Daddy’s Unexpected Visit
by Emily Weston
Her father was the last person six-year old Dorie Lamb expected to see outside her window. He’d been dead these last six months. Mum had cried when she sat Dorie down one day and told her that Daddy wouldn’t be coming home to them any more. That he’d been in an accident. That he was dead.
Dorie had understood this, and Mr. Bedford, Daddy’s business partner, had been very nice to her and given her things after it happened. Mum was happier when he was there.
Daddy raised a thin hand and held it up, looking at her. Dorie stared out, wondering what he was doing in Mum’s little rose garden. Mum’s white roses were her pride and joy, and she wouldn’t be happy if she knew that someone had been in them.
“Dorie?” His voice was so thin and fragile that Dorie scarcely heard it. “Open the window.”
Her little hands had trouble raising the window sash, but it finally was up and stayed up. She peered out into the gray evening, feeling the wet cold seeping into her bones. Mum would be fussed if she knew that Dorie was exposing herself to such cold. She pulled her head back in, listening to be sure Mum was still in her own room. She was.
“Daddy?” What is he doing here?
“Dorie, girl. You’ve grown.” He walked closer, almost floating, and stood directly outside the window.
“You made Mum cry.” Mum had cried a great deal. She had cried when she was packing them up to move to the small flat they were in now.
“I know.” Daddy’s face was sad, and Dorie watched as he slowly reached out to her, touching her cheek. His touch was cold, like a stone floor on a winter day.
She pulled away slightly. Why had this man come back, instead of her daddy? Her big strong daddy, with the big voice, who made Mum laugh.
Dorie pulled away from the pale, white man standing under the open window. “We put my daddy on the Farm.” she said thoughtfully. Mum had taken Dorie out to scatter Daddy’s ashes on Grandpa’s farm, where Daddy had grown up. “You’re not Daddy.”
Dorie made a half-move to shut the window, but he looked so sad that she stopped. She didn’t like sadness. Mum was always sad, and it frightened Dorie a little, made her little world seem bigger somehow.
“Oh, Dorie, girl. Let me in.” Dorie did want her daddy back. Very much. If she brought Daddy back to Mum, she thought, perhaps they’d all be happy again. A happy family all together again.
He was in, looking slowly around the room that was unfamiliar to him. “So this is where Maggie is living now.” He spoke as if to himself, but Dorie didn’t answer, dancing happily to the door.
“Come along, Mum will be so glad to see you!” Dorie’s excitement began to build. She didn’t quite understand how Daddy had come to be there, but he was back, and all was beginning to be right with the world.
He brought his attention back to her and followed her slowly into the hall.
“Mum!” Dorie forgot the rule about entering Mum’s room without knocking and burst in, Daddy behind her.
Maggie Lamb stood frozen next to her bed, her hair mussed as if she had just gotten up. She looked upset when she saw Dorie standing in the doorway. She had a very strict rule about Dorie not entering her room.
When Mum finally spoke, Dorie knew she was very angry. “Dorie. Go to your room.” And Dorie almost began to cry, because she didn’t want Mum to be angry. Then she remembered that Daddy was there, and he was going to make everything better.
“Dorie, go.” Mum’s eyes were gaining the light that Dorie knew meant trouble. Doesn’t she see Daddy?
He stepped forward and spoke, taking his hands out of his trouser pockets. “Maggie.”
Mum jumped, unsettled, confusion flickering in her face.
Daddy smiled, but it was a different smile than he’d used for Dorie earlier. “You know my voice, I see.”
Dorie was forgotten as Mum backed further away, still confused. “Thomas?” Her hand made a movement toward the phone sitting beside her bed, but then it dropped to her side.
“Mummy?” Dorie said. They didn’t hear her. Daddy had eyes only for Mum, and Mum was terrified, cornered now.
“There always comes a reckoning, Maggie. You didn’t think you’d get away with it, did you?” Daddy sounded reasonable, Dorie thought. Can’t Mum see him? Maybe that’s why she’s afraid.
“How...” — Mum cleared her throat — “how did you find us?” she whispered, sinking to her knees, still holding herself against the wall behind her bed.
“It wasn’t easy.” Daddy sat down on the bed beside her and reached for her hand. Mum shuddered and tried to pull away from his icy grip of iron, but Daddy held her tightly.
“It wasn’t easy, but I’ve found you now.” He smiled, and Dorie caught the smile she’d missed earlier. It frightened her, and she knew that Daddy wasn’t going to make everything better. Mum was shaking, her eyes closed, her face pale, and her messy red pile of hair had slipped back, hairpins falling out.
“You can’t hide from me. I have all the time in the world now, don’t I?” He tightened his hand, and Mum cried out. “Don’t I, Maggie? You saw to that.”
He reached out his other hand to touch her hair, letting it fall to run down her cheek. Mum resigned to his touch, but shivered. “You made sure I couldn’t spend more time with you and Dorie.
“How much did you get, Maggie?” Daddy’s voice was low and dangerous. Dorie had never heard it before.
Mum kept her head down and was silent. Daddy struck her, and she screamed.
Dorie jumped and started to cry. Everything was going wrong. What was Daddy doing? He was supposed to come in and make Mum be happy. She was supposed to hug him, and they’d talk, then Mum would maybe fix a late tea, and give Daddy salt in his, just like he liked, and they’d be a family again. What was happening?
“How much did you get?” Daddy repeated.
Mum licked her lips nervously and replied, “Forty thousand from the insurance... I did love you, Tom.”
Daddy released her and sat back, laughing a dry, dreadful laugh.
Dorie’s tears caught in her throat, fear turning to terror.
“Forty thousand. Oh, that’s just rich, Maggie, just rich. And where is it now?”
“James.” Mum’s voice was so faint that Daddy took a minute to hear it.
“Yes. He knew how you treated me, Tom.” Her voice grew stronger. “He was right, I should have done it long ago.”
Dorie was terrified; she had to leave the house. Daddy was frightening her. She slipped from the tiny, dark bedroom and ran outside into the gray evening. Ran the short distance to the end of the road, her bare feet sliding over the loose old cobblestones, and hid in an old shed at the end of the lane. She gasped for breath, Mum’s last horrible scream following her, ringing in her ears...
* * *
When the policeman found her the next day, Dorie was cold and cramped from staying in her hiding place so long. He carried her, curled up unmoving, in his arms gently to his car.
He set her on the bonnet, and, with his handkerchief, tried futilely to wipe off the blood where her feet had been cut on the road.
He was very nice and tried to get Dorie to talk to him, but her mind was frozen. She watched blankly, with dull, unseeing eyes, as two men with a stretcher carried the bloodied, broken body of her mother down the front steps of their building and into the waiting ambulance.
“Poor kid,” a big policeman said over her head, “’ow much you think she saw?”
Her policeman shushed him quickly, before he could say anything else, but Dorie wasn’t listening anyway. Out the corner of her eye she saw a flash of white and Daddy’s face in the garden, then he was gone.
Copyright © 2014 by Emily Weston