Black curtains hang from the window, looped over a broomstick and held in place with pins. The black only hangs so far, the rest of the window is bare. Empty pop cans sit on the ledge, stacked in a silver pyramid. Dirty laundry lays around the floor, some piled up like thick mummies of black t-shirts and jeans, rolled and tossed in a corner of the room. The door is closed, with a sign hanging from the knob “No Entry”.
Paul stands in front of the door. He can hear his daughter sing with the lyrics, her young voice high pitched, raspy. The music is loud, the bass pumping a beat that shakes in the walls. He pounds a fist on the door, and holds a letter in the other hand.
“Open the door Raven.” He feels his neck getting hotter, redder, under his shirt collar. “There’s something here you need to see.”
“Leave it outside my door dad,” she stretches the words into a long whiney sentence. Reluctantly, he slides the letter under the door and walks away. He knows she won’t read it. And she doesn’t. Raven pulls the paper from under the door. Without looking at the contents, she rolls it up tight, and tosses it in the garbage can. The letters come about once a month now. Sometimes she holds on to them for a minute, catching a slight scent of perfume.
Paul continues to walk away from the door, the sound of the music pushing at his thoughts. He should have started with the word “no” as soon as Raven’s mother walked out the door seven years ago. But it was easier to say yes to her every time she wanted something. And now, at sixteen, yes was the only word between them that she would listen to. And the only word that pulled them further and further apart at the same time.
He keeps walking away from the door, his heart pounding hard against his chest. His own anger growing, at Raven, at his ex-wife, at himself.
With a kiss on her forehead, and a “be good” her mother had walked out the front door away from Raven, away from her father. She spent the next year running to the mailbox, listening for the phone, but nothing ever came. “How can she do that dad, just leave us behind?” Her little girl voice threw the questions at him, over and over. Until he finally told her he didn’t know anything either. What happened just happened. He didn’t want to talk about it. Then the first letter finally came, addressed to her, four years later.
Raven had read it, crumpled it into a small white ball and tossed it into the kitchen sink. She let the water run over it, until it dissolved like a slow melting snowball. Paul watched. “You sure you’re being fair?” he’d asked, and for the first time saw the raw pain in his daughter’s eyes.
“Why did she wait till now dad? She could have written a whole lot sooner. She could have called. And now, she expects me to just jump up and down that she wants to talk to me, to see me.” Raven had walked from the kitchen, pushing at her eyes with angry clenched fists. “It’s too late. I don’t need a mother anymore.” Paul had let her go.
Raven lives behind the black curtained window. Sometimes staring out into the dark night, as if in the looking, something would appear. He could see her sometimes from the upstairs window. His footsteps move with the beat of the music now, away from her door. He doesn’t know how to help her. He lost that opportunity years ago when he didn’t let her in. And now he’s afraid he’s pushed her too far away. If only he had talked to her, he thinks, as he continues to walk down the hall. Tried to explain, recognized that though her mind was young, her heart was just as vulnerable as his. Maybe tomorrow he would have the courage to break through that door, break through the wall he’d built, and tell her what he couldn’t all these years.
His footsteps stop for a moment , the music still booming in the background. Then again, there’s no time like the present, he thinks as he turns around and walks back toward the closed door.
“Raven” he yells through the music. “Open the door sweetheart. We need to talk. Now!”
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