At my mother’s house I couldn’t talk to him, I guess so I couldn’t tell him where she had taken me. I couldn’t call him or write or email or text.

I tried once. It was that same first summer and my cousins came to see our house. They were bored. We were out in the country and didn’t have a pool or basketball hoop or anything. We had woods but my cousin Vicky, who was six months older, wasn’t interested in deer trails. “Unless you got guns?” she laughed.

So we took turns riding my bike. When she wouldn’t give me my turn I tried calling Dad at our old house, if he was still there. I closed my door upstairs and called from there.

ME: Dad?

HIM: Emily! Good to hear from you.

ME: I’m mad.

HIM: Yeah? I can hear that.

ME: It’s Vicki.

HIM: Cousin Vicki?

ME: Yeah. She’s here. The whole day. We were taking turns on my bike but she won’t get off.

HIM: Yeah, I’d be mad too.

ME: I want to knock her off.

HIM: Maybe she likes making you mad?

ME: Yeah.

HIM: You could leave her to it. Let her ride without you.

ME: Yeah.

HIM (laughs): Take the fun out of it.

We laughed.

ME: I hate people like that.

HIM: The world’s full of people like that. You can’t hate them all.

ME: Why not?

HIM: Here’s a trick I use. Would you trade for Vicki’s life?

ME: No way.

HIM: So why trade an hour of yours to ruin an hour of hers?

We laughed.

HIM: Look for people who keep their deals.

ME: Yeah.

HIM: First be one of those people. They’re looking for you too.

ME: Yeah.

HIM: Maybe Vicki could learn that from you.

ME: It’s not my problem to teach her some lesson.

HIM (laughs): No, but let her see that about you.

Just then my mother’s father caught me talking on the phone. He’s a huge guy who worked construction on the George Washington bridge ramps. He opened my door without knocking and yelled. “Whatcha doing with that phone? Who you got on there?”

I jumped. “My dad.”

He rushed at me.

“You better not be telling him nothing. Get off there. Give me that.”

I didn’t. I hung up instead.