“Here, he pushes the glass to me, I ordered you a pop.” I take it even though it’s grape and I’m allergic to grape. Also I don’t drink soda except for when I have a root beer float. But he doesn’t know this. How could he when we are meeting for the first time in fifteen years. I don’t have any memories of him.
I was about 1 when he left and at that age my priorities weren’t to remember the color of his hair or the way he smiled a wide grin whenever a camera was around. I knew that much from pictures though. I wondered if he had ever even seen a picture of me.
I bet my mom sent him one every year and they are in one of his drawers collecting dust or in a closet filled with things that didn’t have a place in his immediate life...like me.
I slowly swirl my straw around and create a purple black hole that I wish would suck me into it and spit me out anywhere but here. Anywhere but sitting across from my father whose suit is too small and his white shirt underneath has a yellow stain on the bottom of it. I shift uncomfortably in my seat.
My stockings are too tight but I had to dress modestly for the funeral. My mother wouldn’t have cared whether or not my legs were covered or what dress I wore or what my hair looked like, “Just wear whatever makes you feel beautiful Kayme.”
Kayme was her nickname for me because I couldn’t say Kayley when I was little. She had a few other nicknames for me too, Kay, Sunshine, Sweetness and Cutie Pie. She never called me Kayley unless I was in trouble.
“Kayley, did you hear what I said?” I look at up him and nod, “That’s fine, I don’t want to go back to the house yet either.”
I really don’t but I do want to take off these damn stockings. I wish my grandmother came with us but she had to go back to the retirement home. I promised her I would come visit before I left. “Are you hungry, he grabs a menu and eagerly looks through it, because I’m starving.”
I glare at him until he looks up at me. When he does I’m staring into my own eyes. I’m staring at my own nose, slightly crooked even though I never broke it but it looks okay in pictures at the right angle. He raises his hand, tugs and pulls on his ear lobe. I bit the skin on the corner of my mouth and chew until I taste blood.
“I’m not hungry.”
He puts down the menu and sighs, “Okay, are you thirsty?" "Do you want me to get you something else?" "I can order you some coffee or tea or a different kind of pop?” He spits out the questions in a manic manner.
“I don’t want a different kind of pop. I don’t want any pop and by the way it’s called soda here. "You know the place where you were with my mom until she got pregnant and you never wanted kids so you told her to get rid of it but she wouldn’t."
"She told you that once I was born you would change your mind and you stayed and you changed your mind anyway and left." "So no I don’t want anything to eat or drink, I want to be sitting across from the parent that actually cares about me instead of the one who is a complete stranger!” I fire back at him getting angrier by the second.
I stand up from the table and walk out the front door of the diner. I sit down on the curb, pull off my black heels and chuck them into the lilies that are to my left. I wipe my eyes and see a black streak from my waterproof mascara. I rip the bobby pins out, along with several strands of my ginger hair. I hear the door open but I keep my head down.
He sits down next to me but not too close. “I don’t have anything to say that makes what I did okay. I was 18 and stupid and scared out of my mind." "It still doesn’t excuse anything and by the time I realized the mistake I made it was too late. I came to see you for your 5th birthday but your mother wouldn’t let me in."
"I didn’t blame her, I left a gift for you and asked her to give it to you. I don’t know if she ever did.” He was talking about Buster the bunny rabbit.
The stuffed animal I held against my chest when it would storm at night The one I cried tears into when I sat on the kitchen chair while my mom picked rocks and dirt from the cut in my leg after falling off my bike. The one I clutched in my hands while I sat and watched the paramedics try to revive her.
I look at him from the corner of my eye, “Buster the bunny, he looks over at me and scoots closer, that’s the name I gave him.” “That’s a cute name. Did she ever tell you that I tried to visit you?”
I nodded my head, “Yeah, the day before she died she took me out for ice cream and in the middle of me talking she just started crying and saying how she made a mistake. She told me that you tried to see me on my 5th birthday and that you called to talk to me a bunch of times but she wouldn't let you.”
“I don’t blame her, I had no right but I kept trying because I realized the real mistake I made was leaving. Now, I’m sitting next to you, my daughter, and I don’t know what to do or say to make you feel better. Tell me what you need me to do Kayley.”
“Come back with me to the house so I can get Buster and a few other things.” He puts his arm around my shoulders and smiles at me, “Okay, let’s go back to the house, get a few things and you can tell me what you want to eat because I know I heard your stomach growl when I mentioned food.”
I smile through my tears and turn to wrap my arms around him. I bury my face into his chest and inhale deeply, breathing in the same scent that lingers on Buster after all these years.