Becky Bloom and her father, Ken Bloom, have been trying to spend more time together as they work out their issues and learn to communicate better. So when Becky finds herself restless and bored, it’s a no-brainer to ask her father to come on a walk in the woods with her. They take one of Becky’s favourite trails to a beautiful lake, and relax together. 3,678 words
It hadn’t been the best month, since the festival. Though, what month had been the best month, lately? It seemed like something was always happening; flip flopping her life between good and bad like a… a….
Becky couldn’t think of a good metaphor for something flopping around, and gave a huff, lifting her manga back to her nose and trying to read.
It was still difficult, but she was getting better— She thought so, at least. She was getting faster at reading.
She’d just been so stressed out and anxious since she’d seen Mattel!
Knowing that the woman was back in town made her skin crawl and itch…. Becky was just glad Mattel had been distracted at the festival, and hadn’t seen her.
She’d regretting snapping at Jezzibeth, the other week. But Jezzibeth had been insufferable about Mattel and Mattel’s new boyfriend…. Jezzibeth had been acting like Mattel had done it to spite her, specifically— And her constant complaints had pushed Becky over the edge, and she’d shouted at her friend.
It was true that Jezzibeth had been inconsiderate; bringing up Mattel over and over when Becky was obviously uncomfortable, but….
That was just how Jezzibeth was, sometimes, when she got a thought in her head….
Becky couldn’t even begin to explain how relieved she was that Jezzibeth was so forgiving and willing to listen. They’d talked it out, and Becky had told her about all the things Mattel had done and….
And it had been the moment Becky realised that the way Mattel had treated her wasn’t okay.
She’d confessed things to Jezzibeth that she hadn’t even told Jareth….
And she’d cried. And then she’d felt bad about crying, because she was supposed to be apologising to Jezzibeth… so she’d ended up crying even more.
She was a mess.
Though she thought herself lucky her friends were so understanding, and patient, and full of love.
A heavy sigh escaped her as she realised she was too distracted to read and put her book down.
She needed to get out and do something; but she didn’t trust herself to be on her own. Not when she was feeling like this…. And Isa wasn’t home….
Maybe she could talk to her dad.
He’d been busy, but maybe he’d understand, and go out for a walk with her.
It was worth asking.
Carefully, making sure not to bother Mimi as it slept, Becky pushed herself up and made her way to Ken’s study.
She opened the door slowly; its hinges creaking loudly as she slipped into the room and stood in place.
There was her father. Working away on one of his projects…. As always.
It looked like a dress, today.
‘Dad?’ she tested, quietly. But she got no response, and so began to creep towards her father. ‘Dad? Uh…. Dad?’
Slowly, she placed a hand on his shoulder— And he let out a shout and jumped in his seat, flinging his work across the room.
Becky’s own shriek escaped her and she stumbled back and tripped on a roll of fabric. She hit the ground arse-first with a loud THUD, which was followed by a TWUMP as her head landed in a pile of cloth.
She let out a sigh as her father began to fuss, and was just grateful her head hadn’t been introduced to the hard wood floor.
‘Becky? Are you alright? I’m so sorry— I didn’t hear you come in!’ Ken said, pulling Becky up. ‘Are you hurt?’
‘I’m fine, Dad,’ Becky replied, rolling her eyes and grinning. ‘I think you’re going deaf, as well as blind. I wasn’t exactly quiet.’
‘Hmh,’ Ken returned the smile and helped his daughter to her feet. ‘I was just… very focused.’
‘Yeah, I figured.’
‘Yes…. So…. Um. Wh-What were you…. Is everything alright? Why are you here?’
‘Because you and Mum forgot to use protection,’ Becky retorted— And immediately regretted her comment as her dad’s brow furrowed. ‘Uh…. No. Sorry that— I don’t know why I said that.’
Ken simply shook his head, then, as his smile returned. ‘Becky, honey, what do you need?’
‘Well… I was thinking of going for a walk,’ she said. ‘And… I was wondering if you would like to come with me?’
Ken’s face lit up, and he nodded. ‘Oh— Yes! Yes Becky I— That would be wonderful! Let me just—‘
Becky watched as her father began to adjust his clothes and pat down his hair.
‘Dad, you look fine,’ Becky told him, reaching out to put a hand on his arm.
‘Ah, good. Good…’ Ken cleared his throat and quickly grabbed his bag before he let himself be guided out of the room; his smile not faltering for even a second as Becky walked him down the stairs. ‘Where were you thinking of going?’
‘Well… I was thinking of going for a hike in the woods,’ said Becky. ‘I haven’t been there much, lately. With my meds I’ve been asleep most nights and… well, that’s usually when I go, you know?’
‘Yes, though I wish I didn’t know,’ Ken gave a half-hearted chuckle. ‘Every time I see you’ve snuck out I get so worried about you.’
‘It’s fine, Dad,’ Becky said. ‘The woods aren’t dangerous.’
Ken gave her a look, and she just shrugged back.
‘They’re not,’ she defended, yanking open the front door and dragging her dad outside. ‘Everyone goes on about the hag and animals and stuff, but like… the woods are really beautiful. The only times they’re dangerous are when other people are messing around in them.’
‘Becky, I don’t care if the danger is natural or not,’ Ken said as he shut the door behind them. ‘It’s still danger.’
‘Eh,’ Becky just shrugged. ‘I can beat up people, no worries.’
‘I know, but—‘ Ken stopped walking to let out a heavy, heavy sigh. ‘That’s not the point, Rebecca.’
Again, Becky just shrugged. ‘Uh… what trail do you wanna take?’
‘Oh, uh, well… I’m not picky,’ answered Ken. ‘And you know the woods better than I do. I’ll go wherever you think is best…. Maybe you could take me somewhere you really enjoy?’
‘Alright,’ Becky grinned, and offered her arm back to her father. ‘You wanna…?’
As soon as Ken realised what was being offered to him, he accepted Becky’s arm and walked in pace with her.
It was a refreshing walk; they went through town, following the quieter streets, until they reached a thick wall of brush.
Ken paused, almost pulling Becky down as she tried to keep walking.
‘There’s no trail,’ he said, worriedly.
‘Yeah there is!’ Becky chirped back, and motioned to a low bush. ‘I go this way all the time! This bush is thinner than the rest, so you just gotta push a little and you get through; then you head forward to the oak, left until you reach the fallen tree, and then turn right until you find the rock with a dick graffitied on it….’
Becky trained off as Ken raised his brow. ‘That doesn’t sound safe.’
‘It is when you know what you’re doing.’
‘And how many times did you have to walk it to learn what you’re doing?’ his tone was genuine; but it still made Becky blush.
For a moment, she stared back up at her father. Then she coughed and tucked her hands sheepishly behind her back. ‘A few.’
Ken looked at her, his brow furrowing as he did. Then he heaved a sigh and offered his hand back to Becky. ‘Alright. I did say that you could lead so… show me this trail.’
Carefully, Becky took her father’s hand and led him into the bushes.
It was a beautiful trail. One of her favourites.
Not many other people came this way and so the natural environment was practically untouched— Save for a few bits of graffiti, here and there. Or—
She bent down to scoop up the empty chocolate wrapper as she passed it; a quick, smooth motion that didn’t slow their pace but made Ken grin at her.
‘You pick up rubbish?’ he asked.
‘Well… duh,’ Becky felt herself blushing again. ‘I like the woods to be beautiful. But don’t you dare tell anyone! I’m not like. Some sort of tree-hugging druid or, whatever! I’ve just— Uh—‘ she stuck her nose in the air, and tried to look aloof. ‘I’ve seen feral mimics around before, and don’t want them to choke.’
It wasn’t technically a lie.
She wasn’t a druid. And she liked the woods to be beautiful. And she’d seen (and given treats to) several feral mimics in this area before.
But really, it was just that she loved the woods. They mattered to her; they’d always been there for her. A safe place she could run to when the rest of the world was overwhelming.
She never got lost; even when she didn’t know where she was going. She just walked, and trusted the woods to take her to wherever they thought was best for her to be.
The only time the woods had ever been any sort of dangerous to her was… the deer that caused her accident. And that wasn’t the woods— That was Romero’s sloppy necromancy, and her own reckless driving.
But the woods themselves had never done anything to hurt her. Only embrace her….
Sometimes, she longed to be a child again, sneaking away at night so she could play wolf.
Strip down to her underwear and howl at the full moon like an animal. Run on all fours like she was some sort of feral creature.
But she hadn’t done that since she was… eight? Maybe nine? And her mother had hunted her down and dragged her home.
She supposed it was for the best. She understood now; a naked nine year old running around in the woods covered head-to-toe in face-paint and glitter was just asking for trouble.
Becky pushed the thought of her mother away, instead focusing on her father as she walked beside him.
He was weird.
But… she loved him.
Becky found herself leaning into him as they continued to walk, and she couldn’t stop herself from heaving a contented sigh and looking up at him….
He had tears in his eyes, she realised.
‘Dad?’ she asked, pulling away. ‘Are you alright?’
Ken smiled back down at her and nodded, before pulling her close and planting a firm kiss on her forehead. ‘I just love you so, so much.’
‘I love you too, Dad,’ she replied, though she looked away in embarrassment and hurried on. ‘Oh— Yeah, here! We’re almost at the main trail! Just gotta get through these bushes and we’re good!’
‘Oh, wonderful!’ Ken exclaimed, following Becky through the brush. ‘Which trail are we— Oh….’
Becky paused as her father’s voice dropped, and she looked back to him. ‘Dad?’
Ken looked nervous as he fiddled with his own hands. ‘We’re…. You’re taking us to the lake?’
‘Yeah,’ Becky replied. ‘Shady Hollow Lake, right? It’s so beautiful! It’s one of my favourite parts of the woods!’
‘It’s… it’s where your mother and I got married,’ Ken told her, his sombre expression joined by a very sad, very small smile.
‘It is?’ Becky hadn’t known that. She didn’t know much about her mother, actually….
All she remembered was her mother’s strict kind of love.
How firm her voice would get when she was angry. How her brow would furrow in worry when Becky would hiss or snarl or scratch at herself…. Her gentle embrace and hummed lullabies….
Becky recalled the last time she remembered seeing her mother; in the dead of night, she’d come in to check on her daughter in bed… and then Becky had woken to a crowded, miserable house and the news her mother had passed away.
Ken’s arm found its way around Becky and she pushed the thought away; instead letting herself smile up at him as he walked her along the trail.
It didn’t take them long to make it to the lake; twenty or thirty minutes, at most, at their brisk pace.
And once they were there, Becky made straight for her favourite bush; a small, leafy thing covered in small purple berries.
She pulled several off their branches, raising them to her lips and—
‘Becky!’ Ken gave a sudden cry, and slapped the berries out of his daughter’s hand. ‘No!’
‘Dad!’ Becky gasped. ‘What the fuck?!’
‘Becky those are poisonous!’ Ken snapped. ‘Toxic— You can’t eat those!’
‘What?’ Becky gave a loud scoff, and pulled another handful of berries from the bush. ‘No they’re not! I eat them all the time—‘
Becky cut off as her father grabbed her wrist and squeezed it firmly.
‘Rebecca,’ he said, slowly. ‘Rebecca…. This. Is. Pokeweed.’
‘That…’ Becky felt herself shrinking away as her father stared her down. He was so serious— It was almost scary. ‘Doesn’t… mean… anything to me?’
‘Becky, I—‘ Ken released Becky, putting his face in a hand. ‘Becky. Becky please— Tell me you were joking.’
‘Eating this all the time.’
Becky shook her head, flinching as a loud, strangled whimper of an exclamation escaped her father.
‘Ooooh— My god!’ Ken cried, pressing his hands against his temples. ‘Becky— You haven’t— Oh my god!’
‘It’s fine?’ Becky tried. ‘They’ve literally never made me sick before.’
A heavy breath from Ken, and he muttered something under his breath before straightening up. ‘Becky. You can’t just eat things you find in the woods!’
‘Yeah you can,’ she retorted. ‘It’s called foraging.’
‘No it’s—‘ another heavy breath, and he grabbed Becky by the arm and dragged her away from the bush. ‘It’s called applying for the Darwin Awards!’
‘Darwin Awards?’ Becky echoed.
She had no idea what those were. But, given her father’s tone, she could guess they weren’t a good thing.
‘Please— Just— Sit,’ Ken breathed, pushing Becky down until she sat on the ground by the lakeside. Then, he sat beside her and let out a groan. ‘You are you going to be the death of me….’
‘I’m just hungry,’ Becky muttered back, tracing a finger through the grass.
Then her finger found her foot, and she decided to pull off her shoes and rest her feet in the cool lake water.
They sat in quiet for a moment, Becky with her feet in the water and Ken pulling his sketchbook from his bag to draw on, before Becky heaved a contented sigh and lifted a foot high above herself.
She watched the trail of water arc through the air and giggled as it splashed over her face.
Her father echoed her laughter as he shuffled back to avoid getting wet. Then, his shoulders relaxed, and he looked at Becky with soft, loving eyes.
‘It’s good to see you laugh,’ he said softly. ‘It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you so happy.’
‘Yeah. I’m… really glad we’re talking more,’ she told him, dipping her foot back into the lake. Then, after another moment of quiet she lifted it up again and sent another trail of water through the air. ‘Hah! I really love it here,’ she giggled. ‘Especially at night.’
‘At… night?’ Ken tensed, shuffling in place. ‘You come here at night?’
‘Yeah, I like to swim,’ Becky told him. As she did, she saw him take a deep, concerned breath, but couldn’t figure out why. ‘Um… it just feels… safe here. Like there’s something in the water, watching me. But in a good way. You know?’
Ken swallowed, visibly, before taking off his glasses and wiping his eyes.
‘Dad? What’s wrong?’
‘It’s nothing,’ he told her; obviously lying.
‘Hm…’ he gave a sniff, and shuffled again. Then, he spoke quietly. So quietly Becky almost missed it. ‘Your mother loved it here, too….’
Becky felt her heart sink as her father wiped his eyes again. ‘Um… I’m… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have made you come here.’
‘No— It’s okay,’ Ken comforted, shifting close so that he could rest a hand on Becky’s shoulder. ‘It’s good to come back. I haven’t been here in so long…. I forgot how nice it is.’
Becky blushed and, looking to her feet, began to kick at the water.
A moment passed and then, without thinking, she slipped into the lake and turned onto her back; letting the water carry her.
She felt calm. Like the water was washing all the worried feelings out of her body.
It was like magic.
It made her feel lighter; holding her in its gentle embrace and floating her across its sun-sparkling surface as she stared up at the baby-blue sky.
The reflection of the clouds floated around Becky like soft cotton pulled from plush toys, and for a moment she felt like nothing could ever go wrong again.
But then she heard loud cackling, and turned over in the water to look to the other side of the lake.
She could see Portia at the shore, waving at her.
‘BECKY!’ she shouted, her voice barely audible over the distance.
‘PORTIA!’ Becky waved back; raising both hands high above her head before sinking up to her shoulders and quickly throwing them back down to stop her head going under.
Portia yelled something else, but Becky couldn’t hear her.
‘I CAN’T HEAR YOU!’
‘I CAN’T HEAR—‘
‘HEY!’ Becky shrieked. ‘KILL YOURSELF!’
Another cackle from Portia, who then hurried off into the trees.
‘Can you believe her?!’ Becky laughed, turning to her father and— Pausing when she saw the concern on his face.
He quickly tried to hide it with a smile, but Becky had seen it, and so she hurried back to shore and pulled herself up beside him.
‘Dad? You okay?’ she asked. ‘That was my friend Portia— That’s just how we talk to each other.’
‘Like Katie?’ Ken asked.
‘Yeah! Just like Katie. So no worries, wasn’t a real fight.’
‘Ah, that’s not…’ Ken trailed off, fondling his sketchbook anxiously. ‘It was just when you almost went under. I got a little….’
‘Oh— No, I was fine!’ Becky reassured. ‘I’m not going to drown or anything!’
Ken pulled a face, so uncomfortable it made Becky flinch.
‘It’s nothing,’ he told her, hurriedly going back to his sketch. ‘I’m fine.’
‘Um… okay,’ Becky mumbled. She sat beside her father for a moment before sighing and wringing out her hair. ‘Hey, so… Um. Remember that talk we had? The big one? Where you uh…. You said you hated Mattel.’
Ken’s pencil snapped; it’s top half flinging itself into the lake with a quiet plip as Becky flinched.
‘Yes,’ Ken said, his voice slow and soft. ‘I don’t like Mattel…. I think Jareth is much better for you.’
‘Yeah,’ she nodded. ‘Yeah I think so, too. But uh— That’s not my point. Um. When you were… going off… you said something and… I’ve been thinking about it a lot.’
‘Well… uh…’ Becky felt herself blushing. ‘Portia reminded me of it and— Well… her dad. He’s started seeing this guy…. Like uh— Her mum died. And now her dad’s trying to date again. And Portia is really mad about it. She said that her dad was cheating on her mum, and stuff.’
Ken tensed as Becky said it; his eyes half-panicked as he swallowed.
‘But, uh…’ Becky shifted, looking to her father out of the corner of her eye. ‘I think she’s wrong. Like, I don’t think her dad’s done anything wrong. I think… it’s okay to fall in love twice, you know?’
Slowly, Ken relaxed. And gave a careful nod. ‘You think so?’
‘Yeah. Like,’ she rubbed the back of her neck. ‘I know you said you wanted to date again and stuff. But that you didn’t want to upset me with it. But like… uh…. I don’t want you to be unhappy.’
‘You… wouldn’t mind if I dated?’ Ken asked, softly.
‘I mean— I don’t like change,’ Becky admitted. ‘But I love you. And I…. I think I’ll be okay… just um… as long as things don’t change too much too fast. It’s… scary when things change suddenly, you know?’
‘Yes, I do,’ Ken breathed, putting his sketchbook down and leaning into his daughter. He kissed her cheek and held her close, before smiling warmly. ‘Thank you. I promise I won’t let things change too quickly.’
‘Thanks,’ Becky let out a sigh as she slipped out of Ken’s embrace and flopped into the grass.
She stared back up at the sky; watching the clouds slowly float away into the blue….
And then blinked awake to the sight of a butterfly overhead; its wings as orange as the sunset that was above it.
‘Oh…. Oh…’ she groaned, pushing herself up and rubbing her eyes. ‘Ah. When did the sky change colour…?’
‘Hm?’ Ken looked up from his sketchbook, and smiled. ‘Ah. Becky. You feel asleep.’
‘Yes,’ he said, running a hand along the edge of his sketchbook. ‘I uh…. Well, I hope you don’t mind but I….’
Ken turned his sketchbook around and Becky saw the page was covered in loose sketches of herself, asleep in the grass.
‘Oh…’ she let out an awed breath. ‘Wow… these are really beautiful.’
‘It’s because you’re beautiful,’ Ken chuckled.
‘I’m in a lot of poses…’ she mumbled. ‘Did you make them up, or—‘
‘—No,’ he shook his head. ‘You’ve always been a restless sleeper…. I’m just grateful you weren’t having another nightmare.’
‘Hm…’ Becky hummed, examining her dad’s drawings. ‘You know, I’d love to be able to draw like this.’
‘I could teach you,’ Ken said, tentatively; edging closer as he did. Becky could see the hope in his eyes as he watched her. ‘It would be a uh, good way to spend time together?’
‘Um… sure,’ Becky let herself grin. ‘Maybe… we could draw on Wednesdays? Like— A regular thing. After school…. You and me time….’
Ken’s face lit up and, before Becky could stop him, his arms were around her and he was squeezing her tight.
‘Ah! Ah, gross!’ Becky exclaimed instinctively. ‘Dad! PDA! PDA! No! Ah!’
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