The room went very quiet, and all the men were very still. Uncle Sam broke out into a short, nervous laugh.
“What do you mean, no?” he asked the little girl.
“I shan’t sign your papers and you will not be purchasing the Acres,” Anna explained as if it was the simplest thing in the world.
“Anna,” Mr. McDermott spoke to his daughter, voice soft but furious. “This is a wonderful opportunity. I’ve run the numbers, and–“
“I don’t care about the numbers,” Anna crossed her arms, quite fed up with her father’s odd obsession with money. “I’m sure they’re very large. I care about the Acres.”
“Still, Anna, I am your father, and I must insist you sign the papers,” Mr. McDermott grit his teeth.
“I must insist I do not,” Anna parroted her father, certain using grown-up words couldn’t hurt in pleading her case.
“She’s just a kid,” one of the men in suits pointed out. “Just force her to–“
“What would you suggest I do?” Mr. McDermott whirled towards the man, looking quite unhappy. “Forge her signature? Force the pen into her hand?”
The man hesitated “Well–“
“Of course not,” Uncle Sam cut in, his tone soothing. Slowly, he bent down to face Anna once more. “Never. Anna, be reasonable.”
“I don’t think I’ll be reasonable today,” Anna lifted her chin in a gesture of quiet defiance. “Sorry.”
“…I see.” Uncle Sam sounded disappointed, but not angry. He stood back up. “I’ll be on my way, Mr. McDermott. But rest assured, we will stay in touch.”
“Of course, thank you,” Anna tightened her jaw as her father practically fell over himself to appease Uncle Sam. “I’m so sorry for the inconvenience.”
“Inconveniences happen,” Uncle Sam’s smile was cold yet bemused. “I am accustomed to dealing with them.”
Anna felt that this was a particularly ominous thing to say, but her father was not in the mood to notice this. Instead, he walked the men out, chattering and stuttering, casting a single, disappointed look at his daughter as he left her behind in his study.
After the men left, Anna’s father pulled her aside.
“Now, Anna, I recognize I am not the best father in the world,” he adjusted his spectacles, somewhat timid. “But I’ve done my best for you, and I’ve always expected you would do the same for me.”
“I do my best all the time,” Anna frowned, irked by this accusation.
“Sweetheart, you were suspended from school and embarrassed me in front of the future owners of the Acres,” Mr. McDermott sniffed. “You’ve become a… destructive, selfish force.”
“I’m not selfish,” Anna crossed her arms. She wasn’t sure if she knew what destructive meant but it didn’t seem like a wholly bad thing so she let it slide. “I just want everyone to be happy, and succesful, and achieve their dreams.”
“My dream has always been to do what’s best for you,” Mr. McDermott explained, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “With this money, we could move to a higher testing school district! We could live anywhere besides this miserable, crumbling town. Don’t you want that, Anna?”
“No,” Anna almost laughed at her father’s misguided intentions. “I don’t want to take more tests or live somewhere shiny and new. I’m happy here.”
“You won’t be forever,” Mr. McDermott frowned.
“Well, certainly not with that attitude,” Anna frowned back.
“Stop frowning like that,” Mr. McDermott’s frown deepened.
“Yes, father,” Anna sighed, leaning back. “But I still think you’re wrong. This is a wonderful place! If only you could see it.”
“I see things, Anna, far more clearly than you,” Mr. McDermott explained. “It comes with being an adult.”
“If you can see so clearly, why do you need glasses?” Anna asked.
Mr. McDermott’s face darkened, and it finally occurred to Anna that she was in trouble.
Next: Baby Lion! (Finally!)