by Hope

She takes him in her mouth. No, not like that, not his body, just his name: dad, my father, daddy, Mr. Small, Henry; into her mouth and she sucks the flavor from the words. All the things they mean, all the things they say in their economy. Protector, savior, first love, pure love, mentor, guide, going to marry a man just like you one day, dad. Going to stand up, stand strong, fight for things and maybe win a little bit, even if the rest of the world collapses into dust.

Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, she's got another daddy but there's no taste to him. He doesn't weigh on her lips or climb into her skin with messages and meanings; Lana's all mitochondrial at the black, black stone that says his name for her. She has memories, but they're dust too- a fleeting sense of wonder, a momentary, romantic sensation of swinging up off the lawn and into the sky, tethered only by his hands.

She doesn't remember sitting on his lap, and she's too old to sit on the new one. Too old to lay her head against father's shoulder, too old to rub her face against his beard and make a sense connection that will remind her when she's fortyeight and laying on an exam table, that the doctor's cologne smells like safety, just like her dad. She's too old to stick her fingers into his mouth to learn how sounds are made, too old to cling to his thigh and peer around his hip.

Sixteen is not for sleeping beneath his arm, or playing with his fingers. He hasn't kissed her, on the cheek or the mouth, he doesn't touch her, but he looks and he sees, and it's not fair that she can't identify all the senses of him. Hear and see, longing for touch and taste and scent; all the mysteries of a man modeled to ideal, who loves her first and best and won't ever, ever stop even if he finds out what's inside. He knows what's inside, he put it there, he made it out of his own flesh; it can't surprise him.

It's not fair that she loses people, it's not fair that she has to push them away. It's not fair that Jennifer wants to leave, because stepmother, wicked stepmother is really the one with the sword and shield. It's her job to take him into her mouth, yes, like that, and to smooth his hair when it's wild and to suck sounds off his tongue, and sit on his lap. She has to put her body between the witching hour, that fine line between strangers and family, so Lana can say dad, my father, daddy, Mr. Small, Henry, and not have it mean too much.

He just walked away, and it already means too much.

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