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Darla’s Secret Wish
Two “Rock-a-Bye Babies” and four “Bears over the Mountain” later, Darla finally tucked her baby sister in and turned out the light. There was a Barney nightlight by her bed that glowed an eerie purple. It was cold outside, snowing lightly, and it was cold in here. Only Carrie’s blonde curls, shorter and a shade lighter than Darla’s sleek mane, peeked out from above the pink covers.
“Don’t let the bedbugs bite,” Darla whispered, easing the door closed.
That’s what her dad had always said to her, when she was around Carrie’s age, and it came out of her mouth automatically. It made her suddenly sad.
“Not all the way,” Carrie piped up, her voice muffled. Darla left the door open a crack and went to see what her dad had to eat in the kitchen. She was hoping for ice cream, and hit pay dirt, a pint of Haagen-Dazs. It was probably Irene’s, and Darla took a great deal of pleasure in knowing that she might be eating the last of her stepmother’s favorite Rum Raisin as she settled in front of a rerun of the OC.
She glanced at the clock when the show was over. Only ten. They said they were going to be gone probably until midnight. She fantasized for a moment about what she was going to do with the babysitting money, doing the math in her head. The longer they stayed out, the more she would get paid. She might finally have enough to get the Ipod she wanted. Her mother had told her at Christmas that maybe by her next birthday but February third had just come and gone, she’d turned eighteen, but no Ipod was forthcoming. Of course, her mother blamed it on her father. He had all the money. Why didn’t he buy her one of the damned things, her mother wanted to know.
Darla sat and looked around the room, which was probably bigger than their living room and kitchen combined. The whole house must have been at least five thousand square feet. She had never even seen the whole thing.
That was something she could do. Time to do some exploring. Carrie’s room was down a long hallway that included Darla’s room, when she stayed over, and a separate bathroom. She had seen all of that. There were several guest rooms, another bathroom, her dad’s office, and Irene’s scrapbooking room at the back of the house. Upstairs beyond her dad’s bedroom, though, she had no idea what was back there.
Their room was spacious and white. Everything seemed white-the rug, the bed, the furniture. She glanced at the bed, which was made but kind of rumpled on one side, as if someone had been sitting there. She lay down on it, gasping at the softness of the down comforter, the sinking of the mattress underneath her. Her eyes closed, and she let herself drift for a moment, feeling like she was lost and floating on a cloud in the darkness. She thought she could smell her daddy, his aftershave maybe, lingering on the sheets. When her eyes opened, she gasped again, seeing her reflection staring back at her. There was a mirror over the bed!
She lay looking at her own stunned expression, her long hair spread out beneath her head over the whiteness of the comforter like a gossamer river running through drifts of snow. What would you need a mirror on the ceiling for?
She looked at her soft belly, exposed now with her arms flung carelessly above her head, a pale, white expanse of skin between her “American Idol” t-shirt and the black miniskirt her mother kept having a fit about her father buying her for Christmas, which she insisted on wearing, even out in the snow. She rubbed her tummy somewhat self-consciously. It was smooth and flat, her navel the only dip in the surface, no other hint of a softening curve.
She lifted her shirt higher, then higher still, never having seen herself from such a vantage point. Her breasts weren’t much more than buds, her pink nipples hardening as the cool air moved over them. She was slightly disappointed that they looked even smaller when she was lying down.
She had given up hope that she was going to develop something to fill the bras that had been waiting in her drawer since her thirteenth Christmas. Her mother had seen her just beginning to develop, and had insisted on buying them, and they had embarrassingly sat there for years. Other girls got curves, breasts, while Darla watched longingly, hoping for those things for herself.
She wondered at the mirror again. Probably her stepmother, she decided.
Had to make sure she looked good, even at night. She hopped off the bed, going to explore the rest of whatever was down this hallway. She glanced in their bathroom, which was right off their bedroom. It was huge, too, of course, with a corner Jacuzzi tub surrounded by unlit candles, and there was a separate shower with a showerhead at each end. The mirror and sink and vanity ran the length of one wall. His and hers sinks, even. She saw her father’s shaving stuff on the counter.
She was about to leave the room to continue her exploration when she glanced in their closet. Her stepmother had expensive taste. There were dresses galore in the walk-in closet, a whole wall full. She ran her hands lightly over the fabrics, silks and satins and velvets. A shimmery green dress called out to her, and she plucked it from the hanger. It was short, with a plunging neckline, completely sleeveless, the top of it was just two pieces of material that tied behind the neck. The skirt would probably have come to her stepmother’s mid-thigh. Maybe. It was completely backless.
Darla carried it over to the mirror at the end of the closet. It was one of those three way things, like they had in department stores, so you could see yourself at every angle. In the light it really sparkled, like the dress was made of thousands of iridescent emeralds. She was mesmerized. Suddenly, she was pulling off her t-shirt, unzipping her skirt and sliding it down over her white cotton panties. Considering for a moment, she slid those off too, standing there completely naked. She turned this way and that, admiring her slight figure in the mirror.
She turned, liking the view from behind, it was at least one place she had curves, in the soft rounded cheeks of her bottom. From the side, if she exaggerated and stuck her chest out, she could imagine her breasts were fuller and rounder instead of the barely emerging nodes they really were. She looked at the dress in her hands again, glancing at the tag inside. Versace. She slid it up the long length of her thin frame, moving her hair out of the way so she could tie it, gasping at the feel of it against her skin.
She piled her hair up on top of her head, admiring herself. The dress was too long and the front simply hung on her-her nascent breasts did nothing to fill it. When she turned, she giggled, seeing the crack of her butt appearing above the back of the dress. It shimmered and shined deliciously when she moved.
She danced, sylphlike, her reedy arms stretched above her head, swaying willowy, back and forth, pursing her lips, widening her eyes at the mirror. Irene had hundreds of these dresses, and she wore them out every weekend. Darla felt suddenly very jealous. Her daddy, who she only saw a few times a month at the most, spent hours with the woman who filled these dresses. Who filled this dress.
What’s he ever given me ? Darla fingered the heart-shaped locket she’d had since she was little, the one thing her father had left behind. She sometimes imagined she had captured his real heart in it, keeping it like a secret from anyone else. Closing her eyes, she began to dance again, holding her father’s heart in her hand.
What would it be like, she wondered, to have a man hold you, press you against him, kiss you? She closed her eyes and imagined dancing with a boy-
no, a man. She found it was her daddy she was imagining, his large, strong hands guiding her, his eyes bright and full of love as he looked down at her. She was so lost in the fantasy she could even smell his aftershave.
“Kiss me, Daddy,” she murmured, her eyes still closed, tilting her head up like she saw in all the movies.
“Darla.” The sound of her name made her whirl around and stumble over her discarded clothes. She landed bone-jarringly hard on her bottom and she whimpered, leaning back on her elbows. Her father stood in the doorway, his large frame filling it completely. She felt her whole body flush with embarrassment.
Oh no, oh god, this can’t be happening.
They didn’t say anything for a moment, and Darla found herself trembling.
He cleared his throat. “Why don’t you get your own clothes back on, sweetheart?
I have to take you back to your mother’s tonight.”
She forgot what she was wearing, what she had been caught doing, she forgot everything at those words. “But… I thought I was going to stay here tonight, Daddy! You said…we were going to go to the movies tomorrow!” She struggled to contain her tears and lost, but at least she did it silently. She swallowed around the hard lump in her throat.
“I know, honey…but Irene isn’t feeling well. She’s downstairs lying on the couch. I’m glad she didn’t come up here first,” he chuckled. “I’ll make it up to you, angel. I promise.”
She nodded, looking down at his shoes, his dress shoes. They had gone to a play tonight. Taming of the Shrew. She didn’t want him to see that she was crying.
“I’ll get dressed,” she said, wanting him to go before she really started sobbing. “Be down in a minute.”
“Ok…and Darla, honey…don’t forget your panties.” He turned around, his voice sounding strained.
She snapped her slim thighs closed, her face burning. She had forgotten entirely that she wasn’t wearing any.
* * * *
Darla put the dress back and hurriedly pulled on her clothes. She stopped in the bathroom to smooth her hair into a ponytail and wash her face, still wet, and gave herself a good talking-to in order to stop the tears. There was no way she was going to go downstairs crying. Now she was putting on her coat, and she smiled, pleased, as her father helped her while she pulled her hair out from under the collar.
“Lee, did you pay her? Darla, thank you for watching your sister,” Irene murmured from the couch where she was lying with her arm thrown over her eyes.
“Half-sister!” Darla hissed, surprising both of them and herself.
“Money’s in your coat pocket, sweetie,” her father said, looking sideways at her. “And you did a fine job, too. I told you she would, Irene.” There was a snort from the couch.
“Come on, let’s get going,” he said.
She followed him out the door, shouldering her backpack with all her school work and a change of clothes for the weekend she wouldn’t be needing anymore. Tears stung her eyes again at that thought. The two-seater Jaguar was still warm from their ride home. Darla turned the radio station first thing. He always let her. She turned it up loud. She didn’t want to talk.
When they pulled into the driveway half an hour later, the house was dark and her mother’s car was gone. Her father swore under his breath and Darla looked at him sharply. He grabbed his cell phone out of his pocket and flipped it open, hitting the “talk” button. She heard the phone ringing, and the answering machine with her own voice saying, “You’ve reached the Somers residence, we’re not here right now…”
“You didn’t call her?” Darla sighed.
“I called her,” he assured her, his mouth a thin line. “She said she’d be here.
“Figures.” Darla shoved the door open and ran up the walkway. She fumbled in her jacket pocket for her keys, finding the money her father had left there to pay her for babysitting. It was far more than she’d really earned. She was crying in earnest now, and she tossed the money angrily into the snow. She got the door open, the warmth and familiar smell of home a dubious welcome, shrugging off her jacket and throwing her backpack in the foyer.
“Hey, Darla.” Her father peeked his head inside and she turned her back to him, not wanting him to see her puffy eyes. “You dropped this, honey.”
“I didn’t drop it,” she said lowly.
“Isn’t this your babysitting money?” His voice was right behind her now.
She could feel the chill from the outside that he carried with him.
“Yes, but I didn’t drop it. I threw it there,” she snarled, moving away from him and flopping onto the couch, crossing her arms over her chest and lowering her head to let her hair hide her face.
“Why?” He sounded genuinely confused. She struggled with a response, trying to speak around the tightness in her throat. How can he not know, how can he not see?
“I don’t want your money.” It was barely a whisper.
“What was that, sweetie?” He was sitting next to her on the couch, moving to brush her hair away from her face.
She jerked away, hissing. “I don’t want your money!” She shoved at him and moved to stand. She was off balance and he grabbed her arm to help steady her.
“Hey, hey.” He held both of her wrists now as she struggled to get away.
“Come here.” He pulled her toward him and although she resisted at first, she finally relented and let him settle her onto his lap.
She repeated it over and over under her breath, like a mantra to keep her from breaking down entirely, “I don’t want your money.”
“Ok, ok,” he murmured. “What do you want, honey?”
“You!” she wailed, leaning into him and putting her arms around his neck.
“You’re all I’ve ever wanted, Daddy. I never wanted anything else.” She feathered little kisses on his throat and collarbone, rubbing the smooth skin of her cheek against the whiskers on his chin.
“Oh, angel,” he whispered into her hair, stroking her back. “You have me.
You’ve always had me.”
She was trying to get as close as she possibly could, wrapping her bare legs around him. He helped her, unbuttoning his coat so she could sidle closer, enveloping her in his arms.
“I’m so sorry it’s turned out this way, sweetheart. I never meant-“ his voice was hoarse, pained.
“Hold me, Daddy,” she whispered, pressing her cheek to his. He did, rocking her gently, stroking her hair. “I miss you so much, you don’t know…it makes me hurt all over.” She wiggled in his lap and she heard him gasp and let out a small groan. His face was buried in her hair.
“Sweetie, maybe we better-“ he started, but she lifted her face suddenly and kissed him just like she had fantasized about in front of the mirror earlier that night.
It wasn’t a sweet innocent little girl kiss, it was a real kiss, the way she imagined kissing Tommy Keys who sat behind her in math, the way she imagined kissing Simon Cowell from American Idol, the way she’d practiced kissing with Katie, pressing their tongues together and swirling.
He didn’t stop her, he seemed too stunned to try, holding perfectly still as her small tongue tentatively licked at his lips, his teeth. He tasted like peppermint and smelled like Old Spice. It was a familiar Daddy smell and it made her all tingly.