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The sun was beating down on my back, small beads of sweat raced between my shoulder blades teasing me. If I would have know that the car was going to break down I would have worn something more summer appropriate. I was very aware that I was wearing a worn out, black tee shirt that was several sizes too big for me. But I liked the fact that it hid me from my father, I felt like it was big enough that it could swallow me up in the darkness. My thick denim jeans seemed determined to make my life as miserable as humanly possible by clinging to the surface of my body.
I let my gaze wander towards my dad who was hunched over the car taking a look at the engine. He shook his head in frustration and ran his hands through his raven black hair.
“What’s the diagnosis, Doc?” I smirked, looking up from the dirt road. I let my face wear a mask of fake pity, making it painfully obvious that I despised him.
Another nasty shake of the head. “I really don’t know, Char.” He found the soft patch of grass next to me and sat down, his long legs stretched in front of him like a small fortress.
This was a nightmare. I was a teenager sitting next to her father, who she hadn’t seen in three years. Not since she had been naively hero worshipping her father. And through the three years since we’d seen each other we’d both changed. I didn’t believe in my father anymore, not since he cheated on my mother and gotten the other woman pregnant. And now I was stuck with him on the road to nowhere. It was the perfect opportunity to talk, but I didn’t want to hear his sick excuses, like honey poisoning my feelings.
“So, what’s your plan? To just sit here?” I didn’t even try to keep the disgust out of my voice. He really was pathetic.
He glanced over at me and smiled a bitter smile. “Look,” he said. “I know you don’t want to be here with me.”
A fire rose in my chest. I clenched my hands into tight fists and played with the idea of beating his head in. He had a way of undermining everything. Especially when it came to me.
“Correction. I didn’t want to drive with you to your new house and meet your new family.” I picked myself up, crossed the dirt road, and plopped myself down on a pile of rubble.
He let his head sink into his hands. He sighed in defeat; he knew that this was coming and he had been hoping that I would have been complacent enough to drop everything between us. I saw his lips twitch with the promise of an excuse.
“Don’t even try to explain.” I shut him down so fast, my fury was hotter than his. I let my roar in my chest and move my lips. I let it consume me for just a few moments, just enough time for me to say, “You are pathetic.”
His head whipped up so fast I found myself scrambling to get up as he stormed over to me. He grasped my arm so tightly, burning bruises on my skin, and snarled, “You don’t know anything!” And in his anger he shoved me. A hard shove in the middle of my chest and I fell.
My back hit the ground knocking the wind out of my lungs and I gasped. I could feel the tears welling up behind my eyes and I could feel when they started coursing down my cheeks. Just like that my anger was gone, extinguished by the rage of my father. Sobs erupted from my chest, a terrible wail escaped my throat, tearing through the sky.
“I hate you!” I whimpered, tears streaming down my cheeks. I stayed there, lying on my back letting the earth claim me. By the time I had opened my eyes again, the sun had gone down bathing our tragic scene in twilight. I didn’t dare look to see if the car was still there, I couldn’t bring myself to find my father either. So I did the only thing I could do, lie there until the wolves descended down the mountain to find their next meal. It would be easy, I wouldn’t fight. I didn’t care anymore.
I watched as more and more stars appeared in the night sky and I found myself counting them. It didn’t seem fair that they were so free while I was trapped, earthbound. But it was the way that things were meant to be. Everything had a time and a place. And it was time to see what had happened with my father.
I pushed myself onto my elbows and let my eyes adjust. The car was still sitting in the middle of the road, the hood still up in a sign of emergency. I couldn’t bring myself to look to the other side of the road because if he wasn’t there then I would be forced to accept his abandonment.
For three years I had been avoiding his disappearance. I acted like it was supposed to happen this way, that this was the way my life was supposed to be. Never once had I blamed for what he had done. He had been seduced and, like any man, had fallen for her. For three years I had been protecting him like he should have been protecting me.
I closed my eyes and counted slowly to three. I made a promise, when I made it to three I would open my eyes and look over. One, two...three. I flung my eyes open and let my eyes wander over to the other side of the road.
He was lying down, the grass tickling his arms as the wind carried a sweet breeze. His eyes appeared to be shut, like he was in a deep sleep letting his dreams carry him where he really wanted to be. I found myself walking over to him and sitting next to his fallen figure. His dark hair was swept messily into his face, fluttering over his closed lids. He seemed so peaceful, so sweet and innocent. My heart yearned to be healed by his.
What happened to take us here, I thought silently.
I laid down next to his body and curled into it. He was warm and I found myself shivering, the night air chilling my skin. I took a deep breathe and let the scent of mountain flowers fill my chest. It reminded me of much simpler times when my family was still together and when we were still happy. We seemed to be all smiles and laughter, but not since I was a small child, probably around ten. Nothing was as good as the past.
“Char?” My father’s breathe tickled my cheek.
I wanted to say something, anything, possibly even apologize but I remained silent. My voice was trapped within my throat, caged away.
“I’m sorry, Char.” His hand rubbed my back, soothing like he used to do when he put me to bed as a child. I leaned into it and turned to face him.
“I’m sorry too, Dad.” I took another deep breathe, letting the mountain air and memories give me strength and said, “I never meant to really hurt you.”
“I know, Char. I know.” His face looked so dark with the night sky covering us. I wondered if anybody knew we were missing. I wondered if we were even on the same planet as anybody else. It all seemed too far away. “I wish we could just go back.” It was a muttered confession, one that I wasn’t supposed to hear.
“I know what I did was wrong, Charlotte, and I’m not going to make any excuses. I just want you back.”
I curled closer to him, letting his arms protect me from the rest of the world, from the sweet breeze and mountain flowers. “It won’t be that easy. I still haven’t forgiven you.”
“I didn’t expect you too.” He looked up and beheld the stars who were still smiling over us.
“Thank you.” I said barely above a whisper.
Did I trust him enough to not break my heart again? Did I trust him to be different this time? It was hopeless to even ask because I already knew what I had done. I was his once again.
“I love you.” I muttered, it was like the words had caught in my chest.
He glance over at me, a smile painted across his face, then looked back at the stars.
“I love you too, Char.” He whispered back.