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Sad Teens & Young Adult

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

It is late fall when you glimpse the father and daughter walking hand in hand down Main Street. You had ventured out into the cold to do some early Christmas shopping when the sight of them stops you short. You duck under the cover of a nearby awning to observe the pair. 

The girl is young, maybe five or six, still at an age where everything is magical and the world seems full of endless opportunities. The man smiles down at her as she half skips, half drags him along the sidewalk. An ice cream parlor sits a few shops down, and from the excited way the girl walks, you wonder if that is their destination. 

You continue to watch, a sad smile on your face, as they come to a traffic light. The man bends down, brushes a stray hair from his daughter’s face, and whispers something that causes the girl to clutch his hand tighter as they cross the intersection. She breaks free when they reach the other side and dashes for the bright windows that promise a sweet treat. Her father follows, lightly jogging the last few steps and swinging the heavy door open for his little girl.

A tear trickles down your cheek, and you quickly brush it away. The dull ache in your chest begins to spread, and you lean against the cool brick, trying to regulate your breathing. You desperately try not to give in to the sadness that ambushes and threatens to overwhelm you. 

A tidal wave of memories surges, fighting to flood the dam you erected in your mind. It’s too painful to allow them to run free, so they are locked up tight in a little mental box. Most of the time, the memories stay there without a fight. It’s days like today, however, that put new cracks in your carefully constructed walls. 

It’s the feeling of safety you miss most from the Before. The warm glow that was always there when you looked up to your then-hero. Gone now, like so many other things. Gone, never to return. 

✷✷✷

The snow is just beginning to melt when you see the duo heading into the local burger joint. The father looks like he is in his mid-thirties and has thus far escaped any mid-life crisis. The little girl seems to be about seven, missing her top front teeth and blinding strangers with her neon outfit, undoubtedly chosen all by herself. She is that age of innocence, where the first taste of independence is still fresh, and magic still thrives in dreams and nightmares alike. She leans into him comfortably as he swings the door open. He playfully musses her hair, and she gives him a look of mild exasperation mixed with adoration. The little girl skips ahead to the counter, and he follows, his face thoughtful and full of love. 

You watch the pair from across the busy street. You note the comfortable familiarity that only comes from a close relationship. You catch every gesture and try not to dwell on how much you miss that feeling. Your eyes watch, your head remembers, and your heart bleeds. 

Once more, the memories threaten to spill, but you push them back. One thought fills your brain, echoes in your empty corners, screams when you try to sleep. 

Will it always hurt this much?

✷✷✷

It is mid-March the next time the pain refuses to be silenced, and you are walking home from the library. You pass by an open window and catch sight of a girl and her father seated at the kitchen table. You pause to watch, not because you have a morbid fascination with their lives, but because for a moment, you can imagine and remember the Before. 

This girl is older, close to thirteen, if you had to guess. She has hit that awkward stage of her body changing too fast for her to keep up, and she looks ready to cry. The father appears tired as he bends over the papers covering the table, explaining some concept that she is clearly not understanding. He asks a question that you cannot quite make out, and she mumbles a reply. His voice grows sharp, telling her to focus, to stop playing with the highlighter. You flinch involuntarily, rub the back of your neck, and try not to remember. 

You watch as her pencil scratches across the page before she looks up and suggests a solution. A smile stretches across her face when her father nods and offers a high five. She leans in for a hug instead. He momentarily looks surprised but holds on tight. 

It reminds you too much of the After. After the screaming, the tears, the pain, then came the apology. Always wrapped in a too-tight hug, never quite sincere. The constant suffocating feeling, crushing you that came mixed with the lingering scent of fear. At first, you believed him when he promised that it would never happen again. After a while, you learned not to trust anything he said. 

The reprimand, coupled with the embrace, is too much for you to bear. You hurry away, doing your best to forget. 

✷✷✷

Summer has just begun when the dam finally breaks. You see them everywhere. Your friends casually talking with their dads, pre-teens begging their fathers to take them camping, little girls, riding in big pickups, eating Taco Bell. To this day, you can’t eat Taco Bell without remembering him and the way it was Before. 

The way that the two of you went everywhere together. The hardware store, to drop off the dry cleaning, Saturday morning donut runs, and of course, your taco dates. You followed him everywhere, always wanting to help with whatever he was working on. Backyard forts, pinewood derby race cars, hanging the Christmas lights; it didn’t matter. You just wanted to be with him. He was your best friend, your safe place, and your hero. You loved Mom so much, but you always were Daddy’s girl. 

Then came the split. It cracked your family in two. Suddenly, he was gone. There one day, moved out the next. The first time you heard the word ‘divorce’, you weren’t even old enough to know what it meant. All you knew was that on Wednesday night, there were five under your roof. Thursday morning, there were only three. He was gone, taking your older brother with him. You knew that you had to be strong for your mama and little sister, but you missed him so much. You couldn’t understand why he didn’t seem to love you anymore. 

The custody war started. You bounced back and forth between houses like a seasick ping pong ball. Not quite sure what was happening, you clung tight to your sister and viewed him with angry eyes. How dare he leave you? 

He remarried soon after. Suddenly, you weren’t his special girl anymore. You had to share him with three more little girls, each needier than the next. The father that you had always known was rapidly disappearing. 

The drinking began in earnest. Little arguments became full-fledged fights. You watched, hurt and confused, as he raged at you, your sister and stepsisters, the world, anything that moved. You felt sick as you listened to him while he cursed out your mother and said words no third grader should know. Fear became a daily visitor as the fights got increasingly violent. You swore to protect your sister and told no one how bad things were. You didn’t think anyone would believe you. Besides, he always hugged you and told you how sorry he was. Didn’t that make it okay?

For a while, you withdrew into yourself. You grew older, and your father grew angrier. You dreaded the nights spent at his house and prayed to get sick before his weekends. You begged God not to make you go, and all the while wondered where your dad had gone. Who was this man wearing his skin, who erupted at things he previously would have laughed at?

 Occasionally, you caught a glimpse of the dad you had loved. There were moments where you wondered if the bad nights were only a product of your imagination. All too soon, Dad was gone, and the monster returned. He stalked your nightmares and left your eyes bruised with exhaustion as the outbursts stretched later and later into the night. 

There was a period where your teachers seemed to notice something was wrong. They noted the cautious answers in class, your quietness, and the shadows in your eyes. They sent you to the counselor's office, who asked you if everything was okay at home. You lied to her. Of course, everything was fine at home; yes, you were struggling to sleep; no, there was nothing they could do; yes, you would be able to keep your grades up. You fought to stay on the honors list and to attract no attention, and they left you alone. There was no point in telling them. There was nothing that they could do. They couldn’t bring back the dad you remembered, and if this one was sent to jail, he wouldn’t be able to provide the meager child support he offered your mother each month. 

Instead, you waited and watched quietly as your once hero quickly became the villain. Anytime you saw a father and daughter, your heart clenched, and you wanted to cry. You learned to avoid the worst of his moods and to protect your sister as best as you could. The pair of you grew further apart, and strangely, he never seemed to understand why. You tried once to explain how he was a different person, not the father you had known and loved. He screamed at you in reply. You didn’t try again after that. 

Your memories of the happy times began to fade as day by day you lost pieces of his old self. No longer was there security in his presence; instead, it often caused you more anxiety. No longer did you find comfort in his hugs; instead, you tried to hide your flinches when he raised his arms. No longer was he the man you had loved wholeheartedly. The hero was replaced with a dragon that raged its way through your nightmares. 

You always waited for the dad you loved to come back. You never truly gave up hope on him, not really. 

Instead, you yearned for the days gone by and the father whose footsteps you once wished to follow.


November 18, 2021 18:01

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10 comments

04:26 Feb 26, 2022

Hi Abigail! I really liked the feel of this story, and it's well written. I especially like the first half, the descriptions of fathers and daughters and I think the second person works well there. The second person in the latter half felt a little strange to me, since you're describing to me my own past. But that tense is so tricky, I've never attempted it, so good on you! I'm looking forward to reading more from you!

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Abigail Frost
17:15 Feb 26, 2022

Thank you so much! The second half was much trickier to write, and I spent a lot of time cleaning it up and trying to make it flow well. I really appreciate your feedback!

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Howard Seeley
21:08 Feb 06, 2022

Hi Abigail. Welcome to the world of Reedsy. Such a sad story. The way you used second person tense, makes me feel this was too raw and personal experience for you to go first person in. If so, a word of advice. Don't dwell in the past. But instead, use it like a compass to guide you to a brighter future. Looking forward to what you write in the future.

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Abigail Frost
21:21 Feb 06, 2022

Thank you for the feedback and the advice, I will do my best!

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03:08 Feb 14, 2022

Abigail, this is a very emotional and moving story. It’s also unique in that it makes the reader connect so closely with the narrator by saying “you”. I loved how you described the different interactions between the fathers and daughters. Keep writing, because you have talent and I would love to see more from you!

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Abigail Frost
20:19 Feb 14, 2022

Thank you so much!

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Amanda Lieser
19:32 Feb 08, 2022

Hi Abigail, I agree with the other comments that I loved your use of 2nd person tense. I also loved the way you created the scenes around the seasons. This was a great first submission’

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Abigail Frost
20:13 Feb 08, 2022

Thank you so much!

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21:14 Feb 04, 2022

Second person point of view is challenging, and I think you tackled it quite well in this story. Your descriptions are amazing and vivid, both the implied and the outright stated. Keep up the good work.

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Abigail Frost
22:41 Feb 04, 2022

Thank you so much!

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