THE RETURN (continued)

Jenny finally decided she may as well come downsairs and see to whom the voices belonged. She slowly came down the stairs and when she walked into the living room,  standing in front of her was this man in a soldier’s uniform. There was also another man talking to Mom. She recognized him as Uncle Mike. It dawned on her that the man in uniform was her father. The uniform smiled and bent down to kiss her cheek. She had not seen him in a long while but he did look familiar with his reddish blond hair and square jaw.  His beard scratched her face and she did not like it.

Her Mother said, “This is your father. Aren’t you going to say hello?”

The emotions welling up in her were about to explode and she gave way to the most compelling one. Anger. She wiped away the kiss with a haughty gesture, hoping to pay him back for some of the pain he had caused her.

He noticed the gesture but kept smiling. Mom pretended not to notice as Jenny ran back up the steps. She sat on her bed and brooded as the festivities continued downstairs. Mom had prepared lunch for the guests and the laughter coming from the kitchen made her angrier. She wondered what was going on and what made him come back? Was it just for a visit or God forbid to stay. Mom seemed pretty happy for some reason and that made Jenny even angrier if that were even possible. All Mom had done was call him names and run him down over the years, so they all hated him with a passion. And here she was smiling and serving him lunch.  Jenny didn’t want him back.  And if he came back he better not try to tell her what to do ever!

Later that evening after Dad and Uncle Mike had left, Mom announced that Dad would be coming back to live with them now that he was out of the Army.  He and Mom would take one of the bedrooms and the girls would have to double up in the other room.  Well, that does it, Jenny thought, I certainly don’t want him here with all of us kids sleeping in the same room, no privacy, a man telling us what to do. Why is she doing this?

Jenny slept fitfully that night and when awakening felt no better. She went downstairs, fixed a cup of coffee and proceeded to ask her Mom why?  She managed to sneak another cigarette out of Mom’s purse for later.  When she asked Mom why he was coming back, she just smiled and said things would be just fine. “He has changed,” she said. “And besides, he has a job and will be bringing in money which we certainly can use.”

This did not pacify Jenny. She and Jane went to their bedroom and began to grumble to each other.  Jenny smoked her stolen cigarette as they continued to find reasons why Dad should not come back.  They were both working now and thought they could get along nicely without him.  They had for all these years so why now should he come back and ruin it?  But they went about their daily routines and hoped for the best.

A week later Dad moved in. He and Mom took the room Jenny and Jane had shared.  It was strained at first but he tried to win Jenny over. He seemed to realize it was useless to try with Jane. She was sixteen and working full time and came and went as she pleased.  She let it be known that she planned to continue on the same way no matter who lived with them.

After a few weeks the routine changed drastically. Mom cooked big meals for dinner and she had to have the best steak and the best brand of coffee for him.  He started his job and was gone in the afternoons and evenings.  He worked the night shift at the small defense plant in town.

On weekends he would have some of his buddies over and they would play cards and drink beer. A lot of joke telling and war related stories went on till the wee hours. He let Jenny sit in with him and the boys and even let her sip some beer which she was getting to like.  And the stories were pretty interesting.  About the time he was in Italy and he and his buddies would drink wine and have a fine time with the Italians. He was in his forties and he said the old guys didn’t have to go to the front, so they carried up the rear and got to enjoy themselves quite a bit. He certainly seemed to enjoy his time in the Army.

Jenny found herself beginning to like him in spite of herself.  He was quite the story teller. Whether the stories were true or not she wasn’t sure. The younger girls were intrigued by him.  Jane however was having none of it.  She had her own friends and her own life. Nobody was going to tell her what time to come home or who she could go out with. She and Dad clashed frequently. And angry words were exchanged on several occasions.

On one such occasion, Jane who was on the late shift at one of the local mills, came home and was standing outside the house laughing and talking with her friends.  It was about ten pm.  Dad, who had not gone to work that day,  was not happy and sent Jenny out to tell her to come in the house.  Jenny went out and told Jane what he said.  Jane became angry and said, “Tell him I don’t have to listen to anything he says and I will do what I want.”  With that she and her friends left and started walking away.  She did not come home until after midnight.  And of course Dad was furious but he did not confront her.
As the weeks went by things did not go smoothly with Mom either. She complained about having to cook big meals every night. She didn’t like all the beer drinking or the war stories. His buddies seemed to get on her nerves as well.  She didn’t see her girlfriends as often.  Dad seemed happy enough though.  He would go off with his lunch pail singing.  He did like to sing.  He seemed unaware of the tension that was building.

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