I was heading home, after a really long and especially tiresome day at school; my head was throbbing and I could barely keep my eyes open.
As I was dragging my feet on the street, daydreaming about eating dinner and falling asleep, I noticed it had started to rain. Sharp, fast, cold drops of rain falling on my face and arms, getting tangled in my hair, awakening my numb skin. At first, I wanted to open my umbrella, but changed my mind and decided to walk in the refreshing rain instead, dragging the umbrella’s pointy tip along the road, digging a channel in the ground next to the asphalted path, as if I was signaling to someone which way to go.
There was nobody on the road. No middle-aged housewives with plastic shopping bags dangling from their meaty hands, no old men hurrying home with a chessboard tucked under their arms, no dogs hiding under the cars parked on the pavement. It wasn’t yet night, but everybody seemed to have decided to stay indoors.
Everybody, except a little boy, no older than ten, sitting next to a puddle of water, a few meters away from my house. The boy was watching intently a small paper boat that was sailing on the miniature waves.
It was the third rainy day in a row, so the road was riddled with puddles and a little kid playing next to one of them wasn’t an unusual sight. But the little boy crouched next to the muddy water, with eyes glued to his little paper boat looked so serious and lost in thought that I stopped next to him without realizing it.
He looked up at me, then returned to his silent watch.
“Did you make it yourself?” I asked.
He nodded and shifted his position a little.
“It’s very nice.”
“It’s a battleship. It’s not nice, it’s dangerous,” he answered. His voice was unexpectedly hoarse and deep for a boy his age.
“Who is it fighting?” I crouched next to him.
“The enemy ships. But now it has to survive the hurricane.”
He pushed the boat with the tip of his finger and continued:
“If it can survive the hurricane.”
“I see,” I replied.
“I think it will, though. I made it tough.”
The boy didn’t have an umbrella with him and his jacket didn’t seem to protect him properly from the chilly evening and the rain.
“Aren’t you cold?” I asked him.
He didn’t reply.
“It’s getting late, why don’t you go home? Your mum is going to be worried.”
“If it’s late, then you go home. I’m fine.”
At first, I wanted to insist, but I gave up. I opened my umbrella, placed it next to him, and ruffled the boy’s hair.
“Don’t catch a cold.”
I took a long look at him, expecting him to take the umbrella, but after seeing he wasn’t planning on doing so, I resumed my walking, at a faster pace than before. Now I felt cold, rather than invigorated. I wanted to get inside as soon as possible and drink hot cocoa.
Before I entered the house, I looked back. He was still there, crouched like a little frog, watching his brave boat struggle with the waves.
My mother must have heard me opening the door because she was standing on the threshold in front of the kitchen, with her arms crossed over her chest.
“What took you so long?”
She scanned me.
“And where’s your umbrella? Did you leave like that in the morning?”
“No, mum. I forgot it at school.”
“One day you’ll forget your head at school. Pay more attention.”
She turned around and closed the kitchen door behind her.
“You should listen to your mum, Chelsea. You’re a grown-up now, take better care of your things,” shouted my father from the living room.
“I will,” I answered through my teeth.
“You always say this, but never do it.”
I nodded and went into my room, trying not to slam the door behind me. My desk was filled with papers, textbooks, pencils, and markers, all shoved towards the edges, leaving a small spot in the middle of my arms. On the floor, I had left two piles of books. The chair was hidden under a mountain of clothes and my bed hadn’t been done in at least two weeks. My room was a mess and I felt the same.
“Chelsea, dinner!” shouted my mother.
I dropped my bag on the floor and a few books fell out.
I wanted to turn off the light and noticed it wasn’t even on. I felt exhausted.
“Coming,” I repeated.
“And? Have you thought about what you’re going to do?” asked my father, carefully wrapping the napkin after having wiped his mouth.
I dropped my knife and fork, placing them on the edge of my plate. We were eating stew and I hated it, but I knew I had to eat at least half of it before I was allowed to leave the table.
“About what? College?”
“What do you think? This is the only thing we talk about these days.” said my mother.
“Oh, I noticed,” I said.
“Chelsea, don’t be impertinent. This is your life we are talking about.”
“Oh, yeah?” I was beginning to feel frustrated. “So it’s my life? Then why am I not allowed to join the military?”
My father slammed his fist on the table.
“Dammit, do you want to get me started again?” he shouted.
I didn’t answer.
“Doctors are well paid and don’t risk their lives, I think we went over this already! Plus, you’re a girl! You won’t make it. You’re too fragile.”
“I will make it. I want to fight for my country.” I used a slightly higher tone than I originally intended.
“Someone has to do it. Someone must protect the country.”
“But not you. You’re my daughter.” My father’s tone was firm, though his voice wasn’t raised.
“Other soldiers are sons and daughters too.”
“Yes, but not ours,” added my mother.
There was a short silence, then I said:
“No matter what you say, I still want to do it. It’s what it’s right for me.”
“Do soldiers talk back?” asked my mother.“Come on, we discussed this. You aren’t fit for that. You won’t be happy. We don’t want you to waste your life in Afghanistan or God-knows-where.”
“I know. You want me to waste my life learning something I hate from the bottom of my soul.”
“Chelsea!” gasped my mother.
My father had risen from his chair.
“I’m tired of saying this over and over. And I don’t want you to disrespect us anymore. You either stay here and do as we tell you or you go someplace else and live your way. It’s your choice.”
“Fine. Then I’ll go.”
There was a stunned silence. None of us expected a reply and I think I was the most shocked out of all three. At first, I wanted to take it back but my words stopped in my throat. I swallowed hard, but the words were still trapped in there. I turned around and left, closing the door slowly.
I am so stupid. I am so stupid. I am so stupid.
Mummy, daddy, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to say that! Let’s be a happy family again. When did we begin to fight this way? God, please don’t let me be one of those children that won’t even send Christmas cards to their parents.
I hate it. This situation. I hate myself. I hate my pride, which stopped me from apologizing for being rude. I hate my stupidity. I hate my parents that won’t listen to what I say.
My room was still messy, but after the fight, it felt like heaven.
“For now, I’ll sleep.” I thought. “I’ll clean this mess in the morning.”
Which mess was I talking about? The room? My life? Who knows.
I skipped breakfast in the morning. I didn’t know how to face my parents. Maybe they felt the same. It was best we waited a while before we met.
When I left for school, they had already gone to work. I took a piece of paper and a pen. I tipped the pen on my chin continuously for five minutes, before I knew what to write.
“Sorry I was rude. I hope we can be a family again, someday. I’ll call you in a couple of days. Sorry again. Chelsea.”
It was so stupid, but I couldn’t think of anything else. I grabbed my bag and left.
It was only eight in the morning but I felt tired and worn out.
The rain had stopped, but the puddles hadn’t evaporated yet. I saw the one the boy had played next to. The umbrella was gone, but the paper boat was still there, swaying in the wind. It had a little water on the bottom, but it had survived the hurricane. It was weaker, but still strong enough to defeat the enemy fleet. Somehow, it made me feel better and a tad more energetic.I took my eyes off the paper boat and fastened my pace. I was a little hurt, a little disgusted with myself, but still strong enough. While I didn’t know when I would meet my enemy fleet, I was sure I would defeat it when the time would come.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Teodorescu is a literature enthusiast with a love of variety. She likes folk stories from all over the world, symbols, and mystery. Other than reading and writing, she loves cooking, crafting, and has a recent interest in studying languages.