Chapter 17: Pick your Battles
“Are you mad, Dad?” Rainie finally asked nervously as we drove down the road in silence, my grip on the steering wheel tight and my jaw clenched.
Yeah, I was mad alright, but not at her. At the situation - the whole situation, but not my Rainie.
I relaxed a bit, not wanting her to feel bad, despite my sour mood. “No, I’m not mad at you.”
“But you are mad,” she stated matter-of-factly, more relaxed herself, knowing she wasn’t on the hook.
I sighed, not knowing where to even begin. I was mad at a lot of things, but I didn’t want to unload all that on my daughter.
“It’s alright, Raindrop,” I tried to lighten the mood by using the nickname I’d given her as a baby but hadn’t used in a while.
She smiled at me sincerely, but concern still lingered in her eyes. “Dad?”
“Yeah?” I replied.
“I know you’re not supposed to hit people and all, but did I really do anything wrong? I mean, you wouldn’t have let him bully her if you were in my shoes, right?”
Being that the other girl, Anne, was October’s daughter, the irrational side of me wanted to say that I would have stayed out of it and far away from her period. But, my rational side, and the bigger part of me knew Rainie was right. I was in law enforcement for a reason after all.
“No, you’re right, I wouldn’t have let him bully her.”
After a moment, I asked curiously, “So, how’d you get involved with this girl anyways?”
Rainie brightened up a bit, “Oh, she’s the new girl I was telling you and Grandma about the other night. You know, the one who draws the comics?! Well, I did what you said and talked to her! She’s really nice!”
Damn! Just my luck, I thought. Of all the kids for Rainie to be friends with, of course she’d choose that one. I let her continue.
“Her and her mom just moved from Cincinnati, and she said that her school there had hundreds of kids!”
I interrupted, not wanting to get her all excited about being friends with this girl, as it was going to have to end.
“Rainie, listen. I know you have good intentions and all, but I don’t want you hanging around her, okay?”
Her brows furrowed with confusion, “But why?!”
My jaw clenched again, as I didn’t want to explain why. “Because, of what her mom does for a living.”
There was a pause as Rainie tried to understand my meaning. “I thought she was a veterinarian for ocean animals. What’s bad about that?”
I cleared my throat, never having went into details about her mother’s death with her, and never explaining why I hated the aquarium and anyone who had anything to do with it. She had been too young to bear that when it’d happened, and I couldn’t open up about it after.
“Well, normally that would be a good thing, but I don’t think she’s a good doctor, okay?”
“Why? Did she do something wrong?” She asked with concern.
I really didn’t know what kind of veterinarian she was, but once a place has a reputation for malpractice and farming dolphin organs to illegal organizations, it wouldn’t matter how good the doctor was, you wouldn’t trust anyone working there. But I couldn’t say that to Rainie, not when she didn’t know.
“I just know that that’s a bad place, Rainie, and I don’t trust anyone who is employed there. That’s all there is to it, okay?!” My voice rose and Rainie sunk back into her seat a bit.
Like her father, she didn’t necessarily know when to quit though, “But Grandma says that it’s all new people and that the new guy in charge is really nice. She says...”
“I don’t want to hear it, Rainie!” I tried to shut her down, and I thought it worked for a moment as she sat in silence. Maybe I should tell her everything about her mom’s death soon, then she’d understand and wouldn’t be so trusting.
Changing tactics, she asked, “So, what’s the plan for the rest of the summer? Am I going to do community service and go back to the Summer Center?”
God, I forgot about community service! She needed to do something productive over the summer while Mom and I were at work. That’s why I had her at the Center to begin with. But I wasn’t sure where to have her go do community service.
Navarro Beach was so small that we didn’t necessarily have a soup kitchen or shelters. We didn’t have many of the problems big cities and towns had, and in general, we took care of each other. Half the town was kin in some form or fashion anyways.
“I don’t know. Maybe I can see if the Police Station needs any help. I don’t think there’s anything much for you to do at the Marine Station.”
She just nodded her head and looked out the window as we rode the rest of the way home in silence.
Later that evening Mom got home, apparently not surprised that Rainie and I had already been home for a while now. Once she ensured Rainie wasn’t upset or distraught about the fight, Mom gave her a hug, then teased, “Guess who I got to meet this afternoon? Your battle-buddy!”
She continued as she started getting stuff out in the kitchen, preparing for supper, “Between you and that little thing of Tobie’s, I would be very afraid if I were a bully! Tobie said he was a big, tough-looking kid.”
Rainie smirked, “It helps that there was two of us against him. But I was the one to draw blood!”
“Rainie...” I warned, not wanting her to feel good about hurting the other kid, regardless of how proud I really was that she was tough enough to draw first blood.
Changing directions, Mom sent Rainie outside to do a few chores, then turned to me, “So, Tobie had me set up a meeting with Rob for first thing tomorrow to discuss this community service thing. If he agrees, you’re going to have Rainie go, right?”
Mom had to have known how I felt about it before even asking. Suddenly, I thought I had the answer, “Did she put you up to this? What’s her problem? Why can’t she just leave me and my daughter alone!? Just because she’s my...”
Shit! I almost said it aloud! The unspeakable! I didn’t even think October Davis realized what she was supposed to be to me, being a non-shifter. And I was pretty sure the only one who might have any inkling about the whole soul mate thing would be Onyx.
“No, Mom. Rainie will not be going!”
I stormed out of the house, still in uniform, heading to the dunes. I would come back tonight and let Onyx roam then, but for now I needed to figure out some things in my own head.