduated. I had to enlist in the corps like everyone else.” He slowly rubs away the lines in his brow. “Yep, I was expelled for cheating right after they allowed women into the academy. I think she was well worth it though, don’t you?” He nods his head toward our home.
“Mom?” I pick up my jaw from the curb. “My mom?”
His arm encircles my head. “Biggest pair of blue eyes I ever saw.”
As mother of eight, grandmother of five, wife of one, Debra Easterling waited until she had a bounty of life experiences to write about before beginning her career. Her first essay was published in the e-zine, Mom Writers Literary Magazine, December 2006 issue, entitled “The Career I Never Knew I Always Wanted”. She’s currently working on her fifth novel.
This story was sponsored by
Camilla d’Errico: A character designer and artist who dances on the tightrope between pop surrealist art and manga inspired graphics. Explore her paintings, characters and comics: Tanpopo, BURN and Helmetgirls.