Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The MIdnight Dancers, Part Four

“Uh—hey, I got to go,” Rachel hedged. “Family devotions.” She quickly hung up the phone and looked at her dad. “What?”

“Who were you talking to?”

“A friend from church. I need to return a CD, that’s all.”

“Which friend?” He put out his hand for the phone. Rachel knew she was sunk: Alan’s name was on the caller ID.

“Alan.” There was no helping it now.

“That Vonnegun boy, right?”

“Dad, he goes to our church.”

Her dad looked at her, arms folded. “Did you get the CD from him at church?”

“I ran into him at the mall,” Rachel said defensively.

“Did you run into him, or did you meet him there?”

Rachel threw up her hands. “Dad, I don’t see what the big deal is! What difference does it make?”

“Because you girls know that you are not allowed to be with boys unsupervised. That’s the rule in our house. You were disobeying. And setting a bad example for your younger sisters.” Her father’s blue eyes bored into her. “I want to talk with you about this after devotions.”

“Fine,” she said, and stared at the ground. The other girls waited in silence while Dad walked to his chair, picked up his Bible and sat down, opened it. Devotions began.

Afterwards, Dad closed the Bible and said, “Rachel, I want to speak with you upstairs.”

She inclined her head and got up stiffly. Dad walked her upstairs, talking to her all the time. “You know perfectly well that you should not be sneaking off to hang out with boys. That is our family rule. You are eighteen years old, the oldest girl in this house, and you set the tone for the rest by how you behave. Do you understand me?”

“I understand you, Dad,” she said.

“Then why don’t you exhibit it in your actions?” he raised his eyebrows. “I don’t understand it. And I don’t understand why you can’t respond to a simple request without flouncing around. I don’t appreciate it. Your mother –” he barely paused, “doesn’t appreciate it. How can I keep the rest of your sisters in order if you don’t listen to me?”

Rachel pursed her lips but didn’t reply. As they walked up the stairs to the attic, her father went on, “It’s my responsibility before God to raise you up in the way you should go. I take that responsibility seriously. Have I made it clear to you, Rachel, the way you are supposed to behave? Haven’t I shown you what goodness is, what the right way is? Have I made that clear to you?”

“Yes,” she said, when his question became more than rhetorical.

“Then if you know the way, why you don’t follow it?”

Because it’s boring, stifling and rigid—like some kind of military exercise. But even Rachel didn’t dare to say something like that to her father, not when he was like this. She looked away from him, knowing how she was supposed to respond, but like a mule, unable to do so any more than she could bend her knees backwards.

“I want you to go to your bedroom and think about what I’ve just said to you,” her father said, and opened the door to the top floor. “You know I love you, Rachel. Good night.”

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