The man who said he was her father smelled of bourbon and Aqua Velva. He slicked his hair back in the way that men with blue-black hair often did.
The man who said he was her father said he was sorry, not only for the loss now of her mother, but for taking off on them years ago. The man said he had loved her mother very much, was crazy about her at the time. That he had been too young and scared to be a family.
He sat beside her at the funeral service, his arm set along the back of her chair, his other hand holding hers in her lap. At the cemetery, his fingers settled in the small of her back to steady her. She was barely aware of him and yet glad to have him there. He took her home and assured the neighbors he’d get her to school on Monday, that is, if she was ready to go.
A month later, the man told her they’d be moving to Houston where he knew he could get a job. He told her he’d heard the schools were great there and she’d make new friends.
She went with him, the man who said he was her father, because he told her he loved her and held her when she woke up crying, and he hugged and kissed her every day, and because she had no one else and no place else to go.