I wish I were a better blogger, or that I did my Rish Outcast more often, since I'd enjoy talking about how much less inspired and fun this story is the second time around. In a way, I imagine it's the difference I'd feel between writing on assignment, for a newspaper or website, and writing for pleasure, doing what I want for as long as I want. I pretty much forced myself to try to rewrite this story, and nobody enjoys being forced to do things. I worry that the story's no good--if it ever was to begin with, and I have even started reconsidering the title, which was one of two or three I had given the story back when it existed in notebook form.
But the work waits . . .
The next morning, she awoke early. Dad’s apartment had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a combination kitchen and dining area, and the world’s smallest living room, where he’d put up a little television and a radio that was set to--yuck--the Eighties station. The guest room was clean (though it still had boxes filled with Dad’s stuff in it), and he’d gotten her a teddy bear with “Besties” written on its chest, sitting on the pillow. She knew where he got it, having seen the same bear at the airport gift show when buying her book. She’d pointed it out, joking that they’d misspelled “beastie,” and Dad hadn’t laughed. Now she knew why.
Dad was up, making bacon and toast, already in his work shirt and pants, but no tie or jacket.
“Hey, baby,” he exclaimed when she staggered in. “You sleep okay?”
“You making this for me?”
“For us, yeah. I thought I’d have to leave it for you, if you don’t get up till eleven in the summer.”
She rubbed the corner of her eye. “I went to bed so early, I guess I--“”
And then, the doorbell rang. It was eight-twenty-two in the morning. Dad went over and answered it, finding a plump blond-haired girl there, dressed in pink pants and a purple My Little Pony t-shirt.
“Hello, Mister Gunn,” she said with a smile.
“Hey, there. You, uh, need something?”
“I wanted to see if your daughter wanted to come over and play.”
He looked over at Tanissa, who was making a sandwich out of the toast and bacon, unaware the visitor was for her. “Baby, you’ve got--” Dad began, but the little girl--practically a stranger to him--stuck her head in the door, and said, “Hi!” as thought Tanissa was an old friend.
“I live downstairs. Do you wanna play?”
“You know, hang out together.”
“Oh.” Dad could tell by her body language that Tanissa was uncomfortable about this, but too polite to say no.
“I gotta go, Tannie,” Dad said, and hurried off to finish getting dressed. “Save me a bacon,” he called from the bathroom.
The little girl came in and stood next to Tanissa, measuring her up.” “Your dad said you were coming. There’s not a lot of kids in the building.”
“I heard a baby crying during the nig--”
“Great, I’m twelve. Your name is Tannie?”
“Tanissa. Dad called me Tannie when I was little, but I kind of hate it.”
“I’m Brekkyn,” said the girl. She had a couple of crooked teeth in the front, and her hair done in easy pigtails that made her look like a much younger kid.
“Yeah, but one’s not my name.” She tossed a look toward the television. “You have any games? Like a Playstation or something?”
“I don’t think so. This is my dad’s place, and he--”
“That’s okay. I have an Xbox and a PS4. I’m in 173, just me and my mom. Hey, kind of like you and your dad.”
“I’m just staying here for a couple of weeks."
The girl made a sound that could have meant anything. “Do you have an iPod or an iPhone or what?”
“Me?” Tanissa asked, suddenly a little embarrassed. Her mother didn’t like cellphones, and Tanissa was stuck with only the most basic of models. Still, it called, texted, took pictures, and played music, and that was good enough for her and her friends at school. “Just a phone. I had to pay for it myse--”
“Do you like your mom or dad better?” Brekkyn asked, very conspiratorially.
“Probably my dad. He doesn’t get mad about stuff. You?”
“I don’t have a dad,” the other girl said. “I’m an orphan.”
Before she could react to that particular comment, Brekkyn had a new question. She looked around the room for a clock “Is it nine yet? My favorite show is on at nine and four on Nick.”
“I don’t know if there’s cable here,” began Tanissa, but the girl interrupted her.
“All the apartments have the same cable here. I made sure before we moved in.” She went over to the coffee table and scooped up the remote control, turning on the television. “Have you seen McKenzee and Cassby: Kid Investigations?”
“No. That’s the show?”
“Yeah. On Channel 23. It’s about these sisters, Cassby and McKenzee Cooperton, and their uncle leaves them a detective agency, and they get all sorts of funny cases. Just about to start.” She changed it from ESPN to her channel, where an awful tween sitcom was playing.
The show sounded terrible, and Tanissa was too old for them, but the visitor plopped herself down on the couch, and patted the seat next to her.
“Look, I just woke up,” Tanissa said, trying to be polite. “I’m not even dressed.”
“I can wait. Still a few minutes before it starts anyway.”
Dad came out of the bathroom then, adjusting his collar. He was in his uniform and looked ready to go. “Well, I’m on my way,” he said. Tanissa crossed the room and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
He looked at her, aware that this was atypical behavior. “You gonna be okay while I’m gone?”
“I think so,” she said. Dad’s gaze went from his daughter to the girl on the couch. He grabbed his keys. “Look, gimmee a call if you need anything. I really appreciate you being understanding about this.”
“No problem,” she said. “But tomorrow I’m going to the airport with you.”
“We’ll see,” Dad said, and was out the door. He had forgotten his piece of bacon. No worry, Brekkyn ate it.
“Your daddy seems nice,” Brekkyn said from the couch. “He helped me and my mom move in when we first came here.”
“Yeah, he said something about t--”
Suddenly, the girl stood up. “You have no idea how great it is that you’re living here now. This place has been soooo boring.”
“I’m just staying for a few days.”
The girl wasn’t listening. “There were two boys on my floor when I first moved in. One of them was whiny, and the other was a stupid brat. But when they moved away, I realized there was nobody my age to play with anymore. There are a couple of teenagers on two, but they’re no fun. And everybody else is little kids.”
“Okay,” Tanissa said, and realized she was probably saddled with the company, at least until her show ended. “I’m going to get dressed.”
Brekkyn was waiting for her when she came out, and gave her an excited grin when her program began. It was an inane kids sitcom, about a thirteen and fifteen year old, who took on wacky cases that delighted the studio audience. Tanissa thought it was maybe the stupidest thing she’d ever seen before.
“Oh yeah. There was one where the school mascot got stolen, and one where somebody had taken all these paintings from an art show at the school, and one where the lunchlady was poisoned, but she turned out to just be on vacation.”
Tanissa slowly nodded. She wasn’t a nerd or anything, but she feared she was getting dumber just by watching the show.