“I don’t know, man, I mean, I know things aren’t right between me and her Mama right now. This married life is hard, but I love that little girl like she was my own.”
“I know you do. They way your face lights up when you talk about her says it all.”
“Yeah man, I don’t know what it is. Sometimes, I sit and think she looks just like my sister. I mean, she does a little bit, but what I’m sayin’ is she looks like she was-”
“I get what you’re saying, bro. I totally understand.”
The two of them spoke quietly among each other as they sat in the front room watching football one Sunday evening. They were brothers and even more than that; they were best friends, and there wasn’t much that they don’t know about each other.
“Has she called you Dad yet?”
“Nah, she hasn’t. I mean, it’s only been a few years, and I don’t expect her to anytime soon. As a matter of fact, I don’t expect her to at all. She knows I love her, and I know she loves me, so that is all that matters. For real.”
He dipped his chip into the bowl of melted cheese, sprinkled with beef and jalapeños. The brothers usually got together to watch the games on Sunday afternoons after church except for this time; his Step-Daughter wanted to come to his apartment. He and his wife split up not too long ago, and they wanted to work things out, but as of right now, there was too much to work out under the same roof. Suddenly, she walked into the front room as the two men looked up. He finished chewing his chip and spoke to her.
“Hey sweetheart, is everything alright back there? Is something wrong with your DVD player?”
“No, Dad. I just wanted to tell you that I love you.”
She smiled and turned around, her long ponytail swinging back and forth with each step her 9-year-old body took away from them. Her step-father continued to look in her direction even after she disappeared down the hall and closed the door to her room. “Are you alright?” his brother asked curiously, but there was no response. There were only silent tears rolling down his blank, stony face.