• He was not her real father. Her real father had been an abusive drunkard, who successfully ended his miserable life by driving completely drunk into a tree. She was only six when that happened. Two years after the incident, Evelyn’s mother met William. Mr. William Wood was known only as William. Not Will, nor Willy, Bill, Billy, Billy Bob Joe nor any other variation of William possible. A use of a nickname would make him glare at the user until they forgot to breathe and knew never to do it again. Anne, Evelyn’s mother, inexplicably fell for Mr. Wood. They were married before Evelyn’s ninth birthday.
    Evelyn was seventeen, a junior in high school. And this is where her story begins.

    Evelyn meandered through the abandoned hallways of the school, her nose stuffed in a book. She occasionally paused to brush her chestnut hair out of her eyes and put it behind her ears. Her hazel eyes, (which were mostly brown, much to her dismay) darted across the pages, enthralled in the text that lay ahead of them.
    “Surprise!” Kate screamed as she took a running leap onto Evelyn’s startled back, who dropped her book and nearly fell over.
    “What are you trying to do, give me a heart attack?” she blurted out, getting over the shock. Kate just laughed and flipped her dark hair, which was longer than Lyn’s.
    “Why are you still here, Lyn?”
    “ I could ask you the same question.” Evelyn raised her eyebrow.
    Kate laughed again.
    “ My mom’s still at work,” Lyn explained.
    “Well, your dad is home, isn’t he?” Kate questioned, confused.
    “Yeah, he is. But he’s too busy for me, ” She looked down sadly.
    Her father, who was not her father, was always busy when it had come to Lyn. He had been too busy since Lyn was thirteen, anyways. The most she gets from him now is quick conversations or slight jokes. A pained look ran across her face, remembering how they once were so happy.
    “Then, come on, I’ll take you home!” Kate exclaimed happily and dragged poor Lyn down the hallway, who scrambled to shove a bookmark into the proper page of her now dusty book.
    The car ride was filled with nonsensical chatter and off-key singing, a good deal of fun for both of them, and Kate’s mother. Evelyn waved Kate and her mother goodbye after thanking them for the ride and walked up to her house. Her house was nice, in her opinion. It was big enough for the three who lived there and that was enough for her. She opened the door, and flung her schoolbag down, walking up the few steps into the living room, where her stepfather sat, flipping through channels. His dark brown hair was cut neatly and had some gray in the corners behind his ears, which gave him a distinguished look. He was not old, but not young, adorned with some wrinkles. Evelyn was never exactly sure of his real age.
    He turned his head towards her.
    “Evelyn,” he nodded as a type of greeting.
    “Hi Dad,” she responded. Everyone else always called her Lyn. Always. But William did not.
    “Your mother should be home shortly,” he said his rich, deep voice.
    “I know,” she replied before going upstairs.
    “Evelyn,” he called to her, “how was school?”
    “It was fine. Normal,” she answered. He gave a nod and turned back to the T.V.
    Evelyn dashed to her room, closing the door softly and then flinging herself onto her bed.
    She pondered, as she so often did, about why their bond had been severed. William used to spend a great deal of time with her, playing games or watching movies. But something just changed when she started getting older. She didn’t know what, but wouldn’t dare to ask. She curled into her deep crimson sheets, trying to escape the world.

    There was a knock on her door. She got out of bed and opened the door, figuring it would be her mother. It wasn’t.
    “Evelyn…” his voice trailed off, there was a strange look in his eyes she was not familiar with. In that moment, she realized how attractive her stepfather was. How soft his hair looked and how his lips just seemed to be the perfect shape… She was sitting on her bed now; William was sitting next to her. She went to wrap her arms around her stepfather, wanting to embrace him. He pulled away from her arms, which left her ashamed, until he drew her head upwards, so their eyes were facing. She realized what she had to do. She leaned in to kiss him…

    “Lyn, I’m home!” her mother shouted up to her.
    She jolted awake, breathing rapidly. The girl felt as if her heart would beat right out of her chest. She was fully aware of the dream she had, and it bothered and stirred something deep inside. She tried to convince herself that there was no truth in the dream, none at all. It had only portrayed misplaced emotions because perhaps she missed spending time with her dad. That’s all. Lyn quickly tried to fix her hair that stuck lamely to the side of her head and went downstairs to greet her mother who was waiting. She smiled and gave the woman a hug. Anne was a little taller than Evelyn, at least by a few inches and had been very pretty in her youth, but age was beginning to get to her, as she grew more stout than slender. Anne was just thankful William did not mind. And he truly did not care at all.
    “Dinner’s soon, Lyni-love,” her mother cooed, in one of her rare moods of affection.
    “Right. I’ll go set the table.”
    “I’ve got a surprise for all of us at dinner!” Anne grinned.
    Evelyn’s heart stopped and her eyes widened. What could she possibly have in store? Oh God, could she be pregnant? The idea of her mother and William being intimate set her stomach churning.
    “Don’t look so scared! I am not pregnant or anything!” her mother laughed then shivered, “ugh, no way I’m having another kid!”
    Evelyn’s mind breathed a sigh of relief and went to set the table.
    As she was taking the dishes and cutlery out of the mahogany cabinets, her stepfather strode up to the other side of the granite kitchen-island. He had a very casual air about his movements.
    “This…is a very good book,” he said as he glanced over the pages and the tattered cover.
    Lyn’s heart leapt for some reason. A brief conversation was better than nothing.
    “Y-yeah, it is,” she smiled weakly at William. Feeling awkward because of the dream she had just had.
    “ I remember reading this is high school…It was required,” he smiled, remembering his high school days, “I hated it then, but grew to appreciate it….”
    Evelyn nodded and smiled back at him. Her stepfather took one final look at the cover and handed it to Lyn, who’s delicate, fair hand brushed the slightly weathered and large hand of William’s. She withdrew her hand quickly, turning a soft shade of pink as she stared down at the silver granite. Her stepfather withdrew awkwardly and sat down in a plush chair in the living room. Evelyn gathered herself and began to set the table, glancing over at her stepfather every so often.
    They all sat down at the table, and as dinner was served, Anne smiled widely.
    “So, I’ve decided that we’re all to go on a vacation!” she beamed and waited for the cheers of approval from her family. Had there been a cricket in the house, it would have most certainly been chirping.
    “No one’s excited for a nice vacation?! What’s wrong with you t-“ the phone rang and she shuffled to go get the noisy appliance.
    There was a joyful greeting, followed by all the happiness being drained from Lyn’s mother’s face, and a hurried scuffle to another room to speak in private.
    Lyn and William stared at each other, unsure of what was going on. They sat in silence until Anne came back. Her countenance was expressively somber.
    “Uncle Jeff is really sick…they don’t know how long he’s going to last…” she broke down into monstrous tears, shuddering uncontrollably with her face buried in her hands at the prospect of losing her dear, sweet brother.
    Lyn rose from her seat and clung to her mother, in an attempt to comfort her. Evelyn’s heart was heavy with this news. She had only met Uncle Jeff a couple of times, but he was a funny fellow who could do coin tricks. And he was part of her family, which meant a good deal even if they were not close.
    William then got up from his chair and went to comfort Anne. Evelyn drew back seeing his intention. As he embraced his grieving wife, Lyn looked away. She hated to see them together like that. She never gained such affection from him since she was little. Those hugs were nothing more than a distant memory.
    “W-we must go there…we have to go see him,” Anne choked out, her voice cracked with emotion.
    William gave an agreeing coo as he stroked his wife’s sandy blond hair. She sniffled,
    ”We’ll leave as soon as possible. Please start packing,” she whimpered to Evelyn who had already gone to do exactly that.

    The car ride was quiet, except for the sporadic sniffles and nose-blowing episodes. It was a long trip from their quaint little upstate New York town to the middle of Ohio. William drove, occasionally holding his wife’s hand. Lyn just sat in the back seat, near the luggage, listening to her music and staring absently out the window. She scoffed silently to herself, the first real time the three of them have been together and it’s to see a dying relative. Of course, she thought, there has to be an emergency for dad to spend time with me. She sighed and closed her eyes, only to find once she opened them, they had arrived at the house.
    Her disheveled mother dashed out of the car as soon as it had stopped moving, into the arms of her mother, Lyn’s grandmother, who seemed equally upset. William and Evelyn were seemingly emotionless at this point, drained from the attempts of consoling Anne. If there were zombie bellhops in the world, they would look like William and Lyn.
    As they entered the house, Anne sniffled, wiped her nose and spoke,
    “I’m going to be staying with mother in her bed. You can sleep on the pull-out bed.”
    Evelyn frowned, “well, where am I sleeping?”
    “On the pull-out bed,” Anne clarified.
    “Then where will I be?” William enquired; certain Anne had been speaking to him.
    He was half right.
    “You both will be sleeping on the pull-out bed. It’s big enough for two people and there isn’t anywhere else,” Anne stated, emphasizing the word “both”.
    She was clearly a bit frustrated from the confusion.
    “But-“ Lyn protested but was cut off.
    ”I have to go see Jeff now! Let’s go, mom,” Evelyn’s mother took her own mother’s wrinkled hand and out to the car.
    William raised an eyebrow and hoped they would be able to drive properly. He ran a frustrated hand through his mocha coloured hair, which gave it an appealing, messy look. Evelyn sighed. As if things hadn’t been awkward enough, she was now stuck in a tiny house with just her father, whom she’d be sharing a bed with.
    “Umm,” Lyn pondered, “Do you want to see if there’s a movie we can watch, dad?”
    It was Mr. Wood’s turn to sigh, “I don’t know, Evelyn…”
    She pouted, “Fine, I’ll just go to bed, then. It’s getting late anyways,”
    “Suit yourself,” he said, and said nothing more. Instead, he walked out of the shabby living room into the cramped kitchen that was once white, but now a yellowing cream color. Lyn groaned and walked into the kitchen, her stepfather was sitting in a wooden chair, staring out to the small, inhabitable patio.
    “Dad, Please? Just one movie?” she put her hand on his, which made him turn to face her. There was a pause and then he nodded.

    Lyn picked out a romantic comedy, which she had been told was quite good. Although, around thirty minutes into the film, it was obvious there was little comedy and a lot of romance, which neither of them truly enjoyed.
    “This is such a snore fest!” Evelyn joked. But she had not been far from the truth. Around twenty minutes later, she was already nodding off. She rested her head against William’s shoulder, unthinkingly, which she found to be arguably comfortable and was soon asleep. William provided no protest to this action. He even yawned, himself, and soon dozed off, his head resting against his stepdaughter’s.
    Hours later Anne and her mother came back. Upon their return, William lazily opened his eyes. The sight of the pair snuggled up on the couch was too much for Anne to bear.
    ”Aww!” she cooed quietly, relishing the quality time her husband and daughter together. It was a breath of fresh air in the gloomy time they were facing.
    Although she was quiet, the sleeping teen still awoke from the noise, groaning and rubbing her eyes. Her mother rushed over and gave her a wet kiss on the forehead.
    “Go to sleep, Lyni. It’s late,” she smiled at her drowsy daughter and went off to the room she was sharing with her mother.
    William got up from the couch. The lack of a support structure sent Lyn falling into the plush pillows, too lazy to keep her body up.
    “I cannot possibly make the bed with you on the couch, Evelyn,” he chuckled slightly.
    She let out a groan and got up. As her father made the bed, she got ready for it. Before long they were both in the bed. It was not as awkward as they had initially thought it to be. Then again, they were far too tired to argue with the almighty powers of slumber.
    During the night, whilst both slept quietly, Evelyn wrapped her arms around her stepfather’s chest. She did it out of impulse, as she usually clung to a pillow by her side during the night in her own bed. William awoke to find the teenager embracing him. He did not wish to move her away, in case of waking her, and having a hard time explaining what was going on, so he left her there. He had a hard time getting back to sleep. Being able to feel her body so close and not being able to push her away was torture. Sure enough, sleep overtook his racing mind once again and he slept peacefully.
    Evelyn awoke the next morning to find herself lying on her stomach, her dark hair stuck to her face with dried drool. She was alone in the bed, but that was normal. She slept much longer than anyone else in her house, and it’s usual for her to be a late riser. Lyn raised her milky arms upwards, before taking a catlike pose, stretching her stiff body. She got up, stumbling a bit, kicking away a blanket that had stubbornly wrapped itself around her left calf, and wandered into the kitchen.
    “Hey, dad,” she said at the end of her yawn.
    William did not answer, nor did he acknowledge her presence. He continued to brown the eggs in the pan without so much as a flinch.
    “…Dad?” she questioned, drawing close to his backside.
    When placed next to each other, he father was a good foot taller than her. The top of her head barely passed his shoulder. She placed her hand on his wrist gently, trying to get some sort of acknowledgement. She got more than she bargained for.
    “Get off of me!” he roared with a fierce look in his eyes Lyn had never seen before.
    She drew back, hurt.
    “But, Dad, I-“
    “I said, leave me alone, Evelyn!” his tone was harsh, practically a snarl.
    She let him be and curled up on the graying sheets of the foldable bed. Lyn was completely baffled and heartbroken. She thought they had gotten along so well for once, just like they used to be. No, even better than they had been. She closed her eyes. His scent, his cologne was still fresh in her nostrils, as well as the warmth of his body near hers. She loved the closeness, being so near him. No, She loved him. Well, of course she loved him. He was her dad. Not her real dad, she knew, but better than that drunkard. She knew something was different about this love, though. Not like the love she had for her mother, or any other relative, it was something stronger. More potent and much more intoxicating. She shook her head to herself, trying to dismiss these erratic thoughts and curled back up into the bed.

    “Hey, Lyni. Wake up,” Anne said softly, nudging her daughter awake.
    Evelyn opened her eyes slowly, letting everything come into focus after her nap.
    “Lyni, mother and I are going to be cleaning up the house for Jeff’s arrival,” she smiled weakly, “he’s gotten a bit better and the doctors think he can come back home in a little while.”
    “Oh, that’s good,” Lyn said, her voice showing sincerity.
    Anne nodded, “so, you and William are going to spend the day together. Have dinner and everything. I’ll call him when you two can come back.”
    “But I don’t think dad wants to spend time with-“
    “Oh, nonsense! Of course he does! Now get dressed and shoo, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” she laughed weakly, “Uncle Jeff leaves this place a mess!”
    Lyn had no time to protest, nor the energy. She sighed and sauntered to the bathroom to take a shower. The woeful teenager let the scalding water beat down upon her bare back. She was worried about the excursion with William. His reaction in the morning terrified Lyn and left her feeling hollow. An absentminded hand went through her soggy hair, twisting and pulling a lock gently, as Evelyn tried desperately to think of proper conversation, or improper actions she must avoid. She grit her teeth, knowing there were so many ways to screw up the fragile relationship the two had. Why does he have to be so touchy? She thought, if I didn’t know better, I’d think he’s PMSing! She smiled half-heartedly at the reference to a male having a menstruation cycle and rinsed out the conditioner in her hair. Soon she was dried, gussied up in her very formal Bauhaus band t-shirt with black pants and ready for probably the most awkward night she’d face.
    She walked out of the bathroom, combing her hair with her fingers but then stopped in her tracks. Her fingers were left to fend for themselves in her hair. William was there, waiting at the door for her, but something about him took her breath away. He wore a beige suit jacket. It was not exceptionally formal, but not too casual. His crisp white shirt fit neatly on his frame, his hair was as perfect as ever. She picked her jaw up off the floor and walked over to him. He noticed her, but did not make eye contact and walked out the door silently. Lyn sighed deeply and followed him, sitting shotgun next to him. She stared out the window during the drive, watching the unfamiliar scenery whiz by.

    The only words uttered during dinner by William’s silky voice were: “I’ll have the steak. Rare.”
    The angst-ridden teenager ate her chicken dish in silence. It was quite good, but the atmosphere detracted from the lovely marinated chicken with roasted vegetables. Lyn opened her mouth several times to say something, which was met by a hard stare from her stepfather, which promptly made her mouth close once more.
    Midway through dinner William answered the phone. It was a brief conversation that consisted on his part of clarification words and then a hang up without a goodbye.
    “Your mother wants us to pick some things up. So that’s where we’ll be going after.”
    ”Okay, dad,” Evelyn said weakly and quickly finished the rest of her chicken. The waiter smiled widely at her when he came to give Mr. Wood the check This seemed to have been a big mistake on the minimum wage employee’s part since he received no tip based on the kind gesture. The stepfather walked out in a quick pace with his stepdaughter moping behind him, noticing all the happy couples and families in her wake. She wished things didn’t have to be like this on the first star she saw in the ink black sky. She then promptly laughed at herself, figuring she did not wish on a star but in fact, a planet. This just seemed to be how her luck would turn out. Of all the bright celestial bodies, she picks a giant hunk of dirt. How fitting.
    They arrived at the nearest 24/7 miscellaneous store and went inside. The fluorescent lights highlighted all the special savings on crap no one wanted in the first place. They were alone in the store, save for an underpaid night clerk who obviously was not motivated to be friendly. Evelyn walked around the aisles, prodding the various children’s toys or reading packages as her “doting father” gathered the hoard of supplies his wife had requested.
    Evelyn found her father near the back, leaning against a glass display case with items inside the case worth less than items on the shelves. He was checking his text messages with a basket of cleaning utensils and products beside him on the counter. A wave of anger and passion overcame her as she saw his nonchalant figure. She was sick of all these questions and wanted answers. Impulsively, she strode over. Lyn took the phone from his hands, closed it and slammed it down on the counter. Before William even had the time to look up, Evelyn threw her arms around him in a deep embrace, resting her chin upon his shoulder.
    “Please…get off,” her stepfather gasped, surprised.
    “No…I want answers,” she wrapped her arms around tighter, as if to bar the emotions inside of her, “I want to know why you don’t spend time with me anymore,” her voice shook with the pent up feelings of the four years he has ignored her along with the new, unfamiliar feelings she felt now.
    “I…don’t know,” he explained.
    His voice betrayed his words, as it was obvious there was twinge of sorrow in his statement.
    He did know why.
    “Please. Tell me,” she whispered into his ear, nuzzling her forehead against his soft hair, not letting him out of her grasp.
    William took a deep breath, trying to keep his body from the uncontrollable shivering it was doing, but it was clear this bothered him. This was the moment he realized his fears have come true.
    “ Your thirteenth birthday… When you and Kate were having fun, laughing and everything. I realized you were growing, and you would be older,” he paused, trying to catch his breath, “and you would become so beautiful. I-I couldn’t stand being around that, to have such a beautiful young woman around that I loved…” he was crying, now, Evelyn could feel the hot tears splash through her thin t-shirt. He recollected himself a bit before continuing.
    “I knew that there was a possibility of falling in love with you. I saw it in your eyes and smile, even when you were younger… Your mother told me so many things as you grew, your developing personality,” he gripped her body to his, which made Lyn let out a slight gasp, “And it’s wrong! It’s wrong to even consider having these feelings!” his voice grew violent, “I hate myself everyday for isolating you. But, I didn’t want our relationship to be different than a normal father and daughter. But I screwed that up as well. I’m so sorry, Evelyn,” he choked back tears and even Evelyn found it difficult to maintain a proper composure.
    She murmured reassuring words to her stepfather as she stroked the back of his head, feeling overcome with sympathy and affection to ever be mad at him.
    They cradled each other tightly, as they tried desperately to balance their emotions. The night clerk ignored them deciding he did not get paid enough to interfere. Soon as William finally regained his peace of mind, his phone began to buzz on the counter. He picked it up, and flipped it open, maneuvering it to his ear. But Evelyn had other plans. As he went to answer the phone call, Lyn let go of her stepfather and deftly pressed her hot pale-ruby lips to his before he could even get out a “hello.” William graciously took the kiss, dropping the phone to the counter. A shrill wife’s voice enquired what was happening through the electronic device before figuring the call was lost and hung up to try again later.