“Ramona! What are you doing here?” her father repeated, this time more irritated. “Where have you been? I’ve looked all over for you. I haven’t seen you for two days and I’ve been worried. I called the police this morning after looking for you all last night. Where did you go?”
“I . . . I just had to leave for a while. I needed some space to . . . “
“Well, you coulda’ said something.” He interrupted. “You had me scared. You need to come home right now.” He seemed to be gaining speed, anger and volume all at once.
“Well, I think I am, no I know I’m OK and I will come home soon. I just need some space; to think and figure things out.”
“What’s to figure? You are pregnant, in trouble and in sin. You need to get saved,” he spat out. You’re lucky I haven’t thrown you out. I’m still your father and I say you need to come home.”
“No sir,” she countered. “I am staying with a friend and I will be just fine.”
Becky had observed the interaction from a few aisles away and felt like it had escalated more than necessary. She stepped up to the cash register. “Could you call 911 please? I hope everything will be OK but just in case.”
“Sure,” the cashier said.
As she returned to her previous position a safe distance away she saw Ramona’s father reach out and grab her arm. “I said, you need to come home, right now.” Ramona pulled back so fast she knocked over a display of windshield wiper fluid. A couple of bottles split open spreading bluish liquid over the surrounding area.
“Dad, I said I am just fine. I will be home soon. Now could you just leave me alone for a while? Please don’t cause a scene.”
“Well, I guess you already caused a scene, didn’t you, when you went out, got drunk and got all knocked up from some guy you didn’t even know. You’ve probably been sleeping around, too. You’re a whore and damned for Hell.”
Ramona started. She had never heard her father talk like that. But then the impact of what he had said infuriated her. “I was not sleeping around! I have been your perfect little girl all my life trying to please you and the church and now you call me that? I hate you, I hate you!”
Just then the squawk of a police radio coming in the front door demanded everyone’s attention.
“Hey, Hey,” the officer called out. “Let’s calm down and tell me what’s going on.”
“Nothing, officer,” Ramona’s father replied. “I was just leaving. I’ll see you later little Miss sleep-around. Don’t think this is over.”
“Now wait a minute, mister,” the officer known as Riley demanded. “You are not leaving that soon. I want to talk to you first. Here, step outside for a minute. And you stay here in the store, young lady. I want to talk to you, too.”
Ramona looked over at Becky, her heart in her throat from fear. Where did that talk-back spunk come from? She never talked to her father that way before. She guessed she would be in trouble with him for weeks because of it. If Mom were still alive she would be disappointed but she knew Mom would be at least understanding and loving through all this.
Come to think of it, it started to make some sense. Since Mom died her father seemed to become more harsh and demanding. He went to church more like he was off to war or something. When they came home he was more rigid and mechanical around the house. “Everything has a place and there is a place for everything,” he kept saying, as if he were getting OCD or something. Structure, organization and perfect behavior were the most important values. No time for fun anymore.
Becky had walked over by this time and touched her elbow. “I’m so sorry, Ramona. Are you going to be OK? We can go. I still have a few more days until Saturday to find a scarf.”
“Probably should go. I feel weak in the knees. But the cop wants to talk to me first.”
After a short conversation with Officer Riley they headed back to Becky’s apartment. It was still cold out and Ramona clutched her coat closer. She did need to go home and get some clothes to wear. She really hadn’t planned on being gone long when she left yesterday. Now, with her father’s behavior, it made things more complicated. Should she just go on back home or stay with Becky a couple more days?
Turning to Becky she said, “If it’s OK with you Becky, I think I may need to stay with you a little longer but I need to get a change of clothes. Could you go with me? I’m not sure how my father will act when I get there.”
“Of course, Ramona. And yes, you may hang out with me until you get things straightened out with your dad.”
They caught a bus for the ride over to Ramona’s neighborhood. These colder days would eventually give way to the warm spring season but winter seemed to refuse to let go of its grip. Gray, cloudy skies and the accompanying rain squalls were the norm now and this afternoon was no exception. They seemed to overshadow Ramona and eerily prophesy that dark forces were in control of her destiny. The awful dream from last night stole back into her memory in an effort to confirm a hopeless feeling that had nagged her subconscious recently. Why had all this happened to her? What good could possibly await in her future now? What a mess this was.
The bus stopped at East Granite Street where she and Becky got off. Walking two blocks up brought them to a crème colored bungalow with chocolate brown trim where Ramona’s family lived; that is to say, where she and her father lived. Since mom died it hadn’t seemed much like a home. Oh, the place was clean and decently appointed, as it had always been but the warmth of her mother’s graceful spirit was missing, replaced by the drab clamminess of legalistic rule minding imposed by her father.
She turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open. She invited Becky to go in first. Suddenly a strange feeling came over her when she crossed the threshold. What was it? Walking through the living room into the kitchen she nearly tripped over her father’s shoe. Then a horrified scream vaulted past her brain and out of her mouth.