This is another short story which resulted from someone sending me a title. And what a title it is! But I won’t keep you any longer, read on.
The room is musty. It always is. Sigh. I guess that’s what you get for being in a rarely used hall in a disregarded building. The cheap coffee is brewing, throwing a slightly burnt smell up to the blocked ventilation ports. I look around the room and see all the usuals. We are all in the same boat of being overshadowed by our parents. And we need help accepting it.
The crowd settles into uncomfortable fold-up chairs and the conversation slows. A small woman, skinny and lacking in height, walks up to the podium. Her hair is the palest of blonds and her skin is in need of a gentle tan.
She clears her throat and looks around. I keep my eyes on her. I’ve been waiting for her to tell her story.
‘Hi, I’m Susan.’
‘Hi Susan,’ chimes the room.
‘Hi. Um, I guess I’m here because I don’t want to be defined by what my father does. And, well, because I’m the youngest I’d never get to take over the family business anyway, and well I’m a girl and that’s not supposed to happen so he doesn’t like me much anyway, and oh sorry, I’m rambling.’
Susan smiles even as she shrinks further behind the podium which already dwarfs her miniature physique.
‘Sorry, I’m still new to this group. But I guess I’m supposed to tell you about my successes too so, um, well I got a job. And I know it’s in a related field and some might say that I’m still trying to get Daddy’s approval but it’s all I know and I love toys so, yeah. That’s my story.’
The audience claps as Susan leaves the podium to sit down. Others are invited up and take the chance to talk about themselves but I am still intrigued by the petite, pale girl.
At the end of the meeting, I pluck up the courage to talk to Susan. She is standing right by the coffee machine so I have an in.
‘I wouldn’t trust the coffee.’ Good opening line. Now to walk up to her and say it out loud.
I’m so close I can see the slight shimmer in her hair and the blue of her dress and,
Everyone around me jumps at the sudden noise and movement coming from over my left shoulder. I, on the other hand, move not a skerrick until I work up enough of a glare to take on my repeated attacker.
‘Gus, must you attempt this at every meeting?’
‘It’s incredible! Not even a flinch. Even she moved,’ he says, pointing to Susan who is still grasping her chest.
‘I have told you before, I long ago got over the need to jump at seemingly scary things. You, Gus, are nothing more than an annoyance,’ I walk the last couple of steps to the coffee table and pour a glass of water. I like water. I like anything simple.
‘He was right. You didn’t even jump,’ Susan looks at me with curiosity.
‘A product of my childhood, I suppose,’ I look at Susan and marvel at the delicacy of her features.
‘Hmm. I’ll have to hear about that one. Well, I’m off.’
And she leaves my world without the possibility of meeting again until next week.
I sigh at my all too familiar problem of being terrible in conversation. The rigidness I grew into as a backlash to the troubles I had growing up, leaves little room for other people to enter my space. I rarely make allowances for them. But, for Susan, I would make an exception.
All that is left is for me to walk the four and a half blocks to my apartment. The small open planned space has no cupboards, a mattress that sits on the floor so as not to allow any dark space where he might lurk – my father, the boogie man.