I sat at the table, eyebrows scrunched, my pencil scratching over paper as I worked out another subtraction problem. I heard the sound of the front door opening and looked up from my homework.
I watched as Ginni ran to him, her wild hair flying behind her as she catapulted herself into his arms. I saw his face transform, lines and frowns disappearing in a smile, that special smile he kept for her.
“Hi, there, sweetheart,” he said, then planted a loud, smacking kiss on her cheek. She giggled and swiped at the wet spot his lips had left.
He set her down and came into the kitchen. I sat up straight, my eyes never leaving him, hoping he would smile like that at me tonight. He absently ruffled my hair and inhaled deeply.
“Dang, that smells good. What’s for dinner?”
“Meatloaf. It should be ready in about fifteen minutes,” my mother answered him.
He lifted a brow, then shrugged. Not much he could do about it; he’d have to wait. He nodded at my papers strewn across the table.
“Better clean up that mess, then, huh, Bren?”
“Yes, Father,” I said, and I gathered my homework into a single, neat pile, then transferred it to my notebook.
Meanwhile, he sunk into what I always thought of as our big, comfy couch – an old, frayed thing that had long lost its springs. Ginni joined him, first sitting next to him, then somehow finding a way onto his lap. She always did that, and he never seemed to mind. They sat like that, she in his lap, he twirling his finger in her hair, until he heard my mother call.
“About time,” he muttered, and I saw my mother blush an unpleasant, splotchy red. Her eyes flashed, but before she could get started, he held his hand up.
“I’m just hungry, is all,” he said. “You know I work hard. A man gets hungry, Jess, that’s all.”
Just like that, she let it go, or at least, she let the words go, but it was still there, in her shoulders, in the way she held her head high like that, in those flashing eyes.
“C’mon, Daddy,” Ginni said, grabbing his hand and pulling her with him.
He laughed and gave her that smile again, the one that was hers, the one that would never be mine. I contemplated it for a minute.
I could do that, I realized. I could meet him at the door, leap into his arms, demand that he love me. But Ginni, she’s only three, and I’m six. You can do that when you’re little. I stopped being little a long time ago.
* * *
Today’s Friday Flash is from exploring the back story for Brenda Freeborn, a character in one of my short stories.