Her heart quickened. What had she done? Did she grab the wrong beer? She quietly stepped closer to him, all the while her heart was thundering in her chest.
“Leila, come here,” he said. And with a snap of his fingers he pointed to a spot right in front of him. Leila went and stood directly in front of him.
She was always surprised by how her father looked. A bit of gray was appearing in the night black hair on his head and in his mustache, but his face didn’t look as old as the grey would lead one to believe. Leila didn’t know exactly how old her father was, but she knew he was fairly young when she was born; maybe about Miss Fairway’s age? His eyes, which were an eerie shade of blue grey, were fastened on hers. She always tried to decipher what kind of mood he was in by the look in his eyes, but today, they gave away nothing, and that frightened Leila most of all.
“Come closer,” he said and Leila obeyed. “How was school today?”
Leila swallowed before she answered. She knew that a simple ‘fine’ or ‘okay’ wouldn’t suffice. “Today we learned more about mul… multipacation –“
She just had time to take in a breath before his hand reached out and slapped her across her face. “What the hell,” he asked with a deadly quiet, “is multipacation?”
Leila’s bottom lip quivered in an effort to hold back her tears. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I mean to say,” she took a deep breath to make sure she didn’t mispronounce it again, “I mean to say ‘multiplication.”
“Damn right you did,” he said. He placed a hand on her shoulder and shoved her away a few steps. He sat up on the sofa and looked at her intently. Leila knew that look. She straightened up and avoided any possible eye contact by starting above her father’s head, where the wall met the ceiling.
Her father placed his hand under her jaw and not too gently turned her face upward towards the dim light that tried to illuminate the room. A red mark had appeared from where he had slapped her. He let go of her face and moved a hand down to Leila’s just budding breasts.
“Hm,” he said, fondling them. “They are coming along nicely.”
Leila tried to stop shaking. Every particle in her body was screaming at how wrong this was. She swallowed hard to stop any cry that could escape. She hated feeling so… so violated. Her father continued for fondle her breasts for a bit more before he said, “Turn.”
Leila turned to the side so her father could see her profile.
“Hm,” he said again and Leila was certain that word would become her least favorite out of all the words in the English language. He slapped her stomach. “Getting a little pouch down there, are we? If you’re going to be beautiful, my dear little girl, you have to get rid of that.” As a tear escape from Leila’s filled eyes, he said, “But don’t worry, I can help with that. It’s probably because you’re eating too much. I take responsibility for that. Too much food makes a girl fat and girls can’t be desirable when they’re fat. Right, honey?”
“Right,” she said, and her voice was so close to breaking.
“So,” he said, leaning back once again into the sofa. “No dinner tonight. I might leave out some water. But don’t you try to sneak anything. You remember last time?” He closed his eyes as he remembered.
Around the same time that Leila had started picking up cleaning again, she had been told she was ‘too chubby’. ‘A week’s worth of dinners should fix that,’ he had said. And when Leila’s stomach couldn’t take the malnutrition she had foolishly sneaked down in the middle of the night to scrounge up a few pieces of food. She didn’t go to school for the next few days while she waited for the bruises to fade.
“Well, do you remember last time?” Her father popped one eye open and in it was an obvious malicious glint.
“Y- yes,” she said. “Yes, I remember last time.”
“Good. So it won’t happen again.”
He sighed and his breath stank of alcohol. “Just go away, Leila,” he muttered. “Go away.”
You have no idea how much I want to go away, she thought.