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Broken Home

G. Allen Wilbanks is a retired police officer living in Northern California. For twenty-five years he wrote collision and crime reports during the day to pay the bills, and he wrote short fiction during his off time to stay sane. He recently retired from real life to devote his full attention to fantasy. He has published two short story collections, and recently released his first novel. For more information on his writing, visit GAllenWilbanks.com, or check out his weekly blog at deepdarkthoughts.com.

Paula arched her back almost to the point of falling over, turning her face to the sky. The hood of her puffy coat slipped back onto her shoulders as she dodged awkwardly left and right, opening her mouth wide and sticking out her tongue to chase the snowflakes fluttering around her. Her father stood silently nearby, hands in his pockets; a small smile of bemusement tugging at his lips.
Catching another flake, Paula laughed in childish glee, her eyes shining with pleasure. She spun to face her father in triumph, shouting, "Got another one!" He nodded his encouragement.
At last, tiring of the game, Paula pulled her hood back over her head and blew out a long breath. She watched it fog in the air in front of her, then swirl and dissipate in the wind. Her cheeks and nose were a cheery red from the cold air on her skin, and it gave her a cherubic appearance.
"What makes it snow?" she asked her father, holding her mittened hands in front of her and staring at the white flakes sticking to the red, fuzzy fabric.
"Snow is just rain, kiddo," her father said. "Only it's too cold for the rain to stay water, so it freezes into snow."
"Snow and rain are the same thing?" she asked, peering up at her father with a skeptical pout on her face. "Is that true?"
"It's true," he assured her. Paula continued to look doubtful. "It is! I promise. I'm not lying to you."
Paula nodded, seeming to accept her father's assurance, but then her expression turned oddly serious. "Okay," she agreed. "Since you're not lying to me, can I ask you another question?"
"Of course," her father told her.
"And you'll tell me the truth?"
He hesitated only a moment before answering cautiously, "If I answer your question, I will tell you the truth."
Paula inhaled and blew out another frosty breath. "Why did you leave me and Mommy?"
She watched her father's face closely as he considered the question. With a wisdom far beyond her actual age, Paula remained silent and waited, seeming to sense he would not answer if she pushed too hard.
After a long moment, he cleared his throat. "I didn't want to," he told her. "But Mommy made me go."
Paula nodded as if the answer did not surprise her.
"Then, why did you come back?" she asked.
"I didn't want to leave you alone. I didn't want you to think I just abandoned you."
Again, the small nod from Paula.
"Will you leave again?"
"Eventually. I have to. I can't stay forever."
"When?" Paula asked.
She stepped closer to her father and reached out one hand. Waving it back and forth, she watched the red mitten pass through her father's chest from one side of his body to the other.
Her father smiled at her unrestrained curiosity and did not move away.
"After your mother pays for murdering me."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019
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