Gracie ain't too sure how much she likes their new house.
It's pretty old and ugly, and it looks like a sneeze would bring it crashin' down. But when Daddy sees it, he sighs deeply and closes his eyes, pulling his arm out of Gracie's grip.
They've been walkin' for hours and hours, and Gracie's so tired she can feel herself fallin' asleep just standin' like this. She sits down on the damp dirt road and crosses her legs, lookin' at their new home but startin' to close her eyes, she's real tired, and Daddy wouldn't care if she just shut her eyes a little.
He said they're here, so he ain't gonna hit her for slowin' him down anymore.
The summer rain's startin' to come down on her, and it feels so nice, with the sun warmin' her and the rain lightly beatin' down on her. She feels herself startin' to fall to the side, and she don't fight it, just curls up and falls mostly asleep, her thoughts are all jumbled up and they don't make sense, that's how she knows she's almost asleep.
She feels strong arms around her, carryin' her. She smiles and says 'Daddy' happily, snuggling deeper into the warm arms, but she don't feel the scar on his right arm. So she opens her eyes, and it's Ori carryin' her into the house.
He sees her eyes open and apologizes, bending his head to kiss her on the forehead, but she squirms away. She loves Uncle Ori, she really does, but she wants her daddy, and them bein' brothers ain't enough for her.
Ori lays her down on an old bed, and she looks up at the ceilin'. It's white and awful dirty, and it's missin' a big chunk. The rain drip-drip-drips on her, and she can see the sun, but she's so tired that it don't matter.
She goes right to sleep.
When she wakes up, it's almost dark. The twilight lull is settin' into the world, everything's comin' alive, and Gracie knows if she walked outside she'd see rabbits and she'd hear the crickets startin' their symphony. This is her favorite time of day.
She swings her feet off of the bed, feelin' her muscles ache n' throb. She's still got her shoes on, and she goes to take 'em off, but she sees the floor and it's all rough and dirty wood, so she keeps 'em on.
She leans around the doorframe, looking down the hall. She can't see anyone, but she can hear Ori and Daddy arguin' away.
She walks out, tryin' not to make any noise. She's gettin' better and better at that, she practices all the time when Daddy's friends come.
She sees Daddy's side in an old chair, and presses herself flat against the wall.
Ori's talkin' now, but Daddy's leanin' forward like he's about to say somethin', and he does. "She's my goddamn daughter, alright? You're just along for the ride, and that's fine, but she's mine."
"I'm along cause you asked me to, asshole, I didn't wanna get caught up in all this. I coulda had a life. I coulda gone to highschool and gotten a job and married someone and had a goddamn long life. Now I just gotta take care of Gracie. And I love 'er, but she hates me."
"She don't hate you."
"I try 'n do things for her, Gage, I really goddamn try, but she just says she wants you. 'Daddy' this and 'Daddy' that, but you ain't ever around for her."
"Maybe I ain't around, but I'm helpin' her more than she'll ever know." Daddy's whole body is pretty much on the table now, that's how far he's leanin' in towards Ori.
"You ain't helpin'."
"Fuck you," Daddy says, getting up and slamming his hand down on the table. He starts to walk down the hall, but stops when he sees Gracie.
Gracie starts to hyperventilate. "I'm real sorry, Daddy, I didn't—"
"What did I tell ya about little girls that listen in on things they shouldn't?" Daddy says, crouching to her height.
"I'm sorry, Daddy, I'm so—"
Daddy grips her arm real tight, and she screams. "Don't you ever listen in again."
"I won't, Daddy, I—"
He slaps her across the face, leaving her stunned and cryin'. She backs away from her Daddy, but she's pretty sure he's done anyway.
Gracie backs into Ori's legs, and he squeezes her shoulder really quick before runnin' at Daddy. He pulls Daddy back to standin'.
"You can't hit her!" Ori yells, trying to punch Daddy, but he grabs Ori's arm and starts to twist it. No one's stronger than Daddy.
"Don't tell me how to raise my own daughter," Daddy says, and he punches Ori in the face.
Gracie turns and runs. She runs past the small kitchen and the tiny eatin' table, and out the old door. She runs down the dirt road outside their house forever, past blackberry patches and big ol' open fields, and stops eventually at a riverbank.
She takes her shoes off n' puts her feet in the water, lying down on the rocky ground and cryin'. Her face's been stingin' ever since she left, and she don't even know what she's feelin'. Daddy's hit her before, it ain't that.
She just don't want Daddy and Ori to fight like that. She don't want to make 'em hate each other like she made Daddy hate her.
The sun's down before she stops cryin'. She thinks maybe she should go home, but she ain't tired yet, so she just lies there, kickin' her feet in the water.
She hears a voice before too long, but it ain't a voice she's ever heard before.
"Who are you?" it asks, and Gracie sits up real fast to see who it is. Gracie thinks it's a boy, he's got short hair and freckles, and he's wearin' boys clothes. She don't know how old he is, but he looks like he can't be all that old.
"I'm Gracie," she says, and she does what she always sees Daddy do with his friends and sticks her hand out.
"Bo," he says, grabbing her hand and shakin'. "You must be new 'round here. You from that old ghost house? Mama said she saw people goin' into it when she was takin' a walk."
"Why's it a ghost house?" Gracie asks.
"Mama said someone died in there. Two people went in n' one came out. So are ya in it?"
"Guess so. I ain't seen any other houses, where you from?"
"Just down the road a little more. What happened to your face?" Bo asks, lightly poking the place where Daddy slapped Gracie.
Gracie thinks Daddy wouldn't want her tellin' about him hittin' her, so she just don't say anything. "I dunno."
"D'you wanna be friends?" Bo asks, smilin' real wide at Gracie.
Gracie don't know if she wants to be friends with Bo, he seems real nice, but she don't want him yellin' at her and she don't know if their new house even got a back door. So she shrugs.
Then someone yells Bo's name, some woman.
"That's Mama," Bo says, "I gotta go. See ya tomorrow?"
"Sure," Gracie says as he runs off.
Then she curls up on the riverbank. She ain't tired, but she oughta sleep so she can be back at normal. Also it's probably past her bedtime anyway.
She closes her eyes, wonderin' what's gonna happen tomorrow.
Daddy'll be awful angry if she don't come home.
A/N: All feedback is really appreciated.