"Junior!" Father bellowed, "For the last time, you're going to shake the house down. Here, read the Sports section." He pointed to its place on the table without looking up, licked his index finger and forwarded his own progress.
"Dad, I have a ball game at nine. I'm late for warm-ups."
"Son, you may be excused when everyone is finished."
While drying her hands on a striped dish towel, Betty turned to look at me. She mouthed the words, "I'm sorry," folded the towel and turned her gaze to the counter where the painted, metal file box still sat. Its gold padlock now secured nothing, but a bitter emptiness.
* * * * *
While we were eating breakfast, the letter was delivered. Mr. Booth brought it over well before the postman usually arrived. Betty always got the mail on her way in from school, but this particular piece must have gotten lost. The familiar slap of the back door screen announced our neighbor.
"Good morning, folks." Mr. Booth tipped his wide-brimmed white straw hat at Mother and Betty and patted my back.
"'Morning, Tom. What do you have there?" Father asked with a smile.
"This letter was delivered to our home by mistake. It fell right out of Marie's LIFE magazine."
Father casually extended his hand to relieve Mr. Booth of the letter, but he turned to Betty. "It's for you, young lady. It's from Smith College and it feels promisingly hefty." Mr. Booth exaggerated the weight of the letter in his hands and presented it to Betty with a bow.
Slamming his large palms down on the Formica, Father exploded, "Elizabeth Jane Murphy! No daughter of mine is going to waste precious time and money going to college. We've discussed this to death. Damn it, Betty. Give me that letter!" He lunged toward her knocking his chair to the floor.
"Fine! Take it!" Betty's bright red face seethed with anger. "I already have acceptances from Vassar, Barnard, Bryn Mawr and Wellesley. I'm going to college, Daddy! You can't tell me what to do."
"The hell I can't!" Father screamed as he began to throw open drawers and cabinets. "Where are the letters? Where are they!?!" He was up in Betty's room before Mr. Booth and I reached the gate at the end of the sun dappled yard.
Looking back toward our house as I walked slowly to school, I saw a thin, twisted line of gray smoke escaping from the chimney. "I'm sorry, Betty," I whispered.
This piece is a work of fiction and was inspired by this week's the speakeasy writing prompt. Click on the button below to read the prompt and the other beautiful writers who hang out there. Thanks!