Left Behind

November 6, 2007
By Laura Reichardt, Dillon, CO

A single tear. The as yet un-ravaged face of a little girl. The over-brightness of eye, the droop of a chin and the knowledge that nothing can stay the same.

She watches as unreality unfolds. Dad seems larger than before, a terrible presence that consumes the very atmosphere of the house. The lights dim in the face of Dad's anger. Dad packs a beat up leather and green cloth duffel bag, carefully folding slacks and collared shirts from his closet.

Mom, collapsed in on herself, a crumpled wreck of a woman. Mom is pressed into the left corner of the faded, graying couch, a box of tissues by her side and snot-encrusted tissues littering the ground at her feet. Mom is not supposed to cry; mom is supposed to be funny and smiling.

It is her eleventh birthday. She is so excited after school. Everyone was going to go out to dinner, then rent a movie. The whole family would do something together, which almost never happened. But when she came home, the walls were vibrating with the sickness of a fragmented relationship oozing poison and hatred.

Mom continues to sob quietly into one tissue after another. Dad, a restrained fury, zips his bag and walks to the front door. Dad stops with his hand on the door handle and looks at her.

Dad's eyes are really green, but the depth of anger and pain there render them black in her mind. Dad is unable to summon a scrap of pity for her, a tender word, even a hollow promise that everything will be OK.

She is squeezed into the corner by the top of the stairs, not crying yet, but on the verge. There is no question of comprehension; she knows what she sees. She doesn't even bother to put on a beseeching expression—she only watches, future fragmenting into twisted and dark paths—and waits for the inevitable.

Dad leaves. Dad’s family stays behind.

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