A Dad named Kevin
It had been a long time since he saw anyone from his family. He had not seen his brother for 15 years, and now he was there to see him. Cold and dead in his coffin, his eyes forever sealed shut, lay his brother. Somehow Kevin didn’t feel any remorse for not seeing his brother for so long, but he paid his respects.
“Kevin, I want you to meet someone.” His cousin said, patting him on the shoulder. Kevin followed him outside the funeral room.
“There is something that we need to discuss…” His cousin was hesitating and it seemed like something very important, even so, Kevin had no interest.
“Who do you want me to meet?” Kevin asked, looking vacant. His cousin was scratching the side of his head, wondering what would be best. He sighed and walked Kevin towards the garden, outside were 3 young kids playing while their parents attended the funeral.
“What am I looking at?” Kevin asked, getting increasingly annoyed with all the secrecy.
“There, in the corner, by the roses…” His cousin pointed out. There was a young girl, probably no older than 13 staring out to the roses expressionless. Kevin recognized that emotion, she was depressed.
“What about it?” Kevin asked, wondering what this all had to do with him.
“That’s your brother’s daughter, Rose.” His cousin replied, a little worried about how Kevin would react. Kevin looked to Rose and then back to his cousin, unaffected by the news, which surprised his cousin.
“So?” He asked. His cousin was surprised but he shouldn’t have been since this was Kevin. He cut off ties with his family and friends and lived in his own dark depressing world. He had not spoken to anyone for such a long time.
“She doesn’t have a place to live…Joshua wanted you to take care of her.” His cousin informed. It was the first time since the conversation started that Kevin looked surprised. Why should he leave his daughter to him, a brother he had not seen or heard from for 15 years? Why would he trust him with such a big burden?
“No, I can’t. I live alone and wouldn’t know what to do with her. She must have other family. Where is Joshua’s wife?” Kevin replied quickly, wanting no part of this.
“Kevin, she doesn’t have anyone, no family, no mother, no father and no siblings. That’s why Joshua asked for you to be her guardian until she’s 18. Other than you, there’s no one else.” His cousin explained. Kevin should have been able to refuse, to deny having any part of this will that Joshua drew up without his consent; it was not even legally binding. Yet that evening, Rose came home with him.
He didn’t say anything to her in the car, and she only carried a small suitcase with her. He had wondered why she didn’t have more things, wondered why she wasn’t asking him who he was, wondered why she got into the car without knowing how they were related? Kevin looked at her many times when he got her home, she waited for instructions like a robot.
“You can have the room in that corner, it was a spare anyways. You’re going to have to clean it though since it’s messy.” He said to her not knowing what else to say to a teenage girl .She nodded and followed him to her new room. It was just as messy as he said it was going to be.
“Well bye.” Kevin said not knowing what else to say when he wanted to dismiss himself. He was not used to being around people never mind children. And he wasn’t particularly good with kids anyways. He was a 36 year old man, with no experience with children. Though he was handsome and could have married, he just couldn’t be bothered with the connection humans make with each other. And he never planned to, since with that connection comes all the trouble and sorrow of being attached to something.
A week had passed, and so far, Rose had not spoken. And Kevin barely acknowledged her existence. In fact, that first day at breakfast, he had forgotten she was there, until she showed up in the kitchen. He wasn’t a very good cook, but he still made food for her. It was mostly burned or under-cooked. He could tell by her face and the lack of food she ate that she didn’t like his cooking.
Sitting at the dinner table, after being with her for 7 days, it was as awkward as ever. Kevin looked up at her, her eyes were a lot redder today than yesterday at dinner. He wondered if she had been crying? She never spoke, so it made him a bit curious about what she thought.
“I’m Kevin by the way. I guess I’m your uncle.” He spoke to her casually for the first time in a week. She didn’t make eye contact, she only stared at her food as she ate it quietly.
“Your name is Rose right?” He asked. She nodded. Kevin was silent for a moment only staring at her face. It was like she was a ghost, a dead soul that wasn’t even there.
“Quit it!” He shouted angrily hitting the table with his hand. He hated her absurd silence.
“If you’re sad about your dad, just say you’re sad. Don’t just stay quiet when people are talking to you idiot!” He shouted at her like a child himself. But it was enough to do what he wanted to her, to make her cry. Tears overwhelmed her eyes and they streamed down like a storm. It was the first time he heard her voice. He didn’t know what to say or do, he could only watch her cry.
She had cried so much, out loud for so long, she was drained. She put her head down on the table, so tired she couldn’t move. It was the first time she had cried since she heard her father was dead. All those sleepless nights trying to cry, but she couldn’t. Kevin came into the kitchen later to find her sleeping on the table, her face seemed peaceful. He sat down to examine her face. He wondered what she was feeling that made her hold it in for so long. Kids were strange to him, far stranger than adults.
The next morning, he woke up to the smell of waffles. It was strange to smell something good in his house. He got up and walked sluggishly to the kitchen to find Rose cooking.
“What are you doing?” He asked surprised. She looked up at him and smiled kindly, which made him a bit nervous. Had she finally snapped?
“You made waffles?” He asked again as she presented the waffles she made. But were there ingredients in his house to make such things, he couldn’t remember. He sat down as she poured him some juice. It was the first time in ages he had breakfast that wasn’t burned.
“You know how to cook?” He asked her wondering why she only kept smiling but hadn’t said anything. She nodded and sat down to eat. She ate happily, Kevin watched her during breakfast, wondering if she would say something to him. But when she finished, she only put her plate away and continued to smile.
It was the same thing over and over again, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Everyday he would see her, and everyday waited for her to reply. But she only smiled, always smiling.
Days had turned into weeks, and then months; and now it was time for her to return to school. Summer break was over, and she was now in grade 8. Kevin looked at the list of school supplies he had to buy her.
“You need all this?” He asked her. She nodded with a smile. He had given up on waiting for her to reply. Instead he got used to her silence. He scratched his head and got his keys.
“We should go then.”
As he walked in the mall with her to buy the school items, he watched the other families. They were all mothers and kids. Where were the fathers he wondered? He looked down to the girl beside him, she was looking at the kids and mothers too. He thought about how she felt, perhaps she was thinking about her mother too. He never did learn about what happened to her mother. Was she dead? Or did she abandon Rose? As he walked and thought about Rose’s situation, he passed by a store with a jacket in the display. He stopped and looked at it. Rose looked at Kevin waiting for him to tell her what to do.
“Do you need new clothes?” He asked her looking at her. He realized that she had been wearing the same clothes over and over again. After all, she had only brought one suitcase with her and it didn’t seem like she had much. He got an idea.
“I’ll buy you some new clothes. Kids wear new clothes when they go to school right?” He asked Rose. She beamed him a smile again and nodded. He nodded feeling like he was correct. He would buy her some new clothes to wear.
Days later, it was her first day in high school. She seemed a bit nervous. She was staring at herself in the mirror at the front door. Kevin spotted her with somewhat of a confused and sad look.
“What’s wrong?” Kevin asked her. She turned and looked at him with large eyes almost like a lost puppy. He realized perhaps she was nervous about going to school. He had forgotten that this was not normal, for her not to speak might cause problems in school.
“Are you worried that the other kids won’t be your friends because you don’t speak?” He asked her. She nodded looking sadly down to her feet. He wondered what he should say in such a situation. The only thing he could think of was to pet her head. She looked up at him waiting for him to say something that would ease her nervousness and he knew she was waiting, which made him nervous too.
“Um…you have new clothes, and so will the other kids so that’s one thing you have in common already.” He said not able to think of anything else. She continued to stare up at him. He sighed a little confused about what he was supposed to say. Was he supposed to comfort her and lie and say she would make friends? But how could she without first saying a word.
“Listen, if you’re not going to talk then it will be hard” He said truthfully. Rose understood and looked down to her new clothes. Suddenly she ran away from him, rushing towards her room. He wondered if she was upset with what he said. He scratched his head again, was he too hard on her? It had only been 3 months since her father died, he couldn’t expect her to have totally recovered. Should he have delayed her entry into school? He heard footsteps rushing back to him. She came to him with a notepad and a pencil. He looked at her confused, was she telling him to write something? He then looked down closely at the notepad, something was already written.
“I’ll try my best uncle Kevin…” He read out loud. He looked at her, she was smiling again. He couldn’t help himself, he laughed and ruffled her hair.
“Yes yes, do your best.” He was shocked with himself. Were these sounds really coming from him? He was actually laughing.
“Let’s get you to school so you’re not late on your first day.” He said covering his mouth from laughing again. When did she realize he was her uncle? When did she find out his name? Perhaps she was told by her cousin, or the lawyer who handled the adoption papers? But it didn’t matter right now, he was glad that she found herself a solution. And she seemed rather happy with the notepad and pencil idea.
But that day after school, he was asked to stay and discuss Rose with the teacher. He wondered what was wrong.
“Is it a medical condition Mr. Smith? If so, it would have been better if you told the school earlier so we could accommodate Rose.” The teacher told him looking like she felt sorry for him and Rose. Kevin looked down to Rose who seemed like she was very sad.
“What are you saying?” Kevin asked the teacher not understanding the situation.
“She has a paper she writes on” Kevin added wondering was speech really that big of a deal.
“Well, if she needs that sort of assistance, we have a special class-“
“What kind of assistance. She’s not dumb, she just doesn’t want to speak.” Kevin replied feeling a bit angry about this conversation and that look of pity on the teachers face.
“I understand that this is very delicate. But I don’t want Rose to feel bad in class either with the other kids.”
“What are the other kids doing?” Kevin asked feeling pretty defensive. What did her writing on a paper have to do with the other kids, or sending her to a special class?
“I’m sorry Mr. Smith, I’m not trying to make things difficult. But I don’t think it will be easy for Rose to stay in a normal class when she’s unable to speak. It would be best to place her in a special class so she can use her paper and pencil.” The teacher said looking at Rose, hoping that she understood. But Rose only felt like she was being picked on and Kevin felt the same.
And the feeling didn’t want to leave his body. This was the first time something bothered him so much about another person. He didn’t understand what the big deal was, Rose wasn’t causing any sort of trouble, nor was she doing something wrong. She just didn’t want to speak. He knew it wasn’t a medical condition, but he didn’t really ask her before to make sure. Suddenly he felt nervous, was she really a mute?
“Hey, can you speak?” Kevin asked her casually driving her home after seeing the teacher. Rose nodded yes looking outside of the car window. Kevin somehow felt relieved. But he was curious again, why didn’t she want to speak? Perhaps, she was still in no condition to feel secure again.
A month later, Kevin placed Rose in a private school. A school that didn’t put her into a special class just because she didn’t want to speak. Kevin was pretty satisfied, even though it cost a lot more money, he decided it was better for him rather then having to deal with the public school teachers.
Rose came home everyday right after school, and did her homework and then made dinner. She was very diligent for a 13 year old girl, but Kevin didn’t realize that this was not a normal thing for a young girl to do. After living with her for 5 months, it seemed normal for her to do. And he preferred her cooking instead of his. He couldn’t imagine having to cook again.
A few days after Halloween, she was sitting on the kitchen table, looking pale and in pain.
“What’s wrong?” He asked her coming in to get his breakfast. He noticed that she was not dressed for school, nor was breakfast on the table. She looked at him and then wrote on her notepad.
“Your stomach hurts?” He said adjusting his glasses. He wondered what he should do? Should he call an ambulance, a doctor, or take her to a hospital.
“Does it hurt a lot?” He asked trying to figure out if the pain was that bad. She nodded a yes, her eyes were tightly closed, her body hunched over the table while her arms tightly gripped her stomach. He could tell she was in a lot of pain. Perhaps she had constipation he thought.
“Why don’t you go to the bathroom.” He said. She nodded and got up and left the kitchen, it was then Kevin noticed it. There was a blotch of blood on the chair. He covered his mouth shocked. What was he supposed to do now? How could he explain this to her, maybe she already knew about it and he wouldn’t have to do anything? Then he heard her scream and cry out loud. He rushed to the bathroom.
Embarrassed, he stood in the line up with the maxi pads in his hands. He had never felt so many eyes on him in his life. He was an introverted person, lived in his solitude happily for years; never once caught the eyes of anyone, and yet here he was today.
After looking at all the options and consulting a doctor and the internet, he figured this was the brand she would need. He didn’t at first know what the difference was between a pad and tampon, he thought they were the same thing.
When he got home, she was sitting in bed with the hot water bottle Kevin made her. He handed over the item he bought for her.
“You know how to use this right?” He asked feeling really uncomfortable and annoyed. If she was a boy, he would not have to suffer this kind of humiliation. She looked at the maxi pads but wasn’t sure how to use it. He could tell from the expression on her face, she didn’t know how to use them. He was so horrified about showing her how, that he actually wanted to run away.
“Idiot, there’s instructions, you can read. Now go and put one on.” He said frustrated. He was acting like a stupid kid, but he didn’t know how an adult was supposed to react to something like this. Did fathers normally go through something like this? He figured that mothers were usually the ones to deal with things like this with daughters. He felt a bit bad that she didn’t have one who could help her right now. He wondered if she was still afraid of what was happening. He sat down on her bed and looked around. This was the first time he had entered her room. She had cleaned up really well and taken real good care of it. He noticed that she had placed all the items that he had in there, neatly in the corner of her room. He had forgotten about those things, since he never went anywhere near her room. Somehow he felt a bit guilty, why didn’t she just tell him that his stuff was still in the room?
Rose came back into the room, Kevin got up and let her lay down. He had never dealt with something like this before. He assumed her condition was similar to that of a cold, so he brought her painkillers and some chicken soup. Rose ate quietly and went back to sleep. Kevin returned to her room many times to check up on her. He felt her head with his hand to make sure she wasn’t feverish. He wondered if this was normal for a girl?
After he consulted the internet again, he learned how troublesome periods were. His only experience with woman was years ago when he was somewhat of a player. Back then he was young and went from woman to woman, never really committing to anyone. So he never realized what a woman went through. He continued to read about what can be done, hoping to find some sort of cure. Instead he found information about mood changes, and her entering womanhood. He recalled when he was that age, how easy it was to make the transition, at least there wasn’t any pain. He wondered what could be done to make it simply for her.
Later that evening, he ordered pizza and brought cookies out to the living room. He thought that perhaps food would give her some strength. He knew that his cooking would only make her sick. She woke up and came to the living room where he had placed the pizza.
“You’re awake? How do you feel?” He asked putting down the plate and walked to her. She smiled a little and nodded.
“Go wash up and then eat some pizza.” He pet her head and walked into the kitchen as Rose headed for the bathroom. He realized that he was always just petting her head when he felt like she needed to be comforted, maybe he was treating her like a pet puppy.
When she returned he had already started to eat. She sat down next to him on the couch and ate. Kevin somehow felt awkward with her being that close. He didn’t like people being close to him, not even at the office, which is why he worked hard to be promoted so that he could have his own office. They watched TV silently, and it was then Kevin realized he was watching only news. He glanced down at her eating her 6th slice. She hadn’t even said anything about changing the channel. He thought about what kids like to watch and then changed the channel.
“You like cartoons?” Kevin asked. She smiled wiping some of the pizza sauce off her face. He flipped through the channels until he found something. It was Dora the Explorer. Rose looked at him.
“This cartoon okay?” He asked not realizing there were different types of cartoons for different age groups. The last time he watched cartoons was when he was 10. She laughed and shook her head gesturing to take the remote from him. He gave it to her not understanding why she was laughing. But it was sort of nice to hear her. She flipped through the channels until she came to show that seemed complicated. It looked like Transformers, Barbie and creepy animal fantasy world all in one. He watched diligently with her, fascinating by the constant plot changes. He seemed more interested in it then her as his eyes widen each time something happened. Rose looked at his shocked and puzzled face every now and then and giggled.
“Is that animal supposed to be a beaver or a cat?” He asked Rose. She shrugged her shoulders because she didn’t know either. He scratched his chin. When the cartoon finished, he was more confused about the show than the wonders of life. For instance, was the group of girls bound to save the world only restricted to their hometown, and what was the purpose of costume changes when they became super heroes, did the skirt being that short really help in their cause? And did their powers of love and friendship really out weigh the powers of evil and malice. He thought deeply about it, never once realizing how complicating the stories of cartoons were verses real life.
“Hey, do you really like shows like that?” He asked Rose, who had fallen asleep long ago on the couch. He was surprised to see her on his shoulder. He didn’t even realize when that happened. She was curled into him most likely seeing the warmth. He looked down to the pizza boxes, they were both empty. His eyes widen.
“How much did she eat?” He asked. He wondered if this was a side affect to her period. He thought about how much this change in appetite would cost him for food. She was smaller than him, only 13 years old and yet, she out ate him. Somehow, she seemed more formidable now.
“Hey, wake up.” He said shaking her. She awoke and sat up.
“Go shower and go to bed.” He said getting up to tidy the table. She nodded and left for the shower.
The next few days, Rose was always tired, but she tried her best to cook and clean. Kevin didn’t say much to her those days, he felt very uncomfortable and awkward around her. She was sighing a lot more lately, and ate more than him. He was worried she was turning into some sort of man-woman.
On the weekend, he thought about asking her if the bleeding had stopped and if she was still in pain since she didn’t seem to be taking any more pain killers.
“Hey, is everything alright?” Kevin asked her while she ate her sandwich. She was silent for a moment and than wrote on her notepad.
“Yes, but I feel tired and my body hurts.” He read out loud.
“Hmm, that’s normal don’t worry about it.” Kevin replied. Rose smiled and continued to eat. She was eating like a little monster and he wondered if he should say something about it.
As the days passed, he noticed that she was taking more time to dress and do her hair. He wondered if this had something to do with the period. Perhaps she understood she was becoming a woman and was trying to change herself. A month had passed and Kevin almost forgot all about the period situation until today. She came to him with her notepad.
“Uncle Kevin, I need a – what?” He stood up sharply, scaring Rose a little. He looked down at her puzzled face. Was this something you could openly ask for? But then again, if she didn’t openly ask for it, how would she ever buy it. He sighed.
“How do you know you need one?” He asked feeling a bit awkward to examine. After all she was a young woman, but he didn’t really see a need for it just now. He waited for her to write on her notepad.
“Because my P.E teacher said so.” Kevin grunted.
“Is your P.E teacher a woman?” He asked hoping that this teacher wasn’t just a pervert.
“Yes….alright.” He sighed.
He felt really strange walking into a place like that, full of girly things everywhere. A sales lady came and offered to help, much to Kevin’s relief. The other mothers and girls were staring at him. He did stick out to begin with, his dark black hair, tall and brutish figure didn’t go well with the pink and purple all over the store. He wondered if he should just leave her in there with some money. Rose turned around to Kevin and wrote something on her notepad, she looked a bit uncomfortable herself.
“Please stay here.” He read, how did she know what he was thinking? Maybe she could tell he was uncomfortable.
“Yeah” He said to her as she continued to shop with the sales lady and because Rose didn’t speak to the lady, he had to speak for her. He asked Rose to just show the notepad to the lady but Rose refused. Perhaps she was nervous about this, perhaps she saw Kevin as sort of like a mother who could comfort her. This wasn’t exactly a compliment.
Rose went into the changing room leaving Kevin to stand and wait.
“Is she your daughter, she’s really pretty.” The sales lady said to him while they waited.
“No, she’s my brother’s kid, I’m just taking care of her.” He replied. The sales lady felt that was a bit weird. She wanted to ask him where her father was? Kevin felt like the sales lady thought he was some sort of pervert Uncle.
“It’s not what you think. He’s dead, so I had to adopt her.” Kevin said blandly. He didn’t really care what she thought about him, but he just didn’t want any hassle. Rose came out with a smile and holding 2 of the trainers.
“You like those?” Kevin asked. Rose nodded. His eyebrow shot up.
“I said you could have one…” He said wondering if she forgot. Rose smiled up at him with bright cute eyes. He felt disgusting. Was she trying to ask for 2? This was the first time she was actually asking him for something.
“Well, she’ll need one to wear and one as a spare.” The sales lady came in with the pitch. Rose nodded and smiled. Kevin agreed, but somehow he felt like he was cheated.
The weeks passed and Rose was coming home later now. He wondered if perhaps she was doing something after school, like a club. He figured he should ask her. That evening, when Rose came home, Kevin asked her what she was doing out that late after school? He felt like he was invading her privacy somewhat. She never asked him about his job or what he did, and really didn’t bother him at all, so questioning her felt a bit rude.
But she didn’t mind, instead she took out some books from her bag and a binder filled with writing.
“You’re writing?” Kevin asked her. She nodded and wrote on her notepad.
“I joined the writing club.” She smiled. Kevin some how felt relieved.
“I see.” He said sitting down for dinner as she prepared it quickly. He looked at his watch and undid his tie waiting for food to be done. He watched her as she washed the vegetables. When did she buy vegetables? He had left her responsible for the groceries since she was the one who cooked, but he wasn’t used to eating things like. He noticed that she looked a bit taller and noticed that her skirt was a bit shorter too.
“Hey, why is your skirt up so high?” Kevin asked. Rose smiled and quickly wrote on her paper.
“For fashion? Hey just because the other girls are dressing that way, doesn’t mean you should either. Now put your skirt back down.” Kevin said a bit irritated. What was he so irritated about? She did as she was told and rolled her skirt back down to her knee, the way it was originally meant to be. He wondered if the private school he was paying for should be more vigilant and should be putting a stop to this kind of fashion. But somehow even with the skirt down, she still looked taller. He got up and stood behind her to size.
“Hey, you grew didn’t you?” He asked realizing that she had gotten taller. Rose smiled up at him and gestured that she grew a couple of inches. He was shocked, was this normal for a girl to grow that fast? He tried to remember how fast he grew when he was younger to see if it was normal. She continued to cook as he pondered about his youth.
A few days later, Kevin came home surprised to see Rose sitting on the couch waiting for him. He wondered if something was wrong. She seemed to be blushing and nervous.
“Hey what happened?” He asked her taking off his suit jacket. It was snowing outside so his hair looked as if powered had been poured on him. She stood up and walked to his side putting up her notepad. He could tell she had taken a lot of time with this, with all the mistake sentences scribbled out.
“A boy asked you out?” Kevin asked surprised.
“What am I supposed to do about it?” He asked not sure if he should congratulated her. She flipped the page and he read it.
“His name is Stewart and he’s in grade 9, can I go out with him?” Kevin read. He looked at her face, she was asking permission to date. He wondered what he should do, he didn’t really have any right to tell her what to do. But somehow it really bothered him that a boy asked her out. He thought about it, was she the correct age to be dating? Would other people let their girls date at 13? He thought back to when he was 14 and re-called his girlfriends. It was then, he became agitated. He looked down at Rose waiting for his reply. His first time was when he was 14, and he recalled doing some pretty pushy and sexual things with those girls. He felt like he wanted to meet Stewart and punch him out.
“What’re you thinking? You should tell him no, and focus on your school work. I’m not paying all that money for a private school just so you can go around and date boys.” Kevin replied bitterly brushing out the snow from his hair and feeling annoyed. Rose was disappointed.
“But I asked permission.” She wrote on her paper. Kevin felt even more annoyed.
“So what? You’re supposed to ask aren’t you? You live here and are going to follow what I say. And I said no. Now go get dinner ready.” He said dismissing her from the living room. He knew he was being a real big jerk and he hadn’t even asked how she felt, nor did he even praise her for asking him rather than just dating the guy behind his back. But why did this bother him so much .Just the thought of some kid trying to convince her to do things he did when he was that age, made him want to punch himself out. She was just a little girl and had plenty of time to think about those things in the future. Somehow he could understand what other father’s must feel, if only there was a mother who could help Rose.
He paused and sat down on the living room couch, was he trying to act like her father? Why was he that worried for her? She wasn’t really his kid, so did it really matter to him what choices she made? He felt guilty for being that harsh with her, after all she was a kid and didn’t get what he was thinking. Should he explain to her how disgusting boys could be at that age? Should he tell her about sex at this age? Should he really be stopping her from dating? All these questions were too much for him. He wished she was a boy so that things could be easier for him.
The months went by fast, and soon it was December. Christmas was around the corner. This was going to be the first Christmas Rose would be spending with him. He normally stayed home and did nothing special for it. He didn’t bring a tree, nor did he contact anyone, no friends or co-workers. He was a loner and that’s how he liked it. He wondered what Rose was going to do. Perhaps she was going out with friends? This season never affected him, since it was just another day.
Rose came back from school that day early, and quickly came to him in the living room. She had a big happy smile on her face and looked almost blushing. She put up her notepad after scribbling something fast.
“Today is the last day of school. I’m on winter break now.” Kevin read.
“Ah, that’s good for you. Do you have plans?” He asked her going back to TV watching. She scribbled more on her paper.
“Whatever you want to do Uncle Kevin.” He read, it came as a bit of a shock to him. Was she expecting for him to do a Christmas thing with her. He looked at her puzzled, she seemed too bright and happy that it almost made him nervous.
“Well aren’t you going out with friends or something?” He asked her.
“No, I don’t have any friends.” She wrote. He looked at her confused. What about those people in her writing club? Perhaps they were just acquaintances, not close enough to do things with outside of school.
“Ok, well I don’t do anything for Christmas normally. What do you want to do?” He asked her confused. He had never really hung out with someone before. The most he ever did was go out for drinks, but that was usually alone. It had been years since he went out drinking with someone. But she was still a kid, she couldn’t drink yet, so other than drinking what else could be done? Then he read her notepad.
“Christmas tree and gift exchange.” He read. He hummed over it as Rose waited for his answer.
“Alright, I guess that’s fine.” He replied. It shouldn’t be too hard to buy a tree, and it shouldn’t be too hard to buy her a gift. All he had to do was get her a gift card and the rest was up to her. She was happy and jumped up from the couch and rushed to her room. He was glad to see her happy, and it somehow made him giggle. What a childish thing to be happy over. A simple tree and a gift exchange.
The days pressed on, and Rose was always in her room. He wondered what she was doing in there, locked up for hours at a time. He felt it was better not to interfere. They met for breakfast, lunch and dinner and that was all; it was normal for them. He went to work even though it was winter break for her. He didn’t bug her about her dealings during the day, since he figured she was probably busy with whatever she was doing in her room. She asked for some money to buy a tree and some extra groceries. He never questioned her about it, and let her do it on her own. He saw the tree that day when he came home. She had made some decorations in her room with sparkly paper and other crafts. She seemed to take an interest in those things. He liked the tree, it wasn’t too big, but he still wondered how she brought the box home by herself on the bus and assembled it by herself. He wondered if he should have helped her with it.
Soon, it was Christmas Eve. Rose was busy in the kitchen making cookies and preparing a large turkey for the next day. He was going to say something to her about the size of the turkey, it being way too big for just 2 people; but left it as it was. His house hadn’t smelled this wonderful in years. The last time cookies were baked in his house, was never. There were definitely perks to having a female in the house. He pulled out the gift card he bought for her out of his pocket and put it into a small envelope that came with it. It was worth $100. Since he had never given a gift to a 13 year old girl before, he didn’t know what was a good amount to give? Based on the prices he remembered from the time he went to buy her clothes for school, things were not cheap. He wondered what she bought for him and with what money? He wondered if she perhaps saved some money from the groceries to buy him something. He smirked, that would be very crafty of her. Or perhaps she made him something simple, like a tie to wear to work.
Rose came out with some hot chocolate with marshmallows. He didn’t know you could put those in there. It tasted sweet but to his liking.
“Are the cookies done?” Kevin asked eager to try one. The last homemade cookie he had was from his mom, and that was many years ago, when she was still alive and he was still young.
She nodded side to side, they were not done yet. They watched TV quietly and drank the hot chocolate.
Soon, the cookies were done and they were enjoying them. Kevin missed the taste of home made cookies and had to praise her for making them well. Rose seemed rather proud of herself and blushed, she was so happy. She wrote on her paper asking if she could give him her gift. He agreed and took out the envelope as she went to her room. He wondered what she bought him.
She came back with a box all neatly wrapped. He handed her the envelope as she gave him the box. She opened her envelope and saw the $100 gift card and thanked him for it. Kevin thought she probably thought that was a lot of money, and perhaps it was for a 13 year old. He wondered if he had made a mistake by giving her that much? She insisted for him to open his gift and wrote that she made it for him. He opened the box. His smile faded, as he stared at his gift stunned. She smiled brightly waiting for his reaction. He pulled out the black sweater. It looked like something from a store it was made well. He looked at the tag wondering if she had lied, and saw a small tag that said ‘Rose’. He couldn’t believe it.
“You made this?” He asked. She nodded with excitement. This is what she had locked herself in the room for, was to make him a sweater. A smile cracked on his face, the largest one Rose had ever seen on him. He put it on over his shirt, it fit just right.
“Thank you.” He felt really proud of Rose for making something this well, and Rose felt proud of herself. And then he noticed at the bottom of the box, a small frame with a picture. It was a picture of herself from her school, and a small Christmas card.
“To Uncle Kevin, thank you for taking care of me and adopting me. You’re my guardian angel and I thank the Lord for bringing me to a save and happy place.” Kevin read. Somehow his heart was moved, and it became more unstable when he looked to her cheerful face. Something stirred inside of him, a combination of nervousness and excitement.
“Love Rose.” He couldn’t believe it. He never did anything that could be counted as great, nor did he pay any attention to her. He left her to do all the house work and cooking and didn’t really do anything special, in fact he always just treated her like she came with the house. And here, she was thanking him so grandly for the little he gave to her. She came to him on the couch and gave him a hug, and it both surprised and scared Kevin. What was this emotion he was experiencing? Was it guilt? She was putting him in place that he didn’t really deserve, he actually felt like crying for her stupidity.
“I didn’t do anything for you. I think you’re confused. I’m not your guardian angel.” Kevin said as the girl held on to him in an embrace. She smiled. She should be thanking him if he had actually done something for her, but all this time; he did nothing. She let go of him.
“You gave me back my voice uncle Kevin.” She smiled speaking for the first time since he’s known her. He was shocked.
“You spoke.” He said, not sure if he actually heard it. She nodded.
“Because of everything you did for me Uncle Kevin, I could get over my depression and grief…” She smiled and explained.
“No, I made you do everything for yourself and actually you’ve been sort of a live in maid.” Kevin tried to explain that he hadn’t done anything noble to earn this kind of respect from her. She interrupted him again.
“Even if you didn’t have any intention of doing anything kind for me, you have done so much for me. I don’t feel sad anymore about my Dad’s death because I feel like God gave me another Dad.” Rose smiled kindly almost like she was confessing a secret. Kevin was surprised again. Had he really been treating her like a daughter? Since when? He thought back to that one incident with that Stewart kid. He had asked himself that question then too, but brushed it off without thinking about it any further. He looked at Rose, smiling at him, giving him the time he needed to comprehend things. In a way she was a lot wiser than he was, figured out things that even he hadn’t figured out. Ever since she came into his life, he’s been different, doing things that he had never done before. He actually thought about her feelings and what she thought and tried to help, he did it automatically. What was wrong with him, was this a disease? Do parents catch this disease when they have kids?
“Uncle Kevin?” Rose said trying to bring him out of his confused trance. He didn’t know what to say to her, should he reject this parent/child thing that they created? But when he looked at her smiling face, he somehow understood what it meant to be a dad. He actually did care for her. All these years he isolated himself from family and friends, created a deep depressing hole in which he lived in. She thought that he had saved her, but in reality; she had saved him. If she hadn’t come, he would have been alone forever.
“Rose…” He said suddenly petting her head, it was the first time he called her by her name.
“Call me dad.” He smiled with his whole heart, for the first time in years.