Knew better

Emily knew better. She’d been told over and over. Only she thought she knew better. That it didn’t matter. She’d been out to the ice-cream van a hundred times, probably more, but always hands clasped tightly to grandfather, grandmother, or mother. Never alone… ’til now.

***

It was a classic scenario. Hot summer’s day, ice-cream van, little girls in school uniforms. A dream scenario to Frank. He’d promised the judge he’d behave, told the parole board enough times so they believed him, but he knew better. They thought he knew better.

And there was this one little girl. She looked like a Lucy. He liked the name Lucy. Used to have a cat called Lucy, until his father took it away. Told him it had been run over but Frank knew. His father looked guilty, just for a second, just long enough for Frank to know. He knew everything that his father did. And vowed never to be like him. But he couldn’t escape. Just like the little girl who’d gone to his car to see the puppy, holding the ice-cream that had already started melting. Only there was no puppy. He couldn’t have pets after Lucy. Couldn’t bear to let them go. He wouldn’t let her go… this little girl in her navy blue and white uniform. So smart. With navy blue shoes and long white socks.

They had holes in them. Not old, like his socks but symmetrical, like the middles of flowers. Frank loved flowers. His mother would buy fresh ones every week until his father had lost his job and they’d run out of money.

But Frank had plenty of money now. He’d look after Lucy like she was his flesh and blood. She’d forget, and call him “father”. She’d be the sister he never had. The daughter he’d always wanted.

***

She knew it was wrong. “Don’t talk to strangers” that’s what she’d been told. Only there was something familiar about him. He reminded her of her father. The little she could remember. And his smile. He had a nice smile. Friendly. And she was in need of a new friend.

It had never been the same since they’d moved. So many times after her father had gone away, all those years ago. Her mother had promised that it would be fine, that there would be plenty of little girls for her to get on with, but she’d had that look in her eyes that Emily had seen before. Her mother had said that this was ‘it’ this time, that they’d stay, but Emily knew better.

***

Photography courtesy of morguefile.com.

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