When I walk into my house, I hear the clatter and clanging of dishes in the kitchen. I come to a dead stop. Immediate apprehension grips my heart because usually there is nobody at home when I get home from school.
My mom calls, “Is that you, Heather?”
I release the breath I am holding and I walk toward the kitchen. I pass the dining room and I notice the centrepiece on the table—fresh flowers. I frown briefly and hesitate in the doorway, curious to know what is going on. The table is set for three people. Our most expensive dinner service sits there waiting to be used. Knives and forks are neatly placed on each side of the pretty plates, and crystal wine glasses are placed slightly in front of the knives.
I turn around and walk to the kitchen. As I walk into the room, I start to ask, “What is going.” My confused brain cuts off the words when I see my mom bending over into the oven. She pulls out an oven dish, and I smell the wonderful, delectable aroma of Lasagne. This is my favourite dish, which is only prepared for very, very special occasions. I quickly search my memory files and soon realize today there is absolutely no reason for celebration.
My mom puts the dish onto the kitchen counter and then she turns around to me.
“Hi. How was school?” This is my mom’s standard greeting and sometimes I think she does not really care what the answer is, so I usually just say, “Fine. How was your day?” I never really expect an answer to my question.
She surprises me by saying, “I had a great day. They are upgrading our network at work, so now it won’t take me half the day to do the most simplest of tasks.” She smiles, but I notice the smile does not reach her eyes.
Her cheeks are flushed from the heat of the oven and her blonde hair, which she usually has in a bun at the back of her head, is slipping out of its confinement. Frizzy ends are standing out from her head and when the light falls on her head in just the right way, it looks like a halo of light.
She asks, “Would you mind taking the salad to the table?” Your dad will be here soon.”
What is going on here? I wonder perplexed as I take the salad bowl and walk out of the kitchen toward the dining room. My dad always, always works late and he never, ever eats with us. We only eat at the dining table on Christmas Day. My mom and I usually eat from our knees, while we are slumped into the couches, watching TV.
I realize with him coming home early I am going to have to go up to my room earlier than usual. I scan my brain for any programs I might miss. What do I usually watch on a Wednesday night? I always make sure I am in bed and my earphones plugged into my ears when he gets home late every night. They cannot be in the same Nano-sphere for more than ten minutes when the fighting starts. I predict I will be deaf by the time I am forty, with the way I have to turn up the volume just to tune out their screaming and shouting.
With unexpected dread, I hear the front door open and my dad’s voice announces, “I am home.”
I walk through the double doors separating the lounge from the dining room and past the large triple seat couch. I walk out the door from the lounge, into the hall and am just in time to see my dad hang his scarf and coat onto the coat hanger next to the door. He bends down and puts his briefcase down next to the coat hanger. While he is in this awkward position, I take the opportunity to watch him. His dark hair is speckled with grey, and his temples are already snow white. It makes him look distinguished and more handsome. Inappropriately, I wonder why men age so handsomely and women just disintegrate?
He comes back up and notices me standing in the doorway to the lounge. He smiles widely. “Hey, Heather. How are you, stranger?”
Silently I agree with him because we are strangers. Loudly I say, “Okay, and you?”
He starts walking down the hall toward the kitchen. “Mm-mm, is that Lasagne I smell?”
I follow behind him and as he walks into the kitchen, he greets my mom by simply saying, “Cathy.”
I see my mom smile at him nervously. “Evening, John.”
My mom looks past him toward me apprehensively. She asks, “Heather, would you please grab the garlic bread from the micro?”
I walk to the microwave oven and click the door open. The smell of garlic assaults my senses as I take out the plate with the three rolls on it. Following them into the dining room, I place the plate with the garlic rolls next to the bowl of green salad.
My dad sits at the head of the table with his back facing the wall. He does not like to sit with his back exposed, I am sure this is some Neanderthal defence mechanism. I sit next to him to his left and my mom sits across from me.
I reach across the table, taking a garlic roll and I start to pick at the crust as I watch my dad dish up his portion of Lasagne. There is a nervous tension hanging in the air and once again, I wonder what the special occasion is supposed to be.
We eat, mostly in uncomfortable silence.
Eventually, I put the last fork of food in my mouth and then I grip my hands around the seat of the chair, preparing to push my chair backward when my dad looks at me. He says, “Before you excuse yourself, there is something we need to discuss as a family.”
I let go of the seat and fold my hands in my lap. I look at him, waiting in nervous anticipation, as I feel a weird bundle of nerves in the pit of my stomach.
My mom starts to fidget with the salt shaker, and she keeps her eyes firmly glued on it.
He announces, “Your mom and I have decided to get a divorce.” There is no sensitive introduction. No slow process he follows to deliver this news to me. Obviously, sometimes I did wonder why they were still together when they could not stand being in the same room with each other. However, there must have been a time when they loved each other. They must have loved each other enough to bring another human being into the world. Could they really not work through their problems and find that love they used to have? Although I have always expected this day to come, I am shocked. The news literally shakes my world.