I look up at him, adoringly, my strong Daddy, my knight-in-shining armor. No man will ever compare to him as I age. I am not quite aware of this yet, but it’s true .
"Smile for the camera. Say cheese!" His authoritative, booming voice is like a down blanket, comforting to me in its warmth and substance. I grin, showing pearly white teeth, hoping I don’t blink as the camera shutter clicks.
The scratchy sequins irritate my sun-kissed skin, forming a flaming red rash. I pull the costume away from my body, to breathe, and to escape the itchiness. A wisp of brown hair falls into my eyes and I blow it away.
"Just a few more" My Daddy says. The sun is high in the sky and casts bright rays of gold down upon us. The balmy air blows, tickles my heavily rouged cheeks.
"Hurry up, Richie. We have to leave soon." That is Mommy, standing on the back porch, leaning on the railing, her arms crossed in front of her. She is smoking a cigarette and I can’t help but watch in fascination as she pulls in her cheeks, sucking in that horrible, choking gray smoke, than releases it in a foul puff.
"Are you excited?" He asks, interrupting my brief reverie. I think of the stage, the bright lights, the flowers I’ll surely get. Pangs, like butterflies, beat frantically in my belly.
"Yes!" But as I say it, prickles of unease form along my bare arms. I nervously dig the toe of my black tap shoe into the dirt. I can almost see all the blobs in the audience, their faces a blur of black with grinning lips. It’s too hard to make out features with those blaring lights shining on me.
"Don’t be nervous, Chicky Babe." Daddy says, as if sensing my apprehension. His nickname for me always makes me smile. Chicky Babe. I almost want to cluck in response. Instead I giggle. "Just smile and dance your heart out. We’ll all be watching."
It’s comforting, knowing my family will be out there, but especially my Daddy. I know my dance recitals aren’t the most exciting form of entertainment for him, but I couldn’t imagine one without him. I watch patiently as he slings the camera strap over his shoulder and turns to walk towards the car. He pauses then turns back with an inquiry in his eyes as I hesitate. Daddy holds out his hand and with a huge grin, I eagerly slip my small fingers into it. We walk hand in hand to the car.