Limber Up Before Letting Loose: Response to Prompt #1

Well, better late than never, I always say–here is my response to the prompt I posted on March 14th…I’ve included the prompt itself below.

PROMPT:

Describe a memorable “first”–first day at college, first crush, first big disappointment, first airplane ride, first day after the death of a loved one–you get the idea. Be as descriptive and detailed as possible–and be sure to involve all five senses; this is how you adhere to that ever-repeated writer’s mantra: Show, don’t tell.

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I don’t even remember what the actual fight was about. The memory seems to begin with me, a 17-year-old thorn in my father’s side, pounding up the narrow, dark stairway that led to our bedrooms, my righteous fury causing my voice to shake.

“That’s it—I’m leaving!” I screamed over my shoulder to the living room, where my father and step-mother still stood side by side. My sister—frozen in fear at the top of the stairs—immediately began beseeching me in an appeal to my long-departed sense of reason: “Deana, please don’t yell at Dad—just calm down…” Pushing past her, I stormed into my room, only to be met with the tableau of my new navy blue Samsonite luggage set, arrayed at the foot of my bed: my high school graduation gifts from my father and stepmother.

The sight of those sturdy symbols of my pending exit from the confines and constraints at home to the relative freedom of college only enraged me further, and I grabbed the handles of the two hard-sided suitcases. As I spun on my heel, the larger of the two cases ricocheted off of my shin, and tears of pain and anger filled my eyes. I stumbled back out of my room, the suitcases banging hollowly against the cheap paneling in the hallway.

“Deana, please…” My sister again, still lurking in the hall, wringing her hands as I shove by her. One by one, I lift the two suitcases to shoulder height and fling them down the stairs; my mouth is drawn back in a grimace of effort, and my tears find their way down my contorted face and into my mouth, where their salty tang mingled with the bitter taste of my anger. My ongoing diatribe bracketed each fling and the cacophony resulting from its progress down the long, enclosed staircase: “And I don’t (fling, BANG-bump-BANG-bumpity-bump-BANG) want THESE (fling, bump-bump-BANG-BANG-BANG) either!”

By now, my sister is crying, and my father’s infuriated yells abruptly came to a halt. I knew I had probably crossed a line—but didn’t care. I spun on my heel, and tearing my arm away from my sister’s grasping hands—“Deana, don’t…”—I storm back to my room and slam the door, fully expecting my father’s immediate arrival, fully engulfed in a tantrum of fury to match my own. After a few moments of highly suspect silence, once I thought the coast was clear, I allowed my own tears to fall.

Perhaps five minutes went by, and when someone knocked on my door, I assumed it was my sister, resuming her entreaties for me to return to reason. “Go away, Jennifa.”

“Deana—I’d like to talk to you.” My father’s voice. But not a voice I had ever heard before—usually when he spoke those words, it was in a tone that meant I was in trouble—most probably for something I’d done contrary to house rules (which I clearly felt did not apply to me). This voice was something else entirely. Shocked into silence, I opened the door, and retreated to sit at the edge of my bed, watching him warily. He stood in the door for a moment, looking lost, unsure of how to proceed. He visibly gathered himself and crossed my small bedroom to sit beside me on my bed. The familiar smell of his Clubman aftershave had an unexpected calming effect on me, and I suddenly realized that, in the seven years we’d lived in that house, this was probably the first time he’d ever entered my bedroom—never mind sat beside me on my bed.

I don’t remember the exact words of the majority of his little speech—it was wholly a one-sided conversation, as I remained speechless throughout the five minutes of his visit. The point that I took from it was that he knew he tended to be harder on me as the oldest, especially since my mother had died seven years prior. I’m not even sure he actually said the words, “I’m sorry.” But there was no doubt in my head or heart that this was indeed an apology. The only words I remember verbatim were his final four words, his voice rough from the influence of some strong, unnamed emotion: “You’re my star, Deana.”