‘ Oh dear Dad can you see me now, I am myself like you somehow, I’ll ride the wave where it takes me , I’ll hold the pain, release me’.
Release by Pearl Jam.
He was just writing up the day’s specials on the chalkboard when a familiar voice called out to him.
‘Hey I was hoping you’d be here’.
He looked up and was very surprised and disoriented to see blue eyes and a big grin striding in the door. Sam minced his way through the mother-baby group not batting an eyelid but causing a slight flurry of fuss among the women and to his amusement covering of breasts by some of the usually gung ho patrons. Wow this guy really had a presence. He wasn’t that good-looking was he ? Or even that muscular. He had an ease about him though which Peter envied. He looked clean but not over groomed and he was sporting a bright blue scarf thing around his neck which Peter had seen Nomadic tribes of the Sahara wear … on the Discovery channel. Normally he would have found this a bit silly looking but on Sam it looked like it belonged there. His smile was wide and it seemed to be contagious because he found himself, grinning right back.He pulled out one of the counter stools next to Peter and started rummaging through his worn- leather satchel.
‘ I know I know what am I doing here right?' He continued to dig through a ton of papers then stopped suddenly ‘Sorry wait are you busy ?’
‘ Ha no , I wish , you’re fine , good to see you.’ He didn’t know what else to say, his curiosity was overwhelming him. Why would he come here unexpectedly ?Wouldn’t he have text him first to make plans ? Maybe city boys were different and more at ease with just calling over to each other without a big deal. Or was it something to do with Lara? Just as he was getting worried Sam extracted himself from the bag and plonked a crumpled piece of paper on the counter.
‘ I thought you might like to read my article’ He grinned again.
‘ No just kidding, take a look at this and tell me what you think ?’
He slid the page over the counter. It was a cut-out from a magazine and Peter’s eyes glided over the blue skies and palm trees depicted in the picture. He zoned in on the blurb at the bottom:
‘ Huge sale on flights to Marrakesh ,offer ends this week!!’
He looked up from the blue pools of the page to those of Sam face, feeling confused. Surely he wasn’t serious ? He remembered vaguely agreeing to going over to his villa at some point , but they had both been drunk and he hadn’t even given it a second thought. If all plans, made over a bottle of wine were followed through, he would have traveled the world at this stage.
‘ Well dude what do you think ?’ He was feigning a Californian accent but his expression was genuine.
‘ It’s too great a deal to miss out on ? Am I right ?’.
‘ Are you serious ?’ Peter was still shocked but a feeling of excitement and elation was entering his body.
‘ Absolutely mate , I mean I know we were drunk and everything but I really got the impression that you would appreciate what Morocco has to offer and even though we don’t know each other that well ...’ He paused ‘ Well Lara knows me and knows I’m not a weirdo, despite appearances’.
‘ Em well I’d have to check with Joe for time off ’ They both turned to gaze at the practically empty bistro. The women of course , were still there , gazing not very discreetly in their direction.
‘ Yeah , Joe will probably manage’. Peter allowed himself to smile.
‘ And of course I’ll have to talk to Lara, I’m not sure whether Morocco is really her thing.’
Sam seemed surprised at this ‘ Oh I..’ he was about to say something but changed his mind ‘ Yeah of course , I wanted to show you first caus you seemed so eager the other night’.
‘ Look, I’ll leave it with you, but the offer is for any two weeks in April which is a long while away anyway. It’s perfect weather at that time of year, not too hot or cold and our villa is very comfortable’.
He sounded so casual about the whole thing which left Peter wondering why the hell not ? A tiny voice whispered that this could though be a manipulative move to spend more time with Lara. His gestures and expressions however seemed so open and sincere he couldn’t help but trust the fella. As Sam exited the Bistro, he left a normally alert Peter completely lost in thought. What would two weeks in Morocco with both Lara and Sam be like? They had been dying for a holiday this was true but not with someone else. They had been invited over the years to holidays with friends but Lara always made excuses about spending alone time together and not being pressured by other people’s schedules. Despite this they still hadn’t managed to go abroad together in over three years. Money of course was a huge factor but here was a super deal and free accommodation on a plate. This could be the experience of a lifetime.
It never ceased to both irritate and amuse her, how distrustful her Dad was of his caller ID.
‘ Dad it’s Lara.’ She tried to sound neutral and not start the conversation with a debate of how
the probability of caller ID being wrong was minimal.
‘ Oh hi sweetheart... it’s been a while.’ She knew he wasn’t being passive aggressive but the guilt set in immediately.
‘ Yeah sorry Dad. I’ve just been so busy with work and..’ She always felt she should explain herself but remembered that Peter had told her that too many explanations sounded like a lie. ‘So I was wondering how you would feel about coming to dinner this Saturday?’
Although he lived only an hour outside the city, he very rarely ventured away from their small village. Her father taught in the local school , shopped in the local shops and drank in the local pub. David Bell was intimidated by the city but would never admit to it. He winced when cars honked their horns and he held his breath every time they crossed the road. He would link arms with Lara as they walked around a shopping centre in an apparent gesture of companionship, but really she knew that the big milling crowds seemed to him a black ocean in which he might drown. For that reason she very rarely asked him to visit. Peter’s work hours and her valuable sleep time at the weekend meant that her own visits were becoming less and less regular. She heard the hesitation and knew that an extra incentive would have to be doled out.
‘Peter said he would collect you and bring you back’.
‘ Oh he doesn’t have to do that.'His voice as convincing as a Politician's.
‘ He really doesn’t mind and we know you hate the bus’. He didn’t drive and although he attributed this to a stiff neck, she figured out a long time ago that many of her own anxieties were hereditary.
‘ Well that would be lovely thanks, can I bring anything?’
‘ Just your lovely self.’ She smiled because she knew he would anyway, he never came empty handed.
‘Great stuff, you can text me the time closer to the day.’ Now this stopped her in her tracks.
‘ Text?? You?’
’ Don’t be facetious Lara, I do live in the real world too.’He chuckled ironically.
She giggled as she hung up.
‘ What’s so funny?’ Peter had just walked in from work and she was worried at how tired he looked.
‘ Oh it’s just Dad being Dad. You look wrecked, everything ok?’ The circles under his eyes were nothing new but he seemed a little disheveled.
‘ Ah yeah, I’m just trying to tie up some loose ends before we head away with Sam’. He smiled excitedly. ‘ Then we can relax’. Flomping onto the sitting room couch he closed his eyes.
‘ Well don’t kill yourself, I’m sure Joe will cope without you for one week’.
‘ I’m sure Joe will, but what about all the female patrons?’ He teased her and pulled her onto his chest, his head resting on her breasts, sending tingles through her which were over-ridden as usual by her whirring brain.
‘ I’ve invited Dad over for dinner this Saturday and... I said you’d collect him?’ She smiled what she hoped was an endearing and winning smile.
Peter rolled his eyes ‘Great an hour of trying to make conversation with your Dad, whoop whoop!’
Although they got on quite well, Peter still found it awkward around her father. There was no real reason for this other than perhaps a little guilt at having taken his only daughter away to the big smoke. That and probably all the times they had shagged just above his head in her bedroom. She curled up inside when she thought about how brazen they had been. Peter insisted that her father must have known, which is why he still found it difficult to look at him in the eye.
‘ Oh I have an idea, I’ll ask Sam along with me for the journey over and he can join us for dinner.’
She wanted to say ‘Get a room already’ but she knew this would make her protestations of not being jealous at their burgeoning relationship, sound meaningless.
‘ Yeah sure, that’s a good idea and we can talk about our holiday plans too’. This gave her butterflies and all kinds of other fluttery things. Now that they had bought the airline tickets she was actually getting excited about the whole thing. As usual she was anxious about all the things that could go wrong. What if it was really awkward with the three of them together? Sam was different around Peter the few times he had called in to collect him for recent outings they had taken together. What if a whole week made him less conscious of flirting with her. Not that she was one hundred percent certain that was what he was doing but she was sure it would make Peter uncomfortable. Still she knew Peter would never say anything. He was in control of his feelings. If only some of that could rub off on her.
‘ What will we make for dinner?’ She needed to think about something else.
That following Saturday she woke up with an odd, misplaced feeling. She tried to recall whether she had a nightmare but couldn’t. The level of dread she felt had not happened since before she had been on meds. Back then every morning had started this way. The problem with overcoming depression was the constant fear that any negative feelings would push you backwards to the black. She tried to shake it off but nevertheless asked Peter to check the car before he left. He did so without protest. She hugged him tight and pleaded with him to be careful.
‘ I’ll be reckless!’ He smiled kindly. ‘ Of course I will, I want that nice dinner you promised me’.
She had decided to make a traditional roast which she found easy as she could pop everything into the oven first then tidy the house. None of these things she had learnt at home. After her mother died, her father had made all of their meals and it was rare that he was ever away. Sometimes she had longed for the ‘pizzas on a couch’ evenings her friends had when their parents went away. On the occasion when he had left for a school trip his sister Lilly had come to stay and more home meals followed. She had of coursed peeled the occasional potato and chopped the oddest looking carrots from her father’s garden but most of the real cooking she had learnt from Peter.
Looking back she could see how hard it must have been on her father, how he must have struggled. All the chores he continued with, all life’s banalities carried out with a quiet grace . Despite his many anxieties he was stronger than she ever was or ever would be. She couldn’t resent him for not giving her what he couldn’t. All the cups of coffees, all the shopping sprees all the things her friends experienced with their own mothers , the awkward ‘growing up’ questions, these weren’t his to give or take away.
‘I wouldn’t ask my mother anything about that kind of thing anyway.’ Her friend Sue had reassured her when Lara admitted that her father never had the ‘talk’ with her.
‘ I just listen to my sisters and get all the facts and more.’ She winked conspiratorially. What followed were the talks that taught Lara the weird and unbelievable facts of life which Sue managed to get in bulletin form overheard by a hot ear pressed against locked doors. She had learned of blow jobs and anal sex before the actual act itself and had made her first imaginations quite warped for someone so young. Then again much of her teenage years had been warped. She sat down suddenly at the kitchen table. The memories she tried so hard to suppress were clamoring for her attention and sometimes she had no choice but to surrender to them. Only then would they would leave her in peace for another while at least.
It was strange what she could remember and what she could forget about that day. The hole in her school tights was vivid because as she walked home she could feel the cold air tapping at her skin. Her mother had meant to darn it. The table had been set for dinner and the chicken pieces were marinating in the fridge but the radio was off and the house strangely still. She couldn’t remember why she went upstairs instead of watching TV as she always did. Was it because her mother hadn’t left the house in weeks and now there was no sign of her in the kitchen or living room? Did she run or walk up the stairs ? The erratic thumping of her heart in her ears was a sound she would always associate with those moments.
Had she tried her parents’ bedroom first ? Had she looked in any of the other rooms before she went into the bathroom? Again she couldn’t find those pictures, they were lost in the rubble. One image however was clear above all and that was how beautifully green her mother’s eyes were in contrast to the clotted spools of red as she lay looking up at the ceiling, her auburn hair ,floating above her small breasts. It was the first time she had seen her mother naked. A part of her still wondered why she hadn’t remained clothed. Had she impulsively slit her wrists while taking a bath ? Did she not know that Lara would be the one to find her ? Modesty was probably not a priority when taking your own life.
Later she would understand that she had stood fixed to the spot. It would have been an hour at least and she had stood there just staring. She didn’t believe it at first because time had lost all meaning at that point. She had been angry at herself for years over that. Why hadn’t she called an ambulance straight
‘ You knew she was gone Lara, the coroner said she had been dead for hours at that stage, there was nothing you could do,’ Her therapist told her what she knew must have been true but all she could think of was her mother lying there for hours in the cold bath covered in her own blood as it seeped from her wrists.
‘It’s not your fault, it’s not your fault.’ Her father had whispered over and over again clutching Lara as the ambulance men had carried her body like on the soaps they had watched together.
Was she the cause of this? Had she been so terribly unhelpful? Her teenage mind had immediately wound back to the day before when her mother had asked her to make a cup of tea and selfishly she had pretended not to hear. All the times her mother watched her do her homework, sitting silently on her bed as Lara studied at her desk, never acknowledging her for some reason but loving her presence at the same time. It had to have been her fault. She never heard her parents fighting but she on the other hand had,on many an occasion, shouted and slammed doors.
After that, grief penciled its grey on everything they did. Silence was her father’s way of coping. Like her eating disorder it made him less, in a world of too much pain. He moved like a ghost around her, always doing the things a father should do but never saying the things she longed to hear. She was afraid if he did speak to her for any length of time he would tell her how it was all her fault . Perhaps silence was better. It got a little better when Peter came into their world and chit-chat filled the air.The ping of the oven bell stopped her thoughts but as stood up from the table, the pins and needles of dread were still prickling her.