“It was just like any other day, I went to school like I was supposed to, I ate my lunch at lunch break like I was supposed to and after school I went straight back instead of hanging around the playground like the others kids, Joey called them troublemakers.” I smile as I continue. “Peter walked me home, just like every and any other day, just like he was supposed to.”
I take a deep breath and remind myself I’m under oath. Ms Puffer told me that being under oath in court is a great responsibility and all I have to do is tell the truth. “Just tell the truth” I remind myself.
“When I got home, I did my homework just like I did every other day. Joey wasn’t back yet so I made us dinner, I’ve become pretty good at making dinner ever since mom left. After I was done eating, it was spaghetti and tomato sauce, it’s pretty easy to make, just heat up the tomato sauce in a pan with medium heat and boil some pasta. Joey always buys the tomato sauce that’s already spiced so I don’t have to add anything. As I was saying, after dinner I ate an apple to balance out my meal just like Joey taught me. He says every eight year old princess needs her balanced meals to grow into a beautiful woman. I washed the dishes and arranged them just the way Joey likes. He always comes home by 8pm. Mrs. Shepherd, Peter’s foster mum usually keeps an eye on me, Peter and I check in with her when we get back from school and I’m supposed to call her if I need anything before Joey gets back.”
I pause. My hands are shaking and I realize my favorite T-shirt, the one Joey got me when we went to Disney last summer is ruined. I’ve soaked it with my stupid tears. I must look like a stupid spoiled brat. I want to scream but I can’t. Everyone is silent and looking at me funny. I can see Mrs. Shepherd crying her eyes out. I don’t understand why everyone’s so sad. All I want to do is run into Joey’s arms; I don’t understand why he doesn’t want to look at me. I’m I not good enough for him anymore? Am I not his perfect little princess? He always said I was, as long as I did exactly what I was supposed to.
I close my eyes and will that awful day away, the day everything changed. Mrs. Puffer comes over to me, she looks just as sad as everyone else, she whispers into my ear and tells me I can stop anytime I want, but I shake my head fiercely. I smile bravely at her, “If I finish my story everyone’ll know how great Joey is right? Everyone’ll know just how much he loves me, right?” She nods and smiles at me as she tucks the wayward strands of my hair behind my ears. Just before she goes back to her side of the courtroom, she whispers ‘My brave brave little princess’ into my ear and gives me a kiss on my forehead. This makes me feel better, even though everyone’s mad at Joey right now, they’ll understand what a good father he is once I’m done with my story.
“Joey’s really good on his word.” I continue proudly, “He always comes home early, sometimes, he even brings me a treat like a cupcake or a chocolate bar. I’m not allowed to eat any treats though, not until we play his favorite game. If I dance really hard and make him smile just the way I’m supposed to, then I get a treat.” I glance at Joey and see he’s not any better, in panic I stand up and raise my legs so everyone can see my pink converse sneakers. They’ve got baby blue laces and tiny sparkly dots all over them. I realize too late that I’m shouting.
“Joey got them for me last spring because he says I’m the best little princess he’s ever had. I always always do what I’m supposed to do. Just like I did that day.” I say. “I didn’t do anything wrong!” I scream, a large sob escaping my throat. Joey says princesses don’t scream or cry when we play and I want to be his good little princess, so I try to hold back my sobs and tears. The mean old man in the big seat with the larger hammer, whom Mrs. Puffer referred to as Judge Harold is looking at me funny and I can see him telling Mrs. Puffer and Joey’s expressionless lawyer something bad, maybe he’s telling them I’m not a good little princess after all.
“Joey got back early just like he always did.” I continue. “He told me, just like he always did, that most Daddy’s don’t take care of their little girls like he takes care of me. It’s because I’m his princess. It’s because he loves me.”
That day, just like any other day, he ate his dinner, and said I was the best cook and best princess a daddy could ever ask for. When he finished, it was time to play our game. My voice is shaky and I don’t know why. Instead of being a coward, I take a deep breath and brush the tears away from my eyes.
“What’s the name of the game you play with your Daddy, Amy?” Mrs. Puffer asks from her corner. Mrs. Puffer is my Lawyer, she’s supposed to help me tell the truth so everyone can see what a good dad Joey is. That’s why I agreed to tell my story today. No matter how scary all the faces in the courtroom are. No matter how mad my dad is at me. I know it’ll help everyone to know he’s not so bad. Joey my dad, he’s the only one I have left.
“It’s called ‘Pony Practice’ for when Daddy gets me my pony.” I say. “I have to be really good at it first though, before I’ll be ready. I’m going to name my pony Dexter.” I giggle when I say this, remembering the cartoon Dexter’s laboratory.
“Do you let Daddy ride you too Amy?” Mrs. Puffer asks. “Sure.” I say. “Daddy says a princess isn’t selfish and let’s everyone go their turn.”
Mrs. Puffer asks me the next question, just like we rehearsed, ‘”What other games do you play?” I look at Joey and take another deep breath. “We play dress up and sometimes we play mommy and daddy just like mommy and daddy used to before she left.”
Joey is still mad. Can’t he see that I’m just trying to be his good girl? I finally break the rules and talk to my daddy, right in front of everyone, even though Mrs. Puffer said not to.
“Daddy, I’ve been a good little princess ever since mommy left, like I promised I would. Please don’t leave me like mommy did, I promise not to scream! I promise to be better!”
Judge Harold starts to shout something and hit his hammer very noisily on the table. Mrs. Puffer hurries to my side and leads me away from the box, I stretch my hand towards daddy not caring about breaking the rules but he just looks away. I never went up that chair again. Instead Mrs. Puffer led me away and said the grownups had to talk.
It’s been eleven months, one week and three days since that day and I haven’t seen you once. I’ve run away five times to our old house but you don’t live there anymore. Neither do Peter and his mom. I know it’s all my fault. If Ms Jessica hadn’t seen me trying to teach Peter our game none of this would have happened.
Now I live with a wrinkled old man and his wife who are the most boring people to have walked the face of the earth, they have two grown up sons who remind me of you. Once, when everyone was asleep, and one of their sons was back home from college, I sneaked into his room and tried to show him how to play ‘Pony Practice’, he didn’t get it. The old man spanked me so hard! But I didn’t scream! You hear that Daddy? I’m still your precious little princess.
Mrs. Puffer comes to visit sometimes, she brings me all sorts of yummy treats; she says I don’t ever have to play a single game to get a treat again. Every Wednesday, the old man and his wife take me to go see Dr Parker. He’s my new friend, he lets me draw and talk about anything I want.
I miss you. Maybe the wrinkled old man and his wife aren’t so bad. They haven’t left yet, even when I don’t do things like I’m supposed to. They hate playing games, but maybe that’s a good thing. They say I should forget about our old games, that I should forget about you. They say they love me and they’re not going anywhere.
I believe them and smile at them, just like I’m supposed to. Besides, they’re too old and slow to run away like mom did anyhow.
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Moyosore Laditan is a medical doctor and loves writing to show people it’s a small world and that they’re not alone in their experiences.
In her words, “if by the smallest chance my writings make someone else laugh, cry or bring out a reaction (hopefully positive) then I will sleep better, knowing I have made a difference in another’s life.” She blogs on Tumblr via moladitan.