A Father's Mistake

Trembling, her hands plucked the phone from its cradle. Staring at the hazel eyes identical to her own she finally found the voice to choke out the words “Hi, Daddy”, “Hi, sweetheart, how are you?” Good question. How was she? A list ran through her head, angry, depressed, regretful, but she couldn’t let him know that. Plastering a meek grin onto her face that she hoped looked genuine she replied “I’m doing okay Dad, considering…”Shrugging she waved her hand around the bleak room for emphasis. Orange clad shoulders slumped as if weighed down by a heavy load. He nodded wearily. “I understand, I know this has been hard for you, I never wanted it to be this way and I can’t imagine the pain this is putting you through. I guess what I’m trying to say is …I’m sorry, Payton, really I am.” Tears pricked her eyes in response and she dipped her head in order to hide them. “No, Dad, don’t be, this is my fault, all of it.” He reached out, wanting to comfort her but the pane of glass separating father and daughter made it impossible. As the burly guard approached her father to lead him back to his cell she knew their meeting was over. Rapidly she gave him an “I love you, Daddy.” A bittersweet smile crossed his lips, “I love you to, Payton. Promise me you’ll stop blaming yourself okay? I can’t bare it.” She nodded in affirmation to satisfy him but inside her heart screamed the truth.
Winter was still fresh in her memory and she started to remember the day she met him. A brisk summer wind brought back the blustering snowstorm that had flung her into a small coffee shop seven months ago. Christmas shopping complete and her fingers long cylinders of ice, they bumped into each other while he ordered and she strolled along perusing the selection of scrumptious pastries. While he offered to buy her a cup of coffee she was drawn to his bright blue eyes and a glowing smile that made her blush. She allowed him to pay for her cappuccino and they chatted. The aromas of coffee swirled around them and the baristas twittered like little birds. Numbers were exchanged and they went their separate ways. Not expecting a call that night, she was pleased when the ten digits glowing on her phone happened to be his. Since he had bought her coffee Elliot insisted that he couldn’t get her off his mind, and wanted take her out to dinner on Friday. When Friday finally came he was a perfect gentleman, even winning over her overprotective father which is no easy task. Like soon bloomed into love and she was content, but she sensed this sudden euphoria wouldn’t last.
Officially a couple for about four months they decided to attend a party that her friend was hosting. She had come across her old friend, Bryan. He was the seemingly opposite of Elliot with his warm caramel eyes and mop of flaxen hair. Conversing about the recent going-on in their lives, they made jokes and laughed. Elliot called her over and she pranced over to him feeling bubbly. Steered into a room, vacant except for red cups strewn around carelessly, she was apprehensive. Something about him had shifted and her bubbly feeling fizzed out like a soda gone flat. He whirled around to speak with her. Ferocity seemed to take over, a dark demon cloaked in red. “Who is he?” he seethed. “Who? Bryan? He’s just an old friend Elliot, what’s the matter with you?” A chuckle laced with sarcasm escaped his lips, “You’re not to speak to him, hear me?” Cerulean eyes with a dash of slate stared into hers daring defiance. “Oh yeah, and whose going to stop me?” she taunted, his gaze turned cold, cruel as he raised an open hand to slap her hard against her cheek. Fingertips brushed against her face while she flinched at the sharp pain. A metallic taste filled her mouth, was she bleeding? Filled with fear, she turned to walk out of the room, not expecting him to grab her arm. His apologies dripping with remorse. None of which she was buying. “I suggest you let go of me right now before I call the cops. Then we’ll see who’s sorry.” Loosening his grip she jerked away humiliated and seething. Feeling shaky she dialed a girlfriend who picked her up and kindly drove her home, no questions asked. For that she was grateful.
Bolting into her room feigning exhaustion she let thoughts take over. Her dad came in to check up on her and inquired about her health. “I’m fine Dad, just a little tired.” was her reply. Holding her phone which she had left downstairs to charge he started to question her. “Payton care to explain anything that happened tonight?” “What are you talking about Dad?” Did he have to be so nosy? Finally noticing the fact that the phone was open he handed her it and she read the open txt messages from Elliot, filled with “I’m sorry” and bad spelling. “We got into a fight Dad, and things were said and….” “What Payton? What happened? Did he hit you?” Silence following this inquiry was answer enough.
Needless to say dinner that night consisting of chicken parmesan and a Caesar salad was a quiet affair and while she cleaned up their small meal her father came into the kitchen to announce his plans to go out. She was reluctant but let him stating “Please, Dad just don’t do anything… rash.” “Never” he affirmed, planting a kiss on her forehead, he snatched his keys, and she was alone.

He had only gone out for a drive, to cool off. Palming the wheel, anger coursed through him like a drug. Words not suitable for young ears whirled through his head and he decided to confront him, let him pick on someone his own size. Remembering the route he had routinely driven to drop off Payton for a study date or movie he made his way to Elliot’s house, looking peaceful in the starry night. Stepping out of the car he made his way swiftly up the walk to the front door stabbing the doorbell as if it were the cause of all his problems. Swinging open it revealed the face of the abuser himself, a cocky grin that soon slipped when he saw who stood on the other side of the door. “Mr. Marshall, what a surprise! Can I help you?” “Listen you arrogant punk if you ever so much as look at my daughter again, it will be the last thing you do.” Realization crossed over Elliot’s face and he murmured something under his breath. ”Sorry I didn’t catch that.” “I said that your little tease of a daughter was asking for it, chatting up some blon-“Slamming into Elliot like a raging bull Mr. Marshall went ballistic. Pushing Elliot in the empty house and against a wall he unleashed a torrent of punches and kicks “How does it feel now” Mr. Marshall snarled. Tiring he stopped letting Elliot collapse leaving a smear of blood on the wall.

He heard a sharp gasp from behind him and Payton stood in the open doorway, the bike she had used to get here lay forlorn on its side by his car. Tears streamed from her eyes as she took in the scene that looked like something from a horror movie. “Is he…oh god, this is my fault.” Elliot now lay on the ground where a bloody halo had formed around his head. Mr. Marshall’s wild temper had been tamed at the sight of his daughter’s distress. Unclenching his fists he let them drop to his sides, all the energy sucked out of him. Silently Mr. Marshall wiped his wet cheek and shook his head. Looking over at his daughter he realized that he had just changed the course of their lives forever, and the relationship he once had with his daughter was severed, she probably hated him. Meanwhile Payton had fallen to her knees hugging herself, hoping to stay in control of her body, the little piece of her life she still had left.





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