Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: She Writes Press (August 11, 2020)
Praise for THE SERGEANT’S DAUGHTER
“Shelton hails from an extremely dysfunctional family, but, miraculously, she survives intact. People in seemingly hopeless situations may take solace.” ―Booklist
As a little girl, Teressa’s father dotes on her and little sister, Karen, while mercilessly mocking her older sister, Debbie. Teressa thinks its Debbie’s fault―until she gets a little older and he begins tormenting her, too. Soon enough, his verbal abuse turns physical. Her sergeant father brings his military life home, meeting each of his daughters’ infractions with extreme punishment for them all. Meanwhile, their mother watches silently, never defending her daughters and never subjected to physical abuse herself. Terrified to be at home and terrified to tell anyone, Teressa seeks solace in books, music, and the family she can find outside of her home: a best friend, a kind neighbor, and a doting grandfather. At first cowed by her father’s abuse and desperate to believe that maybe, one day, things will change, Teressa ultimately grows into a young woman who understands that if she wants a better life, she’ll have to build it for herself―so she does.
Chapter 15 — The Sergeant’s Daughter Excerpt
Mom and Dad were waiting for us when we got off the plane at the Seattle airport that January morning in 1968. I’d been so nervous during the trip that I’d sweated through my dress, and so the first thing I wanted to do was to change clothes, but Dad insisted we hit the road and begin the 2,200- mile journey to Missouri.
“Who’s riding with me?” Mom asked.
“I am,” my sisters and I all said in unison.
Mom gave me a little kick and nodded her head in Dad’s direction, her way of instructing me to ride with him. She told us he would be lonely if one of us didn’t go with him. I didn’t believe her for a second. Dad was happiest when no one was around to bother him. Anyway, I didn’t want to ride with him. He drove too fast and smoked too much. Mom smoked, too, but at least she rolled her window down and blew the smoke outside. Sometimes the smoke in Dad’s truck got so thick that my face turned yellow. When Dad noticed, he’d threaten, “You better not puke in my truck.”
Dad always led the way down the highway on our trips, and Mom followed. But it didn’t take long before her car was no longer visible in Dad’s rearview mirror. He’d pull over and smoke another cigarette. When Mom’s car was only inches away, Dad would pull in front of her to regain the lead.
This time while waiting for Mom, Dad smoked two cigarettes. Then he cursed and jumped out of the truck, pacing up and down the shoulder of the road until Mom parked behind us. As soon as she stepped out of the car, Dad was on her. “How long do you think I’ve been waiting?”
Mom said she didn’t know. “I’m not the driver you are. The roads are slick, and the girls are scared.”
“I don’t give a shit,” Dad huffed. “From here on out, I want that Rambler’s fender kissing my bumper. You got that?”
When Dad got back in the truck, I knew the drill: keep my eyes down and don’t say a word. But my knees started to shake. Dad glared at me and then at my knees. “Damn it, Teressa,” he said. “Stop those knees, or I’ll give you a reason to shake.”
But my knees wouldn’t behave, no matter how hard I tried to make them. Dad slammed on the brakes. He told me to get in the back. I was confused. Did he mean that I should go outside?
“I’m not going to tell you again,” Dad said. “Get in the back of the truck!”
I reached down to grab my coat off the floor, but Dad snatched me by my shirt, opened the door, and shoved me out into the frigid Montana air. I stood there, my head spinning. Dad tapped on the gas. I knew if I didn’t jump into the truck bed, he’d leave me on the side of the road. I hunkered down against the cab, with my back against the glass. When Dad took off, my eyes watered and my tears instantly froze.
Off in the distance, I saw Mom’s car and imagined my sisters’ faces pressed against the front window. I kept watching the red Rambler, looking for a sign. But Mom did what she always did: She followed Dad. Just when I thought my fingers might snap, Dad hit the brakes, jolting me against the cab. He got out of his truck, slammed the door, grabbed me by the arm, and plopped me on the side of the road. “Now, by damn,” he said, “you’ve got something to shake about.”
Copyright © 2020 by Teressa Shelton
Teressa Shelton has lived in nine states and three countries. After graduating from Belmont University in Nashville, she embarked on a career in managing medical practices. She lives with her family in Springfield, IL. The Sergeant’s Daughter is her first book.