He walked across the veranda and stopped just behind her.
The young girl stared into the darkness and said nothing.
‘Don’t talk to me.’
‘Come on, Honey, I just…’
The girl whistled tunelessly and studied the darkness.
‘You left us.’
The man bowed his head. ‘I know, Honey. I didn’t want to.’
‘You just left, without even saying goodbye.’
‘I couldn’t, Jodie, there wasn’t time, your Mom…’
‘Mom was hurt real bad. Do you know that?’
‘Yes, Honey, I know that. Do you miss me too, just a little?’
‘No, I got over you, it took a while, but I made it.’
‘I never got over you, Jodie. Never will.’
The girl got up from the step and turned to face him.
‘You haven’t changed much.’
‘No,’ he laughed. ‘I don’t suppose I have.’ He reached out to put a hand on her shoulder.
She stepped back quickly. ‘Have you seen Ryan?’
‘Not yet, I don’t know if he wants to see me.’
‘Probably not. He calls Jim, Dad, now.’
‘And you? Do you call Jim, Dad?’
She shook her head. ‘He’s not my Dad. I call him Jim.’
‘Is he looking after you Okay? Does he…’
‘What do you care? You left us. He wouldn’t be here but for that.’ She sat on the step again and wiped away and angry tear.
He placed a soft hand on her hair. She snapped her head away, then dropped her chin to her chest and began to sob. ‘You went… without…saying…goodbye.’
He sat on the step and placed his arm around her shoulder. A few seconds later she buried her head in his chest.
‘I would have given anything to stay, Sweetheart. You know that. I would never do anything to hurt you.’
The sobbing slowly subsided. When she spoke again her voice was soft, all the anger gone.
‘Christmas was bad, and Thanksgiving. I didn’t celebrate my birthday, not properly.’
‘I couldn’t send you anything, Jodie. It wasn’t possible.’
‘I know, Dad. I’m older now, I understand.’
A voice called from inside the house. ‘Jodie? Dinner’s ready. Come wash your hands.’
She stood up slowly. He crouched and took her hands in his. ‘You had better go or you’ll be in trouble.’
She threw her arms round his neck and hugged him. ‘Thanks for coming, Dad. Will I see you again?’
‘He sucked on his teeth and tipped his head to the side. ‘Never say never. It’s difficult, but I’ll try to come over now and then. It might be a while ’til next time though.’
She stepped back and gave him a smile. ‘I love you Dad.’
He nodded slowly. ‘I know, Honey, and I love you, never forget that.’
She smiled again. ‘Sorry for behaving like a brat.’ She turned away and crossed the veranda as Jim appeared in the doorway.
‘Jodie, how many more times…’
‘Sorry, Jim. I was just thinking about Dad…it’s three years ago today that he died.’