"Why don't you use your brain for once!"
Even locked in her bedroom, Trista could still hear his muffled voice coming from the living room.
She stared at the four blank walls, before deciding to turn on her laptop, putting in headphones as she waited for it to complete its usual opening routine. Punching in her password, again she waits.
This was what she did during the times her father would start yelling at her mom. Those moments usually came without warning. One minute, they'd be a happy family, laughing together at the comedy they were watching. The next, he'd be fuming over the fact that there were ants in the house. Trista never understood her father, and didn't know how she could, either.
Because it wasn't like her father always acted this way. No, this had started about four years ago. Trista's family used to live in Panama. Back then, her father would fly back and forth between the United States and Panama for work errands. Three months here, three months there. It went on like that for years. Her mother picked up the responsibility of keeping the family together and her children safe. Back then, it wasn't just them. There were also grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Back then, they weren't alone. Her mother wasn't alone.
"Do you need me to teach you everything!"
But now, in New York where they barely knew anyone, Trista felt lonelier than ever. With her brother off to college, she had no idea how to deal with these moments. She felt anger, yes, and sorrow, for the Reyes family was falling to pieces.
Feeling lost, she desperately needed something to hold on to. She looked at her laptop to see the wallpaper she had chosen: a family picture of the four of them. Smiling. Happy. Contented.
Contented. Why wasn't her father contented? She'd ask herself. He had a steady income. Life was good. They could afford themselves and family back in Panama. Occasionally, they could even enjoy some luxuries. This laptop was purchased during one of those occasions.
Why must he be so bitter at times?
Then she noticed her brother. Andres. The one who always protected her. The one who was always there. Instinctively, her hand reached for the phone. A phone somewhat old-styled, but functional nonetheless. She scrolled through the small list of contacts to find Andres's name. But she hesitated at the last second. Andres must be in class right now, she thought. She shouldn't be distracting him.
She put her phone down and turned her attention back to the laptop.
"You make a fucking horrible wife!"
Came another hurtful comment. Trista briefly pondered the thought of going out there to confront her father. Ask him what was wrong with him and what she must do to turn him into his old self. Then she decided she lacked the guts to do it. She felt guilty. For leaving her mother out there by herself. For not being brave enough to stand up to her father.
But she was a mere fourteen-year-old. What could she really do? There was no way she would call the police. Her father had an extreme case of personality, yes, but when he was in a good mood, he was extremely nice. He'd make them happy. He'd make jokes. He'd buy them gifts.
When he was in one of his tantrums, however, he would often direct his anger at Trista's mother. Using words to hurt her. Telling her how stupid she was, what an idiot she was. It never really occurred to Trista that this was verbal abuse, until now. For some reason, that confirmation seemed to have taken the whole situation to a new level of severity.
Again, she could nothing to prevent this. She gazed absently at the keyboard. Words started forming in her head and she felt a sudden inspiration to write something. Like a journal. A story. Something. She needed to keep her mind occupied.
Opening up a blank document, she placed her hands on the keyboard and began typing away. Words. They came naturally, forming sentences and phrases she never thought she could conjure up.
It wasn't until she was halfway through the story that she realized she had mirrored the situation in her main character's life to her own. Verbally abusive father, equally kind and horrible. Passive mother. Bottled everything inside, never complained, never fought back. A lost teenage daughter, trying to find her way out.
She knew exactly what to write, how to express her feelings. This was her new way of venting. Trista ended up finishing the story in two days. Not too long, not too short. Just around ten thousand words.
In her story, the main character and her mother lived under constant anger outbursts from the father. The mother never said anything, of course. The daughter left home after she had grown up, sending money home every month, visiting her mother every so often. Then the father died. At the funeral, the mother cried, while the daughter's expression remained blank. She felt something, yes. Sadness. But only for the mother. Not a drop of tear for the father's death.
Not a single drop.
She didn't pretend. A part of her was relieved. Another part thanked him for at least having the decency to support the family until she took over.
Trista felt this was how she would end up, where the family would end up if everything remained as was.
She took the story to her father. She wanted him to read it. She wanted him to know that she missed what was, what used to be. Maybe, just maybe, after reading it, he would start changing for the better.
He read it, yes. But responded with merely a nod.
Disappointed and hurt, Trista returned to her room, where she once again locked herself up.
Trista's father came home pissed the next day. He wouldn't answer any questions her mother made out to him, leaving her to stand there awkwardly. He ignored her, while she had to figure out what to make him for dinner.
It wasn't fair, Trista would think. Here she was, trying to make dinner, and he gave her no attention whatsoever.
Her mother presented dinner not soon after and retreated back into the kitchen, hiding from whatever fury he might release the next second.
It was no use.
"Why is this so fucking cold?" He shouted.
Trista closed her eyes and tried to take deep breaths to calm herself down.
Her mother immediately came before him. "It's cold? But I made sure it was warm…" She answered in an attempt to explain.
"Obviously you didn't do a good job at cooking either! Why are you so useless?"
Trista hurried up and finished her dinner. She washed whatever dishes had piled up before heading towards her room to lock herself up again.
That night, her father knocked. Not gently, either. She opened the door, only to hear her father say, "Pack your things. You're sleeping with your mother from now on."
She looked at him incredulously, her mind barely registering each word he was sounding.
"Go on, now. Pack," he ordered again.
She did as told. The two swapped places.
Trista's mother still cooked him food. He still ate them. Other than that, they made no unnecessary contact with each other.
Trista hated him for it. She hated how he was treating her mother like trash. She hated how he made her cry at night. She hated how he never seemed to know how much her mother loved him. She hated how he would never cherish her mother. She hated how he only seemed to be caring for himself when he was in a bad mood.
But most important of all, Trista hated how he didn't just divorce her and save her all the pain.
Trista hated herself, too. For she still could not stand up to him and tell him he's wrong.
She tried to remember the times when he cared, when he was such a good father. But it was difficult. Too difficult.
Andres stayed home after college, though he had found a steady post in a company.
Soon much time had passed. Trista had graduated, too, with the help of her brother paying much of her tuition fee. They left home, renting an apartment in the outside world. Andres had gotten promotions, while Trista found a job with a promising future.
They sent their parents money every month. They would visit, too, more so to see their mother than their father. He did contribute, however, in the process of their growth. So it was not in their conscience to completely ignore him.
A few years after that, their father retired. Trista didn't know if he continued having those outbursts, but she prayed not. For her mother was truly alone this time.
Years and years went by, just like that. Trista had not forgotten about the story she wrote quite some time ago, as it once in a while would make a vague appearance in her mind.
Then came their father's time. At the funeral, Trista had the strangest feeling of déjà vu. Her passive mother was crying, tears streaming down her face. Andres and Trista sat on either side of her, comforting her as needed. But none of them cried. Trista felt gratitude for the man who played the role as her father. But that was it. She felt no urge to cry. Not a drop of tear threatened to escape.
Not a single drop.