A Fateful Summer Night
The crickets and toads joined together in a jovial nighttime symphony on that balmy summer night. Carmela sat in her room reading studiously as she often did, hoping to not have any confrontations with her father. Even turning off the light and tucking herself into bed didn’t deter him from sometimes barging in. She winced as she heard the floor of the hallway creak under her father’s step. Hearing the ice cubes clink into a class, the unscrewing of the cap to the bottle. He mumbled inane and obscene profanities that she attempted to tune out.
Alcohol was the demon who possessed her father, one who only dug his claws deeper as time went by. Carmela had done her best to come to terms with her situation, having no other family or friends to turn to, her father having made sure of that. Yet nearly every night tears still escaped her, as her father verbally demeaned her, broke things in the house, and threw miscellaneous objects at her. She had been a straight A student up until her father began awaking her in the middle of the night and ripping up her homework, ensuring there were no obstacles in the way of her paying full attention to his death threats and hatred of her.
The demon left many mornings, with her sober father seemingly having no recollection of the night before, and self-anointing himself the world’s greatest father. He was a single father for the last fifteen years, one who worked hard, kept a roof over their heads, and sometimes even provided food. Therefore, the anxiety, terror, and weeping that he induced were surely invalid. Those mornings were often quite difficult, her father being such a kind, humorous guy, the complete opposite of his inebriated self. This caused an internal struggle, if she loved the sober man, but intensely hated the drunk one, what exactly were her feelings toward her father?
Her thoughts were interrupted by an angry thudding upon the bedroom door. She lay in silence hoping if he thought her asleep, he may go away, a strategy that had already failed several times. Once, she had even locked her door which had only further infuriated the man, him immediately going to retrieve a spare key and then shouting at her for several hours. The door busted open and the light switch flicked on flooding the room with light. Carmela buried herself in her blanket as if an animal trying to elude a predator.
The blanket was suddenly ripped off and she was forced upright by her hair. Her father beginning to scream the cruelest and most demeaning things, going on for what seemed like ages. Before retreating he spat in her face and violently swept his arm across her desk flinging all her belongings across the room. He stumbled to his room on the opposite side of the house and slammed the door so vehemently the entire house shook. Carmela ran to the bathroom, splashing water onto her face, unsuccessfully fighting back tears. She slid down against the bathroom wall, collapsing on the floor where she remained for several minutes while regaining her composure.
She quietly slid open the backdoor hoping that her father was finally passed out for the night and scurried towards the barn. There were several gaps in the exterior, plants growing through, and a few trickles of water that entered through the roof but she still loved that old barn. She smiled as she saw a small toad hopping within, slowly approaching him to get a better look. He seemed to look up at her as she neared but didn’t so much as flinch. Happily taking hold of the toad in her hands she examined him with admiration and bliss.
The toad was less than two inches in length, with exquisite black, white, and grey markings. He had small black beady eyes that were partially covered by a golden eyelid, giving him an air of regality. His small mouth seemed to be downturned in a haughty scowl that appeared to give him a bit of French quality.
“François,” she declared. The toad seemed to give a temporary grin before she heard the doors to the barn kicked open.
“What in the hell are you doing?” Her father bellowed catching sight of the toad. He made a beeline towards Carmela and snatched the toad from her hands.
“NO,” she cried. He viscously squeezed the creature before throwing it against the barnyard wall, threatening that she would be next before finding his way back into the house. Carmela ran over to where the toad had been flung, quickly locating him trembling in a corner.
“François.” She gently scooped him into her hands. “I am so sorry.” Looking down at his frightened frown and tender eyes she began to sob. He appeared to be crying, a liquid emanating from near his eyes. She couldn’t bear to see his pain and wished she had never picked him up to begin with. “I am sorry François.” She repeated before placing a delicate kiss on his head.
The next morning, she rustled around in bed as her alarm clock sounded eagerly. Finally opening her groggy eyes, she began to exit the bed before gasping. The room was foreign and luxurious, exquisite statues and furniture made of the finest materials and craftmanship surrounded her. She tiptoed to the window and rubbed her eyes. The Eiffel tower sparkled at a distance, the rest of the Paris skyline greeting her eyes with magnificence. Carmela gauged that she must still be asleep, attempting the old faithful trick of trying to open one’s eyes in order to wake up. Finding that unsuccessful, she picked up a piece of elegant stationary that had been left on the nightstand.
Hope you will meet me for dinner tonight at Nouvelle Vie.
-Your Dearest François
Before she had time to make sense of the note, she was walking down the streets of Paris in a lavish maroon dress, the finest garment she could ever remember wearing. Walking past festoons of smiling faces, quaint cafes, and the aromas of fresh baked pastries, her sightseeing was cut short when she saw a sophisticated sign bearing the name Noivelle Vie. She walked in timidly, uncertain of what she’d find. The café was packed, servers gracefully bouncing to and from tables, plates heaping with picturesque delicacies sitting before those conversing cheerfully in French.
‘Bonjour!” A handsome gentleman adorned in a delicate beret and classy outfit stood from across the restaurant.
“My Carmela.” He whispered as she neared, taking her into his arms.
“We don’t have time for such questions. There are more important matters at hand.” He gestured for her to have a seat at the petite table set for two. “It is time you set yourself free.”
“What do you mean?”
“You already know.”
Carmela looked away, embarrassment flushing her features. “If this is about my father, it’s complicated.”
A server placed two vibrant steaming dishes upon the table. “Mademoiselle, monsieur. Votre ratatouille végétale.”
“Wow.” Carmela gazed at the culinary masterpiece before her. “I am not used to seeing food like this.”
“I know. I chose only the finest restaurant in Paris to treat you. After a life of only being given junk food and sometimes nothing at all, I wanted you to know what you always deserved.”
“François…” Carmela blushed, unable to find words.
“You know you can’t stay in that house any longer.”
“I wish it were that simple.” She shook her head.
“There isn’t another option. The situation is only getting worse. His self-destruction is the annihilation of your happiness. His rage the ruin of your self-worth, and your sense of security. Any night in that house could be your last.”
Tears began to stream from her eyes as she heard the truth she often juggled with. “I can’t just leave. He’s a good person when he is sober. If I abandon him, his drinking will just get worse. He will get more depressed. He always threatens to take his own life. If I walk away now, he will have no one, and he will drink himself further into oblivion. It’s an addiction, I don’t know if he even knows how horrible he gets. Maybe he really does believe he is a great father. Maybe he has tried his personal best as a parent.”
“He’s tried his best? Is that what you really believe?” François sat back in his chair with his lip snarled, an aspect of disbelief and anger slipping into his expression. She shrugged unable to meet his eyes. “No.” He continued. “His best would have been treating you with respect, caring about you enough to put down the bottle, not demoralizing and putting you in fear every single night.” Tears swam in Carmela’s eyes.
“He is my father.”
He placed his hand over hers. “I know, and that is what makes it all the more difficult, but the only choice you have left is to walk away. You know that.”
“There is nowhere for me to go anyways.”
“You can live with your aunt in Iowa.”
“I haven’t spoken to her in years, my father disallowed it after they had a falling out.”
“Because she probably confronted him about his drinking problem. You have her address and phone number hidden in a notebook deep in your closet.”
“She might not live there anymore, and could have changed her number.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Even so. If I were to go to her and tell her the situation my father would be so embarrassed and upset, I don’t know what he would do.”
“You can’t worry about that now. He should have been embarrassed all of these years for how he has treated you. Anything that may happen wouldn’t be your fault. With everything you’ve been put through, such a horrifying and destructive childhood. It is time you start a new life, and put yourself first.” He stood from his chair and held out his arms, Carmela quickly falling into his embrace. He met her gaze. “Promise me you will leave. Today. And never look back.” Looking into his sincere and noble eyes she knew he only wanted what was best for her. He had only spoken the actualities that she had known all along.
“I promise.” She fell back into his arms, feeling as if his embrace was that of a magical refuge that she had never known before.
“Au revoir and best wishes my dearest Carmela.” He placed a kiss upon her forehead.
Her eyes slowly flickered open, the dilapidated roof of the barn slowly coming together in her vision. She sat up abruptly feeling a slight dizziness before getting to her feet. Her mental clarity soon feeling more collected than ever. Giving the timeworn barn a going-over, she reminisced about the many childhood moments accumulated within the structure. Pausing at the spot where she had first seen François, she smiled, before exiting the barn and closing its rickety doors for the final time.
About the author
M.R. Cameo generally writes horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and nonfiction, yet enjoys dabbling in different genres. She is currently doing freelance work as a writer, ghostwriter, copywriter, editor, and proofreader for various publications.