I am four. My daddy does not like me.

I can tell because he looks at me funny. He smiles at Lina , he smiles at the boy we just met named John , and he smiles at the pretty lady who is with John . When daddy looks at me, his face crinkles up and his eyebrows crinkle up and he looks dark.

Lina is pretty, Lina is nice. Everyone says so and when Lina is around, all the grownups are always watching her, and laughing and smiling. Not me. I do not like when Lina visits. I wish she would go away.

Lina says she likes me. But down at the water just now, I am telling Lina a story. She doesn't hear me because she is looking all around the beach for John. Lina likes boys. She follows John all up and down the beach. Lina is ten. John is twelve. Lina runs away to look for him in the middle of my story.

I like John. I never met him before. He is a handsome boy. I heard Lina say that. John comes down to the water and sits down so I can talk to him. I tell him my story, about the hermit crab. He is very nice to me and he listens. Lina comes back and hears my story because John is there.

John talks to me like I am his age. When I am done, he says, let me tell you another one, and he does. Something about a dinosaur named Junior. He shows him to me. Can I have Junior? I say. He is unhappy and says No. Then he feels bad. You can play with Junior today, John says, but you must give him back to me. I promise.

He gives me Junior and I sit in the water, in the little waves. I make Junior dive and swim. Junior eats many fish and fights a shark. John is playing with me, pretending to be the shark. That is fun for a while, but all the other people are on the towels, so I go back.

I sit on the towel of the pretty lady. Her name is Belle. She is John's aunt. Belle is very nice. She asks me what I like. What color. Do I like dinosaurs. Horses. Do I play with dolls. What do I watch on television. You have pretty hair, she says. It is very fine. Daddy is looking at me from the next towel. He never looks at me like that.

I like Belle. She smells good. I ask if I could come to her house with John sometimes. She said she would like that but I must ask daddy.

I love daddy. He is a big handsome man. He has a scratchy moustache. He is mostly very sad. I ask, What's the matter, daddy? Daddy always says, Nothing, Samantha. Everything is fine. If daddy liked me he would be happy. Daddy likes Lina and when she is there, he smiles. Belle made daddy smile today. I don't.

Daddy speaks to Belle in French for a long time. He doesn't think I understand, but mommy taught me some words. Daddy says some things to Belle he should only say to mommy, like the love word. Belle doesn't like it. Her face gets angry and she says words in French that make daddy stop. He says, excuse me, in French. Belle smiles again soon. She is too nice to stay angry at daddy.

When they are done talking, I go back on the towel and lay down next to Belle. She smells very good. I fall asleep and when I wake up it is time to go home. I give Junior back to John and daddy carries me to the car. I feel his scratchy moustache on my neck and I whisper, please love me, daddy. He says, What did you say, Samantha?

Nothing, I say.

You can tell me.

I didn't say anything.

I ask if I could go in the car with Belle. No, said daddy. Belle is going home to her house and she is taking John to his house. We're going to go in our car to our house and Lina's house. You can't go with Belle.

We drive home and daddy doesn't say anything the whole way. I lie in the back seat. Lina is very nice to me: she is patting my hair. I look out the window. It is getting dark and I see water towers and street lights. I say, those are Martians. They are coming to get us.

Daddy doesn't answer.

Its a story, daddy. Lets make up a story.

Lina is waiting to see what daddy will do. I can see her looking.

Daddy doesn't answer. Then Lina looks at me. We both know a secret.

Samantha in 1982