Avery, eleven years old

Snuggled underneath my pink princess-crown comforter, I watched as Dad pulled a sobbing toddler against his chest. The child cried into his shoulder, the tears dripping in uncountable numbers onto his plaid shirt.

"Thank God," he whispered as he ran his fingers through the little girl's hair, making sure it wasn't a dream; that his daughter wouldn't be lost from his life forever when he released his grip. "Thank God. What would I have done without you, princess?"

He pulled her in closer, squeezing her tightly. I could practically feel that warmth, as if he held me, as if he spoke to me.

Like every movie my dad starred in, his performance made me question what I knew to be true: I was his daughter. Not the blonde-haired girl who mocked me through the small television on top of my white paint-chipped vanity.

I threw Lionel at the television screen, my lower lip wobbling and my eyes brimming with tears. The stuffed lion landed in a useless heap, but not before knocking over my bin full of plastic necklaces. With a loud clattering noise, the beaded jewelry spilled freely across the wooden floor of my bedroom.

The soft glow of the television provided the only light and I watched bitterly as that last scene from my dad's latest movie reflected into a bracelet's metallic-green bead. She didn't even care-after all, her lines were scripted and she just needed to cry on cue. But that little girl pretended to have what I craved more than anything in the world: my dad's love.

I wanted to know how to pretend like he did. My acting classes obviously failed me.

Even when I read lines with a partner. Even when I acted ridiculously happy as I read an upbeat, energetic monologue-in which I made use of the entire six-foot by six-foot chalk-marked square allowed for my character's ramblings. Even when I sat down to dinner with my mom and smiled, assuring her: 'yes, I did well on the history test today' or 'yes, I finished my math homework.'

Even then it still didn't work. My acting partner fed off my energy as we read lines of the script. The entire acting class stood and clapped when I threw my hands up in glee, my entire body on fire from exertion as the last line of my monologue rang out in the classroom's small space. My mom-she proved a bit more difficult to fool, but even she didn't press too much past my display of contentment and happiness; certainly she believed I didn't think about Dad anymore, or that his absence didn't bother me.

I still failed as an actress though, because no matter how much I could convince my audience I was fine, I still knew a deep hole resided inside of me where his presence should have been. I just didn't understand. All the tabloids showed a strong man with light gray eyes and a winning smile, with loose blonde locks that framed his rugged face perfectly. Those eyes held no sign of sorrow as the paparazzi's pictures captured him going about his daily monotonous tasks; tasks that only seemed exciting because of his status. I often chuckled when pictures marveled over him buying coffee at his local star bucks or shopping at a discount store.

It seemed somewhere along the line he convinced himself my absence in his life didn't matter, and now I needed to do the same.

I mean, he obviously managed quite well without me, right?