The Father Figure
Spending time with Blondie has got to be the highlight of my year. Or life even.
No more drugs and alcohol, I was kicking all my bad habits to the side. All I needed was her and everything else faltered away. Sure, I had to deal with the occasional headaches and withdrawals, but I was feeling stronger than ever before.
Just being with her, listening to her saying comforting words to my ears, having her kissed the side of my face—it was all enough to send me to paradise and ward off the pain.
I would be a complete hypocrite if I say that the sex didn’t help. The sex helped, a lot. But it wasn’t just about that. It was that feeling that we had for each other, the connection that existed that only the two of us could understand.
That was it. That was heaven right there.
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t born yesterday. I knew that this heaven-like time ain’t gonna last. I knew that Blake wouldn’t stay quiet about all this. I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. But so far, there were nothing yet. In fact, I heard that he was even out of town. Went away to the East Coast to visit colleges or whatever.
Speaking of colleges, today Blondie and I were sitting at our usual spot at the diner, snacking on fries while we do our homework together. She was still trying to finish her college essay, and I couldn’t help but steal glances and kick her feet playfully under the table every so often just to get her attention. I mean, the girl was too damn cute, what else was I supposed to do?
“Stop it, I’m trying to focus,” she hissed.
“You’re cute when you’re trying to focus,” I said as I popped a fry to my mouth. “We’ve done nothing but study the entire day. I’m hungry,”
“You have this,” she motioned for the plate of fries.
“No, I’m hungry for something else,” I smirked and her cheeks flared red.
Shaking her head a little, she grabbed her composure and switched the topic instead.
“Hey, so, I was talking to my dad yesterday… and the topic of you came up… and my dad wants to invite you to come fishing with him and Kai this Saturday,”
“You want me to go fishing… with your dad?” I almost choked that fry out.
“Yeah. This Saturday. You’re good, right?”
“I thought we were gonna study together? And maybe get a little cake afterwards,” I bit my bottom lip and gave her a naughty grin.
“Change of plans. Daddy says he wants to see you before he’s gotta leave for another deployment on Monday,” she paused for a beat before saying, “But we can always get some cake after your fishing trip,”
Ah, I was starting to wonder if she was the better tease in between us two.
“Your father wants to see me? Why, did I do something wrong?”
“No, it’s not that. Daddy and I are super close. I talk to him about everything. When I told him that Blake and I weren’t dating anymore and that we’re dating now, he asked a lot of questions, naturally. He was worried that maybe we were moving too fast. But I think that’s just because he didn’t know you and our story together,”
Right, we did move pretty fast. But that’s what you gotta do when you know it’s right.
“So, I think it’d be great if you all see each other. My dad will know what an awesome guy you are and he’ll be at peace with us dating,” she said again, grabbing a hold of my hand this time and rubbing it gently.
Great, guess I got a lot of sucking up to do.
“Come on, it’s gonna be great. I think you two would get along,” she was giving me her best puppy-eye look too. Damn, she knew exactly just what to do to get me to cooperate.
“Yeah, but I’m not exactly the type that parents would go for,” I said to her.
“Not true. My mom likes you. And don’t worry about daddy, he’s the sweetest guy. He’s like a giant teddy bear,”
Oh fuck me. When you look at me like that… I can’t say no to you, Blondie.
I was hella nervous as soon as Saturday rolled along.
Who knew that meeting a girl’s dad was this nerve wrecking? I washed my hair twice today ’cause I was just so nervous. Obviously her dad was important to her, so it was only natural that I’d want to get on his good side.
It was early Saturday morning, too early. I made my way down the pier and found Kai and his dad both waiting for me on their sailboat. It was a nice looking boat, pretty big too. The words ‘carpe diem’ were written across the side.
Paul, Taya’s dad, was wearing a polo shirt and khaki shorts, very different to the Navy uniform that I saw he wore before. He was sitting on a plastic chair, a fishing rod on his hand, and he had a serious face on as he stared out into the ocean.
“Hey, sorry I’m late,” I said as I came up on the boat.
I wasn’t actually late, but they were there early.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Williams—“ I said as I stretched out my hand to him, but he didn’t even give me a single glance.
“Sit still, you’re gonna scare off the fishes,” he said instead.
“Sorry,” I muttered as I bent down quickly and sat on the chair next to him.
Then cue the awkward silence.
“Lovely boat,” I commented, trying for small talks.
“It’s my brother’s,” he replied shortly.
“Ah, right. I’ve met him once on Thanksgivings…”
And some more awkward silence.
Paul wasn’t the warm teddy-bear type like Blondie said he was. He looked stern and serious. And I was getting more and more uncomfortable with this growing silence. Kai wasn’t much of help either, he was standing far away in the back somewhere, listening to music with headphones on.
“So… Taya’s told me so much about you. How you decided to leave your family business and serve in the Navy—“ I started to speak, but he began to yawn and he cut me off.
“Yeah, I’ve heard a lot about you too,”
“Good things, I hope,” I laughed nervously.
“My daughter and I are very close. We tell each other everything,”
“Yes, she mentioned that you two are close—“
“Playing games with each other. Falling for each other. Now dating each other. Sounds quite immature, don’t you think?”
Oh shit. Did not see that one coming.
“Well, but, sir—“
“Do you like to play games, son?”
“Because games are for kids. And y’all are adults. Turning eighteen. Going off to college soon. So I’m gonna treat y’all as adults, you hear me?”
“Yes sir,” I replied immediately, “And no sir, I’m not playing games with your daughter if that’s what you’re implying. I’m very serious about her,”
“We live in a small town. Tight-knit community. People talk around here. I’ve heard some things about you. And to be honest, they’re not very good,”
“But that’s not very fair, isn’t it? To judge a person before you get to know them,” I wanted to appear confident, pausing for a beat before I said, “Sir,”
“Which is what I’m trying to do right now,” he said with a long sigh.
I was raking my brain trying to find the words to say to get him to like me. But damn, I couldn’t come up with anything. I was starting to wonder if Blake had to go through this interrogation session too. Probably not.
“I know I don’t have the best reputation. I don’t come from a well-to-do family. My mother works two shifts at the local diner just to make ends meet. I’ve had my own issues and got into trouble over it. There are a lot of shi—, mistakesthat I’ve done, and I regret it. Because after I met your daughter, sir, I know that I want to change. She helps me see that I could be better,”
I wasn’t the most articulate person too. But hopefully he saw honest I was trying to be with him.
“That’s what I’m doing right now, sir,” I paused for a beat and said, “Carpe diem,” it was a slight joke referring to the boat’s name. I thought that it would at least get him to smile, but his expression was still flat.
“That’s good and all, but wanting change doesn’t make it so. You have a lot of work ahead of you. And it’s not just about fixing your past mistakes. It’s also about building towards a future,”
“Taya’s told me your father had passed away,”
“Uh, yes sir,”
“Sorry to hear that,”
“Thank you,” I said as I gulped, “He was a great guy,”
“What was his name? If he was from around here I might know the guy,”
“His name was… James… Hudson,”
“James Hudson? I don’t think I’ve heard of him,”
“He’s not very… well known,”
Paul studied the calm water in front of us for a while before he turned to me and said, “Look, I understand, not having a dad around can be hard for a kid, especially at such a young age. But that can’t be an excuse for bad behavior. You understand?”
“I’m telling you this as a man, man to man. I want you to get better not just so you can date my daughter. But I want you to do it for you, for your future, son. ’Cause you deserve it,”
He then turned his head back up, looking out into the vast ocean as he said, “I’ll be gone for another three months, but when I get back, I want to see you get straightened up. You hear me? That or you be out of her life, ’cause I ain’t playing no games with my daughter’s future,”
“So until you can prove me otherwise, I’m keeping an eye on you. You understand?”
“Yes, I understand, sir,”
“And remember son, a man is only as good as his words,”
I was about to open my mouth to answer him, but he suddenly turned his head to me, gave me a look, and put his hand on my shoulder. It was a firm hand. I wasn’t sure if it was a nurturing gesture or a threat.
“Yes… sir,” I said finally.
“Good. Now go to the back and grab me more traps,” he said as he waved his hand carelessly, motioning towards the back.
I got up immediately and went to the direction that he pointed. But shit, what the hell are traps? My hands were busy raiding through the stacked boxes at the back of the boat, when suddenly Kai came up to next to me. He was holding a netted-bucket-thing of some sort and he handed it over to me.
“Traps,” he said simply.
“Thanks,” I said as I grabbed the thing from him.
“Don’t take it personally. He does that to all the guys that wants to date my sister. She’s his little girl, you know? No guy is ever gonna be good enough for her,” he said again as he leaned back against the sails.
“Yeah. Except Blake Harrison,” I snorted.
“Nah, he had it even worse. My dad called him a spoiled brat at dinner once,”
“Yeah. Here’s the thing. My sister used to get bullied when she was young. Dad was pretty upset ’cause he wasn’t around to protect her, so he’s grown a little too overprotective if you ask me. One time, he even sat our cousin Ryder down, told him to help keep an eye out for Taya,” he started, and I found myself listening very closely to his every word.
“She never dates, you know? Ryder drove all the guys away. I kinda felt bad for her even. Blake was her first boyfriend. And now I guess she has you. This whole dating stuff is new to dad, so you gotta know where he’s coming from,” he said with a slight nudge to my chest.
“Thanks, man,” I really was thankful. Listening to him speak lifted a huge weight on my shoulders.
“Hey,” he called out again just as I was leaving. “I know you can kick my ass if you want to, so there’s really no point in me saying this, but if you hurt my sister… I’mma come at you,”
“Sure,” I smiled knowingly as Kai whipped his head back and put his headphones back on.
It was probably the most dreadful six hours I had spent on the seas. Paul was still cold and intimidating, while Kai was just busy in his own world. Finally, Paul managed to catch a large Snapper fish, and his mood got a little bit better afterwards.
When we finally docked ashore, I was surprised to see Blondie and her mom already waiting for us at the pier. Her mom raced up the stairs and past me as she jumped giddily to hug Paul. I hadn’t seen Paul smile so much the entire day.
Meanwhile as Blondie made her way up, Kai scared her with a dead fish to her face and she screamed like a maniac, before running like a gorilla to chase down her brother. Kai ran all the way around the boat and he settled behind their mom and dad for protection. Their mom and dad started laughing at their kids’ antics.
They all looked lovely, I must admit.
Blondie finally gave up at trying to get even with Kai. Letting out a defeated sigh, she turned around and her eyes caught mine. As soon as our eyes met, she beamed at me, smiling that smile that got me weak in the knees. And suddenly, Paul’s words from before started ringing in my ear.
Your future, son.
“So, how was fishing?” she said as she walked closer to me.
“You liar. Your dad is no giant teddy bear,” I said lowly so she was the only one that could hear me.
“What? What did he do?”
Nothing that I wouldn’t do for the people I love.
“It’s not exactly what he did, but I can tell he’s not too fond of me,”
“Interesting. He’s invited you over for dinner tomorrow. He wouldn’t do that if he doesn’t like you,”
“What? For real?”
“Okay, so what do I have to do?”
“Nothing, just be yourself,”
“But what if that’s not enough?”
“It is enough for me,” she said with a bright a smile, “You make me happy, Judah Hudson. My dad will know that too,”
Closing the distance between us, her small feet stepped on top of my shoes as she reached her head up for my lips. It was just a short, sweet kiss. But it was enough to get me smiling from ear to ear.
If only her dad wasn’t around to see this…
“So, time for cake?” Blondie said playfully as she pulled away from me.
Whoa, did she just read my mind?
“Yes, but later. There’s something I wanna do first,” I said instead.
“What is more important than cake?” she narrowed her eyes at me.
“Homework,” I said simply and her jaw literally fell open, “Come on, chop-chop, I got a shitload of things to do and you have an essay to write,”
“What has gotten into you? Did you drink polluted salt water or something?”
“The future, Blondie,” I said as I linked my arms around her, “Carpe that fucking future,”