Nice Men Don’t Cheat 

We didn’t get to school at all that day. After Annie told us that Mr. Jimmy was her father and started to cry, she ran off towards Franklin Park. Jean and I were frozen for a few seconds in shock, because even though we kind of knew that it might be something like Annie being related to or knowing Mr. Jimmy, we, or at least I, never thought he was her father. Mr. Jimmy had never mentioned he had a daughter my age. Ever. That seemed weird to me. Why wouldn’t he tell me about Annie?

I snapped out of my daze and shouted after Annie to stop running and wait for us to catch up to her. She kept running until she got to Franklin Park and our favorite spot, the place we first met, where she flopped down on the ground. By the time we caught up with her she wasn’t crying anymore. Her face was blank. “Annie, are you alright?” I asked as I sat down beside her on the ground. She didn’t answer me. “Annie! Earth to Annie!” Jean shouted. Still no answer from Annie. “Sara, maybe we should leave her alone and go on to school.” Jean suggested. “Come on, let’s go. We’re gonna be late.”

I looked at Annie, who was still staring straight ahead with a blank look on her face. I gestured to Jean to go on to school without me. “Are you sure?” Jean asked. I nodded, yes, I was sure and to go ahead and leave us alone. She shrugged her shoulders and instead of leaving and going to school, she sat down beside me. Jean was weird. I shook my head at her, she shrugged again and pointed at Annie mouthing “Talk to her.” I turned my attention back to Annie. “Annie, talk to me.” She turned to face me, “About what?” she asked in a dry voice. “About Mr. Jimmy, you said he was your Daddy.”

Annie laughed. Not loud, low and under her breath. “Did I say Daddy? No. I meant to say he’s my father. His seed helped make me his daughter, but he stopped being my Daddy a long time ago.”

“Wow! Mr. Jimmy made a baby!” Jean as usual couldn’t stop making wisecracks about Mr. Jimmy. Even now she couldn’t help herself. “Maybe you should just leave, Jean, if you’re going to be a butthole. Can’t you see that Annie is upset? Go on to school!” I was mad now. “No, no, I’ll be cool. I’m sorry Annie.” Jean pleaded as I glared at her with a warning to stop running her mouth. “I’ll be cool, ok?” Jean gestured that she was zipping her mouth shut. “You better!” I turned my attention back to Annie who had stood now and walked away from us. 

I walked with Annie in silence with Jean following behind us. Finally, Annie begin to talk, softly at first, building in volume as she told us how years ago, she and her mother found her father naked with another woman when they came home from vacation. Her mother became hysterical and begin to yell and beat her father as the woman jumped out of their marriage bed, grabbed her clothes and ran past Annie out the front door. Her mother put her father out of the house. Threw all of his belongings out the door. Changed the locks and refused to speak with him when he repeatedly called, finally changing the phone number. Whenever Annie asked about her Daddy, her mother told her she didn’t have a Daddy. She had a father who didn’t care about her and never would. Her mother finally got tired of her Daddy calling and stopping by the house, so she moved Annie and her to Columbus. That was seven years ago. She hadn’t seen or heard from her father since that time.

Annie stopped walking and sat back down on a park bench. She looked around her, with that same look that I saw on her face when I first met her. Her head was thrown backwards towards the sun. She began to rock her lean body to the sound of music in her mind. She crossed her legs and closed her eyes with a smile on her face. I was confused by this because I couldn’t understand how she could be so calm and at peace after telling us that story. I couldn’t even fathom how I would feel if I found my father in that situation. I knew for sure that Shelia wouldn’t move us out of town. She wouldn’t have to because she would be in prison for killing my Daddy. Jean and I would be foster kids.

“How long has my father been living with you?” Annie asked with her eyes still closed. “A few years now. He’s a nice man.” I sat beside Annie. “Is he now? A nice man.” Annie still had her eyes closed. “Nice men don’t cheat on their wives and leave their children.” I didn’t know how to respond to that statement from Annie. Jean did, “I thought you said your mother wouldn’t let him talk to you. Now, I don’t really like the man, but how is it his fault if your mother moved. She didn’t leave a forwarding address with him, did she?”  Annie opened her eyes, “That’s what Smooth said.”

“WHAT? Smooth said? You talked about this with Smooth and not me?” I couldn’t believe my ears. I was Annie’s best friend for years now and she never spoke about her father to me! I didn’t even know she knew Smooth, let alone knew him well enough to confide in him her secrets. She didn’t act concerned about his death. “I thought we were best friends, Annie, how could you share this information with Smooth and not me? When did you two become so close? Were you boosting clothes for him too?” I was furious!  Jean had a look of amazement on her face that made me want to take my anger out on her and hit her, but I contained myself because I was amazed too that this was even happening. How did we go from Mr. Jimmy being Annie’s father to Smooth also being a man in Annie’s life that I knew well. As Shelia would say “The crap is hitting the fan now and flying ever which a way!”