For those who missed it:
“How can you let her talk to us this way?” Stella turned her attention towards Corban, who offered little to say throughout the awkward exchange. He then looked towards his wife but said little to comfort his children who were gasping for air.
“Just eat your meal, Stella.” Corban responded with little emotion.
“But dad?!” Stella cried.
“Stella, I’m not going to repeat myself. Stop asking questions and listen to your mother.” Corban went on to say as the room fell quiet again. The clanging of dishes and sipped drinks soon filled the air even though the tension only amplified.
“Speaking of Exodus 20:12 – lying to one’s Mother or Father would be considered dishonorable, now wouldn’t it?” Juliet interjected as she continued eating her meal. No one answered until Corban finally acknowledged his wife’s question.
“So is there anything either of the children would like to share with their Mother and Father this evening?” Juliet pressed while everyone kept eating their meal, although she stopped when neither Michael nor Stella answered. “Oh I know someone has much to share about their day, so let’s hear it.” She continued, although no one budged. “Well in that case…”
“Mr. Schaefer is no longer going to teach Geology, and his replacement is pretty cool.” Michael attempted to change the subject as he could tell his mother was up to something. Everyone continued eating as if nothing had been said, although Michael continued with “Butch really creamed everyone in dodgeball today at P.E.” Still, no response from anyone. He then tried to finish with “Jake and I made a ton of progress in the World of Magic tonight! Dad, you should have seen how we mowed down thousands of undead foes without even breaking a sweat.”
“Stella?” Juliet said as if Michael didn’t exist. Stella immediately froze in place as though she was a deer staring down the high beams of an oncoming semi. “Stella, would you be so kind to share how your day went?”
“It was fine. School was boring as usual, and nothing much happened.” Stella muttered as she could barely hold back the fear that overwhelmed her.
“That’s nice. But I missed you this morning before I left for work, and you know how your Mother always likes to kiss her little baby goodbye so she starts off on the right foot. So where were you?”
“I slept in.”
“Really now?” Juliet said as her eyes narrowed slightly, obviously not getting the answer she was probing for. Stella just nodded her head in agreement while Juliet went on to say “then why did you sneak through the back door as I left for work this morning?”
At this point Stella received the confirmation she feared – the fact her mother knew about her absence. Had Michael spilled the beans? Stella thought to herself, even though it was more likely Ms. Jenkins saw her considering how she – the neighborhood widow – had little to occupy herself. This of course meant she had plenty of time to keep tabs on the condition of their home since Juliet often tasked her with doing so. She literally had eyes and ears on sentry, but this wasn’t something Juliet needed to share because the point had already been driven home – that Mother could keep tabs on Stella and Michael even when she wasn’t around.
“So where were you?” Juliet continued as everyone had their eyes on Stella at this point.
“I just went for a walk this morning, honest!” Stella’s eyes kept tearing while her heart sank even further.
Wham! Juliet’s hand slapped the table, which in turn shook the dishware. She then raised a single forefinger at Stella before unveiling the Evil Eye.
“Tell me the truth, Stella Noreen Lux.” Juliet sneered with distasteful scorn.
Stella then looked to her father for support, although he just went on to say “do as your Mother says.” The words, even though delivered with a gentler tone, still managed to sting the daughter who felt as if she were being persecuted by those who were entrusted to protect her.
“Well?” Juliet went on to say. “What is it then?! Spit it out!” She continued while Stella slouched in her dining chair, her face covered by a glossy film which appeared from the steady flow of tears. Stella remained sitting, dazed in a quiet stupor as she attempted to muster enough energy to expand her ribcage so her lungs could actually take in a decent breath.
She then found her center before muttering “I wen…I wen…”
“No one wants to see you sitting there, groveling. So spit it out already!” Juliet said with even more force than she’d used before.
“Give her time to answer, Juliet.” Corban interjected to give his daughter some level of support, even though he was a bit late with the delivery.
Stella then managed to find enough oxygen for her facial muscles to work, and it didn’t take long for her Mother to find more reason to chastise the daughter she already pulverized into dust.
“What do you mean, you came from a friend’s house? Which friend?” Juliet asked with conviction.
“Mary Cross, and we met up early to catch the sunrise.” Stella replied, hoping that would be the end of it. If only – she thought.
“The sunrise?” Juliet responded as her eyes narrowed further, obviously dissatisfied with the answer Stella provided. “I don’t recall Stella Noreen Lux ever finding the need to greet the sun, although I’m sure Mrs. Cross can fill me in when I call her. I wonder how she is? After all, it’s been a moon since we’ve spoken.”
“You don’t need to call her.” Stella blurted, although she knew time was running out as Juliet’s pressure was causing her to capitulate.
“Oh really? I don’t think a child like yourself has the authority to tell me what I can or cannot do. So if there’s nothing to hide, Mrs. Cross will surely be able to clear your name. Right?” Juliet questioned even though her daughter continued to slouch while her head lowered even more so than before. “Unless of course you’re lying to me, in which case I will not be happy in the least bit. So confess now or forever hold your peace Stella Noreen Lux, for I will take it away if I find out you’ve been deceitful.”
It wasn’t much longer before Stella broke down entirely as she confessed her whereabouts, although the situation went from bad to worse. Juliet’s rage had not even shown its true face until this point, for she grabbed Stella’s dinner plate and threw it across the room as broken shards and food bits found themselves spread across the floor and counter top.
“Filthy whore! How could you be at a boy’s house when you’re supposed to be safe here at home? Do you wanna catch a disease? Huh?!!” Juliet honestly didn’t even know the details involved, although that didn’t concern her because now she had fuel to spread her fire. Stella reacted by crying hysterically as though a limb were torn from her, but this only caused Juliet to bite even harder. “No daughter of mine is going to be knocked up before she’s even married, so you need to learn to keep your legs shut if you know what’s good for you! I’m so disappointed in you…”
Juliet continued her lesson of what she considered to be proper parenting before Stella thought to share the blame.
To be continued…
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