“Mom and Dad are coming for dinner tomorrow,” she told him.
“Six. I’ll have dinner ready.” She smiled.
“Cool.” He looked back up at the television. “What are you making?”
“I don’t know yet. Maybe some Alfredo?”
“You’ll be home on time,” she asked, her tone soft and hopeful.
“With bells on,” he replied with a grin.
“He said he would be just a couple minutes late. There was something going on in one of the apartments at the last minute.” She pulled the bread out of the oven. “He’s been working quite a bit of overtime lately,” she explained.
“Do we need to wait for him,” Mom asked.
She checked her phone. He hadn’t responded to any of her recent texts. “No.”
They ate. Dad complimented her cooking. Mom agreed, it was delicious. She smiled as Mom, Dad, and her daughter sang Happy Birthday and cut the cake. It was beautiful. Hand-decorated by Dad, made with love. And it, too, was delicious.
By 8:00, Mom and Dad left. She put her daughter to bed. Washed the dishes. Covered the leftovers. Took a shower. Still, no text.
She read a few chapters of her newest book. Watched an episode of DVR’d television. And finally, near midnight, she took her anxiety medicine and stepped outside to have a cigarette before going to bed.
He came in the back door as she went out the front. She heard it slam behind him. She lit her cigarette, took a long drag, and sat in one of the chairs on the porch.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said as he came out the front door.
“Your plate is in the microwave.” She didn’t look at him.
“I got to hanging out with the new people working in the building.”
“Cool. I’m getting ready to go to bed.” She lit another cigarette. “As soon as I finish this.”
He went inside. A few seconds later she heard glass shattering. She put her cigarette in the ashtray and stood to go inside. He came flying out the door.
“What the fuck is with the birthday cake,” he demanded.
She shrugged. “Mom and Dad brought it.”
“Who the fuck told them they could bring a fucking cake?” He kicked the door. “This is my fucking house. Nobody said they were having a fucking birthday party.”
“We had dinner,” she responded calmly, “they brought a cake since my birthday is this week.”
“Was I asked permission,” he retorted.
She looked up at him. “I didn’t know they were bringing it. It was a surprise.”
“Your fucking mom should have fucking asked my goddamn permission. Who the fuck does she think she is?”
She didn’t respond. Instead, she re-lit her cigarette.
“Fuck you, Girl. Why don’t you pack your shit and go live with your whore mom?” He kicked the leg of her chair. “I was going to do something special for your fucking birthday, and now, fuck you, you can go to fucking hell. I’m not doing shit. You won’t even get a happy fucking birthday out of me.”
Tears stung her eyes. “You were supposed to be home at six.”
“So fucking what?” He kicked her chair again and leaned in close to her. It was then she could smell the beer on his breath and the perfume on his shirt. “You think you can tell me what the fuck to do? I don’t like your fucking parents. I don’t want to have dinner with them. You’re fucking lucky I even let them come here at all.”
She put her cigarette out. Tried to stand up. He wouldn’t budge.
“You better think fucking twice the next time you decide to have them for dinner. In fact, let me just say this: Your bitch of a mother isn’t allowed in MY fucking house!” He spit on her with each word. “Got that? That bitch isn’t allowed in my house. Ever. You want to see her, you go to her motherfucking house and MY fucking daughter doesn’t go there with you!”
“That’s my mom,” she cried.
“Fuck you and your fucking mom. Fuck that dumb ass birthday cake too!” He kicked the chair again and drew back his fist. “You’re so fucking lucky I don’t just fucking beat your ass, little girl. You think you’re fucking special because you got a birthday cake? Think you’re fucking funny because you had a party without me, don’t you?”
She shook her head. “You were supposed to be here.”
“Well, I fucking wasn’t, was I?” He punched the side of the house. “I was spending time with people I actually fucking LIKE!”
“Okay.” She considered trying to get up again.
“One of the women thinks I’m fucking God! You hear me? GOD!” He laughed. “She’d suck my dick in the middle of the parking lot if I wanted her to. Drop her fucking panties and let me fuck her until I was satisfied.” He glared at her. “But not you, no, to you, I’m a piece of fucking shit that can’t do anything right, right? Fat fucking cunt! That’s all you fucking are!”
She avoided his eyes. Reached for another cigarette. Tried to stop her hands from shaking. But inside, she was terrified. Her heart was pounding so loud, it echoed in her ears. She could feel the blood pulsing in her veins.
“I’m not the fucking problem,” he screamed. “You are the fucking problem. You’ve always been the fucking problem. You made my kids hate me. Your parents are the fucking problem. If you’d stay the fuck away from them, everything would be fucking great – but NO, you have to make every-fucking-body but ME happy! Fucking birthday cake! It’s not even your fucking birthday and no-fucking-body asked me for fucking permission to bring that fucking cake into MY HOUSE!”
He paced back and forth across the porch. “You know what,” he asked.
She looked up at him.
“You always want me to fucking change. How the fuck have you changed? Oh, right …” He sneered. “You went to school and got a degree and a good job. You got all high and fucking mighty Miss better-than-everyone-else and grew the fuck up, right?”
Tears stung her eyes, but she held them back.
“I am who the fuck I am, Bitch, and I will never change for any bitch. Not you. Not ever. You aren’t worth it!” He opened the door and stepped inside before turning back to her. “Keep fucking pushing me, Cunt, and you’re really going to fucking hate me.”
She took a deep breath as the door closed behind him and released her tears. They fell one-by-one in quick succession as she took in everything he had said.
Once, she thought that she was worth it. That she would be loved and cherished. That what she gave of herself would be enough. That she was enough. She choked on a sob. She would never be anything except a damned fool. A prisoner. She had no where to go and no way to get there.
Her throat hurt and her head was pounding. She watched him through the window as he dumped his plate into the trash. He kicked at the floor and she heard the cake pan slide across it.
She waited until he’d gone upstairs to go back into the house. Standing in the kitchen doorway, she stared at the cake all over the floor. Her favorite tea glass was shattered beside it.
“Thank you for the cake, Daddy,” she whispered as she knelt on the floor to clean up the mess. “But I don’t think I’ll be having any more birthday cakes.”