“Dad, when was the last time you had a date?” I asked.
He jerked his head up, glaring at me.
“Whoa, it was just a question,” I said. I took another bite of my calzone.
I watched his eyes soften and the hint of a smile play on his mouth.
“Holy shit, Dad! Five years?!”
“Brooklyn, must the whole restaurant know?”
“I’m sorry. It’s just, wow. Five years. Yikes.” I sipped my Coke, eyes wide, eyebrows raised in disbelief.
“Will you wipe that look off your face?” he asked. “There’s no one out there. What do you want from me? And anyway, I’m your father. We shouldn’t be discussing this.”
“What does being my father have to do with it?” I asked. “Now my English teacher is single. And she’s cute.” I bit into my calzone and continued with my mouth full. “And surprisingly not an idiot.”
“Are most of your teachers idiots?”
Dad chuckled. “Glad to know my tax dollars contribute to well-deserved salaries.”
“Oh, Dad,” I said airily. “Let’s not get all political. Let’s talk about Ms. Manning.”
“Let’s not,” Dad replied.
I ignored him. “She’s in her early forties, I think, but she totally looks like she’s in her thirties. Nice skin and hair. She always looks really professional. Dresses to the nines. Her shoes are fabulous.”
“Brooke . . .”
“And she’s an avid runner. She told me she runs about four miles a day and tries to do a long run of about ten miles every Saturday,” I continued.
“And she’s competing in her first half-marathon this November.”
“Brooke!” Dad interrupted. “I’ve got a gut, okay? I’m not dating a runner.”
I pursed my lips and watched Dad run his hand through his chestnut hair.
“Dad, you barely have a gut. And you’re really handsome. It’s time you get back out there on the field,” I said.
Dad burst out laughing.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Dad snorted. “I just love the way you compliment me, that’s all.”
I grinned. “Well, it’s true. It’s barely there,” I laughed. “Go date Ms. Manning and start running with her, and it’ll be gone in a week. Jeez, it’s so unfair. Men can lose weight like that!” I said, snapping my fingers.
“Oh, no they can’t,” Dad argued.
“Well, whatever. Will you just promise me that you’ll keep an open mind and start looking?” I should have left it right there, but I couldn’t. “Mom’s gone.”
“Hmm,” Dad replied. He rubbed his forehead and looked at me. “Kind of like how Beth’s gone.”
I tensed. “What are you saying?”
“Honey, you don’t do anything but go to school and work and hang out with Gretchen. I’m not blind.”
“As a matter of fact, I’m going to a party tonight.”
Dad’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh really? Where is it and who’s throwing it?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Some rich guy whose parents are gone for the weekend.” I winked at him.
“Very funny, Brooke,” Dad replied. “Where is it and who’s throwing it?”
I sighed. “Gretchen’s friend, Olivia. It’s totally cool. I mean, I’m sure some people will bring alcohol, but Dad. Come on. You know me.”
Actually, Dad didn’t know me at all, and I thought he’d say it out loud. But that would have embarrassed the both of us, so he opted for something else.
“And what if the party gets busted by the cops and you’re arrested for being there with alcohol?”
“They wouldn’t arrest me, Dad. They’d just call you.”
“Oh really? You know this from past experience? And anyway, you’re eighteen. Legally an adult. They wouldn’t call me to pick you up.”
I huffed. “Dad.”
We stared at each other for a few seconds.
“I’m not letting Gretchen go to this party by herself,” I said.
“Any particular reason why?”
“Um, yeah. Have you met Gretchen? She’s ridiculous,” I explained.
Dad laughed. “Fine, but she’s not drinking either.”
“Dad, she doesn’t touch the stuff. Empty calories,” I said, finishing off my calzone. I eyed Dad’s second slice of pizza.
“Don’t even think about it,” he said, picking up the slice and taking a huge chunk out of it.
© S. Walden, 2013