Those ungrateful… those ungrateful…
Struggling to find words, Brenda screamed, and yet, never opened her mouth or breathed a sound. Ungrateful, unappreciative, uncaring!
The frustration just kept building.
She stepped over discarded shirts and socks scattered over the living room and followed the trail of sticky soda into the kitchen.
Tears burned and blurred her vision, and yet, even with her sight distorted, the mess was clearly defined. Pooled milk on the table, dishes in the sink. Cereal crunched under her feet.
Brenda finally found her voice. “Chuck, Billy, get in here. NOW!”
No one appeared.
“Boys. Get in here!”
Without realizing what she was doing, Brenda charged up the stairs and kicked open the bedroom door. Then froze. Clothes everywhere, soda cans all over, papers strewn about and Chuck, her seventeen-year-old son, was on the computer.
She grabbed the plug and pulled it out. Then she turned and walked across the hall to the other closed door. A flash of triumph warmed her as Chuck bellowed, “What’d you do?”
She pounded on the door. Billy opened it and said, “Oh, hi, you’re home.” The room was in similar shape, but this one had the television blaring.
“Didn’t you hear me?” she demanded
They didn’t answer.
“Didn’t I tell you to clean today?”
The two boys just stared, Chuck with full teen-age defiance and Billy with twelve-year-old innocence.
She knew she was screaming, “I just asked you a question! Didn’t I tell you to clean up this place?”
Chuck glowered and muttered, “You don’t have to yell. We were gonna do it.”
“When? I work all day. Your father works all day. We expect a little appreciation, for you to do a few simple things like clean up your messes.”
Chuck shrugged, “I said I’d get to it… quit your damned yelling.”
Brenda couldn’t believe it. She felt like she’d been punched. “Don’t you curse at me!”
She wanted to slap him. She wanted to make him cry. She wanted to make him behave like he did back when he was a toddler. She wanted him be the child she had dreamed she’d have, not this bully who defied her and did who knew what with his friends.
She turned and glared at Billy, “What’s your excuse?”
Billy studied the floor. “I donno.”
“You don’t know! Well, you’re grounded!”
Billy started wailing, “That’s not fair! Chuck didn’t clean, Chuck cursed at you, you never punish Chuck. You aren’t fair at all! I hate you.”
Brenda stood in shock. She’d meant both of them were grounded. She sputtered, “I… I can’t stand either one of you right now!” then turned and went into her room.
Larry came home and she heard both boys barrel down the stairs. “Dad! Dad! Mom’s nuts. I think she’s having a menopause attack or something.”
She didn’t hear Larry’s response, but she did hear him enter their room. “Bad day?” he asked.
“Not till I got home,” she snapped. “I think I hate your sons.”
Larry reacted as he always did when she was upset. He got on the bed next to her and started kissing her.
Brenda couldn’t believe it, the man thought sex was the cure-all for whatever ailed her! She jerked away to stand in the middle of the room, feeling like a trapped animal.
Then she ran.
She grabbed her purse and without thinking was in the car, and driving away. She drove aimlessly, then saw the motel. She parked and checked in.
In a strange generic bedroom that smelled of unfamiliar things, she shook with sobs and realized she never wanted to go home again. She hated her life, she hated her family. She hated the emotional crap they loaded on her. Cook, clean, be a nurse, be a lover, be a patient listener when no one gave a damn what she had to say.
After a while, the sobs subsided. She looked around. She’d actually done it. She had actually run away from home. She smiled, feeling brave and in total command of her life for the first time in years.
Brenda remembered when she ran away when she was ten. She had packed her Barbies in her cardboard suitcase, grabbed her cat and started toward the end of the block. But the cat kept jumping out of her arms and running home. She’d gone back for him three times before she got tired and stayed home.
Oh no, the cat was at the groomers having his claws trimmed!
Brenda left the room and returned the key to the front desk. She got in the car and picked up the cat then drove home wondering if anyone even noticed she’d left. Hell, they’d probably just ordered a pizza.
As she pulled into the driveway with the cat in his carrier, Larry came out and said, “Oh, went to get the cat, good. Come on we saved you some pizza.”
Brenda sighed and went into the house. The clothes had been picked up, the table had been cleared off and the floor swept. Billy was watching TV and Chuck was back in his room.
She went upstairs to change. Chuck opened his bedroom door. “Sorry, Mom,” he mumbled and returned to his computer.
“Hi Mom,” Billy called, as she came back downstairs, “Wanna watch a movie with me and Dad?”
She took the offered slice of pizza from her husband and sat down next to her son.
She knew tomorrow the house would be a mess. She knew that Larry thought everything was all right now, that she was just fine, and, to her surprise, she realized she was.
She felt really good about herself. She had actually done it this time; she had actually run away from home. And she could have stayed away too until she was darned ready to return, if it hadn’t been for the cat.
Oh well, she thought and took a bite of pizza. Once again, it was all the cat’s fault.
Diane Arrelle (the pen name of South Jersey writer Dina Leacock) has been writing for more than 20 years and has sold more than 150 short stories and 2 books. When not writing, she is a director of a senior citizens’ center. She is married with two sons in college and a husband and cat at home.