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One Daughter's Fantasy
By Jewel Kats
“My father never read to me as a child,” I say while toying with my steel-plated medical alert bracelet. “Ever.”
Dr. Susan Walker quickly jots this into her midnight leather notebook. “I see,” she responds in typical psychiatric speak. She puts down her Mont Blanc pen, and her dark eyes gaze into mine. “Do you still resent him for this?”
“What do you think?” I answer with an annoying twitch in my eye. “The man lived under the same roof with me for fifteen years, and was too drunk most of the time to remember my middle name. The worst part is, I can’t do anything about it. The sucker dropped dead two years ago.”
Dr. Walker flashes me a half-smile. “You’re never totally helpless, Tiffany,” she remarks with her voice deepening an octave. “Even talking like this helps…”
I bite down on an already chapped lip. “Well, you don’t have a lifetime to spend on me.” I look up at the round wooden clock behind her desk. “Besides, it’s not like anybody really gives a damn. Even these sessions with you come with the stupid red tape. I get fifty minutes a week to spill my guts, and that’s about it.” I rise to my feet. “Our time is officially up.”
“We can always go overtime if the matter at hand is urgent,” I hear Dr. Walker call out as my pinched toes march toward an escape.
“Whatever. See you next week, doc,” I say over my back, and amazingly not once teeter on my mother’s hot pink heels as the door slams closed behind me.
By the time I get home, it’s four o’clock. My feet are killing me. I hobble up our wobbly brownstone steps, and fish a cluster of keys out of my jeans pocket. It feels like an eternity before I open all six brass locks belonging to our otherwise chipping front door. I’m greeted by the stink of stale marijuana smoke, even though there’s nothing in sight.
I proceed to lock up our anti-burglar front door, and shake off my mom’s shoes. Never again will I go down the high heel route. I look for telltale scuffs on the pumps, and dab spit on the smooth suede for good measure. Soon enough, mom’s kitten heels are as good as new. I place them carefully on our blended family shoe rack, and pull out my sneakers. I place them on our checkered foyer mat to give the impression they carried me about all day. My beige tennis shoes practically gleam next to the rubber boots my stepfather wears as a part-time garbage man. Jack would be thrilled if he found out I sported high heels today.
“You’ve got a great bod, Tiff,” my stepfather once told me with a mouthful of leftover meat loaf. Unfortunately, I could make out his every word despite the TV being on full blast with the ball game. “You outta show off that big bust of yours more often,” Jack harped on. “You’re more womanly at sixteen than your middle-aged mother.”
Even then, I wondered how my mom justified being with Jack. She obviously has zero taste in men. My father was just as big of a loser.
Despite my grumbling stomach, I decide to head upstairs. It’s not like there’s a warm home-cooked meal waiting for me anyway. With new freedom, my feet climb our unpolished staircase two steps at a time. I arrive at the threshold of my bedroom door in no time flat, and kick it open. That’s when my jaw drops.
I see my father sitting on the foot of my twin bed, with a Teen Cosmo magazine between his fingers.
“What the…” I say, and rub my obviously hallucinating eyes. This will definitely qualify as an overtime session with my shrink.
“Tiffany,” my father says in his memorable voice. Only he sounds different. My name isn’t slurred, and even his blue eyes aren’t bloodshot. He puts the magazine down, and gets off my bed, which sounds with a creak, and reaches out to me.
I back up immediately. My hands thrust forward. This man never showed me any affection or any knowledge of the English alphabet in his entire lifetime.
He stops, and uncharacteristically smiles. Even his clean, white button-down shirt and ironed black slacks are off-kilter. “I know you’re shocked,” he says.
“I don’t… I don’t…” His statement of late has baffled me even more because empathy was never one of my father’s strong suits—if an existing suit at all. “I don’t understand what’s going on,” I finally manage to say.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work on the Other Side,” my father says. “Internal work, if you know what I mean,” he remarks with an unfamiliar soft chuckle. He shuffles in his loafers almost like an awkward little boy. “I realize that I made a lot of mistakes during my time here. I’ve wronged you in so many ways.” He pauses for a moment. “I’ve sobered up, and I desperately want to make our relationship right. It took a lot of paper work to get permission from the Other Side, let me tell ya.”
For the first time ever, my tongue remains glued to its spot. I literally feel like I’ve got a truckload of cement in my mouth.
“I’m just asking for a second chance,” my father says. “Please?”
My head starts spinning at an unrecognizable speed, and I fall hard onto our dusty hardwood floor. My body shakes as a flood of hot tears pour onto my cheeks.
My father comes down to my level, and for the first time I can remember, hugs me. I soak in his Old Spice aroma, and in a blink of an eye, we’re out of my room.
For six years, Jewel penned a syndicated teen advice column for Scripps Howard News Service (USA) and TorStar Syndication Service (Canada). She’s won $20,000 in scholarships from Global Television Network and women’s book publisher, Harlequin Enterprises. Jewel also interned in the TV studio of Entertainment Tonight Canada. Her books have been featured in Ability Magazine twice. Her latest children’s book is The Princess and the Ruby. Her hot-off-the-press book for teens and women is a reality-based graphic novel about her life called DitzAbled Princess: A Comical Diary. For more info about Jewel Kats, please visit: JewelKats.com and DitzabledPrincess.com.