Family Fiction posted June 27, 2014 Chapters:  ...41 42 -43- 44... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Paul reacts precipitously to Karen's misbehavior

A chapter in the book Enough to Miss Christmas

Forbidden Swim

by Fridayauthor

The recently constituted North family are learning new ways together, while attempting to overcome past demons.
            I watched Karen closely as she adjusted into this new life. Her progress was unbelievable but I felt an obligation to monitor her advancement every step of the way. Dr. Mason asked me about our progress in that area during our next session.
            “Have you had any bumps in the road?” he asked.
            I considered mentioning the episode with Julie but felt it was Karen’s place to discuss it, not mine. “No.” I answered, then added with crossed fingers, “Has Karen spoken to you of any problems . . . that you feel you can discuss.”
            “No, but knowing young people as I do, some touchy situations are sure to occur.” The good doctor was spot-on in his prognostication.
            I swished the dust mop around Karen’s room late one September afternoon, in a perfunctory way, stirring more than picking up the motes and fuzzies that fled before me. In between my cleaning lady’s biweekly visit, my conscience forced me to make a half-hearted attempt at domesticity. My mind was on the store and not what I was doing. I bent to my knees and gave a pass under the bed for good measure but was surprised when I hit an obstacle. Bending further and reaching, I pulled out the obstruction, a damp bathing suit.
            At first I was mystified; we hadn't been to the beach in some time due to a hectic schedule and the declining surf temperature, but the suit was definitely wet. Certain facts began to fall into place. I sniffed the bathing suit. No salt or chlorine smells. Fresh water. A Monday after school visit to Mary Ellen’s house, damp hair, the garden hose was the excuse, given a little too quickly. Slowly I walked to the living room and sat on the sofa, trying to regain my composure. The quarry! I’d heard talk about the forbidden quarry, where three years ago two children drowned, their bodies missing in that abandoned pit for more than a week! My heart was in my mouth!
            We had spoken about the horrid place. There were letters in the newspaper about securing the area more adequately as teenagers found it an isolated attraction. The pit was described as yards deep with steep walls like glass and few places to climb out. Paul’s brother had died as a teenager in such a place and when he read about the local quarry, it caused a strong reaction. I couldn’t recall if he’d told the children the details of devastating death in his family, but they knew in no uncertain terms the quarry was off limits.
            I paced the living room, the still-wet suit clenched in my hands. Karen knew better! I was ready to kill her. It was the first instance of her misbehaving in a way even remotely this serious. If my suspicion was true, the transgression was intolerable. Before I could consider the ramifications, I heard the sound of tires in the drive.
            “We won! We won!” Karen sang from the driveway.

            In bounced Paul, his jacket already off, with Karen in her soccer outfit laughing beside him. Timmy was close behind. Then she saw the bathing suit I held in my hand. The look on her face said it all. She burst into tears and dashed up the stairs to her room, leaving Paul standing there, his mouth agape.
            “What's this all about?” he asked as he looked at what I was holding.
            “The quarry,” I managed to sputter. “I think she and Mary Ellen may have snuck off to the quarry Monday. I found this under her bed.” I held the wet suit like a flag of surrender.
            I could see the fury in Paul’s face. “She could have drowned,” he snarled.  He dashed up the stairs after his daughter. “Karen! How could you?” He shouted.
             “Paul, wait!” I called. As I reached the top of the stairs, he entered her room, slamming the door behind him. I hesitated, part of me wanting to calm my husband, the rest of me not daring to interfere between father and daughter.
            “Did you sneak off to the quarry with Mary Ellen?” I heard him growl. Karen’s reply was muffled but there followed a scuffle. “You could have drowned!  Get over here!”
            “Paul,” I called in a panic. “Let’s all talk this out.” Timmy crept up the stairs. I grabbed him and held him against me.

            “You need a lesson you’ll never forget!”  Karen yelled no and there followed the sound of his hand striking his daughter! I tried to open the door, still holding on to my frightened son, but it was locked.

            “Paul, stop it! Please!” But the sounds continued.
            God, I wanted him to stop! I sunk to the floor in tears, trying to console Timmy who was crying his heart out. The sound repeated rapidly, a dozen times, muffled but echoing as I covered my ears. If Karen cried, I couldn’t hear her above my own sobs. I slowly rose and crept downstairs to the living room, clutching Timmy’s hand. I buried my head in the sofa pillow.
            “What’s happening?” Timmy wailed.
            “Karen did something bad and your Dad is punishing her,” I answered.
            “It’s scaring me!”
            I took a deep breath. “It will be fine in a few minutes. Go into the kitchen and dish up some ice cream. Fix a bowl for you and one for Karen. She’ll really appreciate it.” He scurried out of the room. It seemed like an eternity before Paul came down the stairs. I turned away as I felt Paul's arm around my shoulder.
            “She deserved it, Sarah. I'm sorry, I did it but I was so angry . . . " He began to sob softly. “All I could think of was my brother Pete drowning and how devastated I was. If I ever lost Karen, it would kill me. God, I’ve never done anything like that before.”
            We held each other, saying nothing. Finally, I got up, wiped off my tear-stained face and went upstairs to my daughter's room. She lay on her stomach, her face away from the world, and me. I could see some redness below the level of her soccer shorts.
            I sat on the bed and reached out and touched her. “Karen?”
            She began to sob more loudly.
            I heard myself saying the words. “You’re a good girl, Karen. But you did a very wrong thing.” She wouldn’t respond.
            “He loves you and he feels terrible. But you should feel badly about what you did, too. You frightened us. We love you and don't want any harm to come to you. When you disobey us about something this important, it makes us frantic.”
            Paul joined me and we sat together on the bed. Karen shrugged further toward the wall, but he reached toward her. When he put his arm around her, she didn’t push it away. He was crying, and apologized profusely. In calm terms he explained about the death of his older brother Pete. Being aware of her father’s tears may have shocked her as much as her spanking, but she still wouldn’t look at him. The three of us lapsed into silence until Timmy came in, hesitantly, holding out a bowl of now mostly melted ice cream.

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Enough to Miss Christmas is a family love story, about sisters, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, parents and children. Foremost, it tells the story of a step mom and a precocious young lady and how they bond in spite of overwhelming odds.
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