Chapter 1

"Do you love your father more than anything else in all the whole world?"
Ermengarde's mouth fell open a little. She knew that it would be far from behaving like a respectable child at a select seminary to say that it had never occurred to you that you could love your father, that you would do anything desperate to avoid being left alone in his society for ten minutes. She was, indeed, greatly embarrassed.
"I--I scarcely ever see him," she stammered. "He is always in the library--reading things."
"I love mine more than all the world ten times over," Sara said. "That is what my pain is. He has gone away."

From the Book: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

"Row, row, row, your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream."

She got new shiny red boots and a yellow umbrella with duckies on it.

Her Daddy let her hop in the puddles. One. Splash!

Two. Splash!

Three. Splash! Splash! Splash!

"Row, row, row your boat."

She twirled her umbrella around and around. She watched the yellow duckies spin and spin, a yellow duckie blur.

She heared a quiet laugh from behind her and so she turned around.

Her Daddy was smiling at her.

She smiled back and felt the rain drops plop on her head as she stopped spinning her umbrella and held it at her side.

She opened her mouth and stared up at the gray, wet, sky.

Rain drops fell into her mouth, one, two, three.

She closed her eyes and drank the rain.

When she opened them again her Daddy was still smiling at her.

But then he looked at his watch and sighed.

"Time to go." he said.

And she felt something in her stomach drop and twist and ache.

She ran ahead of him and stopped splashing. Instead she jumped over the puddles. One, two, three.

"Don't go too far ahead." he told her.

She looked back at him. Walking so slowly. Hands shoved in his pockets.

He looked so sad.

She stopped walking then and waited for him.

When he got near enough. She grabbed his hand and squeezed it tightly.

She didn't understand how things could change so suddenly.

She had to keep reminding herself that before her Mommy had called it had in fact been a very good day.

It had been this way for so long she had trouble even pretending it had ever been any different.

"She's soaking wet." Her Mommy said looking at her and then glaring at her Daddy.

"We...we went to the park." Her Daddy offered as explanation.

"I jumped in the puddles," she added trying to help.

"Row, row, row your boat..."

At that her Mommy sighed and rolled her eyes "You can't even try to be a responsible parent can you Toby? Not even for two freaking days."

"She got a little wet," her Daddy said and she could tell because she was standing there he was choosing his words...very...carefully...because she was there they both were.

"She could have gotten pnemonia." Her Mommy hissed.

And it was an actual hiss. Sasha could tell. She'd seen a snake once. It had been her friend Jeremy's. "Hey Sasha wanna see something cool?" he'd asked her. And he held a little white mouse dangling by it's tale in front of the snakes hungry eyes. She remembered she had gasped and covered her mouth with her hands. She had wanted to leave but found herself unable to look away.

"Wasn't that cool?" Jeremy had asked when it was over. He must have seen her face then, white and trembling.

"Don't be such a baby." he'd said and she'd started to cry then. Jeremy's Mother had to take her home.

She pictured her Mommy like a snake. Slinking and sliding across the ground. And she couldn't stop picturing her Daddy like a little white mouse scrambling to get away.

It made her stomach hurt.

"It was my fault." she said.

"Go take off those wet clothes," her Mother said "I'll run you a bath."

"See you next week, honey." her Daddy said kissing her on the cheek.

Her Mother opened her mouth to say something "When-" she began.

"Check's in the mail." Her Father said walking out the door. Whatever the question had been. Sasha guessed that must have been the answer.

Her Mommy closed her mouth then, closed the door, and walked up the stairs to start her daughter's bath.
He hadn't always been like this. She knew.

She sat in the warm soapy water and couldn't stop herself from thinking about it.

She was seven years old now (almost eight) and she figured she was old enough to start thinking about it.

Even though she honestly couldn't remember it ever being any other way.

"Use soap Sasha," she heard her Mother yell outside the closed bathroom door.

"I am!" Sasha said.

But she didn't reach for the washcloth.

She held the white bar of soap in her hand, staring at it.

"I'm going to check!" her Mother warned.

She was old enough to think about it and if she was old enough to think about it she was old enough to take sides wasn't she?

Her Daddy he'd been happy, he'd been happy, before her Mommy called.

She dropped the soap into the tub.

Watched it sink to the bottom. She waited a couple of seconds and then she dropped the washcloth too.

"There now don't you feel so much better honey? Now that you're all clean and dry?" her Mommy asked while Sasha climbed into bed.

"Uh huh."

Her Mother leaned over to tuck her in. She smoothed a strand of Sasha's hair outof her face and kissed her on the cheek.

"Sweet dreams," her Mommy said.

Then finally she left.

Sasha thought about the washcloth and the soap. Still sitting at the bottom of the tub. Unmoved from the spot where she had left them.

Her skin burned where her Mommy had kissed her.

She wiped her face off with a corned of her blanket. Untucked herself from the too-tight sheets.

And then finally she was able to fall asleep.

"Eat your breakfast Sasha."

"I'm not hungry."

"You will be if you don't eat."

"I don't like this."

"Since when do you not like oatmeal?"

"Since today."

"Okay," her Mother said putting down her coffee cup and glaring at her daughter "What is with the attitude today? Huh?"

"What attitude?" Sasha asked.

"Do not...play dumb..." her Mother began.

"Just like a snake." Sasha whispered.

"What?"

Just then they heard the bus pull up.

"We'll...talk about this later!" she heard her Mommy shout.

But Sasha knew that they wouldn't.

A memory creeped slowly into her head.

"That's your answer to everything isn't it?" her Father had said "To just run away?"

She slammed the door behind her.

"Something's happening?" Lisa lit a cigarette and inhaled. She sat on the bathroom floor. Holding the phone tighter then she meant to. The nicotine helped her to loosen her grip just a little.

"What do you mean?"

"Something's happening...with Sasha."

"What? What do you mean? Is she okay?"

"Don't panic. It's nothing physical. She's just...I don't know how to describe it...she's different Toby."

"Different how?"

"She seems angry...really angry...really angry with me in particular."

"Why? What did you do?"

And at that she got a little pissed off then, a little defensive, sat up a little straighter "Why do you just assume I did something huh Toby? Jesus Christ she's seven I didn't let her have ice cream last week because she didn't clean her room maybe that's it."

"That doesn't sound like her." Toby said in that quiet way of his.

It made something inside of Lisa's stomach tighten. She had always loved his voice. She had always liked how quiet...how gentle he was...until one day...she hadn't anymore.

"Yeah well instantaneous seething resentment doesn't really sound like her either does it Toby?" she took a long drag off her cigarette exhaled and then "I want you to come get her. For a couple of days. A week. Maybe seeing you will do her some good."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." and then she was quiet she closed her eyes "I could really, really use a break right now. Please."

"Okay," he said "I'll pick her up tomorrow. After I get off work."

"How are you honey?"

"I'm fine." Sasha said smiling up at him as he took her bag.

"Have fun!" Lisa said a little too enthusiastically.

"Okay." Sasha said her Mother leaned over to kiss her and thats when Toby first noticed it, the prickling from her Mother's touch. That hadn't been there two weeks ago.

Instantaneous Seething Resentment Lisa had called it.

Lisa moved away from her daughter. And Toby noticed it then. The tired way she moved. The bags under her eyes.

"Are you smoking again?" Toby asked.

"No," Lisa told him "no of course not."

"Yes she is." Sasha said.

Lisa glared at her daughter then and Sasha climbed into her Father's car and closed the door.

"Are you okay?" Toby asked her.

"Just peachey." Lisa replied.

And he leaned over then and kissed her on the cheek. It was so sudden and unexpected.

From inside the car Sasha watched the scene with curiosity.

"Toby..." Lisa began.

"Get some sleep." he said. Then he picked up Sasha's bag from where he had dropped it, threw it into the trunk, got into the car.

Absentmindedly Lisa started to wave.

Sasha saw the gesture and ignored it she stared straight a head.

Toby smiled a little and waved at her. Then he started the car.

And Lisa found herself still waving as they drove away.

She didn't stop until they'd dissapered completely from view.