My name is Tabitha Brandt and what I have to tell you is true. Some of you, perhaps most of you, won’t believe my story. I’ve made my peace with that. I’m sharing this story not because it’s true, but because it’s a love story.
And love stories should never fester in the dark.
My dad had just got back up to speed after turning on our normal back road. I was six years old and in ice cream heaven. We were on our way back from Tasty-Freeze, both of us laughing and filled with that special joy only a parent and child can share. I remember feeling so specialthat day. Dad usually didn’t get me until the weekends and here we were filling our faces on a Tuesday.
I heard him yell and slam on the brakes. Then there was only crunching metal, breaking glass, and pain. I remember hurting more than I ever had in my short life. I passed out and when I came to dad was carrying me like a baby. I tried to tell him to put me down but I couldn’t speak. He looked down, blood crusting on his forehead and smiled.
“It’s ok Tabby,”he said in a voice that made the hurt fade. “You’re going to be ok.”
I wanted to ask what happened. I wanted to ask if he was ok. Most of all I wanted to stay in his arms and listen to his voice tell me it was going to be ok.
We walked and I didn’t know how Daddy kept going. I knew he was hurt, I’d seen the blood. He was like a machine, one foot in front of the other. Never breaking stride, never slowing.
“That guy came out of nowhere,” Dad mumbled. I don’t think he meant to say it out loud. “No pay phones here.” He laughed then, bitter and strange and I shivered.
“Don’t worry Tabby. I’ve got you.”
As he said that I saw things grow dark. The road we were on took on an odd reddish tint. The clouds above darkened and twisted into things straight from a nightmare. The trees seemed to press in and I could hear low voices speaking in strange whispers.
“Don’t pay them no mind Tabby,” Dad said and smiled. “You just ignore them and listen to me.”
And so I did. I did my best to push out the strange sounds and kept my eyes squeezed shut. I didn’t understand some of the things he said. He spoke of baseball; how to lead off and how to bunt. How to call a game if you were catching and when to shake off a catcher if you were pitching. He spoke of movies that had influenced him. He told me how he and mom met, and how nervous he was when he found out she was pregnant. He told how he’d fallen in love with me the moment he saw me. He told me how to drive a stick shift and what cars were reliable. He told me how to spot a crooked mechanic and a guy who only wanted to get me in bed. He told me to always brush my teeth before bed and a thousand other things as we walked through that valley of shadows.
He talked for hours. Days. The whole time walking, striding with purpose.
“We’re here Tabby. You don’t have to be afraid any more.”
I looked up and saw we were at the hospital. People walked by but paid us no attention. Dad set me down gently on a bench and knelt down.
“Always remember that I love you Tabby. No matter what happens to you. No matter what life throws at you. Remember that your Daddy loves you more than anything.”
I reached out, barely able to keep my arm up. He grabbed my hand and kissed it. And he smiled, sweet and sad at the same time.
“I’m going to get some help for you.”
He went into the hospital and I can remember nurses running out toward me. As they put me on a gurney and rolled me into the hospital I saw my dad standing by the door. He blew me a kiss and then someone gave me a shot and I only knew darkness.
When I woke my mom was sitting next to the bed holding my hand. Her eyes lit up at seeing me and she burst into tears.
“Thank you God. Thank you,” she said, crying and crushing my hand.
“Where Dad?” I croaked, amazed at how much my throat hurt.
Mom looked away and for just a second, cried even harder. “You just go back to sleep baby. Don’t you worry about anything.”
And I did.
When I was stronger mom told me dad was dead. Killed instantly with the driver of the car that had pulled out in front of us. I raged and told her she was wrong. Dad couldn’t be dead. He’d carried me all the way to the hospital.
“That’s twenty five miles Baby. It’s impossible.”
“How did I get here then?” I asked. I still hadn’t cried. I knew daddy wasn’t dead.
“Some man dropped you off,” mom said. “He left before I had a chance to thank him.”
Mom was down getting breakfast when I asked the nurse what the man looked like. She described him and only then did I cry.
So there is my story, my love story. My body healed over time. I played softball, and helped coach because I knew so much about the game. I was the only girl in my graduating class that could drive a stick. I have never been screwed around by a mechanic, or a man for that matter. In other words, I lived my life. Knowing that no matter what happens, my Daddy loves me.
©2012 James Marlow
James has had his stories published at The Horror Zine, Death Head Grin, and Flashes in the Dark. His story “3 AM” was included in the anthology “What Fears Become” and his story “Becky” was included in the anthology “Death Head Grin Anthology Vol. 1″. James has been writing fiction in one form or another for most of his life. He lives in Indiana with his wife and children. Friend him on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/