I'm in the car, ignoring the radio and watching my father drive. I'm thinking about the woman he married; the woman who will never be my mother and who will never listened to a word I say. He always chooses her over me, always tends her wounds before mine. He's not my father when she's in the room.
I decide to ask him a question. It's a question I've tried to banish from my mind. An unthinkable question I've never uttered out loud for fear of giving it validity. I don't want to say it, but I know if don't say something soon I will be afraid of the answer forever.
We are alone in the car. When it's only us I sometimes I feel like his little girl again. I feel like laying my head on his shoulder and crying. When you're a daughter, you don't need an excuse to do that. But I'm not a daughter anymore, I'm an outsider. I need to ask the question.
I try to ask. But nothing comes out. I try to convince myself it isn't there anymore; it's gone— finally. I start to cry, because it is there and I am thinking about it.
I mouth the words and he looks at me. I have to say it now. Tears stain my face and he has finally turned from the road. He's looking right at me. I see concern in his eyes. This strengthens me. He must care. I smash the salty water back into my eyes with the palms of my hands. I'm starting over. I will ask him.
I push each word out slowly. It's just words, one after another. A string of syllables, letters, sounds, nonsense.
The sounds reach him. He stares at me, a puddle of sweat and tears. But he's heard me, I'm sure of it.
I say it again anyway. But now I can't breathe, I'm choking on phlegm. I can't speak. But the question is murmured in every shaking muscles' movement. The car seat moans it as I rock back and forth. My fingers tear at the upholstery and scream the question out loud. Every sound asks it again and again and again.
And then I throw up the question on the dashboard.
He turns back to the road. I say it one more time, "Do you love her more than me?"
Until now, the worst imaginable reply was a plain and simple: "Yes." But this silence is so much worse.