fading moonlight surely floods my waking
death’s angel must surely pass me by
crazy thoughts, I must have thinking
to have said that last goodbye
The dinner table had only ever had three chairs. Today, there was an extra chair for the man who had cooked lunch.
Since I could remember, it had always been me and Dad eating together—Mom loved alcohol and her perfect figure too much to waste time on consistent meals. She didn’t cook either. Dad did though.
I loved his cooking. It had been the highlight of my childhood.
Every man mother brought home cooked like a gourmet chef. I think she did it to upset Dad, I didn’t understand why though. My Dad was the kind of person that didn’t care for the little details. Who cooked didn’t matter, all that mattered was the taste of the food.
Like me. I was a little detail. I didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. His reputation and company mattered more to me than I did. That was why when I had begged to leave with him after he finally broke things off with Mom, he had left me behind without even looking back. He couldn’t risk the backlash that would result from mother spreading word of their divorce so he had given me to her as some sort of collateral.
I was his only son and she had me. He had to agree to whatever terms she wanted. It was sick but it was the way things were. I was nothing but a living IOU.
My parents developed a strange type of friendship after they split. It was necessary when they still had to see each other every week. Whenever Dad came over he always layered Mom’s ‘guest’ with compliments and acted as though they were the best of friends, like what he was doing right now.
“The fish tastes excellent,” he commented after putting down his fork. “Cooked to perfection and the spices blend together so naturally. Usually, fish isn’t my thing but you have turned me into a fan. I’m really jealous.”
A proud smile appeared on Mom’s lips. I think it was less about what Dad had said and more about that last word. Jealous. She loved the thought of that being the emotion driving Dad’s words and actions today.
I didn’t think Dad was jealous of her toy though. He was just being polite because that was who he was.
Some guys got high off Dad’s meek attitude. They enjoyed the fact that they were sitting opposite the husband of the woman they were sleeping with and he was just taking the insult. Some guys found it awkward and barely looked at Dad; they were the honest ones who knew that they were adulterers.
This one was a mix of both. I hated him already. His hair was a fiery red and his eyes were a brighter shade of green than Dad’s. He looked more like mother’s younger brother than her lover.
“Trish tells me you cook as well,” he said, his arm across mother’s shoulders.
“I do. But not as good as this,” my father sipped on his water. “I’m impressed. The art of male cooking is becoming scarce.”
Both men laughed.
Mother squeezed her toy’s arm and leaned into him. “He’s being modest.”
I averted my gaze and glared at the salmon in front of me. I hated fish. I hated Saturdays. I hated how anyone would think we were one big happy family if they just walked in. I hated how no one but me was tired of doing this on repeat every week.
Mr Toy had to know that he wasn’t the first. The longest a man had lasted with my mother was eight years and that had been my Dad. After that the time had shortened to months and recently it had been cut down to weeks.
“Olly, you aren’t eating.”
I raised my head and found my Dad staring at me. He looked concerned. It was looks like that that made me think that maybe a part of him still loved me. It was looks like that that made me hope that ‘this’ week was the one where he’d finally come get me. But that Saturday never came and he gave me the same look every time he saw me.
I got tired of hoping.
I stabbed into the fish and forced a huge chunk down my throat just to get him to look away and carry on with his conversation. “Delicious.”
“What happened to your face?”
This time, I felt Mom’s gaze on me.
“I fell,” I said, aware that Mom had hit hard to leave behind a palm print.
“He’s always falling,” Mom laughed. “I think he got his clumsiness from me.”
“And his hands?” Dad asked.
“Also from the same fall,” Mom smiled. “He’s alright now. Aren’t you, Olive?”
“Must have been a bad fall,” Dad turned to me when I didn’t answer. The look was back but this time it was accompanied by a frown. “Are you okay?”
I looked down at the glossy eyes of the fish on my plate. Dead eyes looked strangely beautiful, I could almost see mine in them.
I titled my head towards my Dad and smiled wide. “I’m okay.”
Because that was just what our family was, full of obvious lies.