I walked into my tiny house expecting a quiet evening at home. Instead, I found my past in the living room.
She was young, only nine, but had the sharp, honest tongue of smart kids a whole lot older. And she still had the bravery of girls her age. So I got an earful about her own past and my dissolute part in it.
I asked about her mother.
“She’s dead.” The girl spoke in a tone that blamed me for that, too.
She went on talking. Whenever she stopped to take a breath, I murmured whatever I thought best at the moment. I fixed her supper. She talked around the food in her mouth.
“I’m gonna live with you,” she declared. “An’ nobody from the govmint is gonna stop me.”
I stared at her with my mouth open. My life had no room for a kid.
She glared at me. “An’ I don’t care what you think either.”
She talked and talked until she fell asleep on my lumpy couch, and in her dreams she wailed, “Why didn’t you stay?”