My favourite dress is bright yellow. When I spin around with my arms stretched wide and my head back, it takes off around me and I become a sunflower.
I am wearing it today. I wish I could wear it every day, but my Dad says people will think he is a terrible parent. I don't care what other people think, but I love my Dad.
I am sitting in the back seat of our car, curling the long yellow tie of my dress around and around my little finger, waiting for my Dad. We are on our way to Miss Parker's office. Even though Miss Parker is nice, I don't always like our visits. She has so many words while I have none. Sometimes she lets me draw. I like those visits better because drawing is one of my favourite things to do.
The car door opens, and my dad gets into the driver's seat. He turns to look at me and attempts to smile, except his eyes continue frowning.
'Ready, Jess?' he asks.
His gaze remains on me for a little while, then sighing, he turns to start the car.
As we drive, I stare out of the window at all the different people outside. I wonder where they are going and what their lives are like. A boy is walking with his mum, holding her hand. I imagine walking with them, holding her other hand. Together, we go to the park, play on the swings, and run around playing tag.
I am just about to grab my new brother's arm and shout, 'you're it!' when the car door opens and my new brother is my Dad again.
'Let's go, Jess,' he says, unbuckling my seatbelt and holding his hand out towards me. In order to take his hand, I let go of my dress tie that is still half wrapped around my little finger. As I do my Dad calls out my name, in a loud voice and I jump. He pulls my hand closer to his face, inspecting the red mark on my little finger. Only now do I feel its sting.
I snatch my hand back and stare at my feet. My face feels hot. Without another word, my Dad takes hold of my hand again, moves me out of the way of the car door, and closes it. The car makes the beeping sound it does when it locks, and I know it is time to walk. With my eyes still fixed on my feet, I count the steps to the entrance of Miss Parker's building.
On reaching it, the door opens by itself and we enter the building. Gripping my hand tightly, my Dad leads us to the lift. My hand is hurting a little, but my tongue won't shape the words so I can tell my Dad. So I am ready to press the button, I stop counting when we are a few steps away from the lift. My Dad always lets me press the button, but today he does it himself. My face is hot again.
When the lift arrives, we enter it. My Dad presses the button with Miss Parker's name on it and my hand goes in search of my dress tie again. But before I find it my Dad swipes my hand back down. My eyes are heavy; my tongue sticks to the top of my mouth.
From behind her desk, the lady smiles at us as we enter Miss Parker's office.
'Hello, Mr. Ellis, how are you?' she asks.
Her lipstick is bright red, like the reddest apple. It makes her teeth look super white.
'I am well, thank you,' my Dad replies. I wonder why he is lying.
'Hello, Jessica,' she continues, although her eyes stay on my Dad.
'Miss Parker will be right with you, please take a seat.'
We walk over to the couch and sit down. There are some toys in a box in the corner by the couch, but I don't play with them. I twirl the tie of my dress around my finger again but remembering, stop, and glance up at my Dad. Already staring at his phone, he hasn't noticed. I let my breath out.
While we wait, I swing my legs back and forth. They disappear underneath the couch, then reappear again and I am back in the park. Higher and higher I swing until I am flying with the birds, so light and free.
I am not there for long. Soon enough, my Dad's voice interrupts my and I am back in Miss Parker's office again.
'On you go, Jess,' he says, nodding his head towards Miss Parker, who is standing in front of us.
I stand up and follow Miss Parker in to her room
'You can sit on the mat today, Jessica.' Miss Parkers say, closing the door behind us.
I walk over to the mat in the corner of her room where there is a little red table with crayons and paper on it. Today is a day when Miss Parker asks me questions and I draw.
I try to draw what she wants me to, although I am not always sure what that is. After a while, Miss Parker asks, 'what do you think makes your daddy sad, Jessica?'
I pick up the yellow crayon and draw.
When I finish, I put the crayons down and it is time to go back into the waiting room. Still sitting on the couch, my Dad is now holding his phone to his ear.
'Ok, talk soon, I have to go,' he says as we walk towards him.
'Jessica, please wait here a moment while I have a quick chat with your Dad,' Miss Parker says, motioning to the couch.
I sit down as Miss Parker leads my Dad back into her room and closes the door behind them. I clasp my hands in my lap and wonder what they are talking about.
A little while later, the door to Miss Parker's room opens, I squeeze my hands tighter. My Dad looks sad. These days, he always looks sad.
I jump down from the couch and walk towards him. He says goodbye to Miss Parker as I take hold of his hand. The lady behind the desk looks up as we leave, but she says nothing. My Dad doesn't say goodbye to her either and I am glad.
Silence fills the car as we drive home. I think there may be stones in my tummy.
As soon as we get home, I go straight to my room. Kneeling by my bed, I take out my special box from underneath it. Inside my special box is where I keep my secret things. Sitting on my bed, I take off the lid and pull out the red scarf. I rub it against my cheek. It is even softer than my fluffy bunny I cuddle to sleep every night. Next, I take out the photograph, and seconds later I am with her again. The wind plays with my hair while her hand, warm and so near, slips into mine. I look up at her, enjoying her closeness. Her red scarf, draped around her neck, fans out behind her. She is so beautiful.
My bedroom door opens and I am sitting on my bed again and my Dad is standing in front of me. I didn't hear his feet on the stairs. I turn the photograph over, face down.
Sitting down beside me, my Dad asks, 'Can I have a look at the photo, Jess?'
When I don't move my hand from the photo, my Dad places his hand on top of it and with the other, he slides the photo out from under mine. He turns over the photo and for a minute I stop breathing.
He looks at it for a few moments, then grabbing my hand pulls me off my bed. Out of the door we go, down the stairs, and into the living room. I feel funny and hot. My Dad opens a drawer in the sideboard and pulls out some papers. I am not sure what they are at first. One by one, he fixes them to the living room walls. Tears run down my cheeks.
'Where should this go, Jess?' my Dad asks, holding out the photograph towards me. Heart thumping, I take the photo and place it right in the centre of all my drawings that now decorate our living room walls.
'Perfect!' my Dad exclaims, gently taking hold of my hand. His voice sounds different. Next, he kneels down and turns me towards him. His eyes are softer, more like they used to be.
'I'm sorry Jessica,' he says, 'I'm sorry for trying to shut everything out. I'm sorry for shutting you out.'
I'm not sure I understand his words, but I understand his eyes. Throwing my arms around my Dad's neck, I squeeze him tight. For a long time, we remain like that, remembering one another while a roomful of happy sunflowers shines down on us. And in amongst them all is the photograph of my mum. Her red scarf is dancing in the wind behind her, her hand is in mine as she smiles over us from a field full of her own sunflowers.
In that moment, words form on my tongue. I open my mouth to let them out as my Dad hugs me even tighter.