Anna-Marie Singer was a good kid. She made A's on all of her tests, she never had to sit out of recess, she was good friends with all the other kids, and she helped her daddy clean guns when she came home from school. This was just a minor incident. Nothing at all, a blip on the radar, or so she hoped. Really though, when does beating up a boy and making him eat dirt, count as a meaningless occurrence? Not too often.
So here she sat outside the principal's office, nervously kicking her feet that didn't quite reach the floor. She could hear Thomas's mom shouting about how his nose was fractured, and for an instant that relieved her nervousness as she thought about how he deserved every bit of the pain that she caused. Then she saw her daddy walk into the office. Not. Good. Instead of heading into the office he came right over to her, stern glare and everything as he towered over her. "Anna-Marie Singer, would you like to explain this to me, young lady?"
'Crap,' she thought. He never called her young lady. "Ummm… Uhh…" Her stuttering was broken off by the opening of the principal's door.
"Mr. Singer, would you please join us? Anna can wait out here." Principal Green opened the door further and Anna caught Thomas's mom shooting her a glare. She returned it in full, forgetting about her father's presence.
"Stop that Anna-Marie," he scolded. "We'll talk about this later, now you wait here." He walked into the room with the door shut firmly behind him. She wanted to run, or at least be in the room to defend herself. Thomas got to be in there, but that was only because his mom said that she didn't want her son around the 'crazed hoodlum' that 'injured her poor baby'.
As she went back to nervously kicking the leg of the chair, she tried to listen in. Her father wasn't one for shouting too much so she couldn't hear what he was saying, only the sound of his gruff voice. It was a half hour before she heard Mrs. Taylors shout again.
"Well if that stupid girl had a mother that could teach her some manners and not to run around like a little brat and hurt my poor child then this wouldn't be a problem!"
Everything went silent for a little while. Anna-Marie stopped mid-kick and lifted her head slightly. It sunk in after a moment what had just been said and tears began to roll down her face in a never-ending stream. The old lady who sat at the front desk who had taken an immediate hate to her once she learned that Anna-Marie was a 'trouble-maker', even took pity on her and brought her a box of tissues and patted her shoulder before returning to her desk.
No one ever brought up her mom really. Her dad mentioned that her mother's name was Karen and that she was very pretty, that she loved Anna very much when she was alive. She had died only a week after Anna-Marie had been born and it was quite the news in the small town where it was a rarity that a child grew up without both parents.
It was only a moment before he father exited the office in a silent fury that was halted only when he saw his daughter. She had moved her red hair from behind her shoulders and was hiding behind it like it was a shield. He couldn't hear her crying, just a little sniffle or two, but he knew she was.
"Anna Bear?" He used his nickname for her in hopes that it would prove he wasn't angry with her. He couldn't be anymore.
She scrubbed at her eyes quickly which only made the redness of her face worse, but it did eliminate all the tears. She tucked one side of her hair behind her ear and glanced up at him out of the corner of her eye. "Can we go now?" She was quiet. She's barely ever quiet, Bobby thought. She reminded him so much of Karen sometimes when she would run in the house bubbling with excitement and talk to him hours on end. He could just sit there and listen and she would be perfectly pleased.
"Yeah, Anna, we can go." He picked up her little green rucksack that for a third-grader's was pretty loaded down. She stayed close to him as she followed him out to the car. She didn't even ask to sit in the front seat today like she normally would. Anna-Marie just buckled herself into the back and stared out the window for the whole of the ten minute drive.
Entering the house just as quietly, she tried to escape upstairs to her room. All she wanted was her quiet room without anybody else around to talk to her about her mom or why she beat up Thomas. Her plan failed. "C'mere Anna Bear." Her father's call stopped her foot on the first step. Miserably she turned around and walked towards the living room, following his voice.
Anna-Marie stopped and stood right in front of him. She was expecting lecture, a long lecture on how you don't make boys eat dirt and then break their nose even if they do make fun of your friends. Maybe he would tell her that Mrs. Taylors was right, that she was a brat, and un-lady like and stuff.
Completely different thoughts were going through her daddy's head though. He was cursing the damn woman in fact for ever saying that. With a sigh as he realized Anna-Marie wasn't coming any closer on her own, he leaned forward a bit and picked her up under her arms and set her on his lap. Usually she would cuddle into his side and relax, as she did most nights after she got ready for bed, but now she just remained stiff, sure that he would soon enough tip her over his knee and spank her like the other times she got in big trouble.
Finally he just rubbed her back and in his gruff voice told her, "Anna, darlin', I'm not mad at you for this."
The floodgates opened and tears began to pour down her face as she threw herself at him, as if those simple words were what she had been waiting for. "I'm sorry, daddy!" She cried and cried. Bobby just remained quiet, except for the occasional assurance. He wasn't really used to this since his Anna was a pretty low maintenance kid and never required much comfort since she was either happy or flat out pissed usually. His kid needed him though, so he just continued his comforting until she was able to wipe the snot and tears off her face with her sleeve.
"You mad that I fractured his nose and made him eat dirt?" Anna-Marie asked quietly. She didn't really want to bring it up; she just wanted to know what was going to happen.
"Don't do that again." Was all her dad said, but he continued to hold her.
"You… you gonna spank me?" She managed.
"I think you've been through enough for one day darlin', so no, but like I said no more fighting."
She nodded against his chest. After a few more moments of silence the elephant in the room seemed to burst from her lips. "Daddy, do you not like me 'cause I don't have a mom and act all lady-like and stuff?"
Bobby pushed her back from him a little bit so he could look into her doe brown eyes, just like Karen's. "Anna-Marie, I couldn't ever dislike you, kid. Especially for something that's not your fault. Either way, even if your momma was around I don't think you'd be too lady-like, it's just not who you are kid and I'm fine with that."
She stared back at him for a moment, finally she seemed to decide that she agreed with him and she leaned back into his side, trying to get her mom out of her mind.
"You get hurt at all during this?" Her father asked, jarring her from her thoughts.
She almost forgot the pain in her hand, but with his question it seemed the pain came back with renewed strength. She held it up for him to examine, which he did gently.
"Hmm," he grunted, "just keep your thumb outside of your fist next time and you'll be fine."