With a swoop of his arms, I was in the air, diving and swinging around the room. Then, just as he always did, he pulled me into a reverse piggy-back and I was facing him while he held me in the air, my face close to his face, my nose touching his nose. I loved when he picked me up this way, it made me feel like I was his equal, that because I was literally level with him, I was able to understand anything he would tell me, no matter how serious or advanced it was for me. He only did this with me; not even my brother got to experience the closeness we shared at that moment. It was our thing, and I liked that he didn’t share it with anyone else.

“So,” he said to me playfully once I looked into his eyes. “You wanna have a sleepover tonight in the living room?”

I smiled and got closer to his face, “Is mommy going to be out here too?”

My dad lost his smile and looked away from me to the floor, “No, it will just be me and you tonight. What do you say, we can have fun just the two of us.”

“Okay,” I said unable to hide the excitement in my voice. I was extremely ecstatic at the idea of dad and daughter time, another thing that no one else in the world can share with him but me. We sprawled out in the living room on the queen size mattress watching TV and movies late into the night until we both fell asleep, a pastime we share to this day, and stayed like that until I woke the next day and found that I was alone on the mattress.

My dad was gone.

Grey House: Open

Age 11: I have always wanted a sister. Ever since I can remember, I have often dreamt about what it would be like to have another girl in my family, especially because I was the only girl in a family with two younger brothers.

Ashley Stussy
Excerpts from
"Four Houses"
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