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oracleofaal t1_j5crr5q wrote

Cat's in the Cradle

Jacket zipped up tight, Natalie sat on the porch swing, her weekend bag tucked under, and one strap wrapped around her leg. She tapped the screen of the phone in her lap to wake it up and checked the time. 7:30 pm. Then she checked her notifications. Nothing from him.

She wrapped her fingers around the phone as though it were a softball and raised her arm overhead to throw it at the tree in the middle of the overgrown weed-filled yard that was threatening to invade the porch. Natalie grunted and dropped her arm. She had broken two phones this year and if she broke another, she knew that neither parent would get her another. Her eyes began to glisten and she sniffed.

Shortly after 8 pm, her mother opened the front door, wrapped her arms around herself and shivered.

“Why don’t you come in, sweetheart?”

“Did he message you?” Natalie asked in an accusing tone.

“No. No, he didn’t. And I wouldn’t expect him to talk to me. You know we don’t speak without lawyers present”

“I know.” She choked on a sob. “I had just hoped that this time…” Natalie trailed off as her mother unfurled, moved to sit next to her on the swing and wrapped her daughter in a fierce hug.

“Oh my baby girl.”

“Moooom. I’m 16! I’m not a baby.” Natalie’s mother cleared her throat and held her at arms length.

“I don’t care what age I am, or what age you are. You will always be my baby girl. I will always see you as the newborn I brought home from the hospital. The curious infant. The adventurous toddler. The strong-willed teenager. Let’s go inside before I freeze.”

“Okay,” the stubborn teenager replied and wiped her eyes with sleeve of her jacket.


The next morning, Natalie awoke to find a slew of text messages from her father received between 1 and 3 am.

‘I’m sorry Nat I got caught up at work’

“Okay,” the stubborn teenager replied and wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her jacket.

‘Are u mad at me’

‘You know I don’t mean to misqueme u’

‘Fine. I’m going to bed. Text me tomorrow. We can catch a movie or something.’

After reading through the messages several times, she groaned, rolled over and buried her head under her pillows.

A knock sounded from the door. Then a slight squeak as it was opened.

“Good morning slugabed. It’s almost noon.” Her mother’s pleasant voice was muffled by the pillows. A moment later, she felt the weight of her mother sitting on the bed next to her. Natalie grunted as she turned over, pulled the pillow off her face and sat up.

“I made your favorite chocolate chai latte.”

“Thanks mom,” she said as she reached for the warm cup in her mother’s hands. “He was apparently working late last night.” Nat sighed. “Wait, did you say noon?”

“Almost, it’s like 11:30.”

“I thought you had brunch with your book club today? Shouldn’t you be hanging out with them?” Natalie buried her nose in her cup to smell the chai and avoid her mother’s gaze.

“There will be others. I felt that my baby might need me more.”

“I’m going to text Dad and we’re going to go to the movies,” she said into her cup. Her mother reached out a hand and squeezed her leg through the layer of blankets.

“Well, why don’t we make brunch until he gets here? French toast?” Nat looked up, a shy smile spreading over her face.

“French toast with that berry stuff?”

“And whipped cream!” Their smiles echoing each other were bright. Her mom jumped up and danced out the door. The young lady still abed giggled.

That gave her enough motivation to respond to her father. She quickly searched for an evening movie that she wanted to see and sent the details to him. It wasn’t long before he responded.

'Jen msged, something about a leak, Imma go over and help her sorry kiddo, maybe next weekend will be easier’

Natalie stared at the message from her so-called father. Tears welled up in her eyes and slid silently down her cheeks. This ability to toy with her emotions; it had to come to an end. Fingers flying over her phone she typed her reply.

‘Joseph, upon further reflection, I have decided that until you are ready to make me, your only daughter, a priority, I don’t want to spend weekends or summer with you. If all I am is a checkbox on your to-do list then you are not really my dad. I hope that you and your work enjoy each other. Peace. ~Natalie’

She hit send. Tears dried up and she sat up a little bit as though a weight had been lifted.


(WC: 800)


Cody_Fox23 OP t1_j5f716g wrote

Thank you for your submission; it has scored 12 points!