The Girl Who Wasn't There

The Girl Who Wasn't There by Karen McCombie Read Free Book Online

Book: The Girl Who Wasn't There by Karen McCombie Read Free Book Online
Authors: Karen McCombie
hand – just one of those dumb, daft, nothing-y moments between friends that crack you up – but it’s like a dam’s burst inside me.
    It’s been so long since I’ve had a friend to share dumb, daft, nothing-y moments with.
    It’s been so long since I’ve burst out laughing over small, silly stuff.
    It feels so good to laugh till I cry that I don’t care if the whole of the Art Club are staring.
    And they are.
    Ha!
    *
    â€œYou look divine, Daddy dearest!” says Clem, glancing up from the homework she has spread over the small kitchen table.
    â€œWell, I’ve had a shave and put a clean top on,” he laughs, smoothing down the slightly wrinkly front of his three-button Fred Perry shirt.
    â€œDo you want me to iron that for you?” I ask, wondering where the iron might be, since we’re still surrounded by mounds of boxes. If we had any pet goats they’d be having a ball right now, in clambering heaven.
    â€œThanks, but I’m not that useless, Maisie!” says Dad, trying to smooth the creases out just a little more forcefully with his hands.
    He is a bit.
    I mean, he’s great at lots of stuff. He’s great at making food, helping with homework and handing out hugs. He’s great at fixing broken things, remembering PE kits and recording stuff on TV that he thinks we’ll like. He’s great at being cheerful, even those times when he’s probably not feeling cheerful inside.
    He’s just a bit useless at some of the domestic stuff, like ironing. When I was invited to Keira Murray’s eighth birthday party, Dad left the iron on the back of my party dress so long that it melted the lace. It felt like I had an empty crisp packet under the cardie I wore on top to hide the mess.
    He’s not very good with bills either. He gets them, puts them in a purposeful pile, then loses the pile under stuff just long enough to risk the phone/gas/electricity being cut off.
    He’s also useless at telling us very much about Donna.
    â€œSo … is tonight the night?” Clem asks, her lazy cat’s-eye stare fixed on Dad.
    â€œWh – what?” he stumbles, unsure what she means.
    â€œCan you please – finally – arrange a date for us and Donna to get together?” says Clem, affecting weariness, though I know she’s just as keen as I am to meet Dad’s girlfriend.
    â€œMaybe … well, maybe it’s still too soon, eh?” he blusters.
    â€œSix days is too soon, Dad. Six months is plenty,” I jump in to point out.
    â€œI know, I know – but let’s not rush into anything,” he says, agitatedly rubbing his head now.
    â€œHe’s ashamed of us, Maisie,” Clem says matter-of-factly, and turns back to her work.
    â€œHey, do you suppose he hasn’t told her he has children?” I suggest, trying to keep a straight face.
    Clem glances up at me as if she can see inside my head, sees the new lightness in there.
    â€œEnough, enough!” says Dad, backing away from the double-trouble teasing. “See you later, girls…”
    I follow him out, and watch as he goes down the path and through the iron gate in the tall railings.
    â€œHave fun!” I call out after him.
    Dad gives me a wave in reply, climbs into his car and slams the door shut.
    I go to close the front door, then change my mind and lean against the frame, idly gazing at our battered silver Vauxhall Astra.
    Dad knows and we know we’re just fooling around with him, I think to myself as I stand there, but it IS starting to get kind of silly, how little we actually know about Donna.
    In fact, here’s all we’ve found out so far…
    Â 
Dad met her through a dating site.
In the early days, Dad misled us. All the times he asked Clem to look after me because he was “having a pint” with a new friend called “Don”? Well, he was actually in cafes, bars or at the cinema with Donna

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