AW Flash Fiction — Father Figure — 6/20/10

This flash was written around a small kernel I cut from My Fair Vampire. In the novel I had Dori simply spy on the house instead of making contact. For the Flash, I had her take that much larger step.
Jude was the one who came up with the bright idea of tracking down my long time MIA father, a man who’d given me up to child protective services because he’d chosen booze and drugs over me. I hadn’t had any contact with him in over a decade.

Thanks to the internet and Jude’s investigative skills, we located him in Santa Fe, a little over an hour northwest of us.

“Let’s go find him,” Jude said.

“I can’t just stroll up to his door and say ‘howdy ho, guess who?'”

“We won’t knock on his door; we’ll just get a look see at his crib. You can tell a lot about a person from where he lives, the kind of car he drives. If you like and the grounds aren’t secured by man nor beast, we can even go peek in the windows.” He wiggled his eyebrows at me and I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Alright. Let’s do it.” I stood and smoothed down my hopelessly wrinkled dress that had me ruing my haste to see Jude after work. A full workday in a dress and heels was bad enough, all day pushed the limits of tolerable, like putting a dog in a sweater. It looked cute for a while but the dog’s not very happy because he can’t be a dog.

“You printed off the address and directions?”

“Yeah.” He tapped his head. “Right here.”

An hour later we arrived in Santa Fe. Jude drove us west and south to the outskirts of town where we trolled through a series of new developments of increasing grandeur. We pulled into a neighborhood populated with massive but soulless homes that bore no hint of New Mexican architecture or flair. I never would have guessed I was in Santa Fe if someone had parachuted me into this neighborhood.

I marveled that my father might have cleaned his act up enough to live in such a place. A few turns later and we stopped in front of a sprawling two-story modern home. My father’s home had been built to stand out and oozed ostentatious wealth. The neighborhood couldn’t have been older than a few years judging from the size of the carefully placed trees and shrubs and the luminous shade of the concrete sidewalks.

Jude shut off the engine. “Wow.”

“I’ll say. He must be doing something right these days.”

We both stared out the window, the silence punctuated only by the loud crunching sounds of Jude’s fourth taco for which we’d detoured briefly.

He turned to me, as he consolidated all the taco wrappers into a small plastic bag. “You want to poke around? Peek in some windows? Walk around the neighborhood?”

Halfway out my door, his words registered in my brain. “No. I’ll be right back.” I shook my head as I rehearsed what I planned to say.

One foot in front of the other. Tell him who I am. Tell him he needn’t worry about me coming around to disrupt his happy home life. I won’t take much of your precious time away from your brand spanking new family that I’m sure you love more than your own life. You don’t even have to tell them about me. I won’t say a word about what happened….but I don’t forgive you…Daddy…No, can’t say that. Should I call him Daniel or Dad? What if he recognizes me and won’t answer the door? What if he’s not even home?

I paused at his door and turned to look at Jude, who leaned against the side of the minivan waving his encouragement. Ignoring my chattering teeth, I rang the bell.

A man’s voice inside bellowed, “I’ll get it.” The porch light turned on and a door opened a few feet as a man peered out at me. “Yes?”

“Um, Daniel Callahan?” I called him that more for his benefit than mine. No doubt existed in my mind that the man in front of me was my father. He looked as he had in happier days, when my mother was still with us, when my brother Danny was still alive. That man stood in front of me, a little older, but definitely sober, fit and healthy.

“Yes.” He looked me up and down, his brow furrowed at first but soon his face relaxed into a slack-jacked gape. “Milly?”

That he’d think first of my dead mother before me, his living daughter, cut me. “No. I’m Dori.”

He blanched for a second then stepped outside and shut the door behind him. That action alone spoke volumes. I was not welcome in his home. I don’t why I thought I might have been. “What do you want?”

“Nice to see you too, Dad.”

“I didn’t mean…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean it to sound that way.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “It is good to see you. You look exactly like your mother. I was just a little shocked that’s all.” He shifted from foot to foot as he spoke.

“I won’t bother you. My friend is waiting for me.” I gazed up into his face. My father was tall and athletic, maybe six-four or so. Women had always been drawn to him because, despite his inner demons, he was quite good looking.

His hands reappeared and tucked into his armpits as he crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Well?” He obviously expected me to make some outrageous and extortive demands.

I shrugged, tongue-tied for a few seconds. “I just wanted to see how you were.”

He snorted. “You want money or an organ. Just come out and say it. Which one do you need? Kidney or bone marrow? A thousand bucks perhaps?” A grim line took the place of his mouth.

“I don’t want anything. I just wanted to see you, to see if you were even still alive and maybe, if you cared, to let you know the same about me.”

My father sported a dubious expression throughout my explanation. As he began to speak, the door flew open behind him and a small blond-haired boy ran out and hugged his leg, binky securely in place. The child gazed up at me with eyes so blue, he made my breath hitch. He was the spitting image of my brother Danny. My father leaned down and picked up the child and bounced him on his hip. The boy turned toward me and the edges of his little mouth tugged to either side of the binky in a smile.

“Hey there,” I whispered as I gave a tiny wave. When I looked back to my father’s face, his displeasure had been painted on with heavy brushstrokes.

“Calvin!” The woman’s voice rang shrill in my ears from inside the home. She joined the wayward child a few seconds later. “Oh, hello.” She stared at me, clearly wanting to know my business.

“Uh Elizabeth, this is Doris. Doris, my wife.” He detached and handed the boy to Elizabeth. “Why don’t you put Calvin to bed and I’ll be in shortly. We’re almost done here.” He looked pointedly at me.

“Oh.” She looked from me to my father then back to me before her face took on the stony expression of a nun who’d just been told a sex joke. With a brittle smile, she and Calvin turned to leave. Calvin smiled at me over her shoulder as she toted him off into the belly of their home.

“Look, it’s too late for us to have any sort of…” he pointed back and forth between us, “father-daughter relationship. If it makes you feel better, I’m a different man than I was then and…I’m sorry. You look like you’re doing okay and, though a little pale, you look quite healthy. But I think it’s best if you don’t ever come here again. I’ve got a new life now, and don’t need any ghosts from my past hanging around as constant reminders of those darker days.”

I shook my head. “I’ve no desire to try to resurrect any spark of a relationship with you. I’m sorry if you believe otherwise. I’ve moved on as clearly you have too. I would have perhaps liked to have met my brothers but it’s not my place to ask so I won’t.”

“Then why did you come here, Doris? Don’t you have email or mail service. How about a telephone? Why come in person?”

“If I called, you might not have believed it was me, same if I mailed or emailed. This was the fastest way to convince you of who I was and to see for myself how you were doing. I wouldn’t have bothered you at all otherwise. I’ve let you be all this time and I appreciate that you did the same with me. I’m glad you’re no longer the drunken addict I knew, a man who never hesitated to cut me down to size for even the most minor of offenses. For Calvin’s sake, I certainly hope you’ve changed.”

“I don’t have to listen to this hurtful rehash of past that can’t be altered no matter what I say or do. I told you I was sorry. That’s the best I can give you. So now, you’ve seen me.”

I looked down at my feet, amazed that he still had the power to make me feel so unwelcome. “Right. I’ll never bother you again and you’ll never seek me out either. Understood.”

He glanced at his watch. “I’ve got to go now.” He nodded once, then joined his new family behind the door he closed in my face.

I ran to the minivan where Jude stood exactly as I’d left him. ”Let’s go.”

“That’s it? You’re done? What did he say?” He jumped inside as I did the same on the passenger side.

“Well…it went better than I expected.” I couldn’t help but smile at the memory of Calvin, so like Danny.

“Good. Now aren’t you glad you came?” He flashed a grin at me as he drove.

“Yes…really glad.”

As we pulled away from the curb, I glanced back over my shoulder in time to see little Calvin waving at me from the front window.