13 years ago...
There was a knock at the door then just the small shuffle of feet. My chest already ached. Mom had called me on their way home to tell me what she'd done and that now she needed to go out to have some cocktails with friends. I'd be the one that would need to soothe Nan. My mom couldn't handle the stress it involved. Or so she'd said when she called me.
"Rush?" Nan's voice called out with a hiccup. She'd been crying.
"I'm here, Nan," I said as I stood up from the beanbag I'd been sitting on in the corner. It was my hiding spot. In this house you needed a hiding spot. If you didn't have one then bad things happened.
Strands of Nan's red curls stuck to her wet face. Her bottom lip quivered as she stared up at me with those sad eyes of hers. I hardly ever saw them happy. My mother only gave her attention when she needed to dress her up and show her off. The rest of the time she was ignored. Exceptby me. I did my best to make her feel wanted.
"I didn't see him. He wasn't there," she whispered as a small sob escaped. I didn't have to ask who "he" was. I knew. Mom had gotten tired of hearing Nan ask about her father. So she'd decided to take her to see him. I wish she'd told me. I wish I could have gone. The stricken look on Nan's face had my hands balling into fist. If I ever saw that man I was gonna punch him in the nose. I wanted to see him bleed.
"Come here," I said, reaching out a hand and pulling my little sister into my arms. She wrapped hers around my waist and squeezed me tightly. Times like this it was hard to breathe. I hated the life she'd been given. At least I knew my dad wanted me. He spent time with me.
"He has other daughters. Two of them. And they're... beautiful. Their hair is like an angel's hair. And they have a momma that lets them play outside in the dirt. They were wearing tennis shoes. Dirty ones." Nan was envious of dirty tennis shoes. Our mother didn't allow her to be less than perfect at all times. She'd never even owned a pair of tennis shoes.
"They can't be more beautiful than you," I assured her because I firmly believed that.
Nan sniffed and then pulled back from me. Her head tilted up and those big green eyes looked up at me. "They are. I saw them. I could see pictures on the wall with both girls and a man. He loves them.... He doesn't love me."
I couldn't lie to her. She was right. He didn't love her.
"He's a stupid asshat. You have me, Nan. You'll always have me."