Vanna remembered things the way they were supposed to be. She was holding both their hands. One mommy and one daddy, that was the right number. She was smaller than she was now. Sometimes one mommy and one daddy would pick her up, when she held both their hands in the middle, and she would swing back and forth while giggling shrieks of delight. That was how things were then.
Her daddy was dead from being gone.
She did not understand much about it. She knew her daddy was a soldier and that he was gone sometimes. He was gone this one long time and her mommy was crying. There were other soldier men and they told her to be a brave girl and that made Vanna cry too. She remembered what daddy called her, Vanna-boo. That was his name for her and she liked it. At nights when he was there daddy would read her a good night story after her bath and give her two kisses and two hugs. Sometimes she would ask for one more.
There was only one mommy now, and two kitty cats. The fat one was named Kiki and the skinny one was named Shasha. She had named them both, and Kiki had been when she was too young to actually say kitty. She was ten now and a big girl. They lived in Texas, which was a state in the United States, which was the country that daddy had been working for when he died.
Mommy worked as a waitress at the pancake restaurant. Vanna liked it there because they fed her all the pancakes she could eat with whipped cream and strawberries when she went. Sometimes she had to stay late because Mommy was working. Those nights she would go to sleep in Mommy Daddy's bedroom with Mommy, even thought there was only one mommy in it now. Mommy was snore and sometimes in her sleep she would say "My Vanna-boo." And Vanna would know she was still special.
She was named after a very pretty lady on the TV that turned letters when people asked for them. She didnt like watching that so much, she liked Adventure Time and Regular Show on Cartoon Network or on Netflix. Sometimes she made Shasha watch TV along with her but the cat would try to run or bite. Shasha had claws to scratch but Kiki did not have any claws, but Shasha was still easier to pick up because Kiki was big and fat and would try to wiggle away. She was two colors, black and white. She thought that everybody in the world was two colors but it turned out that it was just her and a few other people. Mommy was black and Daddy was white and in heaven. She had blond hair and blue eyes and sometimes Mommy said that she got everything she was from Daddy. Mommy would cry sometimes when she said things like that and Vanna tried to tell her that she would be a good girl.
She went to school and tried to do her best. She liked reading books. Dr. Seuss was her favorite.
Sometimes late at night she would sneak out of the house on her tippy toes. You could do that if you didnt wear any shoes and you were careful about the board that squeaking. You also had to be careful not to wake Kiki, because Kiki would think that it was time for food and he would start meowing and rubbing your feet. When she would sneak out she closed the screen door very carefully. Out here in the backyard she would talk to daddy.
Daddy was there wearing his Army uniform and his funny hat, which he called a beret. He smiled when he saw Vanna and said
-Vanna-boo! Who's my big good girl!
And she would run up to Daddy and give him a hug. You couldnt hug Daddy, not really, because you could see right through him and he wasnt really there. But when she did anyway she got this warm feeling, all tingly inside, like when it was Christmas and the fireplace was burning in the living room.
They would sit on the back steps of the porch and talk just like before and she would ask him questions like Daddy, are you in Heaven with Jesus? And her daddy would say
-I guess you could call it that. Its a nice place.
Who else is there?
-Grandma's here. And Elroy, remember him?
Elroy was the daschund which is another name for weiner dog they had gotten just before he left and who was runned over by a mean man in a truck that didnt stop. Vanna liked Elroy even though Elroy and Kiki fought all the time because they were cats and dogs but one time Vanna had seen Kiki knocking the food off the table and Elroy eating it off the floor. Working together like the Teamwork song which goes teamwork, teamwork, go teamwork. Could I see Elroy? She asked
-He doesnt want to come back, her Daddy said sadly. I'm only back to look after my Vanna-boo.
And her Daddy did look after her. Not only on the nights that they would sit and talk together but once when her Mommy was dating Butch, who was mean and drank beer. Her Mommy was crying and holding her face where Butch had hit her, which was bad because you werent sposed to hit girls, and Butch said "bitch" which was a bad word, and when he got up to get another beer the table jerked in front of him all by itself. Just an inch, but still it did. Butch smacked his head on the ground and lay there while Vanna called the emergency number and the amblance and policeman came and took Butch away. He never came back.
Another time when Vanna was at school and they were doing maths which was the hardest thing for her to think of and the numbers just appeared on the scratch paper. forty-seven, and she put it in and it was right.
When she got a little older, she would ask her Daddy more questions, like, Daddy, or you a ghost? And her Daddy would say
-Its something like that. I dont want to scare you.
You dont scare me, she said. Your my daddy. Are you an angel?
-Its something different than that. I guess you could say that I'm here to watch out for you. That was my job and I still have to do it.
And the years passed by, until one day it was daylight even, morning times, and she went to her Mommy Daddy's bedroom door to wake Mommy up so she could pour her some cereals. She always ate cereal in the morning times on the weekend when she didnt have to go to school. But there was Daddy standing in front of the door. So pale you could see right through him if you tried and could barely see him at all.
-Dont go in there, sweetheart, he said.
What is it?
-Gone long me. Mommy's like me now.
It hit Vanna all at once and she broke down crying on her knees saying, it isnt fair! Its not fair! You cant both leave me!
-Mommy was very sad, Daddy said. But that only made her cry harder. Finally Daddy came next to her and touch her face to wipe away her tears, and Vanna did feel it, even though she couldnt see the hand, she felt her Daddy and his love.
-Vanna boo. He said. I need you to be brave. And then he was gone.
It came to her just like that. The strength had passed on from father to daughter. He was a soldier and he was brave and she was brave like him. She picked up the phone and called the emergency number, and told them her mom had an accident. Then she entered the room and kissed her last remaining parent goodbye, brushing one of the pills away from her lips as she did so.