He'd come over and shouted like this every time my parents got close to finalizing the divorce. Mom said he did it because the best way to hurt her was to make her B & B look bad. He wasn't just shouting at her. He was alienating the guests at the B & B, leading them to think the house wasn't safe, and ruining their peaceful vacation. He was trying, in this small way, to destroy her business, which she saw as the one good thing that had come out of their separation.
I did what I always did in this situation. After a few deep breaths so I no longer felt like I was about to faint, I opened my door and walked into our tiny living room. My dad was standing and pointing and shouting at Mom, who sat on the couch with her head turned away, as if he was about to hit her. He wasn't, but that's what it looked like.
I had defused this sort of argument between my parents plenty of times before. Throughout childhood, I'd convinced my dad to stand down by crawling into his lap. Recently when he'd loomed here in the living room and shouted, I'd given him a hug and told him I'd missed him.
This time was harder to stomach. I wasn't sure what the difference was-that I was tired of my own boyfriend dismissing my projects as worthless, or that I knew now how good it felt to start a business independent of everyone-but I had to stop this. He was still yelling at Mom. But I was immune because he never yelled at me. I walked toward him with my arms open for a hug. "Hey, Dad! I-"
He whirled to face me. His eyebrows shot up, and he gave me a quick look from head to toe. I took people aback now that I'd removed my glasses.
Then he said, "That shit doesn't work on me anymore, young lady. I know exactly what you're doing, and so do you. If you want to act like an adult now, you can do that by staying out of your parents' business. If you want to keep acting like a child, you can go to your room!" He was yelling louder than I'd ever heard him, and the finger that had been pointed in Mom's face was now pointed in mine.
I turned, hurried for my room, and closed the door.
The shouting continued.
Panting, I lay down on my bed, pulled the phone and earbuds from my nightstand, and turned on one of my deep-breathing relaxation recordings. Try to clear your mind, the lady said. If you have an intrusive thought, that's fine. Just let it go. But I couldn't let it go. Now that the initial wave of panic had passed, I couldn't believe I'd done exactly what my dad had told me to do. Just like Granddad, I'd abandoned my mom.
One deep breath. I could call 911. But my dad wasn't breaking any laws, except disturbing the peace. If Mom's guests in the B & B were listening to the commotion, the one thing worse for business than my dad yelling would be for the police to come.
Two deep breaths. I could call some friends to hang out
. They could knock on the front door and interlope, making my dad see he was affecting real people when he flew off the handle like this. But Kaye and Tia had been popping in since we were in third grade. They might be so familiar that he wouldn't stop yelling. He might shout at them.
Three deep breaths. I took out my earbuds, thumbed through the school's student directory on my phone, and called Brody.
He answered right away. I said breathlessly, "It's Harper. Can you come over?"
"So, you finally got another idea for a Superlatives photo?" My dad's shouting grew louder, and Brody must have heard it through the phone. "What's going on?"
Brody knew exactly what kind of nothing I meant. "I'll be right there."
I clicked my phone off and lay on my bed, waiting. I wanted to put my earbuds back in and play the relaxation program to block out my dad's voice, but I didn't dare. My dad had already shouted at me, personally. That never happened. I listened to make sure my parents' fight didn't escalate. If it did, I would call the police after all. And I listened for Brody ringing the doorbell.
In the meantime, I stared across my tiny bedroom wallpapered with photographs and art I'd cut from magazines. It had seemed cozy in the past, a great place to hide from the world and work on my photos. Now it seemed claustrophobic. I was trapped here, suffocating on what my dad hollered at Mom, and her silence in response.
The doorbell rang.
I opened my bedroom door too quickly. I needed to cool it or my dad would know I'd called Brody to intervene. I waited in the short hallway until I heard Brody's voice. Then I walked into the living room.
"-Larson. I'm here to see Harper," he was telling my dad, who had answered the door as if he lived here. Mom stood behind him, looking lost rather than pissed.
"Brody!" I said in my best impression of pleased astonishment. "Dad, this is my boyfriend, Brody Larson. He's the quarterback on my high school's football team."
"Pleased to meet you, sir," Brody said. He stepped forward and extended his hand, grinning like he wanted to impress, even though he was wearing his usual athletic shirt and gym shorts. A drop of sweat slid down his temple.
The interruption had the desired effect. My dad changed from a monster back into a reasonably friendly guy with a toned, muscular body and a military haircut. "Brody," he said quietly, shaking Brody's hand.
"Not sure you remember my mom," I said.
"Nice to see you, ma'am," Brody said, shaking her hand too.
"Pleasure," she said. I half expected her to widen her eyes at me, wondering why I hadn't told her about my new boyfriend, and what had happened to Kennedy. But my dad had been shouting at her for quite a while. I suspected all she could hear was the ringing in her ears.