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Twelve - Unrecognized Hero

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Haley

When I enter my house, dad turns around to look at me. His smile falls when he sees my face, which obviously looks like it belongs to a little baby; I have a tendency to look really childish when I cry. 

I sniff, not meeting his gaze as I slump onto the living room couch and wait for him to approach me. No matter how grown-up I am -- yes, I'm seventeen -- I'll always be my dad's little girl. He slowly walks towards me, wiping his hand on his flowery apron which clearly should not be worn by any man alive. Ever.

"Is everything all right?" Dad asks softly, sitting down next to me.

"No," I say, picking on my nails. 

"What happened?"

I sigh, slumping my shoulders further. 

"Xavier's mad at me," I tell him. "He's angry that I didn't tell him what I saw. You know, about his dad." I look up. "He said his father is dead. But I saw him, I ... I don't know, I just saw."

"Maybe you just thought that man you saw was his father but it was someone else," dad suggests. "Could be foster parents."

"But he called him 'dad'," I counter. "And then ... why would he be mad at me now if that man wasn't his father? He could just tell me I was wrong and ... we'd go back to normal. He doesn't have to hate me because I made a mistake."

"Oh, honey, I'm sure he doesn't hate you."

"He looked at me like ... like I betrayed him," I confess in a small voice. "He looked at me like I was a stranger, dad, not his friend. I ... I felt so bad."

Dad puts an arm around my shoulders and pulls me closer, so that I place my head on his chest, fighting back the tears that are the edge of my eyes. 

"I'm sure he just needs some time to himself," dad comforts me. "He'll come around when he sees you only meant well by keeping this secret."

"I didn't keep it secret, I just didn't tell him."

"That is keeping it secret."

I sit up suddenly. "Whose side are you on again?" I ask my dad, frowning at him grumpily. 

"I'm on the right side," he says innocently, putting both his hands up in surrender.

"I asked you what I should do but you didn't help me then," I remind him. "You're in on this, you hear me? You're just as much to blame."

Dad chuckles at my childish blame-placing. I'm sure he's wondering how I can act like this. I'm wondering the same thing.

"Do you think he'll see I meant well?" I ask uncertainly. "I feel bad, yes, but it's not like I pity him. Do you think he'll listen?"

"Of course, dear." Dad beams at me. "Nobody can be mad at you for long."

I ponder over his words, resisting an urge to say 'yeah, you like me because you're my dad'. He's usually right about things, my dad. The only thing he was ever wrong about was mom. He thought she would stay forever. She didn't. He thought she wouldn't leave us. She did. 

"Now, come along, lunch is getting cold," dad says, getting to his feet and straightening the hideous apron. "We can share one serving now and you can eat the rest with Xavier when he comes at night. Food always solves everything. Besides, he might like Chinese. Has he ever told you?"

"Do you think he'll come?" I ask dad, ignoring his playful tone. "I asked him and he didn't give me a proper answer. What if he doesn't come, dad? What if ..."

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