A cool autumn breeze whisked past me as I softly shut the door behind me. I quickly ducked and crept past the front lawn as I made my way towards the small gate that enclosed the perimeter of the house. I held my breath as I heard something fall from inside the house. I quickly moved towards the house and pressed my back flat against the wall. The only sounds I could hear were those of my labored breathing and the sounds of cars as they drove by. I silently stood there hoping that he didn’t see me sneaking out.
The consequences would be intolerable.
I pushed my medium length raven hair behind my ear and stared up at the window that was directly above me. I let out a deep sigh of relief as I saw the light go out. He was going to sleep much earlier today.
Pushing myself off the wall, I once again ducked and made my way across the lawn. Quiet as a mouse, I lifted the lock to the gate. Glancing over my shoulder, I made sure the lights in the house were still off. Upon noticing that the coast was clear, I quickly rushed out.
Shoving my hands in the pocket of my worn out hoodie, I began walking towards the park around the corner from where I lived. A small smile rested on my face as I walked towards the one place where I felt at peace. It was the one place where I could always gather my thoughts and clear my head. It was a safe haven in the dark world I lived in.
I soon made it to the park and took a seat on the small bench under the large Oak tree. It was nearing sundown and there were only a few people left in the park. I moved my legs on top of the bench and placed my chin on top of my knees. I let out a deep breath as I cocked my head to the side and stared ahead. To most people I must’ve looked odd.
A 19 year old sitting on a park bench alone as it was nearing dark. It wasn’t ideal being out here at this time, but I’ll take this over nothing. With the risks I took by even sneaking out, I was determined to enjoy whatever small amount of time I got out of the house.
I silently scoffed as I thought of my life. A young adult, hostage to a criminal, living right under the noses of oblivious neighbors who have yet to notice. I shuddered as I thought of the punishment I would receive if he ever caught me sneaking out, or trying to escape. There was no escaping him as long as he was alive. The connections he had were too strong. He would always end up finding me.
I bitterly chuckled.
My own father was the culprit.
A father didn’t act the way that he did, a…
What Works: The author has set a fearful and melancholy tone for this story. They have taken a small act of rebellion and effectively added enough tension that it can hold the reader’s attention as a first chapter.
What Needs Work: It always irritates me when an author adds a mystery to a story that doesn’t need to be a mystery. The man could be a father, a stepfather, a caregiver, a boyfriend or husband, and we find out toward the end of the chapter that it’s the MC’s father, but the revelation does nothing to shock or enlighten the reader. When an author leaves the reader out of fairly basic information like this, it creates distance between the reader and the MC. Anyway, I could rant about this for a while, but I’ll move on.
The other issue I have is, if you’re in an abusive or controlling relationship, you make sure that the other person is asleep first, before sneaking out. It also seems weird that she’s leaving when it’s still daylight, but I guess that’s necessary so that she can make the comparison to the other father/daughter combo (I read ahead).
I don’t mind that not much happens in this scene/chapter, but if you’re going to describe an entire walk to a park, include some sights, smells, etc. If you’re sneaking around and don’t want a neighbor to tell your father that they see you taking walks around the neighborhood, what precautions would you take to avoid them?
As the back door clicked quietly shut behind me, I heard a crash. I froze. I had thought my father was asleep. An hour ago, he’d mumbled something angry through my open door. A moment later, I’d heard his own door slam – his drunken pre-bed ritual.
I pressed myself against the side of the house and looked up to see the dark window to his room light up. I edged back toward the door, anticipating the bellow that would follow his discovery that I wasn’t in my room.
Instead, his window slid up and I froze again, holding my breath. A lamp smashed against the tree in the middle of the yard, raining down bits of ceramic. A smaller piece of lamp joined it a moment later, followed by a lampshade.
The window slammed shut again, the light went out. I waited. If he called my name, I’d be back in the house in an instant, in the kitchen, sweeping or doing the dishes – again — or something. All I heard was my own labored breathing and the cars whooshing down the street.
The fence was 8-feet tall, making the yard a white-picket prison. I edged toward the side of the house, still listening for my name. When I didn’t hear anything, I swung two loose pickets open and slipped through the gap that created. They swung back into place.
One good thing about living on the corner lot was that my escape hatch led directly to the street rather than into a neighbor’s yard. I glanced up once more at my father’s dark window, and then headed toward the park.
I shoved my hands into the kangaroo pocket of my worn-out hoodie and let the crisp autumn breeze sweep all of the worries out of my head.
The park was just around the corner, and the sun was just about set by the time I made it to my favorite bench under an old oak tree. I pulled my knees up to my chest, tucking them up under my sweatshirt. I rested my chin on top of my knees and watched shadowy parents herd their wayward children toward the parking lot.
My life was a mess. I was nineteen and hostage to a criminal father. Sneaking out was dangerous enough, but every time I’d run away, he’d found and punished me.
He had too many connections and I had too few.