On the Dock
Daddy was furious.
I sat on the porch of the lake house, staring out at the dock where daddy's fishing boat bobbed peacefully, moored securely. A mallard, his green head vibrant against the misty grey of the lake and the fog-shrouded hills beyond, slid gracefully across the water's surface leaving barely a ripple of wake. The air smelled like it might rain, but the still air promised soft, quiet.
That peaceful air was shattered by heated words.
Daddy yelled at Marc and Jenny. They stood dripping on the dock, soaked through after an illicit, early morning swim in the lake. Their clothes clung to them, but they hadn't been wearing them in the water. I could tell by the way Jenny's shirt clung to her chest, the way her nipples stood starkly, that she wasn't wearing a bra, and her clinging shorts showed no underwear line. Marc's clothes were baggier, but I was willing to bet he was similarly lacking underwear. The knowledge made my stomach clench curiously.
It was cold. Not freezing cold, not so cold that I wanted to go back inside, but I was glad that I wasn't the one standing on the dock, dripping wet and shivering. I looked down at the porch and picked at the peeling, blue paint. It was an odd feeling, both wanting to watch and not, to see what I knew had to be the conclusion and terrified of it.
Daddy had stopped yelling. He was glaring at the two of them, his fists on his hips. Jenny was crying, shoulders hunched. Marc was pale-lipped and shivering.
I had expected this confrontation for a couple of days now because I had known the meetings were happening. In the early dawn light, from the bedroom Jenny and I shared, I could only see shadows in the mist as my older sister and the neighbor boy stood together in the lake. The might have been kissing, or perhaps only talking, or perhaps something… else. There was no way for me to know, I only knew that Jenny had been sneaking out before dawn to meet Marc every morning since we'd come to the lake house for the summer.
I hoped daddy didn't find out that I'd known.
At a hand on my shoulder, I jumped, but it was only mommy. She was looking at daddy and the older kids, her mouth set in an angry line but her eyes revealing trepidation. She took knew what was coming. She was as torn as I was, both wanting it and not.
"Come on," mommy said. "I need help with breakfast."
I wanted to protest, but this morning was fragile as a thin sheet of ice on the lake in summer. One touch and it might be me who started the morning with tears. So I stood. And as mommy went back inside, the screen door closing behind her with a thump muted by morning's quiet, overshadowed by daddy's anger, I walked as slowly as I could.
With my hand on the door handle, I was startled by Marc's shout of protest. Unconsciously I turned and saw daddy had wrestled the neighbor boy over his knee as he knelt. Daddy's belt was already in hand and I knew from experience that a pair of shorts, especially wet shorts, was no barrier against daddy's ire. Jenny stood by, dancing from foot to foot nervously, sobbing, crying for daddy to stop. I watched Marc take the belt once, twice, thrice, before mommy called my name sharply and I jumped again.
Quickly, I went inside, but not quickly enough for mommy. She smacked me hard on the thigh and told me to mind better. Then she set me to work getting ingredients from the refrigerator.
I didn't cry.
Even from inside, the sound of Marc's spanking was easily overheard. It seemed to last forever. When it was Jenny's turn, her cries were high and piercing. My heart hammered, my face flushed, my stomach clenched.
Eventually, Jenny ran into the house and upstairs. I looked up in time to see she wasn't wearing her shorts and her bottom was splotched crimson against fair skin made pale by wet and cold. Daddy came in shortly after, buckling his belt, and sat at the table, quiet, spent, a layer of mist clinging to his hair.
It began to rain gently.