My dad was outside by the shed he built in the back. Woodworking as usual, even though he didn’t have the room we had in the country. He apparently couldn’t do without it, even in the city place.
I had just gotten home from the new school. It was my first week there. I watched him for a minute, his long back toward me, hammering away with nails in his mouth. I hoped to be tall like him when I got older. But I doubted it. Mom was shorter and I’m a girl. I do look more like him, though.
“Dad,” I said, pitching my voice above the hammering.
He turned around, took nails out of his mouth, and brushed his black hair out of his face. I know how thick and unruly it can be. I have his hair, though not as dark.
“Hey, hey, Rosie-Rose, how it goes?” my dad chanted with his precise diction. He made every word sound crisp and round. Marine trained.
“Ok,” I said, wandering closer for a quick hug. He smelled like wood and September sun. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” he said. “Hold these.” He handed me the nails. He sat on his stool; I on a box.
I hesitated. I wasn’t sure why. I always felt like I could talk to my dad about anything. Granted, he traveled a lot for work, but when he was home, he was always with Mom and me.
“What’s up?” he asked. The sun peeked through a cloud and glinted on his glasses. He shaded his gaze with one of his big hands.
“Are you famous?” I blurted it out. It was so absurd I felt ridiculous saying it.
His eyebrows rose above his glasses. “Whaaa—ttt?” He used his highest pitch. My dad had an expressive range. “What? Why? Why do you ask?”
“Oh, ok, that’s stupid. It’s mom, right? She’s famous?” Although I had a hard time imagining that. She dropped me off and picked me up every day from school. She was pretty much always around. Unless she traveled with Dad to…well, I didn’t quite know where. I stayed with my grandparents up north.
Dad said, “What is with the famous stuff, Rosie? Where is this idea from?”
“My new school.”
Dad pursed his lips but said nothing. Mom always said Dad’s face was like an Easter Island statue. She showed me a picture once of long-nosed, carved-lipped statues. He definitely had that frozen look.
“Well, are you?”
“Honey, who said that?”
I told him the story. “I met this kid named Snow, who said every kid at this school has famous parents. She said her mom was called Kate Pepperdine but was really Kate Dekkeman. I guess she’s a famous singer who tours all over.” I paused.
Dad said nothing.
“Anyway, she pointed out all these different kids in my class and named a bunch of famous people, I guess. I hadn’t heard of all of them. Most of them, really. But she swore they all were celebrities. She asked me who my mom and dad were. I said Adam and Sarah Fischer. I’m Rosalyn Fischer. But she didn’t know you guys.”
“Ok,” Dad said, nodding and still looking like a statue.
I rushed on. “But she said a lot of times famous people use other names. Like David Bowie was David Jones… or…” I couldn’t think of anyone else. “So, are you? Do you have another name?”
“Nope,” Dad said. “I could get one if you want me to. Adam…” He squinted at me.
“Wood,” I said.
“Perfect,” he said. “I am now Adam Wood, famous wood …. uh …. person.” He stood up and brushed himself off. “Snack? I’m hungry.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “You are always hungry.”
“I’m growing,” he said, taking a giant step with his long legs. He was six foot three. “I will eat every snack in the house. Beware! Beware!”
“Noooo,” I yelled and ran.
It wasn’t until later that I realized my father had not really answered the question of fame. We ate everything our housekeeper Mrs. Randolph left out on the counter. She’s a wise lady. She left out food enough for me and Dad. He does eat a lot, even though he is thin. He has a weight room and works out. Mom says he needs the extra protein and fruit to fuel all that crazy mad energy he has.
I forgot about fame and all that while I did homework. It came back to me later in bed. I started thinking that Dad didn’t seem to play any instruments. Any singing he did was to make Mom laugh when she was exasperated with him. He did this whole cowboy thing with his voice. He put on a ridiculous country accent and ran his deep voice up and down the scales, wailing like an idiot. It was quite awful.
Dad didn’t look like a movie star either. I guess. I didn’t watch many movies or spend time on the internet, even at Grandma’s house. There was too much else to do.
Dad was an average person, or as average as a six-foot three giant could be. He dressed like a lumberjack, Mom said, as she tried to stuff him into a suit occasionally. He had glasses, unruly hair, and big freckles on his face. He wore dorky hats everywhere. He was the least likely person to be a star. It had to be Mom, who was pretty and elegant.
The next day before school, Mom was pinning up her long, blonde hair. I hung out in the doorway.
“Need something, my Rose?” she asked, still pushing wisps into a sleek knot.
“Mom, are you famous?” I asked.
She stopped and stared at me. “Good heavens, no.” She hesitated and appeared to make a decision. “Dad said you asked him, too.”
She turned and held out her hands. I put mine in hers. She squeezed my hands lightly. “Do you like your new school?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Ok,” she said firmly. “Not everyone who attends the school has famous parents. At least, not in the way that Kate Pepperdine is.”
“I don’t really know who she is.”
“I know. It’s ok. You don’t have to know who she is. You can be friends with her daughter anyway.”
I shrugged. “Does it matter if we’re not famous?”
“It doesn’t make any difference in your life or your studies. And your real friends will not care about fame.”
“What should I tell her, then? You know, if she asks.”
My mom frowned. “What is this child’s name?”
“Snow. Snow, uh, I don’t think she goes by Pepperdine.”
Mom patted my hands and let go. “You can tell Miss Snow that your private life has nothing to do with her. If she would like to be friends, she can be friends with Rosalyn Fischer. That should be good enough.” She got up from her vanity.
It was time to go to school.
“Do you look like your mom or dad more?” asked Snow at lunch. She had a cell phone under the table. “I look like my mom.” She showed me a picture of a made-up, blonde lady with a long, sequined gown.
“My dad,” I said. “Mom says he has strong genes.”
Snow looked me over. I have Dad’s thick dark hair, long nose, and full mouth but mom’s higher cheekbones. Or at least that’s what he says. She rolls her eyes and says, “Face it, Adam, our baby looks like you.” At which point I tell them I am not a baby. I am 13.
“Hmmm,” Snow said. “Male, black hair, probably in his, what, 40s? Or, no, maybe older. You aren’t pretty. So he must have money and married a younger girl.” She scrolled her phone furiously.
“No,” I almost shouted. Snow is so mean. I almost hate her. She won’t let it go.
“They aren’t famous,” I told her. “They met in college in their 20s and got married. They have never been apart.”
“Ahhh,” she said, having successfully needled more info out of me. She would not believe that one of them—or both—she says gleefully—isn’t a celebrity.
“Miss Dekkeman, please put that phone in your locker,” Mrs. Doan stated, whizzing by our table.
“I need it in case my mom calls,” Snow called behind her. She crammed it into her side jeans pocket where it stuck out dangerously.
Mrs. Doan is pretty strict and quite crafty. She saw Snow’s phone in 5th hour. She and Snow had a conversation in the hallway. Snow told me it was no big deal. Mrs. Doan took the phone until the end of the day.
Snow dragged me back to Mrs. Doan’s room to get it after school.
“My mom is here,” I said in protest.
“Oh, goodie,” said Snow. “Can I meet her?”
I stopped dead in the hallway. Snow grinned at me. “Oh, come on, you said she isn’t famous.”
“Ok,” I said.
“Do you need to text her?” Snow asked, hesitating at the door of Mrs. Doan’s room.
“No, I don’t have a phone.”
She stared at me. “Really?”
“How do call your nanny?”
“Um, the office?” I said. I didn’t really have a nanny but felt too dumb to say so. I was already feeling like a total alien.
She raised her brows and knocked on the door. We went in.
Mrs. Doan was seated at her desk.
“Hello, girls,” she said, pleasantly. “Snow,” she began, with the phone in her hand.
“I know,” interrupted Snow. “Keep your phone in your locker. I know. Hey, Mrs. Doan, is Rosie’s family famous?”
Mrs. Doan looked at me and then at Snow. She paused.
“Snow, this is a private school for children of celebrities, primarily. You know that. Why are you asking?”
Snow jerked a thumb in my direction. “She doesn’t know.”
“I do know,” I said, not knowing a thing.
“Nope, you don’t. You don’t know that you have a famous family or parent or whatever,” Snow said.
“They aren’t,” I said.
“They have to be,” Snow shot back.
“Girls!” Mrs. Doan said. “Stop it. Snow, you should know that people deserve privacy. If Rosalyn doesn’t want to talk about her family, let it go. Please and thank you.”
Snow pocketed her phone and whirled around, stalking out of the room.
“It’s ok, dear,” Mrs. Doan said in a whisper. “Your dad likes his privacy. We know that.” She smiled at me.
Snow was nowhere in sight. Mrs. Rudolph was in the car to pick me up. My parents were not home.
“Where are they?” I asked Mrs. R.
She seemed surprised. I didn’t ask that often.
“A meeting in town,” she said. “I think. Not really sure.” She hesitated. “Your mom said you can call if you want to.”
I didn’t. They would be home later.
After homework and dinner, Mrs. R invited me to play a game of scrabble in the kitchen. I couldn’t concentrate on it.
“Are we different?” I asked her. “Are we different from the others you know?”
“Sure,” she said. “Everyone’s different. All families are unique.”
“What’s yours like?” I don’t think I had ever asked her before.
“Mmmm,” she said, pouring herself another cup of coffee. “It was noisy and loud. Now, it’s quiet. My kids are grown and gone. We were always busy, though. Just like your folks.”
“Mrs. R,” said. “Are they famous?”
“What now?” Mrs. Rudolph said, sitting down.
“Well, now, where did you hear that?” she asked mildly.
“Ah. A teacher or that Snow?”
I looked at her for a minute. She was stirring her coffee slowly and looking into her cup. I realized that what I said next would be important.
“Snow.” Even though my teacher had said something about my dad.
“Well, I wouldn’t put too much stock in what that girl says,” stated Mrs. Rudolph. “Her mama doesn’t seem to be around much. And her daddy doesn’t live with them like yours does. Snow is probably looking for something to do. And you’re it.”
“How do you know her mom and dad?”
“Well, I don’t. But there’s a lot of gossip swirling around those two. Kate Pepperdine has a lot going on in her life and Tommy Dekke is always on tour. Likely, both of them are out of touch with their daughter for long periods of time.”
“How do you find these things out?” I asked.
Mrs. Rudolph squirmed a bit in her chair. “It’s all over…” she hesitated. “It’s just everywhere and people like to talk about other people.” She stood up. “All right, you, time for bed.”
“Really?” I looked around at the clock. “It’s like 8.”
“Well, yeah, up you go. Go read or color in your room. I have work to do.”
I shrugged and hopped up the stairs.
I sat at my desk with colored pencils and drew my dad and mom. Black and brown for him. Yellow and beige for her. I drew Dad with and without his goofy chin hair and mustache. I drew Mom with her hair down and up with and without her earrings.
How did Mrs. Rudolph find out so much about Snow’s family without knowing them? I jumped up and wandered into my mom and dad’s suite of rooms down the long hall. There were pictures of them and all of us on the walls. Young Dad smiling, hair tucked back behind his big ears. Young Mom with long platinum hair holding me proudly. Another picture showed Dad in a suit, mom in a fancy dress. They both looked uncomfortable as they stood together. Dad was holding a statue of a golden man. I had seen that thing before. It was in Dad’s workout room with a hat on it. He said it was a fancy hat stand.
There was writing on it in the photo, but it was too small to read. I had to see it in person.
I quietly crossed the room to the other door and opened it. The light was out, and I was a little nervous to turn it on. I felt like I was invading Dad’s privacy.
Mrs. Doan said he was a private person. But I never felt that. He was warm and loving and goofy.
I made my way to the desk without falling over any of his workout equipment. I switched on a small lamp. His desk had papers on it and a few thick bound documents. They looked like homemade books. One was stamped “CONFIDENTIAL.”
But I was looking for the hat stand, the golden man. I found him on the shelf behind the desk with Dad’s old hat on him. I lifted the hat and turned the statue around. It was an award. It was heavy. It said nothing.
Maybe it was just a hat stand.
I heard a noise downstairs and jumped a mile. I put the golden man back on the shelf, switched off the light, and barreled out the room. I slid into my desk chair as I heard my parents come up the stairs.
“Waste of time,” my dad said. “Complete and total. I’m not doing that again.”
My mom sighed. “Well, you never know, Adam. It might work out.”
They paused in front of my door. I held my breath. Someone knocked lightly and I pushed my artwork in my drawer.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” they both echoed, still outside the door. We were big on waiting for permission to enter someone’s private space.
I hesitated for a second and then opened the door for them. They stood there looking at me like two beautiful swans. Dad was in a black suit with his hair actually combed, though it looked like he might have raked it a couple times. It was getting too long, Mom would say. Mom was in a gray business suit and heels looking cool and composed.
“How’s life, kiddo?” Dad asked.
“Good,” I fell into their embrace.
Mom pushed us all to the sitting room I was just lurking around in. Dad took off his jacket and tie. He fell dramatically into the couch.
Mom pulled off her shoes and curled up with a sigh.
I snuggled into her. Life was ok. It was a hat stand, like Dad said.
Snow invited me over to her house after school a couple of days later. Maybe Mrs. Rudolph was right. Maybe Snow was bored. Maybe I was, too.
I asked my dad, who was in his workout room.
“Do you want to go?” he asked, looking up from the book he was reading.
Dad looked me up and down for a couple of seconds. “That’s not an enthusiastic response.”
I shrugged again. “She wants to show me her stuff, I guess.”
“What stuff is that?
“She says she has a new game and she’s bored playing alone. Her dad sent it to her.”
“Well, I say don’t go if you aren’t excited about spending time with this girl.” He focused his full attention on me. “Is she the one who’s been bugging you about celebrities?”
“Yeah, but Mrs. R said Snow doesn’t see her parents a lot. Not like you.” I looked at him to see if he reacted. His brows raised slightly above his glasses. “Are you leaving again sometime soon, Dad?”
He looked away for a second. “Not for long, Rosie. Mom will be here. We are not like Snow’s family. We don’t work like that.”
“Do you know about them, too?”
“Only what Mom tells me.” He smiled, wide and happy. He opened his arms and I moved around the desk to hug him. “Mom’s our spy,” he said after a big squeeze. “She knows all and sees all.” He fake laughed like a madman. I couldn’t help but giggle.
“Should I ask Mom about going to Snow’s?”
He looked offended. “Hey, I can say yes or no, too. I am your father.”
“So, what do you say, Father?”
Dad closed one eye behind his glasses. “Um,” he said. “Well.” He patted my back. “Yeah, you better ask your mom.”
“Ok,” I said, walking away.
“But make sure you go because you like the idea,” he called behind me.
I gave him a thumbs up.
Mom gave me a reluctant yes after calling Snow’s house and talking to whoever was on the other end of the phone. I could tell she didn’t really like the idea that much. I told her that Snow had backed off the celebrity thing and seemed to want company. It was kind of true.
“I guess I can’t keep you hidden forever,” Mom muttered. I had no idea what she meant. She shooed me out of her office shortly thereafter without answering any further questions.
Snow and I were picked up by a driver and the nanny, Connie, who rode in the back of the black car with dark windows.
Connie talked on the phone while the driver said nothing. Snow chattered about things I didn’t really understand.
“And my dad sent the whole rig to hook up to my new computer. It runs through Steam, you know. Hey, what’s your Steam handle? You can play on my old computer. It’s still set up in my suite. It won’t have the Vive on it for VR, but… Or maybe my mom can send me another one and you can use that.”
She looked at me. “I don’t know,” I said.
“What games do you play online?”
“None,” I answered. “My mom has the internet on her computer at her office. I don’t think it is on at home. Or, well, I don’t know.”
Snow had a strange look on her face. “You don’t play games at home?”
“Oh, well, yeah,” I said. “Charades are the best. That’s our family favorite. Or Pictionary. Mom can’t draw, so Dad and I usually win. And I play Scrabble with Mrs. Rudolph, our housekeeper.”
Before Snow could comment, the car pulled up to a gate. The driver talked into the speaker and the gate opened. He drove into a long driveway that ended in a circle in front of a huge house.
“We’re here,” Snow said. She bounded out of the car and left her bookbag behind. Connie picked it up. I hoisted mine onto my shoulder and followed Connie through the huge double doors into a slick-floored foyer with two staircases leading upstairs. Snow was halfway up the right stairs.
“Food should be up here already,” she shouted. “Come on.”
I followed her up and to the right. “This wing is mine, mostly,” she said, stopping in front of the first door in a long hallway. “Connie lives down the hall.” She pointed to another door. “But these are my suites.”
Snow opened the door to a large room painted baby blue with white trim. It housed a computer area with a desk, two large computers and four monitors, a lot of discs all over, and other electronics I couldn’t identify.
“That’s my shit,” she said. “My dad had to send a dude to set it all up and he fucked up my system.” She walked to the desk and messed with some wires. “But I kicked him out and did it myself.”
Near the desk was a table with snacks laid on it. Snow opened a pizza box, grabbed a piece, and shoved a huge bite in her mouth. “Have some,” she offered. “Or any of it.” She waved a hand toward soft drinks, a jug of milk, energy drinks, chips, candy, cupcakes, and cookies.
“Thanks,” I said, grabbing a chocolate chip cookie. Mrs. Rudolph would have my head for not eating any fruit or yogurt or cheese. There was no fruit that I could see.
Snow flopped down on a plush white sectional in front of a massive television set. She clicked the remote and a huge picture came on. Dad always said he was bored by TV. We didn’t even own a set.
“Soooo,” she said, “why won’t you admit that your dad is famous? He’s Adam Fischer, right?”
I looked at her. “He’s not.”
Snow giggled, “He’s not Adam Fischer? But you look just like him. He has to be your daddy.” She poked at her phone and a large photo of my mom and dad popped up on the screen. They were dressed up in evening clothes.
“It took me a minute to figure it out. But I did.” She looked pleased. “Here we go. ’Adam Fischer and Sarah Buckley walk the red carpet for the Oscars,’” she read. “Wow. Hmmm. They don’t much like your mom and dad.”
I stared at her and couldn’t think. I stared at the next picture she put up. It was Dad looking solemn and gazing directly into the camera. I had never seen a picture like that. His face seemed different somehow. He looked plastic and unreal.
“Whew. Your mom gets the worst,” Snow said. “Listen. ’Sarah Buckley, always looking hatchet-faced, haggard, and unhappy, makes us think she’s on the verge of leaving her longtime husband, Adam Fischer. He can’t be easy to live with, sources close to the couple note. He is a former Marine with a drive to excel and snaps at everyone around him. He is private to the point of paranoia and rarely goes out. He and Buckley are only seen together at award ceremonies, though there are plenty of those.’” Snow paused for breath. “Jesus Christ. No wonder you don’t want to talk about it. Your dad is fucking Adam Fischer.” She laughed and shook her head.
I stared at her, not getting any of it. Dad was a Marine, for sure, but he used his training to work out and stay strong. He loved being active. He didn’t snap at people.
“They must not let reporters take pictures of you,” she mused. “Ah, this is the only reference. ‘Rumor has it that the couple may be raising a child. But it’s not clear if it’s theirs or a family member’s child. She might be in her early teens by now, but few have seen her. It’s rumored that she is Adam’s stepdaughter or maybe his biological child from another relationship. No spokesperson for the couple will confirm the child’s existence. She is rumored to be a girl.’”
Snow looked up at me. “Well, there you have it.”
Pictures of my father continued to scroll on the screen. Pictures of him younger, older, wearing different costumes, holding weapons, hanging out of cars, conversing with strangers. I just stared.
“Your mom is here, too, but it looks like she might have retired when your pop hit fame and fortune,” Snow said, pressing more buttons on her phone. My mother’s image replaced my dad’s. She was in giant hair rollers, clearly shouting at someone outside the frame. Then she was crumpled on a couch with a man standing over her. Not my father.
“What does this all mean?” I whispered.
“Oh, you don’t know?” Snow asked. “Seriously? How did they keep you out of the loop here? How did they stop you from knowing who they are?”
“I don’t know.” I fell back on the couch, unable to process.
“Well, then, this is going to fuck you up. Your dad is a bad guy.”
I stared at her. “What?”
“A villain. A bad guy. That’s how he came to fame.” Snow laughed. “Ok, let’s watch this.” She switched out the phone for the remote and pressed more buttons. The screen showed the title, Galactic Battles: The New Generation. My dad’s name flashed on the screen.
Snow pressed a button and people flew into action. I couldn’t hear them talking.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “Why are you telling me?”
Snow shrugged. “It’ll fast forward until we get to the good parts. Your dad got famous being a bad dude. He is pretty great at it. He’s the one everyone loved to hate.” She stopped and a large figure all in black with a mask strode into view. His voice was muffled, “Kill them all.”
“There’s Daddy,” Snow whispered.
“No,” I said. I watched the figure and others with helmets and guns smash and shoot people on screen. The masked figure pushed one person down to his knees. The man croaked, “I will not beg you for my life, Storm Invader.” The masked figure breathed heavily. “I would not spare you anyway.” He swiped the kneeling man with a bright sword. The man fell, split into two pieces.
I heard myself scream and covered my eyes. I heard Snow laugh again.
“Gotta love your dad, man. He’s the best,” she muttered. “Next scene!”
Snow forwarded further until she found another part. I couldn’t stop myself from looking. It wasn’t my father in that mask. It couldn’t be.
There was a young woman strapped to a chair. She was saying she would die before talking. She would not speak to a mask. The masked figure from earlier gazed upon her and slowly pulled off his mask.
I stared at a younger version of my father. He advanced upon the woman and put out his gloved hand. It was my dad’s big hand for sure. He gripped her head and put his mouth near her ear.
“Shut it off,” I shouted at Snow, lunging for her.
She laughed and slid off the couch. “Your daddy is a baddie,” she chanted. “He is considered cute by some, though. My mom thinks he is sexy, even if he’s bad.”
“Stop it,” I growled, making a grab for her again. She jumped over the back of the couch.
The scene played on. My father’s crisp diction and low voice boomed through the speakers. “I can indeed take whatever I want.”
“Shut it,” I shouted again, tripping on the edge of the couch and falling forward. I jumped up again.
“Oh, but why?” Snow taunted. “I can’t believe you didn’t know. How could you not know the greatest villain of our time? I know it’s a couple years old now, but everybody watches Galactic Battles. It’s a whole fucking industry!” Snow grabbed up a figurine from her desk. It was obviously based on the character in the movie. She threw it at me.
I ducked and it hit the carpet with a thud. I ran out of the room and down the stairs. “I want to leave,” I told the first person I saw.
Connie came down the stairs, holding my backpack. “We will take you home,” she said.
Snow stood at the top of the stairs, hoisting the figure and laughing. “See you in school tomorrow!” She waved gaily, like she hadn’t just destroyed my world.
The driver drove me home in silence. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t move. I was mad at myself for not realizing. For being stupid. Everyone else had phones and TVs and computers. Why didn’t we?
Why didn’t they tell me? Why was I hidden? I wasn’t theirs? They were ashamed of me? They were ashamed of Dad for being a horrible person? Why did he have to do those things, even in a movie? He should have told them no.
With those thoughts swirling in my head, I ran into our house, hoping I wouldn’t run into either of them. I was not lucky. Dad was walking out of the kitchen with a protein drink, ready to crack it open.
“Hey! How was it?” he asked, cheerfully, smiling at me.
I loathed him at that moment. “Fuck you,” I shouted at him.
His brows rose and his glasses glinted. “Pardon me,” he said, in a low rumble. Same as on the movie.
“You heard me,” I yelled. “You are a bad person. Why would you do those things?”
He reached out for me. “Rosie,” he said.
“Fuck off,” I shouted and ran out back to the shed. I could hear him running after me. He was fast, but I had a head start. I wedged myself behind the shed.
“Rosalyn Fischer, come here,” he said. He used his dangerous voice. The one he used when I was in trouble. He only spanked me a couple of times in my life, but that was the voice he had used. And it wasn’t pleasant. I breathed for a second.
Then I was beyond it. White rage hit me. Let him kill me. He would have to fight.
I shouted, “I don’t care. You are a bad person for doing that stuff in a movie.”
I ran out and attacked him head on. I was going to take him out with me.
“Whoa,” he said, trying to grab my arms. I was furious. I smacked and tore and beat with my fists before he bear-hugged me. I was aiming for his face. Maybe I could stop him by tearing at his famous face. But he was over six feet and had me pinned.
“Stop,” he gritted out.
“Go ahead,” I gasped, still trying to fight him. “Beat me. I don’t care.”
He said, shaking me slightly with every ground-out word, “Rosalyn, I am not going to beat you. I have no idea what you are doing.”
I went limp in his arms. It was no use. He was huge and I was doomed. My anger drained out of me and I started crying.
My father turned me into his chest. I beat at him a little with fists, but he just put his giant bear paws on my hands. “Get it out,” he said. I sobbed.
After a while, I stopped crying. I was wiping my eyes and nose on his shirt. He stepped back and said, “Ok, enough. You need a tissue. March.” He turned me toward the kitchen.
He wasn’t happy with me. I felt it as I walked into the kitchen. Mrs. Rudolph took one look at the two of us and left.
He ripped off a piece of paper towel, pointed to one of the bar stools, and said, “Sit. Blow. Talk.”
“Snow showed me,” I said, not willing to look at my father. “She showed everything from those movies. The one where you’re a bad guy and kill people.”
“Shit,” he said softly. I had never heard him swear on purpose in front of me. “Sarah!” he bellowed. I jumped. He was really scary. He bellowed again, striding to the door.
My mom came into the kitchen, a bewildered look on her face. “Why are you yelling, Adam?” She took one look at me. “What is going on?”
Dad began stalking around. “Number 1, that child from school…” he paused to breathe, “showed Rosalyn Galactic Battles.” He swung around to pin me with a furious stare. I was sure he was going to shout again. Instead, he poked a finger at me. “Number 2, my child shouted ‘fuck you’ at her father because she believes I am a villain in real life or…” he trailed off waving his long arms in the air. “I don’t know.”
My mother’s mouth twitched a little. “It was your idea to keep Rosie unaware of our careers. How’s that working out?”
My dad turned on her. “What?” he said, dangerously. “You are going to stand there and say it’s my fault?”
My mom shrugged. She turned to me. “Your dad is trying to protect you from…well, everything. That’s on him.”
I opened my mouth to say something. She cut me off sternly. “However, you are not allowed to shout or swear at your father.”
“Or anyone,” my dad added, frowning.
“Or anyone,” my mother added.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Don’t tell me,” Mom said.
I turned to the tall thundercloud still stalking around the room. “Dad,” I whispered. He turned and looked at me. He took his glasses off and put them on the table. I saw it. The scary man who went after those people. I saw it in him. I swallowed. “Sorry,” I almost squeaked.
His eyes were flat and expressionless. “You should be.”
“Adam,” my mother said.
“You are forgiven,” he said, snatched up his glasses, and walked out.
I stared at my mom. That was not my dad.
She came over to me. “You need to be in your room for a while.”
“Dad’s still mad?”
“Yes. That was awful behavior, Rosie. He did nothing to you. You poked the bear and got the claws. Good for you.”
I started crying again. Mom sighed. “I understand that this is a shock. I didn’t realize that Snow would do such a thing. Clearly, she is unsupervised. It’s my fault for saying yes to something you couldn’t handle.”
“However,” I said. There was always a however inside her.
“That doesn’t excuse your outburst. It only explains it. Please go to your room.”
“Am I in trouble? Will he punish me?”
“Yes, and you should think about how you can make up for your bad choice.”
I fled to my room.
I never heard a thing. I don’t know if they argued or talked it out. I suppose they did. Eventually, there was a knock on my door. I had stopped sniffling and was staring at nothing, wishing I wouldn’t keep seeing the same scenes over and over.
“Come in,” I said. My punishment had been decided.
My father walked in clean-shaven and somber. He was wearing an outfit he used for traveling. He was leaving. At least he looked almost normal again, even though he was wearing his contacts instead of glasses. He still looked like a stone statue with his lips tight.
“Dad,” I said.
He raised his hand. “I know, you are sorry. So am I.” He sighed and sat down on my bed. He patted the space next to him and I slid over to sit by him. He put an arm around me for a sideways hug.
He sighed again. “I am a simple guy from a small town in Michigan. I never meant to be famous,” he said. “I worked hard at Julliard with your mom and we both did well. She was popular on stage and I ended up acting in films. When you are older, you can see anything we’ve worked on. Right now, the stories are too grown-up. That’s part of why we didn’t show you or talk much about them.”
He paused. I nodded.
“Also, when you were born, people took pictures of me without my agreement. And they were trying to get to you.”
“People do that?” I asked.
“Yes, they do. Mom and I were determined to shelter you from those people.”
“Do they write those awful things about you, too?”
He made a face. “Yes, and your mother and I were objects of…” he searched around for a term, “ridicule and speculation. Most of it was false. Most was hurtful to us. We decided to remove the technology from our house. It was hard to see such meanness and not get upset.”
“Like you did today.”
“It was worse when I was younger. I have a temper that I keep under control with diet, exercise, and your mom.”
I smiled. “Is that why they wanted you to be the bad guy?”
Dad cocked his head to one side. “Yes, smartie, that is one of the reasons. I kind of act it out so it doesn’t come home with me.” He paused. “I’m not a bad guy, Rosie. Really, I’m not.”
“Do you snap at people?”
“Yes. Sometimes. I want others to work hard, be on time, respect privacy, and…”
“Like we do here.”
He patted my hand. “When others don’t do that, I can be …”
“Grumpy?” Mom said from the doorway. “Overbearing? Intolerant?” She was getting into her groove.
Dad rolled his eyes, “Yes, yes, and yes. Don’t sound so excited about it.”
“Your dad is intense. It makes him an excellent actor,” she said. “But he needs a place to leave that intensity behind when he is not working. We make that space for him. He is not a bad guy here or anywhere. He is a very good person.” She sat on my other side. “And a good father.”
I leaned my head against my dad’s shoulder. He kissed the top of my head.
“I have to go for a while,” he said, softly.
“Can you look at me?”
I met his dark eyes, which looked a lot like mine. He looked sad. “I don’t like to leave, but I have to go to work. It will give you some time to think.”
“I don’t want to think,” I said.
“Yeah, I know. But you have to.” He paused. “It hurt a lot when you swore at me and called me a bad person.” His gaze didn’t waver.
“I know,” I said. “I was mad.”
“You tried to hurt me,” he said.
“I am, too, for not telling you the truth.”
I hugged him. “Don’t go. You are going to be the bad guy again,” I whispered. “I can’t stand it. That’s what people think of you.”
“Yeah, I know. But it’s ok. I chose to do it, Rosie.”
“I am good at it. I have qualities that the director and writer need to tell the story.”
“Oh,” I said.
“But,” Dad said, standing up. “This time, it is different. I am playing a bus driver from Jersey.”
He laughed. “There are different movies out there. Different stories.”
“Are you playing a villain.”
“Nope,” he said, grinning, “a poet.”
“Can I watch it when you are done?”
He and Mom exchanged glances. “Maybe,” he said.
That was good enough for me.
My punishment was to help Mr. Morris clean the backyard area to get ready for the winter months. Dad wouldn’t be spending a lot of time working in the shed, except for chopping wood for our fireplace. He loved splitting logs and bringing them inside to make fires. I asked Mom if chopping wood helped Dad with movies.
She let me watch some of Dad’s sword-training videos. She showed me how hard he trained. He was graceful, focused, and intense. I understood the wood-chopping and exercise a lot more afterwards.
“He keeps his instrument tuned,” she said.
I looked at her. “Instrument?”
She laughed, “His body. He uses it daily for work.”
He’s not a bad guy. My dad is a working man. An actor.
My other punishment, which was not my mother’s doing, was to return to school and face a smirking Snow. I had two choices. I could cower and cry and let her talk shit about my family. Or I could be my daddy’s daughter and punch her square in the face.
Guess which one I chose?