Sometimes he goes out so deep with me that the water is over my head and I get scared. Then he picks me up and holds me close to him — too close for me, but we are so far out that I can't let go. In the city pool at home, I am a good swimmer. I don’t even mind going down to the deep end sometimes, but it's different being here in the ocean.
His wife, Sissy, has frosted blond hair. She is the prettiest woman I have ever seen. She doesn't swim or make sandcastles. She sleeps on the blanket while my father and I swim.
I am wearing my purple two-piece bathing suit with white flowers all over the top and bottom. I am staying with my father for the summer. Even though I don't know him so well, he makes me call him Daddy. Daddy picked me up from Nana and Granddaddy Tate's, and we drove all the way from Mississippi to Jacksonville, Florida, where he and Sissy live. As soon as we walked in the door, Sissy started complaining about feeling cooped up. So we packed up and drove here to Panama City.
I don't really remember much about my daddy before now. He moved away when my mama died, and I'm real glad that I don't live with him all the time. Sometimes I'll get a card at Christmas or on what he thinks is my birthday. Nana always asks me if the card has any money in it. It never does.
"You sure are a pretty little girl" was all my father said when he first saw me at Nana's. I just kept on looking at the ground, hoping he'd go away, until Nana poked me in ribs. Then I said, "Thank you."
"How old are you now, ten?"
"No, sir, I’m twelve."
I could tell Nana really didn't want me to go with him, and I certainly didn't want to go, either. But she and I already had a big fuss about it — more than one fuss, in fact. Nana has never really liked my daddy, or his family. They are what she calls social — that means they drink.
In my mind, it would all be a whole lot easier on everybody if my daddy just stayed away. But Nana and Granddaddy Tate say he's got rights. If you ask me, which nobody does, they don't want to cause a big stink about me going with him, because they're scared of him.
CLAIMING GEORGIA TATE by Gigi Amateau. Copyright (c) 2005 by Gigi Amateau. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.
Excerpted from Claiming Georgia Tate by Gigi Amateau. Copyright © 2007 by Gigi Amateau. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.