Judy rubbed her legs with the towel as she breathed in deeply. She loved the smell of being clean. Her head rocked back and she closed her eyes as she wrapped the towel around her dark brown hair.
Next she applied a generous coat of body lotion. She wasn’t sure who’s idea it was to mix cucumber and melon together as a scent, but she was glad they did. She took more deep breaths as she finished dressing, enjoying the fragrant respite from housework and gardening.
Her mind started planning the evening’s dinner as she entered the kitchen and moved dishes from the counter to the cabinets. The bus would be stopping soon, depositing what must be the two most ravenous boys in the entire neighborhood. She would have snacks ready.
A knock at the door interrupted her progress with the dishes. She dried her hands with a towel as she opened the door.
Before she could even take account of the man standing in front of her, her stomach tightened and she caught herself taking a step back. The smell of sweat, urine and vomit blended with alcohol in a way that caused her to hold her breath for a moment.
The small, almost frail-looking, man appeared harmless and homeless. The sneakers on his feet were tattered and torn. His pants and shirt were smeared with dirt and stained in splotches. She realized that her nose had wrinkled and she made a conscious effort to keep her face from showing any reaction to the foul smell. She tried to take short breaths to avoid the smell as much as possible.
“Judy,” the man finally spoke.
Her lungs instinctively drew in a deep breath as she heard his voice. Could it be?
“I’m sorry to bother you.”
Tears began to well in her eyes as her mind raced. This man had his voice, and his eyes – now that she finally looked into them. But beyond that he looked foreign to her.
“The last time we saw each other, you told me I needed to get help.”
Oh how she had missed that voice.
“I was too stubborn to listen, but I’m here because…” his voice trailed off as he lowered his head.
Five years was a long time. Where had he been? She let the towel fall from her hand.
“I’m here because I’m ready to get that help.” He raised his eyes to hers as he said it. They were filled with tears.
He held his hands out with his palms up as if asking for help. She leaned into him and stretched her arms around him. She wanted to say something but she could only cry. She felt his bony arms squeeze her as they embraced.
“I’ve missed you, Daddy.” She finally managed to say.
“I’ve missed you, too, sweetie.”
She leaned her head onto his and breathed in deeply. With her eyes closed she could smell his cologne. It was Cowboy Musk or something like that. It was what he always wore. And while she was pretty sure he hadn’t had any of that for a long time, she could smell it as they embraced. And it smelled good. It smelled like dad.