“Ellie, what’s wrong?” Angie asked as she eased onto the edge of her daughter’s bed and pulled the pillow from over her face.
“You won’t understand,” Ellie sighed, sliding down and turning so that her back was to her mother. “Nobody understands.”
Taken aback by her daughter’s comeback, Angie nodded. “Well, how about you help me,” she started, slipping her shoes off and sliding further onto the bed. “You know? Help me understand.”
Ellie looked over her shoulder and saw that her mother was now in the bed with her back against the headboard and her legs outstretched in front of her. She had gotten comfortable as the adults would normally say. “What you doing?” Ellie asked, turning over and looking up at her.
“I’m getting comfortable,” Angie replied. “For me to understand stuff, I usually have to get comfortable. I have to prepare myself for the information that I am about to receive,” she explained. “So, now that I am comfortable, why don’t you sit up and help understand what’s going on. Tell me why you’re being so flip with your father.”
“I wasn’t,” Ellie whined, sitting up.
“You were,” Angie mocked. “Your father said hello to you, asked about your day and asked for a hug and you said absolutely nothing to him. You did absolutely nothing. Now, this morning when we dropped you off at school everything was fine. Everything was great. And now we come home and you’ve change. I know this is the first time you’ve seen him since this morning. So… I want to know what’s going on. Why are you being so flip with your father?”
“No reason. If it makes you feel better and if you think it’s a good idea, I’ll go say I’m sorry,” Ellie said as she climbed over her mother and slid out of the bed.
There were no words Angie could think of that would explain the way she was feeling. Her daughter had not only got flippant with her, but had spoken to her as if she was the adult. Because up until now Ellie hadn’t given them any problems, had been a sweetheart, Angie had to calm herself and truly think about her next action. “Ellie Patrice Hubbard, bring your narrow behind back over here… Right now,” Angie said as calmly as she could as she swung her legs over the bed and sat up. “What is your problem and I don’t want to hear you say nothing because obviously there is something wrong,” Angie lightly fussed. “And I suggest you tell what I want to hear.”
Ellie looked down at her freshly painted light purple toenails and sighed. She’d gone and stepped in it this time. “Why does daddy have to be like that?” She blurted out.
“Excuse me?” Angie asked, reaching out and gently raising her head. “What are you talking about? Daddy’s like what?”
“Him being the way he is,” Ellie cried, “Why does daddy have to be… be a freak?”
“A freak? Where did that come from?” Angie asked, trying her best not to raise her voice. Not because Ellie said it, but because she was trying figure out who the hell it came from in the first place. Her daughter had never once said anything about her father, so she knew it couldn’t have come from her. “Ellie, baby… Who said that? Where did you hear that?”
Sniffling, Ellie looked into her mother’s eyes. “The kids at school,” Ellie whimpered. “They called daddy a… a… a freak because… because be…be—” So emotional the words died on the child’s lips and tears took over as she fell into her mother’s arms.
Angie’s own eyes began to fill with tears as she listened to the heartbreaking cries of her daughter and felt the shuddering of her shoulders. She also cried because of the words those cruel kids said to her baby girl, about her father. The man that would kill for, die for them. The man she admired, the man that her little world revolved around.
On the other side of the door, Jesse dropped his head and began to walk away. “I knew it,” he sighed, making his way to the door.
“Where you going?”
“Out,” Jesse called over his shoulder.
“What’s wrong?” Frankie asked, jumping up from the sofa and going after him. “Pop’s, what’s up? What happened?”
Jesse stopped at the bottom of the porch and looked over. “Tell Ellie… Tell her I’m sorry,” he whispered.