She was sick of the rain. It ran down the window-pane in rivulets, and she watched those crazy little trails as she took a drag of her cigarette, before stubbing it out in the china teacup beside her.
The light from the single candle that was sitting in the window, illuminated her haggard face, which was lined with worry. He was gone too long. Yet again. Blonde hair was lank against her scalp, grazing her bony shoulders. She sighed a weary sigh, pulled her moth-eaten shawl around her shoulders, and wondered why the hell she ever expected things to change, when they never did.
The flick of the lighter, and another one was lit. She inhaled deeply. He was going to kill her long before the cigarettes ever could. She could hear her mother’s voice gently admonishing her for her smoking habit. It had got a lot worse recently. She felt numb, resigned to it. This was what love did to you, had always done. There was nothing to be done. She took drag upon drag of the cigarette, watched the rain, and waited.
Two hours later it was 2am; the flame flickered and was gone. She heard the quiet click of the front door closing. Very quiet, because of course, he was trying to sneak back in without her knowing. He’d done it so many times before, and she had closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep, pretended not to know.
Well, she wasn’t going to do that anymore. He could start facing up to his responsibilities, just as she’d had to start facing hers.
Slow, predictable creaks up the stairs to their first-floor apartment. She sat mournful, and expectant. His every footstep was so predictable now. He thought he was the master of deception; most men did. But he wasn’t. Because she knew. She KNEW. And he would pay, for his deceit and betrayal.
Her cigarette smoke curled up into the light of the big corner lamp she had flicked on, to break up the darkness, as he attempted to creep through the small living-area she was seated in. His ‘freeze’ reaction put her in mind of a startled rabbit, albeit a very large, hairy one. He had stopped moving entirely, his big eyes now ridiculously huge, beneath bushy brows.
He went to speak, frantic, panicked, and she calmly raised a hand to stop him. She could already see his darting eyes trying to summon a dozen potential excuses and lies from his brain, which wasn’t the fastest organ at the best of times. She was putting a stop to this before he could get started, and she silenced him further with a terrifying glare that could have cut through lead. She’d had enough of his shenanigans. It was time to confront things once and for all.
“You’ve been out again.” It was a statement, not a question. Her voice had the sharpness of shards of glass slicing into his skin. He had the good grace to look ashamed. A flush was beginning to appear in his large, bristly neck.
He nodded, hair flopping into his eyes. He looked quite boyish for his years, but boy, he was too old for this malarkey. And so was she. He was trying to act sober but was failing miserably, his tall body swaying, dressed in his smartest dark blue shirt, with his jacket draped over his shoulder, slightly damp from the rain.
She properly looked at him; he looked absolutely wrecked, and so very tired. Her resolve to put him in his place softened when she thought about what he had been through. What they had both been through. She could see a spark of happiness in his eyes; did she really want to take that away from him? Could she be at least a little bit forgiving?
So, instead of berating him, she stood, put out her cigarette, and wrapped her arms tightly around him, with love, compassion. She felt his chin bristles tickle her forehead, smelt his reassuring scent and the whiskey on his breath, and shook her head slightly with a smile on her face. She knew she needed to start being a more supportive daughter and allow her father to start finding love again. After all, he had lost his beloved wife of forty-two years, her lovely mother, several years ago now. He still missed Joan terribly, as much as she missed her mum, and he had the right to be happy again if it was at all possible. Otherwise, what was the point?
“Dad, I’m sorry,” she whispered, feeling a drip of moisture on his cheek. “It’s okay, and I want you to be happy, and find someone else. You don’t have to hide it from me anymore. No more sneaking about. Promise?”
He pulled back and looked down at her, his dear daughter, so full of concern for him. So caring, that she’d insisted he move in with her when he’d struggled to take care of himself. Joan had died suddenly, aged sixty, after a short illness. Such a terrible shock for them all. Nobody could have seen it coming.
He looked into her big dark eyes, ringed with dark circles. She looked absolutely exhausted. Far too skinny. Too many cigarettes, all these nights of worry. Dare he tell her? He took a breath, and found the words spilling out, full of emotion, helped along by a wave of courage called Jack Daniels. “Darling, I’ve met someone. She’s absolutely wonderful. I’ve been spending time with her for a couple of months now, and I’d like you to meet her.”
She looked at the sparkle in his eyes, smiled, and nodded. "Okay, dad."