Breakfast dishes washed and put away, Lola went about sweeping the kitchen floor. She’d made pancakes she and her mother both picked at and Bob complained were too chewy, though he’d eaten six of them. She’d gotten the wrong kind of orange juice too; the kind she always got, but today it had been the wrong kind.
The kitchen was painted a cheery yellow and accented in red checkered curtains and apples galore. It used to be her favorite place to be. She and her mother would bake cookies together and talk about silly things, giggling and happy. She and Sebastian would do their homework at the table. Rachel, another friend she’d lost touch with, used to gossip with her about boys and girls over PB and J’s and milk. Things had been pretty wonderful just a year ago. Such a short amount of time, really, and yet it seemed the year since Bob showed up had been never-ending.
Now there was a gash in the cherry wood table from Bob’s steak knife from the time Lola had overcooked his steak and burned the potatoes. It had been a small rebellion on her part that had led to food being splattered across the wall, the gash in the table, a broken plate, and her mother’s tears.
“What are you doing?” Bob demanded from the doorway. He wore a blue flannel shirt with holes in it, only partially buttoned, and gray sweat pants. He had never been a handsome man, but for a time he’d been groomed and clean; now he was just disgusting in smell and looks. Her skin crawled. How could her mother stand his touch?
Lola jumped, dropping the broom. She quickly picked it up and faced him. “Sweeping.”
He moved into the room and grabbed the broom from her. “You can’t even sweep right. This is how you sweep.”
She watched him push the broom back and forth across the floor. How could there be a wrong way to sweep?
Lola nodded, though his way of sweeping and her way of sweeping looked quite similar. And she’d swept that floor a million times since he’d been married to her mother and he’d never once complained about the way she swept before. But of course she couldn’t say any of that. Lola used to. She used to say things.
He shoved the broom at her and she fumbled to grasp it. “I’m taking your mother grocery shopping. Did you make a list like I told you? With the right kind of orange juice written down?”
Bob put a hand to his ear and cocked his head. “I can’t hear you.”
“Where is it?”
“On the counter.”
His eyes drilled into hers and Lola shifted, wanting to run from the room. “Get. It.” She didn’t move fast enough and he pinched her arm. “Now.”
She darted to the counter and plucked the small sheet of paper from it, outstretching her hand with her head down. He snatched it from her fingers and she quickly pulled her hand away.
Bob feinted toward her with his fist raised and she jerked back, her face heating as he laughed. “Not so tough, are ya?”
Lola stared at the back of his head as he walked from the room, anger and hate burning through her. She could see herself grab a large pot and bash him over the head with it. She could hear the satisfying thud as metal met flesh. She could see him fall to the floor, unconscious and maybe dead. And she was happy. She shook the upsetting thought away and swept the floor with renewed vigor.