Sister Act

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Elizabeth Uptown was short, thin, had long blond hair with a thin face and sharp eyes.  She wore black denims, a pink dress shirt, and slippers. Uptown lived with her parents and her brother.

Her father Fredrick was a mail man and her mother a hairdresser up the street.  The father always wore a freshly pressed uniform.  He was slightly gray by the temples with an air of depressed resignation. He was short, roundish like his son, serious, and had a soft spoken nature.  The mother, however, was heavily made up with makeup and a fashionable hairstyle and outfit. They lived in an attached red brick, home in the east end of Toronto, where little and two storied homes presided.

Every Sunday the family would sit down and say the rosary in the front room.  As it was, her parents said it every night before they went to sleep.  “When they place you in your coffin…hopefully, by God, that will be many years from now when you are old,” said her father to the family many times.  “But when they do, your casket will be like a filing cabinet on judgement day.  It will then be decided if you lived your life according to God’s commandments and will go to heaven, or if you been sinful, you will go to hell.”

Every angle in the conversation led to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic religion.  If they took a day trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls by car, the parents would say the rosary. Once they arrived at their destination, they would go to a church and marvel at its exterior. Once a year, the young sons were sent to a catholic retreat for males only up North in Midland Ontario. On other occasions, the mother and daughter would go to the same retreat, which was dedicated to the female sex.  This family largely spent it’s time in the east end of Toronto, only moving outside of the city for one year, before returning to this area. The local church was the only gateway into the community.  Elizabeth never enjoyed her elementary school, finding some of her classmates were also from a blue collar upbringing.

At age fifteen, an uncle and aunt came to visit from Britain.  Edwin and Clarissa were in their late sixties. He and his wife travelled to Canada in the late 70’s and they spent several months with his brother, Frederick’s father Jeremy in Markham, Ontario.

This time, however, Edwin and Clarissa chose the east end Uptowns residence to visit for three weeks. Before they arrived, the dining room was closed off, allowing them private space. On such an occasion, the feeling of anticipation was in the air. No one knew what to expect.  “They are not Catholic,” warned the father.  “They are non-believers.” Frederick and the mother Audrey picked up the relatives at the airport.  The next three days, they remained in the house.

“Edwin,” cried the mother.  “This is a once and a lifetime visit.  See the sights!” Frederick looked on with anxious concern but then smiled. Edwin was a distinguished gray-haired gentleman who was thin, and spoke in a casual, relaxed attitude.  He enjoyed spinning a yearn and at this Uptown residence he always had a willing audience.  Clarissa had long frilly hair, was meticulous and dressed to perfection, consistently smoothing out the wrinkles in her dress. Edwin would take her everywhere. He saw the family, some of the neighbours, the area, and he smiled with ease.

“You’re not Catholic,” added the father. “So you can’t go to church.” He moved around with a smile, adjusting a coat and putting on his shoes with the others. “Unless you convert.”

“No problem there, Fred,” interrupted Clarissa, who sat, clasping her husbands’ hands.  They looked at each other across the room. That being said, the travellers used public transit, seeing all the attractions that this Metropolis offered. They strolled through the Eaton’s Centre, went up the CN Tower, explored Pioneer Village, and even journeyed to Niagara Falls.  When the family said the rosary, it was completed without the relatives present. As would be expected, Edwin and Clarissa grew attached to Elizabeth and Stanley.    On one occasion, Edwin went to the father.  “Fred?”

“Yup, what’s up?”

“Do you have Doe Doe Pills?”

“I beg your pardon?” came a smile and a shake of the head. “What is that?”

“I have checked your local pharmacy,” admitted the visitor with an honest and sincere face, which inspired obvious laugher.  “It is all over England but no sign of it here in Canada,” he added amongst more chuckles.  Everyone knew this uncle had one lung.  Edwin would often roll his own tobacco and smoke it in a pipe, filling the house, or surroundings with a pleasant, welcoming odour.  “When I was in the army,” he told the family after a meal.  “I was on boat in the British navy. “The Sergeant came into the kitchen and saw me peeing in the kitchen sink and he would yell: ‘Uptown, you’re on charge!” He adjusted his pipe and puffed more smoke.  “The next day I come into the kitchen and see this same Sergeant doing the same thing, urinating in the basin, and I get off charges!” Every night after a meal, Edwin would have such stories, which would cause laughter and merriment around the kitchen table, or in the living room.

On another day, Edwin and Clarissa would join the family for tea. “When you came to Canada the other time, why didn’t you call?” asked Frederick with Audrey not far behind.

“You’re father Jeremy and his then wife Janice would not allow it,” answered the out of Towner.  There was a long, uncomfortable silence.  This was where the mother jumped in, as she usually did. “His wife Janice,” she chimed in. “Janice was really over protective. She wouldn’t allow him to do anything!”

“You shouldn’t say it like that,” added the father, wisely and with a glint.

“Oh, it’s true!”

“You shouldn’t say it like that,” argued the father.”

“It’s the truth!” sharpened the mother, leaving the gathering in silence.

“When did he die again?” ventured Edwin, his body bolt upright. “Wasn’t too long ago.”

The mother, still with her hands on her hips stood erect.  “He died in January three years ago,” she replied. “He was outside his home, shovelling the front path after a huge blizzard on the coldest night in recent memory,” added the Audrey with emphasis, as she always did.

“Was he shovelling?” question Frederick. “He didn’t go for a walk?”

“Yes,” she barked back. “On the coldest day of the year too!”

“He dropped dead,” continued the father, robotically, looking at Edwin. “He dropped dead while shovelling on the coldest day in recent memory,” he repeated, as if he were programmed.

“After a blizzard,” added the mother with emphasis.  “The big blizzard of three years ago.”

“He dropped dead,” went on the father, repeatedly. “While he shovelled the snow. That is where they, being the ambulance attendants, found him.”

There was a long pause. “We’re you even invited to the funeral?”

Once again, as by habit, the mother jumped in. “Janice and her whole entire family,” exclaimed the mother. “They were on one side of the church and we were on the other side.”

When the mother’s gestures and hand movement had ended, Edwin scratched his chin.  “Any money from-…” his voice was interrupted.

“Uncle Edwin,” returned the father.  “Janice and her family got everything. The house and included.”

“Everything,” resumed the visitor in shocked silence. “You didn’t contest it?!”

“He willed everything to Janice,” chimed the mother.  “Janice was the executor of the estate. She was very controlling in that way.”

“Audrey!” scolded the father. “You shouldn’t say that!”

“She was very controlling,” argued the wife. “She controlled him!”

“Audrey, no!”

“Frederick, his wife Janice was very controlling,” charged the wife.  “She controlled him!”

A nearby lamp on a stand lost its lustre and cast a shadow over the Great Uncle. “Ok, and no one thought of challenging her?” resumed Edwin, his eyes narrowed and hardened while he smoked his pipe some more.

“The same thing happened in my side of the family too,” added the mother.  “One half of the family got one thing and the others, like always, were left out in the cold.”

Maybe Edwin understood when he last saw his brother alive.  Like most modern families, a series of divisions separated everyone where even time itself could not undo. The horrors of the war for some still remained, including the failures of marriage.  Sometimes the only way for an old soldier like Jeremy to get control of his memories was to isolate himself, preventing any arguments, or unnecessary, ill feelings with other people.  Alcohol and other addictions cemented the barriers with family, loved ones, and co-workers.

Having no strong parental role models, Frederick found respite and solace in the Roman Catholic religion. Fred not being close to his father, or other family, also hindered communication between the families and forced him to live independently, without help from anyone.  Edwin looked at the Uptown household. Everyone in the modern age was isolated. No one knew their cousins or relatives anymore. There was an overwhelming disconnection in the family through the luck of geography, quirk of fate. Everyone was removed from one another and this created barriers.

It was terribly obvious Frederick Uptown was head of a household that struggled to pay his mortgage and raise a family.  Edwin knew his nephew was a hardworking man who fortune had evaded many times over. From conversations with the family he understood their troubles.  First hand, Edwin saw a hardworking Canadian family guided by their hopes, dreams, and religious values.  What was earned in this household came through hard work and toil.

That three week visit made a lasting impression on the family, more so for Elizabeth.  She saw the world through her relatives. Their appealing accents and cheerful welcoming nature was only the one side of it.  Elizabeth now saw a common characteristic in the Uptown family. Edwin had that gift of storytelling that created a picture outside of the Uptown home.  Through this former World War II soldier, Elizabeth could see the connections beyond open up.  Edwin brought the charm and allure of the old world to the east end.

Through him she saw England, Ireland, Germany, and even the Middle East. Ironically, everyone could remember the humour, joy, and the stories Edwin brought to life but they could never remember his chosen profession.  These East Enders never did impose any restrictions on their visitors.  Fred’s surviving mother and sister, and others did get to meet these adventurers, including other family members too.  Edwin did leave an open invitation to the family to come to the old country. Three weeks don’t last forever.  When the hugs and kisses were exchanged, sadness came over the family, especially the children, who felt this departure more so then everyone else.

Months passed.  When the fall came, it was time for Elizabeth to choose a high school. Yes, she wised up and avoided the nearby all girls Catholic high school, in favour of the one that was a half hour bus right ride up north to suburbia.  There, she found her life expanded into a better crowd of young people. In fact, this co-ed school brought her a burst of freedom.  She learned to play the clarinet and it was the only sound that blocked out the sound of prayers in the household.  Her new friends would call and offered her more relief.  All during the high school, as she blossomed to be young women, Elizabeth accumulated both female and male friends.  “What did you do on the weekend?” one would ask.

“Just stayed home,” she would say, the echo of regret was in her voice.

“I went to my cottage in Muskoka.”

“Really?” came her response. “Was it fun?” she added with a flare of resentment.

Another friend would then meet her and they would chat. This was how the conversation would go: “What did you do on the weekend?”

“Just like I always do…” her voice would trail off. “Nothing.”

“I went to Montreal to visit my extended family.  As time went on Elizabeth compared her own home life to others and envied her friends.  She heard of them going on exotic vacations, come into inheritances, and plan a better future.  Her existence proved to be mundane.  She found herself watching soap operas and escaping into her own make believe world.  Like all young women in her age bracket, she imitated someone she saw on television.  “Your in a fairy tell world,” her parents would scold her.

When the phone would ring, the mother would walk into her room and say: “One of your advisors is on the phone.  Conversations would go on for hours, if she did not practise music, or do her homework. “We took a flight to Florida,” admitted one of her pals. “Why don’t you come?” Her friends would plead with her to come to their cottages.  “It has a pool!”  Lisa would shake her head in refusal.  “Bring your family!”

Her long blond hair attracted more attention.  Elizabeth enjoyed the new friendships she found in suburbia. She grew to be embarrassed about her family. She saw her parents as backward, much like hicks in a small town, as they accused her on many occasions. Thus, Uptown was forced to ward of interest.  “My family,” she said.  “My family is very religious and are not normal,” she babbled in a puffy and social type of way. “My father would never allow me to go with you to Montreal,” she stammered with embarrassment, posing for a picture.  Thus, this teen was always eager to please her new found friends.

Elizabeth felt miscast in the scheme of things-she never fit in with her own family, nor found any comfort in the teachings of the Roman Catholic religion.

One skill Elizabeth did develop in such an environment was the ability to be a good typist.  When she was fifteen, she would work for an American trade expert at the university and her world got bigger.  While her friends were going to university, or travelling the world, Elizabeth frowned on her home life, the simple opinions and direction of her own family.  Things had to change for her.  Her only outlet from her father’s world was to argue.  Her arguments became legendary.  She became impossible to live with.

“I did go I think,” she thought with an exaggerated pensiveness.

“You lie!” raged her father. “You said you went to church on Saturday evening. You said you always go there and we went there and we did not see you at all!”

“Well I will go next time,” she responded, very proud and consciously erect. “Why aren’t other families like that this?”

“I don’t care how other families are like? You lied!” he raged with the full force of his character which made her more defensive.  “You should not lie to me. I am your father. I am the one who pays for this home.” She laughed to herself. “I do!”  She sensed his weaknesses and fed off of them. “We love you and we want the best for you!” Elizabeth would slouch and shrug.  “Protect your faith! Go to church and worship our Lord Christ,” he meditated carefully on this. Her eyes, however, mocked them, that part in her soul where there was some kind of humour over something which they did not understand.

The money she earned at work went to finance her time with friends.  When she made it into university at age seventeen, she saw how difficult it was to survive in academia.  Elizabeth studied computers at University of Toronto.

She was the only woman in some of these courses for her entire program.  “I can be there all day long and no one would speak a word to me,” she lamented many times.  “If they do, it is not English, or even French, it is Chinese!” She grew to hate the Asian presence at the university. She got low marks in the first few months and was failing one of her courses.  Such a predicament caused arguments with her parents.  True to form, women do mature quicker then men.  Elizabeth grew bored of her brother’s mimicry of what he perceived her conversations to be like with her supposedly hoity toity friends. She developed tiring circles under her eyes and no one seemed to be helpful at school, or at home.  One of her close male friends, who had a reputation for being chronically absent, yet got high marks. He went on to score a scholarship and continued such a pattern into higher education.

When November came, changes had to be made. This teenager had outgrown her surroundings and her parents did not know how to handle a rebellious teenager, especially it being a burgeoning woman.  News spread of this predicament.  Finally, Frederick’s mother, Chantal Rose, who was also Grandmother to Stanley and Elizabeth, heeded the call to action and stepped in. Eventually, it didn’t take long for this student to temporary move into Grandma Rose’s apartment. Many viewed it as a cooling off period.  “Maybe my mother can handle her,” said the father.  “Her being a woman, she might find it easy to understand and calm Lisa down.” Audrey had her doubts and felt a convulsive shudder.  “We’ll see,” she would add. “We’ll see about it.”

Grandma Chantal Rose was used to being a rebel. Fred’s mother was the only family from once wealthy scion in Germany. Thus, at a young age, Chantal was used to being the centre of attention for her parents, who also had servants. In the 1930’s, her family lost their home, wealth, and possessions to the Nazis.    When she moved to Britain, she married Fred’s father Jeremy, had two children, both Fred and his sister Cecil.  When WWII began, Jeremy and his brothers joined the British army and were gone.  Chantal found herself in the awkward position of being a single mother in a foreign country that was at war with her homeland.

Yes, she survived this period of her life, moved to Canada, bringing her just discharged husband Jeremy and their two kids.  It didn’t take long for their marriage to fail. Usually, the military released their men from duty, even though they did not receive psychological counselling, or care. “They treat their dogs better then their fighting men,” Jeremy would often say.  Thus, Chantal Rose never had a stable upbringing, or history.  Either she was spoiled by her family, or the victim of circumstances beyond her control.

To add to her woe, Chantal had restlessness about her, she couldn’t stand still.  While growing up, Frederick and his sister moved countless times.  He changed schools so many times; he had to take correspondence courses to graduate high school as an adult. If that didn’t make things worse, Chantal also had unstable relationships, making her a six time divorcee.  She was always watching Soap Operas, causing arguments amongst the family, or scheming how to make money.

At one time, Chantal proved herself industrious by being a one time real estate agent and landlady. This all ended when she fell asleep at the wheel, crashing her car into the Brimley Street Bridge in Scarborough.  Her ninety two year old mother Sara survived this accident; however, she got pneumonia and died only when the attendant at the nursing station left the window open while she slept.  That being said, Chantal had a juvenile outlook towards others and the world in general.  When a seventeen year old Elizabeth Uptown was on her territory, Chantal Rose was a Miss Havisham from a Dickens novel.  Her grand daughter resembled a mere Estella, all for her to mould.

Rose lived in an apartment complex, mixed with young families and seniors in the heart of Scarborough, just east of the Uptown residence.  This grandmother had a dark dress suit with a black jacket. Her indistinct attire obscured her short, round body, and fat hands. Occasionally, the old lady would laugh out loud when in jest but today her large, greying head was serious.  Her eyes narrowed. “How old are you again?” she asked Elizabeth when her parents were gone.

“Too old,” replied the teenager. “I just turned seventeen.”

“What’s going on with you” asked the old woman, gently and with dignity.

“Every thing is going wrong,” rattled on the teenager, fingering an ashtray and a package of matches. “All I know is I must be born in the wrong day and age.”

“Frederick is a good son,” said the grandmother, who knitted her eyebrows. “And I supposed he is a good father too, she added, feeling quite uncomfortable at being an authority figure.”

“How did you afford to go to University?”

“I worked as a secretary for a well known researcher,” replied the pensive teen, who sat down.

The silence continued, along with the scheming. “Did your father, or that woman Audrey, get any money from Jeremy’s will?” she asked with a wise smile.

“Not a penny,” responded Lisa with a squirm, causing Chantal to pull an exaggerated look of shock and dismay. “Nothing from this Audrey woman’s family either?” Elizabeth shook her head with disgust at the outcomes. “You’re telling me the truth, Lisa! Not a lie?!” reproached Rose, who used her facial muscles to mask her questionable intentions.

“I am telling you the truth,” Elizabeth answered, shrugging her shoulders.  The old lady tried to read her, putting her hand on Lisa’s arm, who sulked away.

“It is not good to tell lies to an elder, dear!” Rose narrowed her eyes and placed her hands on her hips, as if her eyes still held the reflection of that one sentence.  “You shouldn’t lie to your elders—never!”

“I don’t know why they are so unlucky,” moaned the young lady. “Maybe I was born in the wrong day and age.” Her pouting and pacing continued. “I feel like a freak in school,” she said, throwing her hands up in the air. “No other family I know behaves like this one. There are people I know who don’t even know what an inside of a church looks like!”

The Grandmother went dark, her eyes shifted. Again she used her facial muscles and readied her sound level of her voice to maximize her point of view, much like an actor on the Broadway stage.  “I know why they lost out on the will money,” she said coolly and with her eyes fixed on her grand daughter.

“Both inheritances?!”

Rose’s face went deathly white and she bit her lip. “Your mother had three other children before she married your father,” offered the old matron, bluntly.

“What?! Impossible?!”

“You’re adopted,” came the deathblow. “You’re the shame of the family.”

“Impossible!!” Elizabeth leapt off the couch, pacing around the old woman, trying to suggest a fabrication.  Her thoughts were lost in a swirl.

Rose slapped her hands on her knees, her eyes narrowed, adding to the affect. “I never liked that woman Audrey when I met her,” went on the woman. “I didn’t approve of my son marrying her either. I knew she was bad for him from the get go!” All through this acknowledgement, Rose gestured wildly and placed her hands on her hip, as if her body language were an extension of her disapproval. “I was the first to object when I heard my son, your father, planned to marry that woman!”

Yes, Elizabeth felt she had become an outcast with every member of her family.  What made Rose and her opinion interesting was the fact that this youngster had long blond hair and her mother possessed curly, black hair.  “Shame of the family,” muttered the grandmother, jerking her thumb over her shoulder. “Shame of the family, she began to emphasize with a sombre, serious look and a dark tone.  Her head nodded slowly in rhythm and with a motive. “Audrey is not your real mother,” she added with a shake of the head. “You are adopted!”

“This is so shocking,” cried the other. “Is there any proof to the birth certificate? Birth certificates don’t lie!”

“I’m into psychics, clairvoyants, palm readers, and fortune-tellers,” responded the old matron, surveying her with an almost higher eye. “I have been told I have the ability. Maybe you do too!” Rose nodded and gave a winning smile, hoping the teenager would appreciate her liberal, flexible opinions more so then her conventional minded parents. Sometimes when I dream, right before I wake up, I dream of something, and it exactly happens that way that very day!” Isn’t that something!

At this time, it was considered a family opinion that the Grandmother Chantal Rose was a mischief maker, who excelled at arousing enmity amongst others, or even causing squabbles in the family and even with strangers in the apartment complex that she lived.  Elizabeth remained a short time with her Grandmother.  When it was said that Elizabeth resumed a more proper and respectable nature, she returned to her parents home. She was cold to everyone, including her brother Stanley. No one knew why. Her marks in school continued to slide.  In fact, Elizabeth was bedevilled by a low average.  She acquired no friends in academia. In her first four months, the exam season passed. The results were devastating. She ignored her parents and brother, all through the entire ordeal. Several days before Christmas, she slammed the door on one of her parents.  “How is it going in school?”

“Shut up,” cried the angry teenager, brooding and smouldering with rage. Audrey turned to Frederick. “Did you hear that?!” roared the mother.  “She told me to shut up.”

The father then pushed his way through the daughter’s bedroom door.  “Hey,” he called to the sullen figure across the room.  “Don’t tell your mother to shut up. She’s the only mother you have!”

“She’s not my real mother,” ventured Elizabeth, abruptly and with a seeming lack of connection. “I know I’m adopted.”

“Who said so?!”

“Grandma did!” Both parents stumbled into the room, firing on the light. “Who said this?!” they demanded in unison.

“Grandma did,” she whispered with diffidence, her bravery abated. “I knew it all along,” she added, dropping down onto the bed, using a blanket to cover herself up from the stares of outrage.

Both parents jolted forward, grabbing the quilt, giving the girl a steady gaze. “You’re Grandmother is a very sick woman,” argued the father with a tone of weariness. “My mother is very sick. She survived the war, thank God!” The heavy earnestness of that sentence was such a hint.

Oh, that did it. “I don’t believe you,” she fumed with defiance.

“What’s it say on your birth certificate,” roared the mother. “What’s it say on your birth certificate!” she repeated, folding her arms on her chest.  The father stood before his wife, lifting his eyebrows. “Audrey! Audrey! Audrey!” He pulled her back and tried to get his mate to resume a respectable manner.

“Give me some space to breath,” begged the mother, shrieking. “I want to speak! I have a right to speak!” He pushed her back again and stood his ground between the warring factions.

“My mother, your grandmother,” spoke the father, standing over his daughter. “Is a very sick woman. She’s caused more trouble in my family-…”

“She’s full of shit,” interrupted Audrey, smouldering with rage and starting to weep. After some more words, additional warnings, and offers of love, the parents left their daughter alone.

That Christmas, the darkly clad and pale Elizabeth ignored her brother and mother, acting with an air of indifference, only listening and responding to the father. She openly dismissed the Christmas gifts she received from her mother and brother. This pattern of behaviour continued into the New Year and beyond. Another year and a half passed and her behaviour didn’t change. Towards the end of her second year of university, Elizabeth learned she was failing all her courses and was facing expulsion from the university. A month before exams, this disenchanted student learned her Great Uncle Edwin had passed away. His death caused her a change of mindset. She remembered the stories he told, giving her an illustrated image of England, Ireland, and Europe itself. Elizabeth felt estranged from her family, almost like she was on a verge of a divorce. Things had to change. Nothing lasts forever.

Elizabeth Uptown was eighteen years of age and several months shy of her birthday.  She lived in a small, warm room with sky blue walls in the farthest end of the home.  The young lady stood before the full length mirror in her bedroom, admiring her navy blue suit and black jacket.  Her grandmother had purchased this very item to cheer up the teenager.  Uptown stopped to contemplate the makeup kit.  “Like I need this?” she said wryly. “I don’t know why she gets this for me.” The teenager finished admiring herself.  She walked from the mirror and moved slowly across the room, until she reached the screened window on the opposite wall.

The curtains were open and she peered out the window. Right then and there, she saw her brother ride by out front.  Stanley was roundish like his father, average height and wore a banana coloured helmet. He had brown hair which was closely cropped and his face was chubby with a touch of stubble on the chin.  He peddled his bike up the driveway.  Elizabeth frowned on the old bike with the shabby paint job.  Her sibling awkwardly got off the bike and stamped inside the home, dragging the bike on the floor, opening up the rear door, depositing the transport on the back porch, where he locked it. “Great he’s home,” she muttered to herself, her face went flush and her eyes brightened. The pensive girl then closed the curtains and walked from the window.

She crawled onto her bed, pulled a blanket over herself, and sighed. I have been in this room for the past twelve hours, she thought.  Two hours ago I broke the radio.  This apparatus sat by her bed, neglected and part of the misery. The best thing about suicide is the freedom; she went on with a heavy sigh. Breaking the radio was my first mistake. She heard her brother clamber up the stairs and his foot steps stopped right at her door.  This led her to shake her head with frustration. Being born into this family was my second mistake! The misery continued. Sometimes I feel if I never got out of bed … nobody would miss me. Nobody! Just then the sister heard her brother pound on her bedroom door.  “Unless I owed them money,” she said with a start. “Stanley, go away!” she cried, feeling stiff and languishing. Probably wants the $80.00 I owe him!

“Lisa, do you have the money,” he demanded, his voice boomed from behind the entrance to the room. Probably wants the money to buy cookies! The angry young man barrelled through the door and stumbled in.  “I gave you the money … in August. That was months ago!” Elizabeth sunk into silent contemplation, staring at him with resentment. Thank God I have this stupid blanket covering me, she thought. Without warning, he tore the covers off her.  “Hey! I’m standing here,” he bellowed. Almost immediately, she put her back to him and started to wipe away tears with the palms of her hand. I never want him to see me cry! I certainly didn’t want sympathy from him, or anybody else! Yes, he could sense her turmoil but this intensified his anger.  “What have you been doing the past few months!” he raged. “    You bitch, you’ve gone to university for two years,” he fumed. “You failed and now you’ve spent my money! Probably blew the money trying to impress your stupid little friends!”

Elizabeth did not even show any reaction to his words, but felt a wave of blind fury. “I worked hard on my job!” he exploded. “I worked twelve hours a day for three weeks as a cleaner at the C.N.E! I need my money and you’ve spent it all!”

This guy will never have a girlfriend, she ruminated. He will never have a real job, or get a life!  Probably buy a big bag of cookies, eat it secretly in his room, sit in front of the television, and watch other people live their lives!

Stanley paced her room.  “I’m not leaving until you pay up!”

He’s so childish, she cried to herself.

Meanwhile, the father arrived home, walked to the living room.  He had just come back from a baptism.  For once, he was well attired, groomed, and exuding energy. Hearing the argument upstairs, led him to quietly go upstairs to step between the combatants.  “Lisa, I’d like to- …” his voice trailed off. He caught sight of his son and got angry. “Stanley!” he cried, seizing his son and he attempted to push his son out of the door. “Stanley, get out of here!”

“She owes me one hundred dollars,” came a demand, before he stopped to compute his own set of calculations.  “No wait a moment … she owes me one hundred and fifty dollars!”

That did it. Elizabeth jumped to her feet and stood on her painted toes, leaning forward in a defensive posture.  “I owe him $80.00,” she fired back, looking defiant. “I don’t owe   no- …” her voice trailed.

“I don’t care,” interrupted the parent. “Stanley, get out!”

“I want my money,” raged the teenager. “This is not over!” Just like that, her sibling stormed out of the room.

“Good that goof is gone,” she muttered, resentful and filled with a disturbance of spirit.

“Hey,” responded the parent. “That is brother.”

Now I have to deal with Father, she thought. He’ll use the religion thing on me, he’ll ask me about school, and than ask me for some money for rent!  Money I just don’t have!

The father shook his head when he saw his daughter hide under a blanket.  He cleared his throat. “Excuse me, Lisa, he said with sudden tenderness. “I’d like to speak with you.” Elizabeth shifted in her bed and groaned and Father got angry. “Face to face!”

Lisa threw the blanket up, sat up, and looked the other way.  She fixated a gaze on the window, and was lost in thought.

“I leave home at 5am each morning,” he began, after drawing a deep breath, leaving her to roll her eyes. “And I return home at 6 pm. This is the fruit of my labour!” This exclamation led Elizabeth to fold her arms over her chest and frown. “You go farther than I ever have in school, come home at two in the morning, failed university, throw away your religion, and you stay in your room for hours!  Treats us like strangers!” The teenager remained impassive. “Lisa … Lisa Uptown!  Are you on drugs!” This line of questioning led the daughter to grunt once.  She was unfazed by the presence of her dad and she remained motionless, still staring at the window. “Still no answer, eh? I’ll be nice and take that as a no, Lisa … Are you in school?” This time, the young lady grunted twice and was then silent.

I knew this question would come up, she mused.

“I’ll take one sound as a no,” went on the parent. “And two responses as a yes.  So you dropped out eh?  Are you going to church any more?” I knew this question would come up, ruminated the reddened girl.  “Oh, by the way!” he continued. “Thanks for waking me up with that racket last night,” he rattled on, leaning back to scratch his chin.  “You really know how to      wake me … better yet half the neighbourhood with a     shower at two o’clock in the morning!  Hey I had to work the next day! … Are you      going to work?  Are you going to get a job?!” Another grumble broke the silence.  “I’ll take one moan … I’ll make that moan into a yes.”

“Just leave me alone …” she said suddenly with tears streaming down her face, so full of woe and rage.  He returned her glance and she dropped her eye.

He leaned over, trying to reach eye contact. “Sorry for interrupting your busy schedule, honey.” The father shook his head again.  “I never had the opportunity to     go to university and sleep in     late … I’ll leave but you   get a job, Lisa, and don’t forget to pay back your   brother…” The parent then left the room, slamming the door behind him.

I’m glad their gone, she thought. She felt as lousy as if she were fifty times as dissatisfied as before.  They’ll never know I left the country until tomorrow.  I got the one way ticket ready. This item glittered before her. They’ll see love letters all over the floor.  He’ll freak! He’ll cry! But dammit I’m going to see the world and forget Canada for good.  They’ll think I was killed by a weirdo, Stanley will cry the blues, but I’ll be in Europe to not hear the music at home!  No more university, living at home, or waking up to a home I’ve outgrown.  I hate our given names!  I feel like a farmers` daughter and I’ve lived in the City of Toronto all my life!

The End

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