Little A calls Big A's dad "Daddy".
"Hi Daddy", she says when he walks in to pick up Big A.
"Bye Daddy", she says when they are leaving. Sometimes she even tosses in an "I love you", when she doesn't say, "Peace out".
It was awkward, the first few times, but now it's just something we laugh off when she says it. I personally have a habit of laughing or smiling even when I feel as though my heart is being wrenched from within my chest.
Big A is happy to share, to an extent. I believe above the extent that a nine year old who has been thrust into that position would be. She'll show Little A pictures, talk about her daddy, and hug her a little tighter when they are sitting on the couch and she says, "No, Little A, he's my daddy. You don't have a daddy". I smile sweetly and get up and go into the bathroom off the kitchen and look in the mirror and say, "You will not cry" until I don't.
She's getting so much bigger and smarter now, Little A is, and I feel that as she does, I'm getting smaller and more scared.
I'm unsure of what to say to Big A when she expresses her anger at Little A's father. Her face turns to stone when she speaks of him, her eyes raging with an inferno of hurt and loss and not understanding. Mine wasn't the only heart he broke.
"Who wouldn't want to see their kid"? She'll ask, angrily. "I wish I could see him, because I'd tell him. Tell him what I think of him". Other times, she'll lay her head on my chest and cry for Little A. "What's life going to be like for her? To not even have a dad"?
"She has us", I'll say, and smile, and then Big A will tell me that I'm squeezing her hand too hard.
She's wise beyond her years, Big A, and she has a dad that is amazingly good to her. He coaches her ball teams, helps her with homework and genuinely enjoys her. I don't ever feel as though I'm a single parent to Big A. He knows her in and out, to the point that at times, I'm jealous.
They have the same demeanor and views on how life looks to them. If there are issues with Big A, I can call him at anytime of the day or night to discuss them; there is nothing more important than his child, and she knows that. I have to think that the security in that knowledge gives her things that Little A will not have, and somehow, intrinsically, Big A knows it, too.
I've been thinking of sending a letter and photos to his family, to let them know that his lack of acknowledgement of her hasn't bolted the door on their opportunity to know her, to be sure that they are aware that they are welcome in her life. I don't know what he's told them, but I cannot imagine my parents or siblings not wanting to know an extension of themselves, so it makes it hard (perhaps delusionally so) for me to envision them being that way.
I suppose I haven't sent them in fear of what they would or wouldn't respond. In fear that someday, I'll have to tell Little A that I did try, that her grandparents and aunt and uncle do know, but they didn't want to know her. I don't think I'm capable of saying those things to her.
Recently when I was cleaning out a drawer, I opened an envelope from one of my friends, expecting to find a letter from her. Instead, I found a handful of photos of Little A's dad. My intake of breath was audible and one of my hands rose to my chest, a reflex of the human body, to draw our hands to the spot that aches; to attempt to cover the wound that slowly seeps.
I wasn't sure what to do with them, those photos, for I'm in most of them as well, and we look very happy in those images. I want her to have the truth, but I don't know what the truth is. I know that the night that I told him over the phone (he was states away, snowboarding), he told me we'd get through it and that he loved me and he'd see me the next day.
I know when he left my house the next night, he said he'd be back, we'd go talk to my parents, he'd be moving in. There was no way in hell he was going to let me do this alone. I know I believed him.
I know that when I looked at those pictures, I recognized that I still don't understand. He was one of my best friends. He did love me. I have no doubt of that. Sadly, I have no doubt that if Little A were not to have existed, we would still be those friends, those people in those pictures. And that makes me angry, beyond words.
I'm angry that I spend so much time preparing for the explanation of his departure. Big A has committed to memory the events; she will undoubtedly chronicle what she witnessed to her sister one day, and the recollection won't be kind to him.
He doesn't deserve kindness; that isn't my worry. My worry is what scar his cowardice will leave upon Little A.
My worry is that someday, Little A will pick up those photos of her father, and her hand will rise to her chest, a small sob escaping her as she tries to cover the wound that lies beneath, and that I will be completely unable to help her, my own hands covering hers, frantically trying to ebb the bleeding.