Don’t Tap Your Fork

The breathy silence in the dining room gave stage to the incessant ticking of the pendulum clock, drowning out the occasional clatter of cutlery from the family of four; each sat at the dining table with heads hung low, averting their gaze from one another.

The youngest, growing more agitated with each tick of the clock—wanting to look to her right, but quickly changing her mind—began to tap her plate with her fork in rhythm with the tick-tick-tock.

“Don’t tap your fork,” her father scolded. She shot him a glance and continued tapping. She watched him carve his meal with large, exaggerated movements as if he were trying to display a pretence of insouciance, if only out of spite.

“He was in my room again last night,” she stated factually, and paused for a reply.

Tick-tick-tock went the pendulum clock, along with her fork on the plate.

“He was in my room again last night,” she repeated, and startled back at the sudden crash of tableware as her father slammed down his hands.

“What do you want me to do about it?!” he barked.

“Dear, please…” her mother pleaded, still holding her knife and fork as if she were just about to begin eating, as she always was, but never does.

Tick-tick-tock went the pendulum clock, along with the fork on the plate.

He exhaled deeply and shifted his focus back to his meal. He lowered his voice to a firm but vexed growl and said, “If it happens again, just close your eyes, pull the duvet over your head, and wait until he leaves. Just like every other time.”

Tick-tick-tock went the pendulum clock, along with the fork on the plate.

There was another crash of tableware, “And GODDAMMIT, stop tapping your fucking fork!” He pinned his eyes on hers, casting his finger, visibility seething—yet still taking extra care to not let his gaze drift to her right.

“But—it’s not me,” she stuttered in response with wide open, glaring eyes.

Tick-tick-tock went the pendulum clock, along with the fork on his plate.

The girl watched as her father’s tightened lips loosened to a slackened jaw; and as his narrowed eyes widened; and as his flushed face drained to a pallid pale of dawning realisation.

“My god…” her mother gasped.

“Don’t look at him,” her father snapped back.

“But he’s never—” the mother cried out.

“Don’t do it!” he warned, now rising to his feet.

“He might be better—” she begged.

“—He isn’t!”

Tick-tick-tock went the pendulum clock, along with the fork on his plate.

“—But my baby boy!”

“DON’T!”

The girl watched as her father leaped from his chair, and she shut her eyes at the sudden shrill shriek of her mother. There was a commotion, followed by a clamour of shattering glass, followed by a stillness. Eventually, the silence gave stage to the tick-tick-tock of the pendulum clock, along with the tapping of three forks against their plates.

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