Sarah stood by the door with her father, smiling and waving at the departing guests. He waited until the last one was out of sight – and out of earshot – before slamming the door behind them and whirling round to face his daughter.
She was so startled, she forgot to correct her facial expression – she had been trying so hard to smile for so long that her face had apparently gotten stuck that way. When she realized she was still smiling into her father’s glowering face, she almost corrected it.
Then she decided against it. She was pretty sure she had heard someone say the best defense was a smile and a “thank you.” What better way to test that theory than on her demented father?
Somewhere – way back in her head – was a very tiny voice telling her this was a bad idea.
But Sarah didn’t care, at least not for now. Maybe he had finally driven her insane and she would be smiling like a lunatic for the rest of her life. She almost hoped that was the case – almost.
Sanity came rushing back to her in the form of her father’s open palm slamming against her cheek hard enough to send her spinning into the wall behind her.
“You’re lucky this night went well,” he said, shaking a finger in her face to remind her not to dare to get up just yet. “Otherwise I might not be in such a generous mood. As it is,” he stood upright again, tugging on the ends of his jacket to straighten it back into position. “I got what I wanted tonight.”
The look he shot her was full of loathing and Sarah knew without looking at him that he was contemplating hitting her again. She held perfectly still, keeping her eyes carefully trained on her feet. She didn’t dare move so much as a hand to cover her stinging cheek. “And so you can have what you want … for now.”
He strode to the stairs, which he climbed without a single look back at his daughter.
Sarah remained frozen to the spot until her father was out of sight and Peggy came running up to her. She put a wet cloth against Sarah’s cheek, but Sarah slapped her hand away and finally stood up straight. “I’m fine. Thank you, Peggy.” Her voice had a forced calm that was almost eerie. She didn’t look Peggy in the eye as she stood up straight, brushing hair from her face.
“Are ya sure, miss? It sounded like a clap o’ t’under. Ya hit da wall so hard I t’ought ’twas an eart’quake!”
“It sounded worse than it was. Nothing more than his open palm. He was in a good mood.”
Peggy shook her head. “Dat or he’s learnin’.”
“De value o’ your performances, miss.”
To be continued…