This is Part 4 of our fictional Lockdown Short Stories. The next instalments of our weekend Solo Lockdown Short Stories will be published next Saturday and Sunday – the 9th and 10th of May 2020.
For a while, lockdown was almost nice. That wasn’t to say Delaney wanted to be caught up in the middle of a pandemic, but he couldn’t even remember the last time he had taken a real break. So, for the first two weeks, Delaney took what he was offered, and allowed himself to rest.
Then Aline started being… well, Aline. She stormed downstairs one morning, yelling about the wifi being down and her laptop acting up, and Delaney knew the short lived peace was over. Ever since, they had been at each other’s throats.
Sitting cross legged on the sofa, head bowed as he scrolled through the emails on his phone, he didn’t even hear Aline enter. At least, not until he heard the clatter of the shoe cupboard and a low, muttered curse. Eyes flickering up, he quirked a brow her way. “Aline, what are you doing?”
A flushed face poked out of the cupboard, her dark hair frizzing. “…No?”
If there was one thing Delaney knew about his daughter, it was that she was a terrible liar. He had known her for the entire fifteen years she had been alive, and that had never changed. Setting down his phone, he cast her his best strict father look. “If you’re not doing anything, why are you holding your favourite leather jacket?”
Glancing from between him and the jacket in her hands, Aline scowled. “May and Juan asked if I wanted to meet up at their house. You know, for pizza and movies…”
“And you said yes? In the middle of a lockdown?“
He never claimed to be a perfect dad. Sometimes, Delaney wondered if he was even a good one. However, he at least thought he’d raised a daughter with more sense than that. Running a hand through his dark hair, he sighed. “No way. You know the rules; no meeting up with other households, no parties, no-“
“It isn’t a party,” Aline insisted. Already she was shrugging on her jacket, and it was then that he noticed she was wearing eyeliner. Aline never wore makeup – and she was too young anyway – but this dressed up for a movie night? Something was off.
Standing, Delaney cast her a withering glare. One she ignored. “Party or not, you’re not going out. It isn’t safe. Do you want to get ill? You have asthma for God’s sake, it’s even riskier for you to-“
“Shut up, Dad!” Aline’s glare, ringed by thick eyeliner, could have made even the most terrifying man cower. Hands on her hips, she glared up at him like he had just ruined her entire life, lips forming a pout as she rolled her eyes. “Movies. Pizza. It’s not like we’re going out, I’m just going to a friend’s house-“
Alina was holding a tiny blue handbag, waving it in the air as she spoke. Without thinking Delany reached out and snatched it from her hands, tossing it onto the armchair in the corner of the room. “Absolutely not. If I say you don’t go out, you don’t go out. End of story.”
“No. Take that jacket off, clean your face, and go to your room.”
“This is bullshit,” Alina snapped – and she shoved past Delaney to grab the discarded handbag, muttering under her breath words he didn’t even know she knew.
Thick arms reached out to pull her back, fingers digging into – was that lace? Great, she was wearing a lacy top as well as makeup. Anger bubbled in his chest, threatening to spill over as he grabbed her chin, forcing eye contact. “Don’t you dare use those words,” he snapped, “and don’t think I’m going to let this go.”
“You never let me do anything!” Aline shrieked – her eyes had narrowed to slits as she wriggled in his grasp. At five-foot-nothing she didn’t have a hope of getting free, but her glower rivalled his own. “Remember May’s sixteenth birthday? You didn’t let me go because there were older kids there. I didn’t even get to go into town alone until I was thirteen, and even then you made me call you every half hour. This is stupid.“
“What’s stupid is you risking your health over a movie night,” he countered. Delaney’s voice rose with every word but he couldn’t stop it, couldn’t force himself to take a breath. Why didn’t she understand how serious this is?”
“Screw you,” Aline shouted – and she wrenched her arm from his grasp with such force he didn’t have time to stop her. She grabbed her bag, stuck her middle finger in his direction, and stormed into the hall-
But Delaney was fasted. He slipped between her and the front door, seized the keys from her hands, and threw them onto the side table by the cupboard.
Aline just blinked up at him, lips forming a scowl. “What are you doing?”
“Helping,” he snapped, “you’ll thank me later.”
She straightened, taking a breath so deep he worried she was going to do something stupid like scream – but then she threw her handbag at him, narrowly missing his face, and spun to storm away. Just as she reached her bedroom door she called, “you’re the worst! It’s like you’re allergic to happiness!”
Then the bedroom door slammed shut behind her, and Delaney heard the muffled yell of her screaming into her pillow.
With a long sigh, Delaney threw up his hands in defeat. Did she really not understand what lockdown meant, or did she just think she was the exception to the rule? Rubbing his temples, he decided the best thing to do was let her cool off on her own. She would get over it eventually.
Aline, in fact, did not get over it. She hardly spoke to him for a week, and he didn’t even see her except at dinner – where she ate so fast she risked stomach ache and then disappeared back into her room until late.
So, having utterly given up on even trying to talk to her, Delaney ended up tiptoeing around the house like a ghost. They couldn’t skirt around each other forever, but it seemed they were both determined to try.
Then he saw Aline’s phone sitting on the kitchen table one morning. She must have sneaked in for food, and forgotten her phone in the hurry to scuttle off unseen. Delaney stared at it as he sipped his coffee, listening out for Aline’s telltale footsteps. He shouldn’t look through her phone, really, but it was so tempting. What other schemes and plans was she keeping from him? No, that was a terrible thing to do. Yet he still found himself staring at the black screen as he poured himself another coffee.
Then the phone lit up, revealing a colourful wallpaper, and a notification from her friend May.
It was terrible, but Delaney gave in to temptation. Aline didn’t even have a password, just a slide to unlock. He brought up May’s text, eyes skimming over the previous conversation too. It was difficult to make out, what with the overload of emojis and a typo every second word. But…
I’m bored stiff stuck inside all day. I can’t even get any privacy; Dad wouldn’t even let me walk to the park last week. And now I can’t even see you…
May’s reply was sympathetic, the reply typical of someone who was angry at their parents too. How it wasn’t fair, how Delaney was awful and how May’s own parents were being obsessive. Delaney scrolled past without much real interest, until;
He never lets me do anything anyway. Guess he loves this lockdown, means now he has an excuse to keep me locked up like a prisoner.
Was that really how she felt? Like he was keeping her prisoner? It was for her own safety, and the safety of others, it wasn’t like he enjoyed seeing her mope around all day every day. He hated this as much as she did – and he was the one made into the bad guy for it all.
Except… well, maybe he had been harsh. Maybe it wasn’t fair on her – a young, sociable teen unable to do anything fun. Delaney could see how she might feel as if the world was against her.
Damn. He had some apologising to do.
Padding quietly across the hall, he knocked on Aline’s bedroom door. No reply. Probably still moping, cursing his entire existence or whatever. He tried again, then cracked open her door.
Aline sat on her bed, a book open even though she didn’t look to be reading. She scowled when she saw him – and then her eyes snapped to her phone. “Seriously? You’re taking my phone now?”
“You left it in the kitchen,” he replied with a barely restrained eye-roll, “I saw your texts to May-“
Throwing up her arms, Aline crossed the space from bed to door in a flash. Then she was pushing him back, shoving him out of her room. “You can’t just do that!” she exclaimed, “those are private-“
“I know.” He tried to placate her, handing over the phone with a sigh. “Will you just stop shoving me for a second and let me speak?”“
She paused, eyeing him nervously. “Fine. But get out of my room.”
In the time it took to settle in the living room, Aline had at least calmed down enough to make herself tea. She didn’t offer any to Delaney. “So,” she asked, “what’s this all about anyway?”
“I want to apologise,” he admitted. He hated to say it, but it took physical effort to say those words. Wincing, he continued, “I was unfair to you the other day-“
“Yeah, I just wanted to go out.”
Anger surfaced, but he shoved it down. Now wasn’t the time for another fight. “I mean, I shouldn’t have gotten angry at you. I get it, you’re bored and missing your friends. I’m a strict dad, I don’t let you do the things you want to, but right now you can’t.“
“Because of the lockdown,” Aline huffed. She collapsed onto the sofa, not even wincing when she sloshed tea onto her leggings. “But you never let me do stuff even before.”
A shrug, a nervous frown. “For your own good. Or so I thought. Look,” he sighed, running a hand through his hair, a habit Aline mimicked. “It’s dangerous to go out right now, and I know that sucks, but it’s temporary. Things will get back to normal, and you’ll see everyone again in no time.”
She shifted, eyes downcast as she sipped her tea. “Right. But I still won’t be able to do anything. Like that concert-“
“I’ll cut you a deal. While lockdown’s in place you do as I say – but after it’s lifted, I’ll relax the rules. Let you go out more, give you more space. Sound good?”
Pursed lips, a raised brow. Then, “you have to promise.”
Delaney might have rolled his eyes, but a smile tugged its way onto his lips anyway. “I promise to let you have more freedom once the lockdown is lifted.”
Aline grinned then, bright and genuine, and relief flooded through Delaney. “Deal,” she replied, grin widening, “maybe you’re not such a terrible Dad after all.
Well, he supposed it was a start. No doubt he was going to regret his promise, especially if Aline had her way, but a compromise wasn’t so bad.
Climbing to her feet, Aline was already marching to the kitchen, conversation forgotten. “What’s for breakfast? I kind of want eggs. Oh! Do we have any sausage?” Rifling through the fridge, it was as if the last week had never happened.
Could he complain, really? If it was so easy to fix, he wondered why they had even fought in the first place. Rolling his eyes, Delaney joined her in the kitchen, listening to her chatter on.
And just like that, things were perfect.