Flash in the Pan

A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights

The Day I Left Home

by Elaine Webster

The dining room had grey walls and no windows, prison like. John sat fidgeting across the table from me. My dad wiped his mouth with his napkin. My mother pushed back her chair in preparation for clearing the table.

I looked nervously at John, took a deep breath, and made my announcement. "I'm going back to California with John."

Dead silence, then my mother said, "Elaine, please don't do this."

Those last haunting words have followed me though life. She uttered them and left for the kitchen to wash the dinner dishes. I never saw my mother in person again.

I had been trying to warn my parents for weeks, to no avail. I'd dropped hints about how I hated school and would rather work. I'd been placed in remedial English because I don't do well on multiple-choice tests and, apparently, no one read my test essay. Did they even look at my high-school records? I was an honor student; I had a Regents Scholarship. And now I couldn't get an appointment with a counselor. No one was listening, no one cared—-least of all my mother. If I held a gun to my head and threatened to pull the trigger, would she just say, "Elaine, please don't do this"?

My father hadn't said a word, a strategy he had long ago adopted. As usual, I had no idea what he thought or felt. He had waited for my mother to say something further. When she didn't, he turned sideways in his chair and stared at the floor.

I could hear my mother in the kitchen and neither she nor my father made an effort to stop me from leaving. I hesitated for several minutes, expecting some resistance. I finally stood up and said to my dad, "Well, we've got some things to do. I'll be home later." John, anxious to get out of there, jumped out of his chair and beat me to the door.

Once outside, John whistled through his teeth. "Wow, that was weird," he said. "Why didn't they say anything?"

"I don't know. She can't handle anything messy and just shuts down when things don't go her way. And my dad, he's afraid of her."

As we crossed Northern Boulevard, I clutched John's hand—-my lifeline. The five-block walk to the market felt like miles. I fought off the panic created by my decision to leave and reminded myself to breathe. Why didn't anyone care about me? What had I done so wrong? I had to get away from here. There was no other option. I'd worked at this market during school and my $7,000 savings account would be in traveler's checks the following morning.

John interrupted my thoughts. "So, how are we going to do this tomorrow?" He was ready to put New York City behind us.

"I'll come over to your place, as if I'm going to school. We'll go to the bank, then back home to pack while my parents are at work. We should be on the road by noon."

Elaine Webster, is a staff writer for the on-line publication, Greener Living Today www.greenerlivingtoday.com. She's part of the Memoir Writing group in Sebastopol sponsored by SRJC and Steve Boga is the instructor. She lives in Windsor, CA and her e-mail address:Elaine@mediadesign-mds.com .

Twenty-second Flash

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