Home > When We Met(4)

When We Met(4)
Author: Shey Stahl

“No!” Sev screams in her face, tears forming as she stands up on the barstool. “I not! I not dummy.”

Remember when I said they didn’t get along? Truth. Every damn day is like this. They’re eighteen months apart, and it shows on days like today. Sighing, I turn to face them. “Sev, sit down on your butt. Cam, lay off your sister.” I pour syrup on Sev’s waffle and not on Camdyn’s. “She’s three.”

“Stop calling me that.” Camdyn hates her name shortened to anything but the original. She also follows the directions on everything to a fucking T, and if you miss a number during hide and seek, she will call your ass out every time. “My name is Camdyn.”

“I named you.” I level her the dad stare and slide a fork her way. “I’ll call you whatever I want.”

Frowning, she takes her fork and pushes brown curls from her face. “She started it.”

“No, you did. Now eat, or we’re going to be late for school.” As I watch her angrily cutting her waffle and then giving up to eat it with her hands, I smile at how different these two are. While Sev has blonde curls, blue eyes, and a personality bigger than her tiny body can handle, Camdyn is more reserved yet wild in her own ways. Loves horses, wears cowgirl boots everywhere, hates her hair brushed, and wears as few clothes possible. She once went a whole day without pants before I realized she wasn’t wearing them. We went to the fucking bank like that, and I had no idea.

Gentle by nature, yet unforgiving, she’s got my brown hair and has beautiful dark, mysterious eyes with long thick eyelashes that curl up toward her eyebrows. She never wants to admit defeat, will argue until she can’t breathe, and you also never know what she’s up to. Always scheming and looking for trouble.

It’s funny that both of them have equal traits from me and Tara. While I was the wild hell-raiser of the South, always into trouble and cared little for rules, Tara was by the book, yet pushed her own boundaries.

Look at me talking about her in the past tense, as if she’s dead.

To me, she might as well be.

“Daddy?”

Sev draws my attention to hers. “Yeah?”

“I go to school too?”

“No, you’re hanging with me today.”

It’s hard to believe she’s old enough for this, but Camdyn started preschool this fall because she wasn’t quite old enough to start kindergarten this year. Turned five three days after the cutoff, and believe me when I say I heard for weeks about how unfair this rule was. She only goes half the day, but half the time spent at the shop with me is better than nothing. They need someone other than a bunch of roughed-up mechanics and cowboys as role models.

Still eating her waffles, Camdyn shakes her head, her eyes focused behind me. “Vader’s on the counter again.”

I scowl at the cat and hold up the butter knife in my hand. “Get down.”

He simply looks at me as if to say “try it, motherfucker. I’ll kill you in your sleep.” And I wouldn’t put it past the bastard either. I hate that cat. He’s Sev’s cat, and I wish someday his nine lives would be up.

Want to hear something real crazy?

The day we brought Sevyn home from the hospital, Vader showed up and never left. We don’t know where he came from, but there was this little black feisty kitten at our doorstep. It’s weird that she’s so into everything creepy and the fucking cat showed up, isn’t it?

When I turn around to take the plates off the counter, I notice what Camdyn is wearing. A crop top. That she clearly made herself by cutting the bottom part of her shirt off. “What are you wearing?”

“A crop top,” she tells me, as if I didn’t know, and goes back to loading her backpack with shit I don’t think she needs at school—like ten hair ties and just as many hats. Maybe she’s going to change every hour, but knowing Camdyn, she’s a pack rat. I say that nicely, but she can’t let go of anything. She’s lost four teeth, and she talked the tooth fairy into giving her them back. They’re in our junk drawer next to her first lock of hair. Twice Sev has tried to steal them to make another, nicer sister by casting a spell.

I know… my kids are weird. Believe me, I know this.

Sev eyes her sister, pushing her curls from her face with syrup hands. Sighing, I reach for a wet rag on the counter to wipe her face. “I’m aware that it’s a crop top. I’m asking why my five-year-old daughter is wearing it.”

Camdyn looks down at her shirt and a good portion of her stomach hanging out. “I like it.”

“I don’t care if you love it. Little girls cover their bodies.”

The frown digs deeper. “Why?”

“Because I said so,” I growl, annoyed she’s questioning my rules. “When you’re eighteen, you can wear what you want. Until then, your shirt covers your belly button.”

Her face scrunches in annoyance as she turns to stomp to her room. “You have too many rules!”

I know exactly what boys think of girls wearing crop tops. And though she’s a child, I’m not about to have any grubby little boys befriending my daughter because she’s half-dressed.

If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m fucked. I have one kid who’s into witches and one that’s looking like she might grow up to be a whore.

 

After breakfast, I get the kids into my truck. Thankfully Camdyn is dressed in a regular shirt and her belly button is covered.

I drive a late ’90s beat-up Ford 350, and while the heater works, forget air conditioning. Even with heat, it takes a long time to warm up.

“It’s cold,” Sev notes, shivering in her booster seat as she yanks her gloves on, her voice barely heard over the hum of the diesel engine.

“It’s always cold.” I rub my hands together, watching her and Camdyn get buckled, and set the envelope with the papers in it on the seat next to me. I smile to myself, anticipating her reaction. I know why she keeps sending them back, hoping I’ve changed my mind about signing them, but I haven’t. She doesn’t get to dictate any of this. After everything she put me through, she’s not calling the shots any longer. I am.

“My nose is chilly.” Sev rubs it aggressively.

I look back at her and hand her the blanket she kicked on the floorboards. “Stop doing that. It’s going to fall off.”

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