Bad enough that he left me for another man, but I’m told the blighter is still gorgeous. Slim, dark-haired (no doubt with a touch of grey at the temples), with that winning smile, almost bashful, but certain of himself.
And I am not. Gorgeous. I look a good deal like my mother, who in her day looked like the dowager queen. Queen Mary. They had a lot in common. They liked their little tot of gin at the end of the day. They liked dogs. They wore rather outrageous hats. My mother didn’t ride, though I’m not sure the old queen did either. The queen herself, today’s queen, did, as a girl. No longer. I never rode.
So I’m obliged to see him for the first time in twenty-two years. Melinda was two when he left, Priscilla four. Left me high and dry with a pair of pre-school children. Didn’t care.
I just realized, he said. When I met Henry. I was sandbagged. Instantly. Something that has never happened to me before.
Not with me, you’re saying.
He had the grace to colour a little. I fear not, he said. Out you go, I said.
We were schooled to pull up our socks and do whatever we had to do. Duty. Whatever was expected. That was what made it hard to deal with. He was refusing to do what was expected. There he was, a golden boy at Chase, and he threw it all over to go follow his dick.
Sorry. I try not to use improper language. But I also try to speak honestly.
Oh, it’s a good deal easier now than it was then. We were the talk of the club, I’m sure. I made sure I got the club membership, along with everything else I could. I never rode, but I had tennis lessons early and often. I’m moderately good. I’m always in the running for the club singles championship. I have won sometimes. Even though I don’t cover the court as easily as I once did, my game enables me to play on a high level.
In all respects I’m a competent woman. Except in retaining a man, and I don’t consider that my fault. I’ve had a spectacular success in selling real estate. Something about the English accent dazzles Yanks. My clients trust me, and the sellers are inclined to cave in to whatever terms I propose.
I’ve made sure word gets back to him. As I said, I haven’t seen him since that last court date. But the girls have. He hasn’t been too insistent. Clearly his love life is far more important than his progeny. But I have insisted. You need to know him, even though he has done this to us. He’s your father. You need to know who your father is. And what, I suppose. Although it was some years before they realized what.
But now I have to see him. I asked Priscilla, Is your father coming? She looked down before she answered, Yes. No need to be dodgy about it, I said. I’ve always said he’s your father. It’s right that you invited him. She looked up, relieved. Have you asked him to give you away? She glared rather angrily at me, shook her head. Give me away? What right has he to give me away? I’m not a possession of his. I’m scarcely a daughter of his, for god’s sake.
Well. And is his friend coming?
Husband, she said. He and Henry got married when it got to be legal in Massachusetts.
I exhaled at length. You should have told me.
I didn’t know until now. When I invited him. He asked whether his husband was invited. I said of course. I said, any invitation always includes one’s spouse.
Good, I said. Thank god he didn’t invite me to that wedding. Did he invite you and Melinda?
Not me, of course. Or I would have known about it. I don’t know about Melinda. I don’t think so.
And do you want anybody to give you away? Or is that concept so passé?
I’ve thought about it. If anybody did, it should be you. But I don’t know.
If I have a choice, I think I’d rather not waddle down the aisle.
Mu-ther. You do not waddle. Your posture is absolutely perfect. Enviable. She paused. But you might think about trying a different hair style. Something a bit more contemporary.
Yes and lose forty pounds, shall I?
She blushed a bit again. The hair style is doable, you know.
Damned if I’m going to be one of those women who goes on a killing diet for a month just to fit into some fashionable sort of garb for a wedding. Or gussies herself up in some unsuitable way. Nobody looks at the mother-in-law anyway.
Except you know he will. Just to ask himself what he’s missed.
And be damned glad. You know, darling, you’re too smart for your own good.
Tears started. Oh mum. I hope the same thing doesn’t happen to me!
I was startled. You don’t think…? I took a big breath. But Brian is such a hunk. Macho.
Yes, but who would have thought Daddy…? Now her face crumpled and the tears fell in plenty.
We do not give in to emotion, ordinarily, so for a moment I hesitated. Then I pulled her to me, awkwardly, I suppose, and let her cry. I didn’t know what to say to her. At length I murmured a litany, repeating, It’s all right, darling, really.
Twenty years dead, whatever existed between him and me. And this was the first time anyone has mourned it.
Marty’s fiction has been published, or is forthcoming, in the American Literary Review, Carbon Culture Review, Crack the Spine, Edison Literary Review, Evening Street Review, Fiction Fix, Glint Literary Journal, The Griffin, Halfway Down the Stairs, Hawaii Pacific Review, Inscape, The MacGuffin, The Madison Review, MARY: A Journal Of New Writing, Menda City Press, Minetta Review, Moon City Review, Old Red Kimono, Pennsylvania English, riverSedge, Phantasmagoria, Sanskrit, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and The Storyteller.
For almost 20 years Marty was a regular contributor to The Boston Globe, over 30 newspapers, magazines, some 1,600 articles, is author of two editions of A Guide to Public Art in Greater Boston, writes for Sculpture and Landscape Architecture magazines, and reviews fiction and nonfiction for the Internet Review of Books.