Rose Green is 36; Cory Green is 49; Melissa is 16.
Previous update here
It was strange, how so much could change so completely, in a single day. It starts out ordinarily enough, then suddenly, nothing is ever the same again.
Times like today. Because it been another one of those nights. Today, yet again, everything had changed.
And to think, it had all started with something as innocent as a hairdresser appointment. On the weekend after school closed for the summer, Melissa had gone to get her hair trimmed... and come home with her hair purple.
"It really suits her, doesn't it?" Rose said, before Cory could say anything.
"Surely you don't think that - "
"Don't worry, its only a rinse. It'll have washed out well before school starts back."
"That's not the - "
"Melissa, why don't you take the kids and help them put away the clothes we bought?" Rose said.
"But I think we need to - " Cory started.
"We need to talk," Rose said, leading him into the kitchen.
"They're gonna argue," Noah said miserably as the kids walked away.
"No, we're not!" Rose called after him.
"Yes, we are," said Cory, when he was sure they were alone. "Why the hell did you let her do that?"
"It's only hair dye," said Rose. "You should have seen the way she lit up when she saw the pictures at the hairdresser's. It's the first time I've seen her enthusiastic about anything."
"That's not the point. I thought we'd agreed that there'd be some rules. I thought we were putting a stop to all that."
"She has to have her way some times. She has to be able to be herself."
"I don't she how she's being herself by making something that unnatural..."
Rose took a deep breath. "Cory, you know how, ever since you came back, your father wanted you to cut your hair, make it the way it was before you left?"
"Yes, but that - "
"You said you wouldn't do that because you're not the person you were before you left."
'I don't see what that has to do with this."
"Melissa's not the little kid you left behind... and you can't make her into the person you think she'd have been if you'd stayed."
"Is that what you think I'm doing?"
"What do you think you're doing?"
"I think I'm finishing this conversation here," he said, turning to leave. "This is getting beyond stupid now."
"Yes, they are," Noah said to Melissa, when they were up the stairs. "They're gonna argue and it's your fault."
"They stopped, until she came."
"Dad's just being stupid for not liking it," Corinne said. " It's cool. I want to make my hair purple too."
"That's probably part of why your dad doesn't like it," said Melissa, looking back and forth between Corinne, who was still grinning enthusiastically, and Noah, who looked close to tears.
Up until a few months ago, Melissa had essentially lived as an only child. She'd never had to consider the impact her actions might have on anyone else except the adults around her... and wasn't that much of the point anyway? To get a reaction from the adults around her?
Well, she'd gotten a reaction from Cory now.
Somehow, it wasn't nearly as gratifying as she'd expected.
By dinner time, they were acting like nothing had happened, at least in front of the kids. By bedtime, they still weren't talking much.
Cory lay awake next to his wife, listening to her breathing.
The person you think she'd have been...
It was ridiculous. He didn't even know why he was still thinking about it. But he was, and it didn't look like Cory would be sleeping any time soon.
As usual at times like this, he got up and checked on his children.
He would have checked on Melissa, too... except that there was something stopping him from opening the door.
He fully expected her to be gone. It would have been easy to sneak out from her room, with a window on the balcony, and the fire escape from there. But when he looked though a crack in the curtain, he could see her safely in her bed.
If sneaking out wasn't the reason she'd blocked the door...
There were plenty of other reasons, he told himself...
.... some, a lot more bearable than others.
Filthy, dirty lies, you don't want to know...
And some, that made a lot more sense.
Cory never went back to bed that night. He knew he wouldn't sleep even if he did.
He talked to Rose the next morning. They'd had to more-or-less bribe Sam into taking her little brother and sister to the park, but he'd deal with that later. Right now, he could only think about Melissa. She'd looked nervous when they asked her to sit down with them, as much as they'd tried to put her at ease. Probably, she thought she was in trouble for dying her hair or something.
Strange how so much could change, in a single day.
"Why were you trying to get into my room?" she demanded, when he asked her about it."I've always checked on everyone when I can't sleep," Cory said, as Rose nodded in agreement. "It's kind of relaxing, watching other people sleep. You can ask Sam, I've been doing it since she was a little kid."
"Ok," Melissa said slowly.
"Melissa, why did you put the chair behind the door?" Rose asked. "You're not going to get in trouble for anything, we just want to know."
When she didn't answer, Cory tried a more direct approach.
"Melissa, are you afraid of me?"
"No!" she said quickly. "No, I'm not afraid of you."
"But you are afraid of someone, right?"
Melissa didn't reply.
"Someone who isn't here, but you're afraid all the same."
Strange how so much could change in a single day.
She was fourteen years old when it started. She'd only thought to put the chair behind the door in the last year or so. And, hard as that was to deal with, it was nothing next to the knowledge that Joshua would just walk away.
It was Melissa's choice. "I want to just forget it ever happened," she'd said. "I want you to do the same."
"But the thing is, you haven't forgotten," said Rose. "If you'd forgotten, you wouldn't be putting a chair behind the door even when he isn't here."
"If that's what it takes, I can stop doing that," she said.
"No," Cory said, after a moment. "In fact, I've got a better idea. We'll buy a proper lock for your door."
"You'd do that?"
"Of course. Everyone should feel safe in their own home."
What else could Cory do? He could certainly understand her reluctance. Joshua had money, and lawyers, and respect in the community. It could backfire badly, and why would Melissa expect anyone to believe her anyway? Not with the kind of reaction she'd had from the one person she should have been able to trust the most.
Now he understood the conversation he'd had with Sharla...
We had an argument, she was telling lies -
"Lies about what?"
"Filthy, dirty lies, you don't want to know...
Now he understood why Melissa had run away.
He left it until the last minute to go to the park. She wasn't there, and he found himself wondering if maybe she wasn't coming at all. Or maybe he just hadn't made it clear enough exactly where he'd be...
No, she was there. Taking her time, of course, because anything else would look too much like he had some influence over her.
Her reaction, when he did explain why he'd called her here, had been much as he'd expected it to be.
"Don't tell me you believed those stories?"
"They're not stories. She's been sleeping with a chair wedged in behind her bedroom door because of what your husband - "
"Cory, listen to yourself for a moment. You're talking about Melissa here. She's just trying to get a reaction out of you, that's what she does. That's why she dyes her hair, that's why she wears those clothes, that's why she left for three months without so much as a call. When one thing doesn't work, she comes up with something bigger."
"It's not this is a new thing. It started back at your place, when - "
"In any case," Sharla cut him off, "you're the only man living in the same house as her now, and you just said that she feels the need to wedge her bedroom door shut. If I were you, I'd be careful who I told that to."
"You're probably right," he said after a moment. "It's not like I could hide what she was doing, if anyone cared to check. Not with the way the chair damages the paint on the door."
She walked off without giving a reply.
---She wasn't going to look.
There was nothing to see, anyway.
There was no reason to look.
Damn you, Cory!
"Sharla? Are you alright?"
Sharla jumped. She hadn't heard Joshua come in. "I... I'm fine," she said, wondering how long he'd been standing on the other side of the door. "I was just... I..." She wasn't even sure how long she'd been standing there herself.
"Come on," he said, gently leading her away from the bedroom. "Lets go downstairs." He turned out the light and closed the door behind them.
"I think you should go into the city tomorrow," Joshua said later. "Take some time for yourself, catch up with your friends, do some shopping... "
"But... we were going to have lunch tomorrow..."
"We can do that another day. These last few months have been hard on you. You deserve a day out to pamper yourself."
He was right, of course. She did need to put things out of her mind, and the day in the city certainly helped her do so. That is, until she walked into the apartment that evening.
The first thing she noticed was the smell of fresh paint.
Surely it couldn't be... ? She raced up the stairs to Melissa's room.
"I hope you don't mind," Joshua said, following her into the bedroom. "We had talked about turning it into a nursery for Shane."
"We... we were going to decorate it together," she stammered.
"We still can," he said. "It's a neutral colour."
"But - "
"I'm sorry, but you just looked so sad last night, standing in here. As long as this room stayed the same, you'd just dwell on what happened. You understand, I had to change it, It's for your own good."
She let him lead her out of the room, taking care not to brush her clothes against the fresh paint on the door.
As they went down the stairs, she let herself fall behind.
Strange how so much could change...
...in a single day.