Daddy didn't forget. She should've known he wouldn't.
Madison set her Holy Bible beside her on the backseat and snapped her belt buckle into place. Daddy and Momma slid into the front, but Daddy didn't start the ignition. Instead, he swiveled to face her, one arm flattened along the bench seat of the Cadillac. His pose implied a casual undertone, but his eyes crinkled at the corners and his mouth pinched in a white line of displeasure. Maybe anger. Either way, she was about to find. She clamped her teeth together and waited for his explosion.
"Even after I singled out your despicable behavior, you still failed to modify it."
Madison's hands trembled as she laced her fingers together in her lap. He'd pointed out his shame, but she still didn't have the foggiest idea what blame lay at her feet. "I'm unsure of which behavior you speak, Daddy."
Momma sighed dramatically in the passenger seat, flipped the sun-visor down and popped open the mirror. Madison caught her gaze in the mirror as Momma pretended to peer at herself, running the pad of her middle finger along the outer edge of her mouth as if she corrected her lipstick. Her lipstick was perfect. It was always perfect because Momma didn't settle for less than perfect.
"Are you guilty of so much you pretend not to know your sins?" Daddy asked. His hand curled into a tight fist and she held his stare, not daring to lower her eyes for fear the action would indicate acknowledgement of guilt.
"Bruce, women are inherently sultry creatures," Momma said in her silky voice, the one reserved for when she wanted something pricey and Daddy pretended they didn't have the money. Madison flashed a surprised glance at her because she'd used that voice and Momma rarely defended her. Momma's reflection winked and executed a slow, assured half smile, as if they shared a provocative secret.
And then her brain snagged on the one word in the sentence that answered all her questions…sultry. She wasn't sultry and she wasn't trying to be sultry. Is that what Daddy thought she was doing? She wanted to be average and unnoticeable, but no matter how hard she tried, five-foot-nine girls were always noticeable.
"Half the men in church were lusting after her, Celeste. I saw the way she licked her lips at Harold Beeker, how his eyes widened, his nostrils flared and—" Daddy's voice lowered to a scandalized whisper, "—how he adjusted himself!"
Adjusted himself?…Oh, gross! She sure hoped Daddy didn't think Harold Beeker got aroused because of her!
"I didn't—" she said, but Daddy's withering glare terminated her argument.
"It's embarrassing to have such pious men fornicating with her in their mind," Daddy said in a horrid whisper to Momma as if he didn't want to air family laundry to any of his pious church goers—bunch of uppity-ups if anyone asked her. Not that any church members were present, they'd all vacated over an hour ago. "The Wescott dirty little secret," he sneered. "My daughter's got the devil in her and my church members—women included—want a piece of her ass!" Madison gasped, but Daddy didn't acknowledge her shock. "It's a lot like trying to manage Sodom and Gomorrah."
Tears stung her eyes, she tried to blink them back, but Momma's reflection smirked. A strange reaction, but she couldn't focus on her odd behavior because what Daddy said not only horrified her, but terrified her too. It couldn't be true. Couldn't! If it was, she couldn't face anyone in church ever again without dying of mortification!
"Bruce…" Momma said in a placating tone. She ran her fingertips across Daddy's jaw and into his hair. Daddy visibly shuddered as if Momma's touch eviscerated him with exquisite pleasure. "You're being melodramatic and you sound ridiculous. Madison is a good girl. She is your daughter," she said, scrunching her features into a brief disgusted expression. Did Momma think being a 'good girl' a bad thing?
"I don't want to be bad," Madison said, her voice hitching on her final word and she fought to hold back tears.
Daddy snorted and looked at her. "Madison, your soul is so damned, I would suggest you pray and pray hard."
Momma rolled her eyes and snapped the sun-visor shut. "Bruce, e—nough," Momma said in a tone neither of them ever dared to gainsay. Daddy huffed and jerked around to face the front of the car. As he jabbed the key in the ignition, Momma looked at her and said, "Madison, you're soul is destined for eternity in the ultimate kingdom." She reached across the seat and squeezed one of Madison's hands as she tried to wipe away the tears with the back of her other hand. "Do you believe me?"
"Yes, M'am." Not really, but Momma didn't want to hear that any more than Daddy wanted to hear her arguments.
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