Our Daughter

Bored eyes stare out the window as the car drives on.

She has headphones in, but no music playing. This is a tactic. This is warfare.

Her parents think she cannot hear. They called her name repeatedly some odd minutes ago, and after no response the silence settled in. A time after that, they started to talk lowly.

She is spying on them. She feels she has to.

“That pet shop near the south exit?” Her father starts.

Her mother hums, half listening and half not.

“I took Ashley there while you were waiting in line for coffee.”

Another hum. Disinterested, but humoring it.

For once, her mother is too tired to try and find offense and arguments.

“She looked at the reptiles a lot, but I know you hate snakes, so..”

Her father paused. Normally this is the moment where Elisia would cut him off and go on an interjected rant about how she hated snakes, they were hideous and gross, and their only reason for existing was to make the snakeskin clutch she liked to take to parties. For once, there is silence. It’s been a long day. They have an hour drive still left ahead of them. There’s no energy left for her to throw a fit. So she’s quiet, and after a heartbeat pause Thomas continues.

“I took her over to the puppies, and asked if she wanted one. I know the therapist said animal abuse can be a sign, but I mean.. She’s never done anything mean before like that, so.. Well, I asked if she wanted one and she just sort of shrugged.” He went quiet again. Elisia didn’t speak, but he didn’t expect her to. He was building himself up to recounting the moment, and just a little his hands tightened on the steering wheel.

“I asked if she thought she’d hurt one, if we got her a dog.”

The car dipped back to silence. The smooth highway under the tires was a consistent hum.

When Thomas spoke again, his voice dropped low in a tone similar to defeat.

“She just stared at the little pin of puppies and said ‘I wouldn’t know’.”

Elisia said nothing.

Thomas sighed, looking over at her, then back to the road.

“What do you think that means?” He asked, worried.

Finally, his wife shifted in her seat. She pushed a sheet of bleach-blonde hair over her shoulder, made a noise like she was both tired and annoyed, and sighed right back at him.

“I think it means exactly what the shrink said it means.” Elisia quipped, not wanting to have the conversation at all. Not this topic. Not for the hundredth time.

“The girl’s just weird Thomas. You can’t keep expecting her not to be.”

His lips pursed into a tight line. His jaw set a little bit.

“She’s your daughter, Elisia.”

“She’s our daughter, Thomas. And she’s a freak.”