My father never lived with us. Even before he left, my mother tells me he didn't live with us. He lived with a book and a prayer, the two things that ever kept him. I never knew him like most girls know their fathers, as the strongest man in the world who throws them into the air and tickles their stomach, the kind of father that is a rottweiler when it comes to boys and teddy bear when it comes to his daughter. My father could never throw me in the air; he couldn't ever hold me; his arms were insubstantial, made of whispers and air that swirled and silvered and mixed so that he was always moving through our house, picking things up off desks and stands and trying to catch hold of lost memories, just as filmy as he.

Mother began to not remember why she married him, after he was gone. She didn't see him at all the way I did; she just saw through him, seeing the things that were behind him rather than what was right in front of her eyes. Sometimes she'd say things about him, how he bored her, how the professors at her old college were more interested in her than he ever was. She also said that she went back to them, once or twice, to see exactly what they had to offer, and that their offerings were ten times better than watching a man read for a few hours. I was not supposed to hear these things, but I took to hiding in corners and listening instead of talking, and she laughed and giggled these things to her friends, dirty little secrets that no four year old should ever hear, though I never did quite understand what she meant until later.

By no means did my mother hate my father. He was just too old. He was an old man when my mother married him, after she got pregnant with me and had nowhere to turn. I was his child, and he knew that he had to take care of my mother and me.

Their wedding was in the town hall, nothing more than two people signing a piece of paper in the presence of two more witnesses and a chaplain. My mother was heavy with me by that time, her belly hanging out in a pleasant curve, the only pleasant thing about her at that point. She cried through the entire signing, her mascara running down her face in long, dark streaks and her eyes reddening into a tragic mask.

No one could ever speak ill of my father. He was quiet and he went to church on Sundays and worked as a house painter, his hair gray and feathery, as he would gently caress the wood of people's houses, lovingly giving simple walls new life. My mother would complain, saying he loved and cared for his job more than he cared for her. My father would shrug and turn back to his book, something ancient and worn, with a leather jacket and the words embossed on the cover in peeling gold.

My mother began to have other men even before he was completely gone. You could tell my father was half here and half there, as his eyes were becoming unfocused and seemed to glaze over into another world. I would still have conversations with him, though, and my mother would tell me to stop. Sometimes she would yell and say, "For Christ's sake, Ana, stop it!" And then she would cry and call up the young man who delivered our pizza, and take him upstairs and then I wouldn't hear from her until she allowed me to come back inside from being sent out to play among the flowers and the bees.

The closer my father came to leaving fully, though, the healthier he became. Sometimes he would even come outside with me during those times, and say, "Ana, look at those birds, all full of life and flying. Don't you wish you could be a bird?" And I would nod and say, "Oh yes. I would love to fly about and feel the air upon my face and build a safe warm little nest." And then my father would smile, his old blue eyes taking on their old life, and we would go pick daisies and string them through his beard. I knew he would be leaving completely on my first day of kindergarten. It was the way that he smiled and hugged me good bye, and the way my mother seemed to for once understand what I was doing. She held me close to her and said, "Honey, I understand it's hard for you. Just remember that I love you." Then she stroked my hair gently and kissed my cheek, and I ran off to the bus.

I cried on the way to school. I cried because the bus was so yellow and I was too caught up in a tide of confusion to really enjoy it. Yellow was my father and my favorite color. We used to love the dandelions, and I never understood why anyone would pull them up, even if they were weeds. How can something so beautiful be so commanding and powerful, like a dandelion, that'll take over the entire lawn if you don't watch them? I dimly remembered blowing the seeds off of a lifeless dandelion, seeing them float, ethereally into the gray, dreary sky of that day, and saying, "Oh, look, it's a bunch of children coming from their dead daddy!" and I laughed and looked at my father, who didn't smile. He, in his discolored skin, wandered slowly back up to the house, and I thought of the blissful look that had been on his face this morning. Oh, how happy he seemed!

I noticed that there was a little boy, my age, who was trying to get my attention. I turned to him and he said, "You're Ana McGurty, right?"

Thinking nothing of the question, I answered, "Yes. What's your name?"

The little boy ignored me and said, "Your daddy's dead."

"No he's not!" I said, angry.

"Yes he is, for three years, and I heard you still talk to him!"

The tears poured down my face and I looked at my small, wrinkled hands. "Please stop." I whispered, and then I looked out the window, knowing the truth of why my mother always spoke as if my father was gone. I wished desperately for the bus to crash as I heard the boy's mocking cries.

"You're daddy's dead! You're daddy's dead!"

"No he's not," I whispered, and thought of how I wished he could hold me in his lap again.

The end. Sorry, its one of my more depressing stories. Review if you like! It'll be appreciated!