At the Stroke of Midnight

In my dreams, Daddy is Prince Charming and Superman. As handsome as James Bond. As powerful as the president. Always just out of reach, always gone before I wake up.

I’m fourteen and Mom buys me a new dress, black chiffon. It’s too old for me, but she doesn’t say no. She never says no. I line my eyes and paint my lips. I wind my hair up into a French twist so I look grown up.

When he left us, I was just a little girl, and my mother was crying and my grandmother was saying, “You knew he wasn’t a family man when you married him.”

I look in the mirror. The little girl stares back.

Mom and I drive to the nearby town where he now lives. We will all go to dinner for my birthday, she has said. We park in front of a Payless shoe store wedged between a dry cleaners and a nail salon.  

“What are we doing here?” I ask

Inside, my mother’s hand is on my back, gently pushing me toward a man who is thin and balding, and on his knees pushing a shoe onto the foot of an impatient woman. He sees us in the doorway and rises. Though, nothing like my dreams, I still want to run into his arms, but they never open.

Jayne Martin

Jayne Martin lives in Santa Barbara, California. She is a Pushcart, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfictions nominee, and a recipient of Vestal Review’s VERA award. Her debut collection of microfiction, “Tender Cuts,” from Vine Leaves Press, is available now.