“I never gave her away,” the old man says to the young man. “My invitation must have been lost in the mail.”
“She never belonged to you,” the young man says. “You can’t give away what you don’t own.”
The old man rolls his eyes. “You know what I mean. She never even told me she was getting married.”
“I don’t know you at all,” says the young man without emotion. “How could I know what you mean?”
The old man makes an effort to hide his frustration. This isn’t going the way he pictured it. “That’s right, you don’t know me. Do you know why that is? Have you ever wondered about me or anyone else in her past?”
“No. She has always been very open and honest about her past.”
“So you have her side of the story,” the old man says, his voice collapsing with discouragement. “I suppose that’s enough for you then.”
“She was just a child when it all happened.”
“So her memories of it all, they are,” he struggles to find the words that won’t offend, “a child’s point of view. They are her childhood memories.”
“Yes, I know,” the young man’s voice gives way to a hint of passion. “and despite her painful and tumultuous childhood she has not only survived but she is thriving.”
“I can see that,” the old man says, gaining control of the conversation, “after all, she caught you didn’t she?”
“I was not caught,” the young man’s voice rises as his composure dissipates. “She is not a trap I accidentally stepped in. She certainly doesn’t hold me back in any way.
A slight smile gives away the old man’s satisfaction in getting a reaction from the young man. “Jesus, you’re a literal and defensive kid. What are you, a lawyer?”
The young man hesitates, waiting for his composure to catch up with the conversation.
“You are, aren’t you.” The old man says with a nod. “You have that look about you.”
Their words float in the air, filling in gaps in stories and creating new ones.
A surrendering sigh rattles out of the old man. “I suppose that’s enough for me then. More than anything, I just wanted to know that she was all right. She is, I can see that she is taken care of. Thriving is more than I could have hoped for.”
“She has taken care of herself her whole life, since the day she was abandoned.”
“I didn’t_” the old man stops himself and stands to leave, “It doesn’t matter. This was more than I could have expected.” He starts to walk away and stops, tuning slowly he adds, “You should know, the thing about childhood memories is, they’re not complete. They’re not wrong, but they’re not always accurate. There’s a lot of pieces missing. We hide so much from our children in the belief that we’re protecting them. Who could blame us? Their innocence is so remarkably beautiful, who wouldn’t do everything they could to preserve it?”
The young man remains quiet and unaffected by the speech.
“Someday you will understand what I am trying to say.” The old man says. “She knows where to find me now.”
“Not that I’m expecting her to need me, but if she does, I’m here now.”
The young man gives a silent nod.
“I’m glad we met. Thank you.” The old man holds his hand out. It’s large and sturdy, covered in ashy calluses, it reminds the young man of the bucket on an excavator. He takes the hand and shakes it, looking into the old man’s wrinkled framed eyes.
The young man walks alone, thinking about her and the old man. He finds her through his phone. “How was it?” she asks, skipping over any greeting.
“It was fine. He was nice.” The young man tells her.
“Ha, great. Nice. What did he say?”
“He just wanted to know that you’re okay.”
“Right, like he has ever been worried about my well being.” The bitterness in her voice comes through the phone with impressive clarity. “So did you tell him how amazing my life is. How okay I am.”
“I didn’t have to. He could see it. He could see it through me.” He reports proudly.
“So you made a good impression,” she says. “You always do.”
“We all have our roles.”
“Did he ask to see me?”
“He said if you need him, he’s here now.”
“HA!” She says without laughing. “He will never have anything I need. He is only here now because I have everything and he,” she scoffs, “what he has makes no difference.”
“You have everything?” The young man asks with mild amusement.
“I have you don’t I?”
“Awwww, I’m going to cry,” he says with playful sarcasm. “The reappearance of your father has gone and made you sentimental.”
“Well you know, good help is hard to come by.” She matches his playful tone.
“Of course. Always professional. I would expect nothing less.”
“On that note, what do I owe you?” She asks with more seriousness.
“All business now. Really, I can’t take your money. You couldn’t afford me anyway.”
She laughs, “are we really going to do this?”
“It wasn’t a job, it was fun and I got to work on my straight guy act,” he says lightly, “which I might add, was incredibly convincing.”
“Just because you enjoy your work, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve compensation,” she says with authority. “If you ever want to make a decent living, you will have to expect to be paid for acting.”
“This was pro bono.”
“You’re impossible.” she sighs. “How about this, come by the flat. I’ve got some great hash, we can split.”
“Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse.”
Sometime in the near future, the young man will arrive at her door. She will greet him in her uniform, a Rolling Stones t-shirt that fits her like a hospital gown. “Honey, I’m home.” He will say cheerfully.
“Welcome home darling, your dinner is ready in the kitchen.” She motions to the sink in the corner that’s been designated as the kitchen because it provides water. A metallic tea box is open in the sink, exposing the fixings for their meal. A dark ball, metal spoon, and lighter lay seductively ready and waiting. The only other piece of furniture in the room is an old mattress with a blanket balled upon it. The pair lay there, side by side, enjoying the effects of their meal.
“He thought I was a lawyer,” the young man will say dreamily. This sends them both into a lazy laugh.
“You could be.” She says with her eyes closed. “You could be anything you want.”
“That’s why I am an actor,” he is fighting a losing battle to keep his eyes open. “Because then I can be whoever I want, whenever I want.” He lets his eyes close. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I don’t need to be anything,” she says slowly, her words blending together in a mumble. “I already have everything.”
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