Annabel and the Boy in the Window is a story set in the mid 1950’s about living against societal norms and expectations. Annabel is a teenage girl who has little interest in marriage or having children. She desires an education and a career, but her alcoholic father stands in her way. Annabel sneaks out of her bedroom window at night and walks the streets of her quiet suburban town, while dreaming of a different life. She peers through peoples’ windows, eager for a glimpse of what a normal and happy family life looks like.
On one of her nightly walks, she sees Danny through his window and is immediately captivated by him. His soothing smile and gentle demeanor give her the feeling of safety and security that living in her own home fails to provide. Danny, the popular high school quarterback, is two years older than Annabel. He and Annabel run in very different social circles, so when Danny approaches her in the school hall one day, no one is more surprised than Annabel that a simple conversation about schoolwork would lead to football games, dances, and affairs of the heart Annabel never experienced before but only read about in books.
Annabel has dreams of her own, but when her abusive father becomes a threat to wreck those dreams, all seems lost until a secret from his past comes out and changes everything.
Here is an excerpt. Thanks for reading!
JOAN SLICED TWO thick pieces of roast beef and placed them onto George’s plate. “Cooked just the way you like it, tender with a little pink inside.” She smiled as brightly as the woman in the commercial holding the chocolate cake.
“Mashed potatoes,” George snarled.
Annabel quickly handed him the bowl of potatoes, and he scooped two big helpings onto his plate. He leaned back and just before reaching for his fork, he slowly pulled each of his fingers back one at a time.
Crack. Crack. Crack.
The sound echoed in the quiet room. It was a nerve-wrecking sound that forced Annabel to close her eyes and hold her breath until it was over. It reminded her of when she was little, and how her father would slowly crack each knuckle right before he’d grab her and force her across his lap for a horrifying round of spankings.
Though she remembered her mother begging him not to punish her in this cruel way, Annabel had needed her mother to do more to make him stop because the spankings hurt. But all Joan did was clasp her hands over her face and close her eyes as Annabel cried hot tears. Annabel didn’t remember the things she’d done to deserve such brutal discipline, but it didn’t take much to set off her father’s ire.
George’s behavior at dinner was always unpredictable. Sometimes he was talkative, mostly berating his customers or the people who worked for him, and other times, like that night, he didn’t want to talk at all. Work had been especially stressful that day, and he was already on his third glass of Scotch.
“More salad, George?” Joan held out a large bowl to him. He shook his head and took a long, deep gulp of his drink.
In her peripheral vision, Annabel noticed her mother tapping the table and snapping her fingers in an attempt to get Annabel’s attention, but Annabel kept her focus on her plate. She knew what her mother wanted, but there was no way she was going to bring up the dance at that moment. She avoided interacting with her father when he was drinking, which was most of the time, so their conversations were limited.
Being that George was mildly drunk and not blind, he also noticed Joan’s strange behavior. “What the hell are you doing?” His wild eyes pored over Joan.
Joan sucked in a breath. “I . . . I . . . was just . . .” “Well. What is it?” George barked.
Annabel snatched up the fork and knife and dug into her food, keeping her focus on cutting her meat.
“It’s nothing, really, George,” Joan answered in an extra cheerful tone. “Just a little dance at the school Annabel wants to attend. It sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun. All of her friends will be there.”
Annabel caught her breath. Being extra cheerful wasn’t going to have any effect on her father’s dour mood that night. She was sure of that.
George glared at Annabel for a few seconds. “And when were you going to tell me about this social event?”
Annabel dragged her fork across her plate. “After dinner I suppose.” “In the middle of the news?”
Annabel laid down her fork. “Maybe tomorrow I was gonna tell you.” “Gonna isn’t a word.”
“Going to tell you,” Annabel quickly corrected.
George placed an elbow on the table and leaned his body forward. “I don’t like these boys today with their long hair and all that grease. I see them walk past the bank. They strut around like they own the town. They got mouths on them, too.”
“George, Annabel knows better than to go out with a boy like that. In fact, today the high school quarterback talked to Annabel. The quarterback, George. You played quarterback in high school, didn’t you?”
George waved an impatient hand at Joan and concentrated his attention on Annabel. “This boy. What’d he want?”
“Just . . . just some help with school work,” Annabel stammered.
George creased his forehead. “School work? Why would a boy ask a girl for help with school work?”
“Annabel gets good grades, George,” Joan said.
“No boy, and I mean no boy, wants a girl who’s smarter than him.” George pointed a thick finger at Annabel and without taking his eyes off her, added, “You best remember that.”
Annabel wanted to yell back to her father that Danny didn’t mind a smart girl because he wasn’t like the other boys, and he was certainly nothing like him, but she wouldn’t say that to her father. She wouldn’t dare say that to her father. As with everything he had ever said to berate her, Annabel kept her mouth shut and absorbed his harsh words.
Joan placed a hand on Annabel’s arm. “We can’t ignore the fact that Annabel does really well in school, George. She’ll get a good job someday. Many women work.”
George dropped his fork, and it crashed on the plate. “The war is over. The boys are back. A woman’s place is in the home.”
Annabel was so disgusted with her mother, she didn’t have the stomach to even look at her. The only thing Joan was supposed to bring up was the dance, one silly dance—not Danny and certainly not Annabel’s grades.
George finished off his scotch. “She’ll get married and have children and it won’t matter what grades she got in school.” He shot up from the table. “Her job, like yours, is right here.” He glared at Joan, his eyes madder than before.
“Okay, George. Okay. I’m sorry. Now sit back down and let’s finish this nice dinner.” Joan reached out to calm him, but he shoved her hand away.
“You don’t appreciate a thing I do for you. Neither of you do. You want a job? Go then. Get the hell out of here. See how easy it is out there.”
Peering down at the floor, Annabel pushed herself away from the table. She sat frozen in her seat even though she wanted to run far away. She stole a glance at Joan, who, under any circumstances acted like everything was okay. No matter how many drunken outbursts George had, Joan always found a way to excuse them.
George reloaded his glass with ice from a small ice-bucket on the table and filled his drink with more Scotch. He took his plate into the living room and slumped into his favorite chair in front of the television.
Once he was out of the room, Annabel let out a breath she felt like she had been holding for a week.
Joan began clearing the table. “Your father had a hard day at work. He’s under a lot of stress.”
“Why do you always do that?” “Do what?”
“Make excuses for him?” “I don’t always make . . .”
“And why did you have to tell him about Danny and my grades? What made you think he’d have any interest in my grades?”
“Because he’s your father.” “So?”
“Fathers care about those things.” “Not mine,” Annabel stated flatly.
“Deep down he does. He can be a good father.” “I know you think so.”
“Come with me.” Joan took Annabel by the arm and dragged her to the kitchen. She went to the refrigerator and pulled out a big chocolate cake, just like the one from the commercial. “Here.” She held out the cake. “I made chocolate cake. Sit down. We can eat it together.”
Joan set the cake on the table and took two small plates from the cupboards.
She cut two pieces and slid them onto the plates.
Annabel stared dumbfoundedly at the dessert. “Cake? You’re offering me cake?”
“Please have some cake with me. Let’s have one good thing about tonight.”
Annabel ignored the desperation in her mother’s eyes and the pleading tone in her voice. It was the most pathetic thing she’d seen and heard. She pushed away the dish meant for her. “Tonight wasn’t good, and chocolate cake can’t make it better.”