disappeared dad

her father's smile is always telling of who he is: wide, not with a lot of teeth, and always reaching up to his eyes.

they've always crinkled when he's smiled at her, and she's always liked crows feet on people's faces because of it. as a child, she understood the sense from other people that not having a mother was bad, that her father deciding to raise her on his own wasn't the most en vogue thing; particularly because ari saylor was never a normal parent by any measure. he let her discover things on her own, indulged less than "cute" interests — he was the very person who got her into horror movies. one of her favorite memories as a child was being allowed to watch gremlins with him. she had proven she could watch it — the rating was pg, after all and she could only watch pg movies. they had a shared sense of delight with the monstrous little beings on screen, in talking together afterwards about the things they had both liked. he'd been the one to introduce her to math on his own in a way more advanced than what she had in the classroom, been the one to always encourage her to go purim and halloween both.

ari wasn't perfect. there were times that it seemed he was disappointed in how much she had given to others or when they were both stubborn. molly hadn't been a perfect kid either: she'd snuck out of the house to attend concerts she shouldn't have gone to, had gotten angry when he'd put her foot down with her sleeping with people almost twice her age, had lashed out before.

but that was normal, wasn't it? to he ornery, to disagree. what matter was that he never gave up, that he never resented her when he had every reason to. she hadn't been planned, he could have let her mother take her or even never claimed her. but he'd made a promise to her when she was born. and he'd kept it.

he'd always been there for her, had always loved her in a way that her birth mother had never acknowledged. when she'd come to him, at sixteen years old, weeks along, he hadn't been happy — but he hadn't tossed her out. he'd held her, told her that they would get through this, let her make her own choice. his thumb had wiped away the tears at her eyes, and his smile reached his eyes, the crows feet deepening when he'd said, "i love you, molly. i'll always be here for you — and whoever you have."

it had been true then: and remained true when she hadn't gone to college, when she had devoted more of herself to gabe, and then laura, and jenny, and now lily. remained true when she had become more than molly, when she had come to him in tears, months ago.

he was her father. he loved her. he always smiled at her in that crinkling, kind way.

right now, however, when he opens the door and smiles at her, his smile does not reach his eyes. in fact: she can't even see them. he's wearing sunglasses that are stylish, nice. ari saylor has never been stylish, always sticking to his slightly rumped, distracted professor look unless he'd been berated into it. the shirt that he wears is white, the jeans a whitewash, and his smile is too toothy, too sharp.

no. it isn't a smile.

it's a baring of teeth.

she bares her teeth back at him, hand clenching. "you're not my father."

the thing wearing his face, baring his teeth speaks, but it's not through just one mouth: it's three, the other two behind the sunglasses. "what tipped you off? was it the bad dream?"

magic flares up in her chest — whatever, whoever this thing was, she was going to make sure that it was going to regret taking over her father like this.