A taster from The Traz by Eileen Schuh
"How's my girl with the sunshine curls?" Dave Buckhold asked as he swung Katrina over his head. His young daughter squealed. He hugged her to his chest and her laughter subsided.
"Daddy! Daddy! Give me a kiss!" He nuzzled his lips to her tiny ear and gave her a million kisses. Beyond a doubt, Katrina was his reason for living. He pried her from his neck and set her down. "Where's Mom?"
A scowl replaced her smile. "I don't know."
"What do you mean, you don't know?"
Katrina reached for his hand. "She's somewhere."
Dave picked her up. She was four but so tiny. It was as if he had a toddler in his arms. He headed down the hall, flicking on lights as he went. "Tanesa?" he called. He frowned at his wife curled on the sofa. "Why are you lying here in the dark? You have a child to look after."
Tanesa kept her eyes shut. "She looks after herself fine."
Dave hugged Katrina tighter and cast the woman a long, silent gaze. His wife was nothing like their daughter. She was dark, in both skin tone and mood, and had none of the fine features that defined Katrina. Her straight black hair contrasted with Katrina's amber curls, and Tanesa was tall, matching him in height at five foot ten. At one time, he'd loved both her vulnerability and coarse beauty.
"Aren't you even going to say hi to me?" he eventually asked.
Tanesa slowly opened her eyes. "Hi."
"Katrina's too young to look after herself. Where's supper?"
"Ever since my dad and you bought her that computer…" Tanesa swung her legs over the edge of the couch and stared at her stockinged feet. She wiggled her toes into the thick gold carpet. "All she does is sit and play on the thing. I can only stand watching that for so long. Supper's in the oven." She rose and brushed past them to the kitchen.
"What did you have for lunch?" Dave whispered to Katrina.
"I look after myself fine," the child whispered back. "Don't fight. Please don't fight with Mommy."
Supper started in silence except for the clink of silverware against china. Dave was wiping up the last of his gravy with a bun when the mantle clock struck six o'clock. As the last chime faded, Tanesa spoke. "Dave, you promised me that we'd...."
Katrina pretended not to listen and ran the tines of her fork around her mound of potatoes. The spiralling lines looked magical. She topped her creation with a carrot. Her mother kept talking. "...move down south once Katrina got to school age."
"She's just four," her father growled. "School age isn't until six."
"Four going on thirty-four," Tanesa mumbled, staring out the window. Had there been any sunlight at all, she'd have been able to see a thousand miles of flat white tundra spreading to the horizon. In December, though, there was no sun.
"She's four," Dave insisted louder. "She needs a mother, for Christ's sake."
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