CHICKEN PINEAPPLE PIZZA FOR NEW YEAR'S

Submitted into Contest #179 in response to: End your story with a kiss at midnight.... view prompt

4 comments

Drama Fiction Romance

I swiped on my last layer of mascara, mentally going through the days to do list. Drop Evie off with the babysitter, go to work, pawn that damn wedding ring, pick Evie up, go home.

My dad finally left my mom eight months ago, retired from the police force, and has been traveling for months. I can’t believe he stayed that long; I would’ve left her decades ago. But he chose unhappiness, pumped out two kids, and successfully screwed us up. My alcoholic brother was recently kicked out of college, and then me, disappointed with my parents, disappointed with my brother, disappointed with life.

Except Evie of course, she was a God send.

My parents casually dated two months before getting pregnant with me at twenty. My grandfather insisted they marry, or they would be cutoff, so down the aisle came my mother, hiding her tears, and me, in her flowy wedding dress.

My dad loved my mom, but as far as I could tell, she never loved him. I knew that before I saw what I saw, and even my self-absorbed brother knew. But my dad enjoyed his head stuck in the sand, so we let it stay there. I used to feel bad for him, a part of me always will, but at some point, he needed to take control of his happiness. I might be unhappy, but at least I have Evie.

After he left my mom gave me her wedding ring, I wanted nothing to do with.

“I thought you might want to sell it. Pay off those student loans you’ll have until you’re sixty.”

“Oh. Thanks.” She dropped the ring in my hand and left.

I put it in a drawer where it’s stayed hidden. Until today.

She resented me for how her life turned out. She could’ve had an abortion; it was only the 90's. She could’ve told her father she wasn’t marrying a man she didn’t want to. She could’ve left my dad years ago. I made none of her decisions, yet I was the scapegoat.   

It seemed like everyone I knew was divorced now.

All my friend’s parents, the lawyers at my law firm, and my next-door neighbors, married forty-three years. Apparently, marriage makes you miserable.

My phone vibrated, startling me back to reality.

“Hey Scott.” I answered.

“Hey. I was able to take off the afternoon, so I thought I would pick up Evie early. I’ll bring her over once you get home from work. Is that ok?”

“Sure, that’s fine.”

“Maybe I could pick up a pizza? We could have dinner together. It is New Year’s Eve.”

“Umm, I have a lot of work to do.”

“Why are you working on New Year’s? Isn’t your law firm closed?”

“I'm leading four meetings Monday. And you’re working too.”

“Well, I have too. Restaurants are slammed today. So, pizza sounds good?”

I stayed silent.

“You have to eat, Julia. It’s just a pizza.”

“Maybe. Just let me get through today, ok?”

Scott was the handsome bartender near campus. We started casually sleeping together my second year of law school. One year later, I was pregnant. I waddled across the stage at graduation, Evie poking through my robe, while Scott beamed in the stands at my swollen stomach. I told him he didn’t have to be a part of her life, I had it covered. Instead of being grateful, like I assumed most guys would, he was horrified.

“Are you serious, Julia? I will be a part of her life every damn day until I'm dead.”

That was a bit dramatic. “Yeah, ok. That’s great. I won’t keep you away.”

He scoffed. “You better not."

“I won’t. I promise." I reached out and touched his forearm. He softened instantly.

“Actually, Julia, I would like to be part of both your lives. I know you insisted on casual, but things have changed. You’re smart, funny, beautiful, and you’re carrying my child. I would like to try this family thing with you.” He gave a hopeful smile.

Scott was a good guy, but no, I would not marry him. I would not say I love you, and any feelings that show up, will be shoved down with all the others I avoid. I softened up the wording, but made it clear we would not be a traditional family. He should marry someone else, live that life with her. I had a family, it sucked, and I was not going through that again.

I grabbed the ring, got Evie out of the crib, slung her diaper bag over my shoulder, and headed to her babysitter.

As we drove, the diamond on the ring sparkled each time the sun hit, leaving me no choice, but to remember.

“Uncle” Bobby, was my dad’s partner on the force, and best friend. He was in my parents depressing wedding and gifted me a yellow baby blanket after I was born. He was married with kids, and we spent every summer playing shark and marco polo in his pool.

I was sixteen, and recently landed a lifeguarding job at the waterpark in town. I got to work that day, only to realize I read the schedule wrong, and was off. Already in my swimsuit, and trying to avoid my mother, I drove to Uncle Bobby’s to swim. No one answered when I knocked, so I went around the side of the house, and jumped the gate that led to the pool.

I had just walked around the rose bushes when I saw them.

They were in the pool. Bobby’s back was facing me, and my mom’s legs were wrapped around his waist, as they pawed all over each other like teenagers. As my mother ran her fingernails across his back, the sun hit the diamond on her wedding ring, temporarily blinding me. I hopped back over the fence and left, never telling anyone.

Before that moment, I like to think I had a shred of hope for my own family one day. But I realized then, you couldn’t trust anyone. Not friends, or parents, or spouses. I made a choice to be financially independent, never marry, and never have kids.

But little Evie had her own plan, fighting, and winning the battle against my birth control, and welcomed herself into my quiet, little world.

But everything else would stay on track.

“Ok baby girl, we’re here.” I whispered to her sleepy, chunky face. I dropped her off, got back in my car, and worked hard to fight off the mom guilt. I was glad Scott would be there early.

I walked into work and spent the next four hours prepping for Monday’s meetings.

“Knock, knock!”

I looked up. There stood my dad and a woman, both beaming obnoxious smiles at me.

“Surprise! Kathy, this is Julia, Julia, this is Kathy. Get over here kid, give your dad a hug.” He walked over and wrapped me up tight. “Now stop working, it’s a holiday for crying out loud! We want to take you to lunch.”

“Hi… How did you know I was here?”

“When you didn’t answer, I called Scott. What a great guy." He turned back to Kathy, "Kathy, you’ve got to meet Scott next, he’s the best. Hilarious.”

“Evie first, then Scott. You know I love babies.” Her giant smile remained as she spoke.

“I’m sorry, Kathy, was it? Umm… who are you?”

“Julia,” my dad’s whole face was smiling now. Even his forehead looked happy. “This is my fiancée!”

“I'm sorry, what?”

“My fiancée! Show her the ring, honey.”

Kathy shoved the ring in my face.

“Isn’t it amazing! Julia, I am so happy to meet you. How’s little Evie doing? How was her Christmas? We were so sorry to miss it.”

“Evie’s great.” I turned back to my dad. “I’m sorry, but I’m confused. It’s ok I’m confused, right?”

“Let’s head to lunch and we will explain everything.”

My dad grabbed Kathy’s hand and they motioned for me to follow. Stunned into submission, I did.

We sat down, ordered our food, and I got the run down on what the hell happened. Kathy, just like my dad, was divorced and traveling. They met in Charleston during a tour of historical homes, where they bonded over their love of history. They hit it off, fell in love, spent the last six months together, and got engaged yesterday. I was skeptical, for good reason, but even I couldn’t deny the happiness sitting in front of me.

“Well, I’m in a bit of shock, but if you are happy, I’m happy. Congrats guys.”

“A toast to my two best girls finally meeting.” My dad said. We clinked glasses just as our food showed up.

“A chicken sandwich with extra pickles, and barbeque sauce?” The waiter asked.

“That’s me.” Kathy raised her hand.

“Kathy loves pickles and barbeque sauce, Julia. It's so funny, she eats them on everything.” My dad giggled. Giggled. “My little weirdo.” He kissed her cheek.

“Oh hush, Mr. I drink my mimosa with lemonade! I mean, who does that?” Now Kathy giggled.

I stared, then blinked, then looked down at my boring salad.

“Can I have a pickle, darling?” My dad asked.

The word darling should never come after the word pickle.

“Of course.”

Kathy lifted up the bun of her sandwich as my dad reached over and grabbed a pickle. Who is this man and what did he do with my dad?

We talked more about their travels, Evie of course, Scott a little, then we made plans to meet in a few weeks. We said our goodbyes and I watched them walk off hand in hand, still giggling.

I tried to work, but I couldn’t get their smiling faces off my mind. My dad was happy, actually happy. I watched him try for years, but my mother never allowed it. Then out of nowhere, here comes Kathy, the pickle, barbecue sauce lover, making my dad giggle and day drink champagne. I wish I had seen that side of my dad before now. Maybe then, I wouldn’t be such a cynic.

I got off work and headed to the pawn shop, eager to get rid of the ring. The ring I had to see on my mother’s finger that day, and every day after that. It wasn’t expensive, I was hoping to get a grand at most, but she was right, anything would help my student loans.

“Eight hundred dollars.” The old man said after peering at it for five minutes.

“Nine hundred?” I countered.

“No ma’am, eight hundred is all I can offer.”

“Deal.” Whatever, just take it please.

My dad and Kathy made me question everything I thought I wanted. I had myself convinced, marriage, whether ending in divorce or not, made you miserable. You could trust no one. Stay smart and don’t fall in love. But what if I was wrong? My phone dinged a text from Scott. Sweet Scott, who I pushed away. For no good reason.

“About to order the pizza. You like pineapple and chicken, right?”

I was shocked he remembered. We only had pizza once when I was pregnant with Evie. I rarely did anything couples tend to do with him. Or anyone. But I was starving after the doctor appointment he insisted on coming to, so we ran down the street to his favorite pizza place. I ordered a chicken and pineapple pizza, which he found hilarious.

“Yes, I do. I’m surprised you remember.” I wrote back.

“I remember a lot about you. Even your weird pizza order.”

On the drive home I made a hasty decision to follow in my dad’s footsteps. Not the first twenty-eight years I knew him, I wanted nothing to do with that. But this new dad, who traveled, and drank champagne, and giggled, and fell in love despite all my mother put him through. I wanted to be like that dad.

I walked in my house to Evie, Scott, and the smell of pineapple and chicken on pizza.

“Hey, Scott. Thanks for the pizza.” I scooped up Evie and gave her a million kisses.

“Happy to do it.” He smiled at me, while setting the table with two plates, two glasses, two napkins, and two pieces of pizza. I liked seeing two of everything.

“There's a bottle of champagne in the bottom drawer. Want to open it?” I asked.

“Really?” His eyes lit up. “Are we celebrating something?”

“Well, it is New Year’s.”

“Oh. Right.”

I took a deep breath before I chickened out. I reached in my pocket and placed the eight hundred dollars on the table. He looked at me confused.

“I was wondering if you would like to take a trip with me and Evie. Somewhere close of course, eight hundred won’t get us far.” I looked down, nervous he would say yes, nervous he would say no.

“Really? I barely get to have dinner with you two, and you want to take a family trip?” He was skeptical.

“Yeah. I do.” I really do.

We popped open the champagne, ate our pizza, and talked about the places we could go, while little Evie bounced and giggled on his lap.

“What about Charleston?” I asked.

“I’ll go anywhere you two would like.” He looked at me, holding my gaze, and for the first time, I didn’t look away. I didn’t force my brain to think about work or Evie or my to do list. I let myself look back, into his kind, handsome eyes.

Our moment was broken by Evie’s little cries.

“Looks like it’s bedtime for you.” I got up to grab her.

“I can put her to bed. I would love to, honestly. Enjoy your champagne and weird pizza, we’ll be back.” I smiled, watching them walk down the hall.

I looked at my ring finger, the one I planned to keep bare. I thought of Kathy’s ring and what it would look like on my finger. I wondered what it would be like to have dinner with Scott and Evie every night. I wondered if I was so, so wrong to push him away, because my home life was screwed up.

“Alright, that was a success.” He smiled proudly. I watched him fidget with the baby monitor, then hold it up to his ear, then shake it.

“What are you doing?”

“I can’t hear her breath.” He frowned at the monitor and shook it again.

I burst into tears.

“Hey, hey, what’s wrong?”

He sat down and placed his hand on my cheek.

“You’re wonderful, Scott. Really, really wonderful.”

“Well…thank you.” Poor guy didn’t know what was going on.

“I’m so sorry.” I whispered.

He didn’t need to ask why.

“It’s ok.”

I rested my head on his shoulder, while we sat in comfortable silence.

“You want to watch the ball drop?” He asked.

“Sure.”

We filled our champagne flutes and leaned back on the sofa. We inched closer and closer, while we watched different musical guests perform.

The host came back on.

“Ok, this is it! Everyone say goodbye to 2022! Ten, nine, eight, seven.”

I took a breath, fought off my nerves, and looked at Scott, “Three, two, one.”

As the clock struck twelve, we kissed. And in that moment, I finally let myself admit, I wanted to kiss him every night, for the rest of my life.

December 31, 2022 23:00

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

4 comments

Michał Przywara
22:02 Jan 18, 2023

As I read this, I was struck by a sense of "like mother like daughter", except the daughter is doing her best to make different decisions than her mother did. Like the not-marrying one. She's cynical, but I suspect so was her mother, essentially bullied into marriage. And then, she passed that down. But despite the shaky start, the protagonist does appear to be walking her own path, and by the end she's even been able to re-evaluate her own cynicism. So, a bitter start and a happy end :)

Reply

Kasey Fisher
17:22 Jan 20, 2023

Thank you for reading! It's one of my few stories that have a happy ending. I tend to write dark, but I do enjoy when my protagonist has an "Aha" moment. Thanks again!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Wendy Kaminski
01:59 Jan 12, 2023

Kasey, this was such an awesome story, and so engrossing that I forgot everything else I was doing. It's not only a beautiful love story, but I am such a sucker for second chances, and you crafted both parallel story lines so well! The dialogue, both internal and external, was definitely a strong suit, too. I really enjoyed this story - thanks for sharing it!

Reply

Kasey Fisher
20:50 Jan 12, 2023

I am thrilled you enjoyed it! Thank you so much for your kind words, made my day!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply