Rain was dancing. She was always doing that now. She had taken to ballet a lot faster and better than Phil had thought she would.
She was seven, and something about her had changed, lately. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but she wasn’t a baby anymore. She was able to be serious about her own interests and passions, to the point of dancing a few steps ahead of them at the mall instead of walking beside Phil and her “Aunt” Kennedy. Phil frowned when he noticed how similar they were starting to look.
Kennedy caught him frowning. “Oh, whatever. She’s still too young.”
“I think too young is better than too old.”
Kennedy shook her head. “Nope. Not arguing with you, Joe Dirt.”
Phil sighed. He knew this meant her word was final. “Hungry?”
Kennedy scoffed. “Yeah.”
Phil nudged into her softly and she laughed. Kennedy could never be TOO angry with Phil. Suddenly, she narrowed her eyes and stopped cold. Her hand flew to her lower abdomen.
Phil saw her face and felt his heart race. He instinctively looked back to where Rain had been- and didn’t see her. He felt for a moment like he might die. And then they both ran, like they never had before.
“Rain? RAIN!” Phil called, not caring how he might have looked to the other mall goers.
Kennedy happened to look to the other side of the rotunda, where she saw the familiar dark head.
“RAIN!” She screamed. The girl turned her head and waved. Phil let out a sigh of relief until he noticed the man who was with her.
“GET AWAY FROM HER!” He yelled, storming over. Rain jumped, startled. Her Daddy never yelled, even the time she spilled juice on the couch.
Kennedy gestured for Rain to walk to her, but Phil intercepted the girl, picking her up in a way he hadn’t since she was younger, all in one scoop. It startled her even further, and Kennedy could see her eyes start to fill with tears. She wanted to comfort the girl, but she didn’t get a chance before she noticed the mans face.
“Philip, I know you’re angry-”
“FUCK YOU! You don’t get to be here. Trying to kidnap my daughter? Are you fucking serious? How did you even know that she existed?”
“Son, I’ve seen you around and I-”
“I’M NOT YOUR FUCKING SON!”
“Your last name is still-”
“I’LL CHANGE OUR FUCKING LAST NAME! And you won’t find us.” Phil said with certainty, stepping towards him to shove his finger in the man’s face.
Kennedy stepped between them long enough to grab Rain. She walked away quickly. She loved a good fight, but she knew being around fighting that young could give a kid a hankering for it, and Rain didn’t have the stomach for it. She reached up to cover the girl’s eyes, and felt they were wet. She wasn’t physically crying, she was too shocked. Kennedy wished that she could rub her back, or reassure her, especially as she could hear the two men arguing. She was worried that Phil might get arrested. She saw a mall police officer and waved him over. She set Rain down facing away from the fight and covered her ears.
“What’s the problem, Ma’am?”
“The older man in the fight tried to kidnap this girl.” She said, surprised to hear herself say anything coherent.
The officer looked at the small girl with tears streaming down her face and the woman who was flushed with excitement, then behind them at the young man who had just escalated from shoving and screaming to punching the older man. He immediately called for backup, but when he saw the two women in front of him, he almost hesitated to rush toward the altercation.
“Wait here,” He said, making up his mind. “Someone will come take you somewhere safe.”
Kennedy would normally be offended by this, but she just nodded. She felt Rain go weak in front of her, and she knelt down to hold the girl again. She felt that familiar ache, which caused panic to rise up into her chest. She needed Phil, now.
True to his word, a female police officer came and took the two back to an office that was really a holding cell for punk shoplifters. Kennedy overlooked this when they brought fresh cookies for Rain and coffee for her. She didn’t like coffee, but she did like kind gestures.
Phil took a while to get back to them. Kennedy stood up to say something, but he ignored her, grabbed Rain, and started to cry. He hadn’t cried in front of Rain since she was born, even the time they almost got evicted when she was three.
Kennedy wanted to tell him to stop, that he would scare her, but Rain looked more relaxed than she had since the incident happened. She closed her eyes and started to drift off.
Kennedy turned and left, not waiting for Phil to notice that she was going. She caught a cab to the bus station and got on the first Greyhound to Chicago. When she was seated, she rubbed her lower stomach and cried.
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