"Bring Liina here immediately. I promise it's not about you, and nothing bad will happen to either of you. I just need to tell Liina something very important, and it needs to be said face to face." That was the phone call that woke me this morning. Her mother's impassioned tone still runs through my head over and over. Had it not been for her tone, I wouldn't bring her.  But her voice spoke sincerity, and I have little choice but to believe her. 

"Liina, wake up." She rolls over, deep sleeper that she can be when contented. Just a few hours prior, she finally brought me to orgasm, and shortly after I pleasured her myself. After the morning's work out, we both turned in, content in leaving school and the world behind. But then I got the phone call. "Come on, Liina, it's important." She blinks a few times and looks at me with sleep heavy on her eyes. 

"Is it time for school?" "No, sweetheart, we have to go to your parents' house. Something's going on." Her eyes open wide. "Do you know what it is?" "No idea. Let's get dressed and we'll go there right now." I throw on my clothes and head to my mother's bedroom. "I'm taking the car," I yell through the door, "We'll be back soon." Now's no time to walk to her parents' house. I hear a muffled, "'Kay," and grab the keys from their position on the counter. 

Liina emerges from our room dressed and scared. "I really hope nothing bad happened," she says quietly. I walk up to her and hold her against my chest. "Even if something has happened, we'll deal with it together." She allows herself a moment to relax before we rush out of the house and into the car. After a short drive full of discontent and fear, we reach the towering home. Liina doesn't wait for me, running ahead into her family's home. I follow shortly after. Her mother and siblings sit with somber looks on their faces. 

"What's happened?" Liina frantically asks her mother with the most imploring, fearful look on her face. "Your father… I threw him out." "W-what?" Liina stutters the response in shock. This is... very unexpected, though, I must say, not unwelcome. I always really hoped that her mother would find her own strength. "No matter what I said," Ms. Nash elaborated, "he refused to go to your graduation. He was so angry and bitter, and I... I couldn't imagine staying with someone who couldn't love our child. That's... unforgivable."

Liina sits for a minute, taking it all in. Sure, he was her sole physical abuser, but he was her father. Liina, even though I think she shouldn't, loves her father a lot. "I thought a lot about what you said," her mother continues, turning to me, "and I realized that you were right about everything. And I realized you care for my daughter the way she deserves. You make her happy, and I trust you with her." I smile. "I promise to show you every day that your trust is not misplaced." 

"Where is Dad now?" Liina pipes up, her concern evident in her shaking voice. "I don't know. It's not like he has any close friends or relatives." Liina turns to me with the saddest look in her eyes. "We have to find him, Carmela. Knowing Dad, he'd rather be on the streets than ask for help." Well, this is quite the dilemma. Her father... I can't say I like him much. But for Liina... "Alright. Let's find him."

We spend all of that night looking to no avail. And after school the next day, we look some more. But no matter how many hours we comb downtown, we see no sign of her father. 

"Carmela?" Liina turns to me as we drive home from another long night of searching. "Yeah, babe?" "Do you think we'll ever find him?" "I have no idea... I'm sure he won't be gone forever. He still has your siblings to deal with." "Yeah..." Liina looks away, obviously upset. "Something else bothering you?" "Something Mom said... She said that she couldn't stay with someone who didn't love their child... Dad doesn't love me anymore..." 

Honestly, I don't know what to say right now. Liina's... heartbroken about her father, and I can't help in any way. I pull over to the side of the road and look at her directly, grasping her hand tightly. "I'm so sorry, Liina..." I let go of her hand and exit the car, heading around to her side. I open her door and gesture for her to step out onto the grass beside the road. We've parked on the edge of a large, clear field, miles from the city. She gives me a confused look, but steps out. 

It's late and the summer air sticks to our skin. Southern heat, nothing like it anywhere else. "Why did you want me to step out?" I ignore her question. "Look at the sky, Liina." She looks up and I can see the reflection of the stars in her dilated pupils. "It's beautiful..." she whispers softly, looking at the blackness flecked with white. "'All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish a single flame.'" I can tell she's listening, but she doesn't answer back.

I gently pick her up off of her feet, earning a slight noise of surprise. Still holding her, I sit down in the grass, her on my lap. "Look there," I say softly, pointing westward in the sky, "Do you see those three stars all in a line?" She looks to the sky for a long moment. "I see them." "That's Orion's Belt. There are some surrounding stars that take the shape of a man, Orion the Hunter. Do you see him?" "Yeah, I see him..." "What about those stars there," I change the direction of my finger, "in the shape of a W?" "Why are you showing me constellations, Carmela?" 

"I used to enjoy looking at them, when I was younger. I always dreamed that my father would take me outside like this and show them to me. But I had to learn them myself..." I blink away a few tears. "What I'm trying to say is... You have to cherish the memories you have of your father and just hope and pray that he'll come around one day. You had eighteen years to spend with your father, and those aren't gonna go away, even if he does. So... Just hold onto what you have and smile for me. It's been too long since I've seen your smile; you can't let anyone take that away." 

Liina looks up at me for a long moment, considering my sincerity and the exposure of my feelings. She slowly turns back the sky. "What are those stars over there?" she asks earnestly, pointing toward the southern sky. "The Big Dipper. It's supposed to look like a ladle; do you see that?" She nods. For another hour, we sit there in that field, getting bitten by all the bugs in Georgia just to learn the constellations. By the end of my lesson, she's smiling.

"This humidity is unbearable..." she yawns, curling up against my chest. "Yeah... Wanna head home?" She shakes her head no against my chest. I laugh to myself. She's adorable when she's tired. "Tomorrow's our last day of grade school..." I whisper softly. "I know... Isn't it exciting?" "Actually... Yeah, it is... We graduate next Saturday, Liina..." "Yeah..." "Liina?" "Hmm?" "You're... You're coming to college with me, aren't you?"

Liina smiles at me. "You're worried about something silly like that? Of course I'm coming with you!" I smile to myself and wrap my arms around her small frame. "You're tiny, you know that?" "Is that some sort of crack about my height? Because you know I weigh more than you." I laugh a little. "Yeah, maybe it is a crack about your height. And the only reason you weight more than me is because of these," I say, grabbing her breasts through her shirt for emphasis.

She looks up at me as I wrap my arms around her once more. "I love you so much, Carmela." "I love you too." "I never thought..." she starts, trailing off, "I never thought I would find... I never thought I could find someone like you... Someone that I would love... I spent all of my life hating myself because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't like boys, and that was wrong somehow..." She lays her head against my chest, continuing, "But meeting you made everything feel right."

I hold her against me, gently kissing the top of her head. "You make me the happiest I've ever been, Liina." This woman... I owe her so much... Because of her, I again believe in love. Because of her, I've been able to reconnect with my father. Because of her, my mother has someone else to stay sober for. I continue with my train of thought from before, "You make life worth living."

It's true, life was hard to live without Liina. I had to single-handedly provide for myself and my alcoholic mother, who was emotionally unavailable. At times, I wondered whether I should just end my life and be done with it all. I considered self-harm, suicide, and all of the things that go along with it. But... I never did anything. I knew in my heart that no matter how bad it got, I'd only be dealing with it until I moved out. I'm so glad I never did anything, now that I have Liina.

Liina sniffles all of a sudden, and I realize that she's crying. Not happy tears, but tears of deep sorrow and mourning. "We're gonna find him, Liina. I promise."

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