Pacing. That’s what I was doing, pacing in front of Dad’s closed study door. Sometime during my restless night obsessing about Mazy and what she could have to tell me, my thoughts had shifted once again to England, and whether this was really the best time to be going on a transatlantic adventure. I had come to a conclusion; it wasn’t. And now I had to tell Dad. Sooner was better than later, but it still wasn’t going to be easy. He had seemed so excited by the idea of a trip together.
I took a deep breath, knocked lightly, and opened the door to his office before I could lose my nerve. He sat at his desk reading through what looked like a stack of student essays.
“Morning.” I walked into the room tentatively, hesitant to disturb him if he was really focused on his work.
“Good morning, come in.” Dad waved his hand towards the leather seat in front of his desk and set the paper down to look at me. “This must be important, you have that same look on your face as the time you backed the car into the mailbox.”
“Yeah.” I stayed standing where I was and bumped my fist against my hip. “Dad, I’ve been thinking about the England thing.”
“Go ahead.” Dad folded his hands together and looked at me expectantly. I stepped forward and sat down in the chair, trying to gain the courage to tell him what I’d been thinking, and glanced around his office, taking in the crimson curtains and rows of books on the shelves. Finally I turned my gaze back to him.
“I want to go with you, you have no idea how much, but I
don’t think I can.” I clasped my hands in my lap. “It’s just that, it’s my last year of high school, and I know it’s only a month but … Katie has all these plans for us, like filling out college application forms together. And there’s all of the schoolwork I’ve already started. It would be hard to keep up if I was out of the classroom for that long.”
Dad frowned. “Those are good rationales to stay, and I agree that there would be certain challenges that would arise with leaving at this time of year, but I really don’t know when I’d be able to give you another opportunity like this.”
I nodded. “If it wasn’t my last year, I would definitely go, but I feel like I already have enough to handle with everything I need to do. Throw in trying to adjust to a new culture and meeting a whole bunch of new people and I just think it would be too much. I hope you understand.”
Dad drummed his fingers on the desk. “I’ve already told Rupert we’re coming. The timing was ideal; it was the perfect way to get you … a chance to travel.” Dad stumbled over his words. Is that really what you wanted to say Dad? He took off his glasses and wiped the lenses. My heart sank. He seemed genuinely troubled that I’d changed my mind on him.
I opened my mouth, but he held up a hand before I could speak. “It’s okay Hannah, I understand, and I will accept your decision.”
We both sat in silence for a moment. It wasn’t what Dad had said, but what he appeared to stop himself from saying that gave the conversation an odd feel to me.
“I should call Rupert and let him know I’ll be declining his offer.” He glanced down at the work on his desk.
“What? No Dad, I don’t want that. Just because I’m not going, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.” I leaned forward and folded my hands together on his desk. “Teaching at Oxford is a once in a lifetime opportunity; you can’t turn that down. I’ll be fine here by myself.”
“No, I can’t leave you on your own for a month. I won’t.”
I blinked in surprise. Dad almost never argued with me when I told him I was going to do something. I hadn’t expected him to dig in his heels like that. “I won’t be by myself; I’ll have my friends.” I forced a smile, trying to ease his mind. “I can even stay with Katie if it would make you feel better.” If he wanted to think I was being taken care of by Katie’s family that was fine, I could always go back and forth.
Dad’s face turned thoughtful. He was still obviously uncomfortable with the idea of leaving me, but Oxford was pretty hard to turn down.
“You would stay with them the whole time?” He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair.
“Or she can come stay here with me.”
“No, I would really prefer if you stayed at her house. I would be more comfortable if her parents were around.”
My forehead creased. Why didn’t Dad want me to be home alone? Did he think I would have a boy over, more specifically Ethan? Why was Dad so worried about Ethan’s presence in my life?
“Okay, I’ll stay at her house; I’m sure it won’t be a big deal.”
“Well then, Rupert wants me there within the week to prepare the course outline. All I need to do is go over my lesson plan with Paige and prepare some lecture notes for Rupert’s class then I’ll be on my way. That means you will need to arrange everything with Katie’s parents within the next few days.” He stopped and studied me for a moment. “You’re sure about this?”
I stood up and walked around the desk, wrapping my arms around him. “I promise.”
“I suppose that’s settled then.” Dad looked up at me and smiled, but a trace of worry still lingered in his eyes.
I straightened up and turned to leave his office, but he called out to stop me. “So, where are you off to today?”
I winced before turning back around. I was supposed to be meeting with Mazy, and I hadn’t really put Dad into that equation. He rarely asked me what I was up to; I had just assumed today wouldn’t be the exception. I tried to think of something I could say that wouldn’t be a lie necessarily, but also wouldn’t reveal the truth.
“I wanted to make chicken stir fry for supper but we’re out of oil so I was going to run to the store to buy some, and maybe run a few other errands.” Fortunately, we had run out of cooking oil earlier that week, and I justified my explanation by telling myself that. As if finding out who a person’s biological parents were could ever be classified as an errand.
“I was going to meet with a colleague of mine for dinner tonight. I hope that doesn’t spoil your cooking plans,” Dad said.
“No, that’s okay, I can cook stir fry for one.” I subtly checked my watch. My talk with Dad had taken longer than I’d expected and I needed to get going to make it to The Sandwich Shop on time.
“Sounds good. Maybe you can save me some in case dinner this evening isn’t a culinary masterpiece.”
“Sure, I can do that. I’ll see you when you get home.”
“If I’m not here when you get back, have a good day. I expect to be home not much later than eight this evening. If for some reason you need me, I will have my cell phone on.”
I tilted my head and stared at him. It wasn’t like him to give me an idea of when he would return or how to contact him while he was gone. Since I didn’t have the time to try and scrutinize what was going on with him, I shrugged it off as guilt over his impending trip and left the office, trying to prepare myself for whatever I was about to learn from Mazy.