I t was 1AM when Daddy woke me up. Mommy was away sick in the hospital again so it was just Daddy and I. He told me to get dressed because we had a bus to catch. I was only 8 at the time so I didn't think much of this random behavior since it had become a norm in our home. I was a mini version of my dad. My head was full of blonde hair and I was petite in stature. I had quickly changed from my pajamas into a t-shirt, pink jacket and jeans. Dad had on his jeans, work boots and the flannel jacket he always wore. He was holding coffee in his hand. He worked in construction and built houses for a living. He looked like he was going to work.
It was really dark out, but I followed him to the highway where the bus stop was located. Our house sat a few hundred feet in from the highway, so the walk wasn't very far. It was so cold outside that I started to shiver. Soon enough, the bus arrived and out from the distance, I saw that popular city name in bright lights-
Atlantic City . I quickly turned and asked my Dad, "Hey, why are we going to AC?"
He replied, "I have to pick up some things." That's all he said, and I didn't pry for more information. I just shrugged it off as any little girl would and boarded the bus.
The bus soon came to a stop on a very dark street in front of Showboat Casino. The Casino had big, bright lights outside. You could see this casino coming down off the highway. Following it was a stretch of other casinos along the main strip. It was late. Not many people were seen other than a handful of regulars. Some were outside smoking. Others were coming in and out of the doors to the casino. It seemed quiet. As it was late, I didn't think I would see many people. The air of the evening had a crisp smell. I shivered from the cold. The arcade had an entrance both outside and inside the casino so children could have a place to go while their parents gambled.
My Dad took my hand and walked me into an arcade just outside of the casino on the corner. Entering through the double doors we walked towards the arcade. The smell of smoke was strong. You could hear the slot machines going. You could tell when someone had won because of the loud sirens coming from the machines. All the lights attracted my attention as we walked through the rows of people and machines to get to the arcade.
He handed me some money and said, "Go play. I will be right back."
A little frightened I said, "No, Daddy I don't want to stay by myself." He knelt down and reassured me saying, "I will be right back." He then quickly went off out of the arcade and down the street. I watched him walk away till I couldn't see him anymore. I took the money and began to play. There weren't many people in the arcade so I had it all to myself. I was really scared someone would come take me so I held the money tight in my hands and continued to play.
A little over an hour later, Dad entered the arcade. I knew he had been drinking by the look on his face. He walked towards me with a sense of urgency and said, "Let's go." He didn't ask if I had eaten. He didn't ask if I was OK. He didn't say anything else to me-just, "Let's go." I didn't mind though. I was just so happy he finally came back that I didn't say a word and acquiesced to his request. I followed him outside and began to walk towards the end of the street. We soon came to a corner alley and my Dad began to talk to some stranger.
I kept asking him, "Who is that? What are you doing"? He just kept shrugging me off and turning his back so I wouldn't see what he was doing. Although he thought I was naïve, I knew exactly what he was doing. I wanted to believe it wasn't true. I wanted to believe that he had quit doing drugs and that things were different. I wanted to convince myself that my dream world was the reality and all of this was merely a dream. Well, it wasn't a dream, it wa