My father was sitting at the kitchen table waiting for me. The beer cans and dirty plates had all been cleared away. It was almost dark outside, but the morning smell of fresh coffee filled the cabin and he had a cup sitting on the scarred table in front of him. I tried to march right past him, but he reached out a long arm as I went by and grabbed my arm.
I couldn’t help flinching away. I couldn’t help making a whimpering noise.
“What? Why are you acting like that? I’m not going to hurt you!” He sounded angry. I couldn’t look at him. I kept my eyes on the floor. He softened his voice. “Have I ever hurt you? Have I?”
He pulled me over closer and put his hand under my chin, forcing my face up to look at him. “I don’t mean to be hard on you girl, but you need to learn to mind me. I told you to stay here, to be good. Didn’t I?” I waited. If only he would just let me be.
“Rosie, You have to mind me. Those men I had here today. They’re rough men. Not used to being around little girls.” I twisted my face away from his hand. “I don’t think they would hurt you. I hope they wouldn’t. But with the beer and the weed. . . You just don’t know how it could be.”
“I know.” The defiance and anger I heard in my own voice surprised me. “I know about beer and weed and men.”
He looked startled for a moment, then his eyes narrowed and his mouth twisted in an ugly frown. “Oh. You know about men from when you lived with your mama, huh.?”
I didn’t say anything. He could think what he wanted. Mama did have men around. But not like today.
He turned away. Went back to the sink and pitched out the rest of his coffee.
As soon as his back was turned I escaped to the bathroom and locked the door. The old claw footed tub was deep enough and long enough to let me sink down all the way into the hot water. My father’s Lava soap scrubbed my body red and raw.
I still didn’t feel clean.