Chapter Seven

After We Fell


chapter seven

 

HARDIN

 

Tessa’s father is awake now, sitting on the couch with his arms crossed in front of his chest and staring blankly out the window.

    “Do you need a ride somewhere?” I ask him. I’m not thrilled with the idea of taking him anywhere, but I sure as hell despise the idea of leaving him alone with her.

    He snaps his head my direction as if startled. “Um, yeah, is that okay?” he asks.

    “Yeah,” I quickly answer.

    “Okay, I just want to say goodbye to Tessie.” He looks toward our bedroom.

    “Fine. I’ll be in the car.”

    I head out the door, unsure of exactly where I’m going after I drop the old fool off, but I know it’s not good for either of us if I stay here. I’m so angry with myself. I know she’s not the only one to blame here, but I’m used to lashing out at people, and she’s always with me, making her an easy target. Which makes me a pathetic motherfucker, I know. I keep my eyes trained on the entrance to our apartment building, waiting for Richard. If he doesn’t come soon, I’ll leave his ass here. But then I sigh at the thought, since I really don’t want to leave him here with her.

    At last, the Father of the Year steps through the door and pulls down the sleeves of his shirt. I had expected him to wear the clothes of mine that Tessa gave him, but he’s dressed in his clothes from yesterday, only now they’re clean. Damn Tessa, she’s too fucking nice.

    I turn the volume up on the radio as he opens the passenger door, hoping that the music will halt any conversation he might try to make.

    No luck. “She said to tell you to be careful,” he says as soon as he gets in, then buckles his seat belt like he’s trying to show me how to do it. Like he’s some airline hostess. I give him a small nod and pull onto the street.

    “How did your meeting go today?” he asks.

    “Really?” I raise my brow at him.

    “Just wondering.” He taps his fingers on his leg. “I’m glad she went with you.”

    “Okay.”

    “She seems to be a lot like her mother.”

    I shoot a look at him. “The hell she is. She’s nothing like that woman.” Is he trying to get himself thrown out onto the highway?

    He laughs. “The good qualities only, of course. She’s very headstrong, just like Carol. She wants what she wants, but Tessie is much sweeter, gentler.”

    Here we go with the Tessie bullshit again.

    “I heard the two of you fighting. It woke me up.”

    I roll my eyes. “Excuse us for waking you up at noon while you were sleeping on our couch.”

    Again, I’m met with a chuckle. “I get it, man—you’re angry at the world. I was, too. Hell, I still am. But when you find someone who’s willing to put up with your shit, you don’t have to be so angry anymore.”

    Well, old-timer, what do you suggest I do when your daughter is the one making me so goddamn angry? “Look, I’ll admit you aren’t as bad as I thought you were, but I didn’t ask for your advice, so don’t waste your time giving it to me.”

    “I’m not giving you advice, I’m speaking from experience here. I’d hate to see the two of you end things.”

    We aren’t ending things, Dick. I’m just trying to get my point across. I want to be with her, and I will be; she just needs to give in and come with me. I’m beyond fucking angry that she’d bring Zed into this shit again, regardless of her reasoning.

    I turn the damn radio off. “You don’t even know me—or her, for that matter. Why would you care?”

    “Because I know you’re good for her.”

    “Do you?” I reply, sarcasm in full bloom. Thankfully we’re getting closer to his side of town, so this horrid conversation will be ending soon.

    “Yes, I do.”

    Then it strikes me, and I’ll never admit it to anyone, but it’s actually sort of nice to have someone say I’m good for her, even if it’s her drunk asshole of a father. I’ll take it.

    “Are you going to be seeing her again?” I ask, and then quickly add, “And where exactly am I taking you?”

    “Just drop me near the shop where we met yesterday; I’ll figure it out from there. And yes, I hope to be seeing her again. I have a lot of shit to make up for.”

    “Yeah, you do,” I agree.

    The parking lot next to the tattoo parlor is empty, which makes some sense, since it’s not even one in the afternoon yet.

    “Can you drive me to the end of this street?” he asks.

    I nod and pass the shop. The only thing at the end of this street is a bar and a run-down Laundromat.

    “Thanks for the ride.”

    “Yep.”

    “Do you want to come inside?” Richard asks, nodding toward the small bar.

    Getting a drink with Tessa’s homeless drunk father doesn’t sound like the most intelligent thing to do at the moment.

    However, I’m not known for making good decisions. “Fuck it,” I mumble and turn the car off and follow him inside. It’s not like I had anywhere in mind to go anyway.

    The bar is dark and smells like mold and whiskey. Following him to the small counter, I grab a stool, leaving an empty seat between us. A middle-aged woman wearing what I pray are her teenage daughter’s clothes walks toward us. Without a word she slides Richard a small glass filled with whiskey and ice.

    “And for you?” she asks me, her voice raspy and deeper than mine.

    “Same as him.”

    Tessa’s voice warning me not to do this is clear as a bell between my ears. I push it away, push her away.

    I raise the glass, and we toast and each take a sip. “How can you afford to be a drunk if you don’t work?” I ask.

    “I clean the place every other day, so I drink for free.” Shame is clear in his voice.

    “Why not be sober and get paid, then?”

    “I don’t know; I tried and tried.” He stares at his glass with hooded eyes, and for a second they resemble mine. I can see a shadow of myself in them. “I’m hoping now it’ll get easier if I can see my daughter more often.”

    I nod, not even bothering to hit him with a snide remark, and instead wrap my fingers around the cool glass. I welcome the familiar burn of scotch as I tip my head back and finish the rest. When I push it across the semipolished bar top, the woman makes eye contact and then starts pouring me another.