Good evening, everyone!
A little prose for you guys, today; I’ll have an update on The Black Chasm soon, but this just would not leave me be, today. It’s raw in many ways, but I still hope it’s good.
There is a strange sort of laughter coming from the other end of the house.
It’s too distant to be coming from the living room. Not a movie, then, but she isn’t sure who is back there.
Faith can’t tell whether it’s real or not; it’s been days since anything made any sense, weeks since the last time she could focus on anything more than the things immediately in front of her. Now, she listens to the gasping hitch of the giggles, stares blankly at the screen- she’s at the end of chapter 9, what a place to get stuck- and tries to banish the urge to pick up her pen and sketch out the image that has been developing in the back of her mind all day.
The laughter gets louder. It grates on Faye’s nerves until she can hardly stand it, but she cannot say anything. It doesn’t seem to bother anyone else. Her mom and dad are sitting in the living room with the TV blaring, as usual, and the dog is whining and barking for attention. All it does is scratch at her patience, eroding it until she has nothing left.
Faith huffs, buries her head in her hands, and eyes the Google Chrome taskbar icon for the 15th time in 15 minutes. One of her favorite YouTubers just uploaded a new speedpaint. She’s been saving it all day, promising herself that she’ll watch it as a reward if she finally finishes chapter 9 like she’s been struggling to do for the past two and a half weeks.
Another watery giggle rips through the air.
Finally, Faye huffs to herself, unplugs her laptop from the wall, stows her pen in its case, and gathers the entirety of the setup into her arms. Maybe if she goes in and asks the person what, exactly, is so doggone funny, they’ll shut up and let her work in peace.
Her dad stops her as she is heading back to her room, tells her they need to talk. Faye glances longingly at the hallway that leads back to the bedrooms. She always dreads these talks when he gets that tone of voice, and she is already so close to tears that she does not want to face him right now.
He raises his voice, adds just that faintest touch of steel. Faye debates ignoring him for half a second- just half a second- and then she sets her things down on the coffee table and seats herself in the rocking chair catty-corner from the couch where her parents are sitting. A press of a button shuts off the TV with a soft chime. The sound of silence is alien. It’s a rare evening when the blasted thing isn’t making itself a nuisance of the highest order.
She hates that darn TV.
Her dad starts with that same touch of steel. Faith listens, keeps her features carefully neutral while he tells her that he understands that writing is fun, and it’s great that she has a hobby. He wastes her time for 10 more minutes going on about how she has bills to pay that she has been unable to make, and how her mom shouldn’t be paying for Faith’s car insurance every month, as if that hasn’t been at the forefront of her mind this whole time as it is. He starts getting angry when she tries to defend herself, and Faye clams up again pretty quick after that, sticking to hums and only meeting his gaze when he demands it. Faye does not react while he tells her some drivel that she glosses over.
Then he says she needs to grow up. It’s time to leave childhood behind. He says she needs to go back to school for a Master’s degree- after she has already wasted 3 years of her life and put herself 20 grand in debt pursuing that Bachelor’s that was supposed to open oh-so-many doors for her, and look how that turned out. Now he wants her to spend more money- more time- on a degree that will soon be just as worthless as the first degree, when everyone and their grandma has one and more are working on them now.
That asshole at the other end of the house is roaring, now.
She wants to scream. It’s too distracting, too hurtful, too much. She wants to run away. She remains frozen to her seat.
Her father is getting angry with her lack of reaction. He demands that she tell him how much credit card debt she has racked up. She doesn’t tell him easily; her pride won’t let her, as well as the fact that she knows what’s coming if she does. Still, when he shouts at her to just tell him, that long-honed self-preservation-obedience reflex kicks in, just as her mom says, last I heard, it was five-thousand.
Faith gapes at her mother. Her mom looks at her askance, and asks, why are you looking at me?
Her dad almost has a conniption, he’s so ashamed of her, and Faye has never felt so low in her life.
He commands her to set aside the book she has spent the past six months writing, and in the privacy of her head, Faith wants to tear out her hair. He says she has two weeks to give him an answer of how she is going to proceed, and he will not accept anything less than something rock-solid and unsinkable. Faith’s shoulders pop under the weight of his words. She has to grow up, he says, and stop playing around when she should be paying her bills. She has to stop writing.
Faith swallows and tastes bile on the back of her tongue, but she says nothing.
Her dad summarily dismisses her after threatening to chuck her laptop- her life, her hopes, her dreams- out into the backyard. Faye rises silently to her feet, grabs her equipment, clutches it protectively to her chest, and escapes into the hallway. The shadows kiss her cheeks like old friends.
The crazy person in the back of the house is almost shrieking, now, and Faith wants to shriek with her. She wonders what the conditions for debt forgiveness are if she goes off the bridge on the way to work tomorrow, and just as quickly shuts down the thought.
Her life is not her own to take. She bows her head and begs God for an escape, but nothing presents itself… nothing except the one avenue that would destroy all those around her in the process.
It would be so easy. The right mix of melatonin and vodka from the pantry, and she could have that escape. A tack in her tire could give her a blowout on the bridge and send her- and her car- to the bottom of a lake. Faye knows where her dad keeps the firearms.
She is sitting on her desk chair with her hands over her mouth when her mom comes in a second later and starts talking about how her dad is right, and that it’s time to get serious with her life. Faye can’t take it. She has been holding back for the past 45 minutes of useless berating that has done nothing but waste all their time, and she is not as well-trained by her mom as she is with her dad. Faye asks her mom if she is joking. She reminds her mom that she has never been good enough, that all her teenage and adult life people have done nothing but say that she is not good enough, she is not the best, and her mom tries to tell her that average is okay, but no.
No. Just no.
Average is no longer acceptable. Average is no longer good enough, and has not been for a long time, but Faye can’t even get that out before her dad is there, telling her to shut up and stop whining about what she can’t do. He says that she’s staring into the abyss, and she can either fall in, or she can pull herself out. Her dad says that he doesn’t think she is the type to fall in, and he knows that she can pull herself out.
Faye stares blankly at the pile of laundry thrown over the box in front of her dresser- she really should clean that up- and thinks she has never been so close to jumping headfirst into that very abyss.
The door slams behind her father and mother, and it takes Faith a few minutes to realize that the laughter is no longer some distant annoyance.
She claps her hands over her mouth and gags on the wet-hot giggles that choke her on their way out of her throat.
Sometimes the things you depend on for your sanity- to make sense of an otherwise intolerable world- are the very things those around you are telling you to give up. It can bring you lower than you’ve ever been, before, or you can use it to fuel your drive.
Which one are you?