Her habits change a little after that. She continues to set the clocks, but often arrives well before the countdown finishes. I can’t complain, I live for the moments while she is there. It doesn’t occur to me that my daughter is deliberately missing her bus, and skipping school. All I know is that she is there, picking me up.
It becomes something of a competition. Each day she becomes more and more used to the situation, and I need to find more ways to drag her in. I can’t run the risk of her becoming too comfortable and believing I don’t need her. On some level, I suppose I know I’m drowning her in my misery – but it’s lonely down here and I can’t bear it without her.
It’s barely three in the afternoon when she comes home. Breathless, she’s been running. The bus stop is just outside our door, but it’s well before time for the bus to drive by anyway. She’s run in from school, I couldn’t say exactly why. As she comes into the lounge room, she looks happy and relieved as usual, gives me a hug and a kiss for still being in one piece. And then, something I didn’t expect. She idles in front of me, turns her foot a little.
‘Dad? Can I use the phone?’
She’s never asked before. But I guess things are different now. I nod, not seeing a problem with it. Better she contacts her school friends from here, rather than wanting to go to their houses. I wonder for a moment if she’ll invite her friends over to our house, but that thought is just ridiculous. We’re not in any position for guests. She takes the phone and disappears to her room.
I let her have her talk in peace. I’ve still got a few drinks in me before it’s time for her to tuck me into bed. I get off the couch, and go to find them.