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Hard

By´╝ÜSosie Frost

I’d planned to give an elaborate toast at my father’s wedding.

It wouldn’t have been your normal father-daughter, weepy-eyed, get-Aunt-Jasmine-To-Sit-Her-Ass-Down-And-Stop-Taking-Pictures speech.

This speech would have been epic. The kind of story passed generation-to-generation by offended, busybody cousins. It would have been angry enough to melt through five layers of lemon chiffon cream cake and so profane it’d ruin my soon-to-be-step-mother’s white wedding gown.

It had metaphor. Imagery. Childhood anecdotes. Hell, I even gave citations.

And I’d need three glasses of champagne and a shot of whiskey to get through it. But my father deserved to hear it.

Every last word of it.

I stared at the tumbler on the bar. The tiny glass filled with something harsh and necessary instead of bubbly and delicate. The bartender owed me a favor and cut me a break. I hadn’t asked for the good stuff, but she gave it to me. I slipped her a twenty for being cool. There’d be more money where that came from soon.

I knocked the glass with my manicured tips. I even had my nails done for this circus.

Served me right.

“You got off lucky.” I raised the shot glass to the air. “If they only knew the real you, Dad.”

At least my mourning blacks passed for scholarly, and the whiskey’s shallow confidence suppressed my bitterness. Most of it. After a long day of arrangements, phone calls, caterer confusion—yes, we could still serve cream puffs at a funeral, just send a server around with prayer cards too—I was done. Done planning. Done worrying. Just done.

Especially with him.

In actuality, I had two speeches.

One congratulated Dad on his new life and wished him happiness even if he’d buy what he couldn’t earn.

The other condemned him for running out on his family. It reminded him that when he left Momma, he also left me, and the past seven years without him were hard and terrible. Sure, he sent me money. And, yes, he brought me presents. But his wedding was the first time he wanted me in his life—and it was only so I could be part of his new family.

I didn’t want to join his wife-to-be and her son in another glorious union   or second chance.

I was his first chance.

And he blew it.

Momma warned me about him, especially on my fifteenth birthday when I slid into the brand new Mercedes he bought for me. She said if he couldn’t remember how old I was, maybe accepting a present from a man more stranger than father was a bad idea.

She was right, but we needed the car, even if she was too proud to accept it from the man who left her to raise a child with only an envelope stuffed with money for help. Still, she said she liked greeting Benjamin Franklin a lot more than Mr. Darnell Franklin.

I wasn’t so sure, and now, they were both dead and buried. If I knew Momma, Heaven didn’t have a single nook or cranny where Dad could hide. She’d chase his ass from the holy throne to the pearly gates, and, when she got tired? Gran would be there with a rolled up Newsweek and a dog-chewed slipper to relieve her.

Kinda made me sad to miss the festivities.

I claimed a stool in the corner to avoid the early crowd and the eye of any loner who decided to take his chances. So when he settled beside me and ordered another round of whatever I was drinking, I readied my prepared response—a semi-casual back off with an apologetic smile.

Then…I saw him.

My defenses didn’t just crumble. They catastrophically failed. Sizzled up, fried to a crisp, and left everything in its wake a molten blend of excitement and bad decisions.

“What are we celebrating?” He asked.

Charm.

That’s what he was.

Just straight-up charm.

A green-eyed, trouble-making, buzz-cut charmer who saddled up next to me with dimples that’d fool some poor girl’s momma and tattoos that’d worry her daddy.

I knew the type. He wasn’t mine.

But I’d drink if he offered.

“I’m not celebrating.” The whiskey was my first mistake. Letting him flash those dimples was my second. Watching him flex an arm that nearly ripped the fabric of his t-shirt was my third. He would be the latest in a long line of regrets I planned to drink away. “I’m not really looking for company.”

“Good.” He took a swig from his beer. “Me either.”

I eyed the bar. Half a dozen empty seats were in peanut scattering distance. I nudged the bowl towards him, hoping he’d take the hint and pick one of the other spots.

No such luck. He claimed the chair next to me.

“Maybe we have a different definition of company,” I said.

He winked at me. Actually winked.

Craziest part was…I liked it.

“I’m told I’m excellent eye-candy.”

“Let me guess. You’re even better to suck on, right?”

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