Eventually the crowd inside the house got too much for me and I escaped to the shed. But it didn’t occur to me until I entered how it would actually feel to be in Dad’s place with no Dad in it. Predictably, I closed the shed door, sat down in my armchair and cried and cried and cried. I don’t need to go over that. You’ve seen that before.
When I was done, I went to open the shed door and faintly heard Mum’s voice. I opened the door a crack and peeked out. She was standing in the backyard with a short plump woman with a brunette bob. A friend from church, I guessed. “We took out life insurance, so that’ll help,” Mum said. “And there’s all that rubbish in his shed. We can sell that. But I don’t know what I’ll do after. I’ll have to get some kind of job. God, I haven’t worked since I was nineteen. Not full time, anyway.”
“At least you’ve got your girls,” the church friend said.
“Well,” Mum said, “I’ve got Margaret. But Penelope’s always been her father’s. Always. That won’t change just because he’s dead.” Then she glanced in the direction of the shed, noticed the slightly ajar door, and walked over. I shrank back when she thrust the door open. “Of course,” she said. “You’re in here.” She looked around, at the shelves of books, at the armchair and the deckchair, at the boxes of sandpaper on the bench, at the half-finished pony lying on its side. She scoffed. “Get out here, right now,” she said. When I pushed past her, she shot me a look that told me I was on thin ice, and then she pulled a key out of her pocket, a silver key I never knew she had, and before I could say anything, she locked the shed door behind me. That’s when I knew it was over. That’s when I became an outsider in my own family.
As soon as she got a chance, Mum sold Dad’s stuff. I knew she was sneaking out there and collecting things while I was asleep, when I couldn’t do anything about it. I figured her out anyway. Not that it was hard. A few months after the funeral, I woke up in the middle of the night to hear the radio blaring from somewhere near the house. I opened the kitchen door and looked out. The music was coming out of the open shed door.
I don’t even remember crossing the backyard. All I know is I shoved the shed door open and there she was, sitting in his deckchair, with his radio on, tuned to a station he would have hated, with his low bookshelf standing half empty. A tartan-patterned duffel bag crouched at Mum’s feet, bloated with his books. “No,” I said. “You’re not doing this, you’re not selling his things, you’re not—“
She launched herself out of the deckchair (her cellphone slipped out of her lap and made a cracking sound as it hit the floor) and she pushed and shoved me back out the door. “Get in the house now,” she rasped. Her eyes were red.
The next day I found the tartan bag in her room. It was empty. And from then on the shed stayed locked.
I lasted through six months of “Do something about your hair! Take that ugly thing off! Would you stop with that bloody reading!” before I couldn’t stand it anymore.
Margaret found me in the backyard one afternoon after school, prying open the shed window with my fingers and a flat piece of hopefully strong wood. “Mum locked the door for a reason,” Margaret said.
“I don’t care,” I replied. The window was being stubborn. I took a second to consider, then smashed a glass square of the window with the piece of wood.
“Penny!” Margaret squeaked.
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