Never Came Back: Chapter 2
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For the longest time, neither of us spoke.
Dad's eyes never left my face. His lips had turned down, his shoulders hunched forward. He tucked both hands in his pockets. A gentle breeze, sultry and thin, stirred his hair. The tan tone of his skin, the deep chocolate eyes, hinted at a hispanic ancestry. I swallowed.
Had I known that about him?
I heard myself speak.
"What are you doing here?"
He ran his tongue over his teeth. "I don't know," he said, breathless. His forehead formed deep grooves. "I just . . . I wanted to see you."
"After twenty years?"
The edges of his lips twitched. He looked away.
"You could have called."
"I tried. Many times. The number has been disconnected."
Oh, right. We'd ditched the LAN line for cell phones years ago. Besides, Mom would have hung up on him.
Would I have?
A hot flow of magma rose in my throat. Why did he have to look so much like the harrowed man I saw in my mind when I worked with Janine? Why did his eyes—surprisingly soulful—have to dart away from mine?
Did he deserve to miss me?
Why couldn't he just stay away?
Deep in my gut, a longing to throw myself into his arms overcame me. With it, a wave of confusion. Did I want to punch him, sob on his shoulder, tell him everything that happened the last twenty years, or a combination of all three? The wave of disbelief receded enough to clear the way for my thoughts.
The man before me was my Dad. I couldn't even doubt it. I saw myself in his eyes. In his lips. In the way he frowned.
"Mom can't know you're here." I glanced to the groceries littering the porch. It felt like eternities had passed since I went to the grocery store. Since I'd opened the door.
Since I'd felt so many things.
"But . . . I think that I want to speak with you."
Once the words crossed my lips, they sank deep into my bones. I did want to speak with him. While I couldn't help the boiling rage in my chest, a little spark of curiosity—or was it hope?—followed.
A long breath flowed out of him. His eyes glittered. He opened his mouth, then closed it and cleared his throat. He nodded once.
"Can you give me a few minutes? I . . . I need to take care of something inside first. And put the groceries away."
Scrambling fast, I tossed the food back into the ripped bag and threw the front door open. Mom sat on the couch, entranced by an old rerun of The Brady Bunch. She'd closed her laptop. Remnants of popcorn littered her robe.
The fridge door slammed into the counter when I flung it open. I slung the groceries inside, heart pounding. Should I tell Mom? Act like nothing had happened?
"So, uh, about dinner. Something's . . . come up."
"That's all right." She waved a hand. Her eyes never left the TV screen. "Go ahead with your friends, honey."
I paused, chicken in hand, then let her comment slide. "No, Mom, we'll still eat together. I'll just be back in an hour to make it."
"Mm hmm. Have fun."
After a quick check in the mirror—a few hours with my new employee at the bakery this morning and an early class—left makeup smudged around my eyes. I cleared the flaky mascara and twisted my hair into a quick ponytail. The overall effect didn't improve much. The unexpected urge to slide into my favorite renaissance costume caught me by surprise.
No. No dressing up. I had to go into this as Rachelle. Besides, what did it matter? He'd already seen me.
But he's your father, said a little voice inside. Don't you want to impress him?
How could a girl still want to impress a parent that left for twenty years and showed up again without warning?
I snorted and turned away.
The sound of a razor commercial sent me out the door.
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