Lydia stood on the porch taking deep, calming breaths. He was in there. Her father was in that house. At least she was guessing he was. That had to be his car in the driveway. Lydia took one final breath and let it out slowly, bracing herself. Without allowing herself to think about it Lydia quickly pressed the buzzer beside the door. No going back now, she thought silently.
A few moments later she heard sounds coming from inside the house. The door opened and there over the threshold was her father. 'Can I hel -' he began, before a look of astonishment and disbelief washed over his face. 'Lydia.....?'
'Hi Dad,' Lydia replied quietly.
'Lydia!' he cried leaping out onto the porch and hugging her. 'I can't believe it's you! What happened to my little girl?!'
'Uh, Dad,' Lydia began as she tried to step back from him. 'Can we go inside?'
'Of course, of course,' he said hurriedly ushering her thorugh the door. The house was just as she remebered it, cosy and snug. Her father led her into the open plan living room with it's wood burning stove and full length windows, covered by heavy wine colored drapes. In the corner of room a sitcom was on the television. Her father reached for the remote control on the coffee table and switched it off quickly.
Lydia stood in the centre of the room, her father staring at her, suddenly speechless. He looked just like he did all those years ago. If Lydia didn't know any better she would have said he hadn't aged a day. He took a deep breath and took off his glasses. 'What are you doing here?' he managed to say
Lydia shrugged. 'I thought it was time I payed you a visit. It has been a while.'
Her father nodded. 'It certainly has.'
Lydia glanced around the room. 'You don't have any christmas decorations up,' she noted.
'Dom, Ginny and Michelle are coming over tomorrow. We're going to do it then.'
'Michelle?' Lydia asked.
'Yeah,' her father replied. 'Your cousin. You remember her don't you?' Lydia nodded.
So Michelle hadn't told him that she'd found her in New York. Lydia had sworn her to secrecy but she hadn't been sure she could trust her. It turned out Michelle wasn't as flaky as Lydia had thought.
'It's great to see you,' he said with an unsure smile. 'I wasn't sure if I'd ever see you again.'
'Didn't you try to find me?' Lydia asked with a slight note of hurt in her voice. A shadow suddenly clouded his eyes and his eyes dropped forward a little. He sighed deeply and walked over to the couch, sitting down, head in hands.
'You didn't did you?' Lydia asked, relaization slowly dawning on her.
He let his hands drop to his knees and looked up at his daughter. 'It's not because I didn't want to,' he began earnestly. 'Believe me, I did.' But it was your Mom. If I'd have came anywhere near you she would have killed me.'
Lydia shook her head with disbelief. 'But why? I'm your daughter, regardless of whatever happened between the two of you.'
'Lydia,' her father said with strain in his voice. 'Your mother hates me. She didn't want me anywhere near you.'
'But why?' Lydia repeated.
'Didn't she ever explain to you?' he asked.
Lydia shook her head again. 'No. What happened that was so bad? So terrible?'
Her father rubbed at his temples. 'I changed,' he said quietly.
'You changed?' Lydia asked, repeating his words.
'She couldn't love me any more,' he said sadly.
'But why?' Lydia asked raising her voice.
'It's complicated,' he said quietly. Lydia sighed and took a few steps backwards collapsing into a chair like the little girl she had once been.
'I'm sorry,' she said wearily. 'I didn't mean to make you feel bad. I just don't understand.'
'Does your mother know you're here?'
'No,' Lydia replied. 'She thins I'm with a friend in Connetticut. I told her I was spending christmas there. But actually....... I'd like to spend it here with you. If that's okay?'
Her fathers face lit up. 'Of course it is! I'd love to have you here for christmas.'
'I was hoping you'd say that,' Lydia replied.
Her father got to his feet quickly. 'So listen, are you hungry? I could make you something.' Lydia stood up shaking her head.
'No, that's okay, I'm actually really tired.'
'Well your room's just as you left it,' he said clapping his hands together. 'Make yourself at home. I mean, it is still your home after all, kind of.'
'Thanks Dad,' Lydia said walking over to him and giving him a peck on the cheek. 'I'll go and get my bags out of the car.'
A few minutes later Lydia was stood in her old bedroom. It really was just as she's left it. From the dusky rose colored carpet to the matching quilt and pillows on her bed. The same ivory ruched drapes hung at the four dormer windows. The white whicker chair stood beside her desk which was cluttered with books, pens and notepads.
Lydia walked to the desk and ran her fingers across some of the objects upon it; her maths book and history book with the words Lydia Marino scrawled across the covers in her childish writing, her fluffy pink pencil case, her favorite pen with the marabou feathers on the end. Amongst all the mess she noticed a small pile of papers.
The title on the top paper read, Charlotte's Web - A Book Report by Lydia Marino. Lydia smiled and picked it up. This was the end of term paper she'd been working on the night before her mother had taken her away. She had almost finished it but never got to hand it in. Judging by this her father really hadn't laid a hand on her room in all these years.
It was very surreal - like going back in time. As Lydia turned to face the mirror that hung above her dresser she almost expected to see the skinny little girl with the braces and headband that she once had been. Looking into the mirror she caught sight of all photographs she had stuck up on the edges. She walkde over to them as if pulled by a magnet.
Lydia gazed at the photo's with fondness. All the old gang were there - Steffi, Val, Tina and Shelby. There were pictureds of them at school, on the beach, at slumber parties, riding their bikes, camping, hanging out in one anothers back yards and in Shelby's tree house. They all looked so carefree, so happy, as they grinned up at the camera, posing goofily as only children can.
Lydia felt tears welling in her eyes and a sadness crept into her chest. Looking aorund like this, at how her life had been, Lydia felt as if it was almost like looking around the bedroom of a dead person. Of someone who's life had been cut short suddenly, as if they'd left one morning and never came back.
Well that was sort of what happened. Lydia's life here had been cut short. She'd lost everything in her life that made her happy, her father, her friends. She hadn't even been able to finish elementary school with them. Instead she'd moved to New York and started junior high there, starting from scratch without any friends. Of course she soon made new friends, good friends, but in her heart they'd never matched up to Steffi, Val, Tina and Shelby.
It must have been so hard for her father, not knowing where she was or if he'd ever see her again. The nagging feeling that had set in during the conversation she'd had with her father returned. Lydia was too tired to start thinking about it, so instead she quickly got changed and climbed into bed.
As she did so, memories flooded back to her of the times she used to climb into this bed as a kid. Every night she'd turn down the blankets, climb in, cover herself up and tuck her stuffed polar bear Erica into the crook of her arm before reaching over to the top drawer on her bedside cabinet. That was where she kept her journal.
Instinctively Lydia lunged at the cabinet and pulled the drawer open. There it was, her journal. It was bound in pink velvet, with her name across the front formed out of fake jewels and sequins. It was huge. Shelby had given it to her for her tenth birthday. Lydia opened it up and read the inscription on the inside of the cover.
To Lydia - One of the best friends a girl could wish for! Happy tenth birthday! May it be filled with learning, laughter, adventure and fun! You always say that the truth is stranger than fiction so here's a special journal in which you can document all the strange goings on that happen in your life. A birtday gift from me to you May you cherish it as much as I cherish our friendship! All my love, Shelby. Friends Forever! xxx
Lydia smiled and a solitary tear slid down her cheek. She'd almost forgotten how mushy Shelby was. They'd always made fun of her for it, but deep down they all knew that Shelby was just saying what they all felt. She began to leaf through the journal slowly, her eyes skimming the pages as she did so. She suddenly stopped when her eyes fell upon a name. Toby Jaworsky.
Lydia looked at the top of the page. The entry was dated 11th August 1993. She read on.
Today was the day - the big neighborhood water fight! The girls and I met up early at Shelby's place where we filled up our super soakers and stocked up on water bombs. Shelby kept saying that she didn't want to take part -until Val told her that she'd give her a black eye if she didn't. I figured she wouldn't really do it, but Shelby wasn't about to call her bluff.
The water fight was awesome! We were winning for a while. That was until I heard some boy call my name. 'Hey Lydia!' I should have known better than to turn around but I guess I wasn't thinking. It was Toby Jaworsky who' called me. Him and a bunch of his friends ambushed me and pelted me with what felt like a hundred water bombs. I was soaked!
It was totally unfair! Toby and his friends completely ignored everyone else and picked on me. I swear that's against the rules! Toby's turned into such a jerk recently, He used to be nice, geeky, but nice. Now he's just like all the other morons at school. I think I might actually hate him. Steffi said he picked on me because he has a crush on me. Well if that's true then too bad, because I think he's a goofy looking idiot!
Lydia laughed as the memories of that day washed over her. That had been a great summer, her last summer in Trenton. Another tear fell. She hadn't thought she'd be so emotional, but Lydia couldn't help feeling a little sad. She wiped the tear away, closed the journal and put it back in the drawer. Switching off her bedside lamp she curled up under the covers and yawned.
Tomorrow was ChristmasEve. Tomorrow she'd try to track down her friends. For now all she wanted to do was sleep.