CW: Violence, Addiction
“We haven’t known him very long.” I poured a martini and sat next to my wife.
She looked angry, but that was normal. “Do you really think it would stop her if you said ‘no’?”
I flexed my jaw. Of course it should stop her. I’m her father, my opinion should count for something. I took a sip of the harsh liquid and glared at the door. “What makes you think he’s even going to ask?”
Stacy rolled her eyes. “Because I know our daughter. Why else would he be taking you to dinner?”
I shook my head. “In my day, you’d get to know a person’s family before--”
“In your day, you didn’t bother to ask.” She pursed her lips as she moved to answer the door.
I downed the rest of my drink and forced myself to stand. “Hello, Sir.” The boy stuck out his hand. I took it firmly, but he matched my grip. “Are you ready?”
“Sure.” I shoved my wallet into my pocket and followed him to his cheap sedan.
“I thought I’d take you to an Italian place. It’s where I took Maggie on our first date.” He was smiling.
“Doesn’t matter, kid. I’m buying.” I couldn’t let him be too comfortable.
“That’s very generous, but I don’t--”
“Don’t worry about it.” His manners were annoying. I slumped into the front seat and looked for a reason to hate him. The dash was spotless and the floors looked recently cleaned. I pushed the button’s on his presets. Classic Rock. I wrinkled my nose. Not even one of those garbage rap stations that are so popular these days. If it were me, I’d have changed them before coming over, but this kid was supposed to be more stupid.
“Feel free to put on whatever.” He noticed my fumbling with the radio.
I crossed my arms. “So what exactly are we doing here?”
The boy shrugged. “Well, I’m hoping we can have a nice evening and get to know each other a little.” He was too calm.
“And why get to know me? What could you and I possibly have in common?” I glanced at the dials, but he wasn’t speeding.
“For starters, we both love Maggie.”
His words hit me like a sucker punch. “Love?” I laughed. “You don’t know the first thing about love.”
“I’m sorry, but I beg to differ.” My temples began to throb. He was still too polite. Maybe silence would rattle him.
Ten minutes later, he backed into a parking spot and turned off the car. “I think you’ll like this place. It’s been one of my parent’s favorites for a long time.” I grimaced and hoped it might still be terrible. He held the door as we walked in.
“Two.” I addressed the hostess before he could. He needed to know that I was calling the shots. “By the window would be better, and I’ll take a Hendricks martini, dry.” The woman nodded and moved our menus. I took the seat facing the door. When she left, I decided it was time to look at the kid again. “So you think you’re in love.”
“No, sir. I know I am.” Now, he was just being arrogant.
“I was young once. Falling in love with every pretty girl that came my way, but--”
“Maggie is not just a ‘pretty girl.’” He was finally losing composure. “She is the most amazing woman I’ve ever known, and I intend to spend the rest of my life giving her the love she deserves.”
A waitress finally arrived with my martini and the kid’s piss colored beer. She asked something, but I waved her away and turned back to the kid. “So that’s the angle then? You’re going to propose and you want to ask for my blessing?”
“No, sir. I’m not asking.” I raised my glass to my lips. “I think Maggie has earned the right to make her own choices. I’m just here as a courtesy. I know you and Maggie don’t have the greatest relationship, but--”
“My relationship with my daughter is none of your concern!” I looked him in the eye and let my fist hit the table.
He held my gaze. “...but I was raised to let a father know before asking his daughter to marry.”
I gritted my teeth. “You don’t know the first thing about marriage, boy.” I stood and dropped a hundred on the table. “Thanks for the courtesy.” I didn’t need to hear anymore.
The wind burned my cheeks as I stepped outside. I marched towards the bar we’d passed on the way. I wrapped my arms around myself, but my thoughts were too consuming to let the cold bother me. The kid had no idea what he was asking. I pushed my way into the bar and grabbed a stool. The bartender was quick. I liked that. My eyes drifted across the clear liquid he’d poured as my ears grew hot. I raised the girl. I provided for her. My head fell back as I tipped the glass towards the ceiling and motioned for another. Clothes, shoes, college--all at my expense! I tightened the grip on my drink and watched it disappear too quickly. That boy had some nerve. I waved my empty glass losing track of how many I’d had. Stacy’s words echoed through my mind and I narrowed my eyes. My opinion matters. It is the only one that matters.
The bartender must have called a cab because someone was pushing me towards it. I focused on the floor mat as I climbed in, but felt lightheaded looking down. The lights on the dash danced in front of me as I tried to stop the world from spinning. I took a deep breath. Twenty years, and this kid thinks he can just take her from me. The cab finally stopped, but everything was still moving. I took deliberate steps as I walked towards the door. She had to know there’d be a price to let her go. Someone had to pay.
The house was unlocked. Stacy’s back was towards me as she washed dishes. She didn’t even bother to acknowledge me. I grabbed her shoulder and spun her around. “What’s wrong with you?” I asked. She was telling me to be calm. I took both of her arms and pinned her against a wall. “You think you know everything.” I squeezed as if I was trying to make her arms part of my fists. I was starting to feel less angry, but she started whining that I was hurting her. I slapped her mouth. Power surged through my throbbing hand, but I wanted more. I grabbed her hair and threw her to the floor. She tried to stand, but I drove my fist into her gut. The crying finally stopped.
I dragged my hand along the wall as I stumbled to the living room. The world was spinning again, but I’d made my point. I collapsed onto the couch. There was a strange noise. Sirens? I snuggled into the sofa because I knew they weren’t for me. I had a good wife. She never called the cops. I smiled. It was something the kid would never understand.
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