Dad always told me his superpower was our little secret. I was in awe of him. When he ruffled my hair, I thought my heart would burst with pride. And when he said goodbye, I knew he was going out there to save the world.
I often saw his power in action on Dad-days when we walked down the high street. Somebody would barge into him, nearly knocking him over. He never protested, just picked himself up and shot me a grin. I grinned back, loving sharing the secret. Or sometimes, someone I recognised from his old job, or one of our neighbours would pass us without looking him in the eye. They didn’t see him, but they saw me. “Hello, Sammy,” they’d say, bending down and smiling at me. But they didn’t see Dad. They couldn’t see Dad. He would raise his eyebrows at me when they were gone, and I would squeeze his hand tighter. My dad could make himself invisible. Nobody else’s dad could do that.
Some days when he came round, even Mum couldn’t see him. She’d open the door when he rang the bell, and he’d slip into the hallway without her even looking at him. I’d watch from the top of the stairs as he hung up his coat and she returned to the kitchen as if nothing had happened. Then he’d come up and I’d jump into his arms.
“How come you’re being invisible to Mum today?” I asked him once.
He hesitated before looking me in the eyes. “Secret mission, Sammy. It’s better I don’t tell you too much, but there’s a big super-villain looking for me today. Best to be as invisible as possible.”
I felt a thrill of fear and excitement, and clung tighter to his neck. The ends of his curly hair tickled my eyelids, and I breathed in his special Dad smell: cigarettes and aftershave. Then I pretended to be sleepy so that he would stay kneeling there cuddling me a bit longer. Sliding down into his lap, I traced the scars on his face and his arms, thinking about the battles he’d fought and all the bad people he’d beaten. It was one of my favourite things to do, but after a moment he moved his arm away and I looked up at him. “Dad…” I said, finally voicing a question that I had never dared to ask. “How come I can always see you?”
He stared at me in surprise and then picked me up again in a bear hug. “Cos you’re special, Sammy. You will always be able to see me.”
And so it went on — visible, invisible — until the day Dad disappeared completely. Mum had a few theories about where he’d gone, but I didn’t want to hear them. I knew he was out there somewhere, saving us all, unable to come back. I pressed my face up against the window and watched for him every evening. You will always be able to see me, he’d said. You’re special, he’d said. And so I watched. I watched all those ordinary, visible men, and their ordinary, visible daughters. I watched them come and go for three months. They came and went, but never disappeared.
On the ninety-third evening I pressed my hand to the glass, turned from the window and went to bed. And in the darkness under my duvet I shared the night with a thought so weighty I could almost see it: At least one of the things he’d told me wasn’t true.
Mel George lives in the original Oxford and writes things on trains. In some of her spare time she edits The Pygmy Giant magazine, at www.thepygmygiant.com.