Vince leaned in the doorway to the hospital room when Daniel woke up. Slowly he approached the bed and sat in a nearby chair. “I am so sorry. I had no idea-”
Daniel held up a hand, stopping Vince in mid-apology. “Don’t even. You knew it was a bad idea selling that shit to Davis. Or, more importantly,” he winced, “selling it at all. Do not, ever, ask me to do something like that, again. You understand?” He let out a deep breath and looked at Vince. “What?”
Vince clasped his hands and sighed. “I know, Danny, I know. And I really am sorry.” He raised his head and looked Daniel in the eye. “How was I supposed to know there would be guys there with bats?”
Undisguised anger crossed Daniel’s face. “Bats? I was lucky they didn’t have guns, you idiot.” He tried to sit up and winces. Vince moved to help him. Daniel stopped him. “No. You don’t get to help me with this. And, unfortunately, ‘Broken ribs due to drug deal gone bad’ isn’t covered by our Workers’ Compensation policy.”
Vince returned to his chair. If he had a tail, it would be tucked between his legs.
“Look, go on back to the shop. I’ll be by after discharge to pick up my bike.” Daniel picked up the remote and turned on the wall-mounted television. A rerun of some 1980’s sitcom played. “Course, I won’t be able to ride it much with these ribs, but, whatever.”
Standing to leave, Vince eyed Daniel in the hospital bed. “I’ll be there until late. Need to finish up that Harley for Steve.” He walked towards the door, and took one last look at Daniel before going into the hallway.
Daniel watched him leave, then turned his attention back to the television. After a couple minutes, he turned it off, the canned laughter echoing in the sterile room. He eyed his cell phone and picked it up to call Eva and thank her for helping last night. Slowly he shook his head and set the phone on the wheeled tray beside him. He decided wait a little while longer.
Louis sat in the outdoor dining area at Bella’s waiting for Susan to arrive. He glanced at his watch and rolled his eyes. Damn it, Susan, hurry up! he thought to himself. Taking a long pull off his beer, he caught sight of Susan parking her Audi. He watched her walk across the street, cars stopping for her. Michael should be glad he’s got her, or I’d probably try to hit it. Louis shook his head and took another drink of beer. Their waiter seated Susan and took her drink order, a simple glass of wine.
“So, are you going to tell me what this unexpected lunch date is all about?” He eyed her suspiciously.
Susan took off her jacket, and placed it and her handbag in the chair next to her. The waiter arrived with her wine, and she thanked him. Louis watched her closely. She took a sip of the wine, frowning slightly, and looked Louis square in the eyes.
“You, my dear friend, need to stop being a jealous ass,” Susan said calmly. “Eva is my oldest friend in the world, and you are screwing with her stability. This needs to stop.” She watched Louis’ expression for signs of anger, but found none. “Furthermore, she has scant friends outside of our little circle. Which, by the way, means she does need someone to talk to about your relationship,” she stated firmly then added, “You will not give her shit about calling me. And in case you did not realize it, you did the very same thing with Michael last night.” Susan picked up her wine glass and said “Your turn.”
Louis stared at her for several long moments, trying to decide how best to approach the conversation. Finally, after draining his beer, he put his hands on his knees and leaned forward. Quietly he said, “And you need to stop being a meddling bitch. Who I speak to and how I speak to them is not of your concern. Relationships are the business of the people in them, not the rest of the world.” He held his hands out in front of him and continued. “Michael has been my friend since childhood. You’re overstepping your bounds, sweetheart.” With that, he stood up and threw some money on the table. “Just remember how we met,” he said as he leaned close to her, then walked away.
Susan watched him walk away and muttered, “Oh, darlin’, that’s my entire point.” The waiter chose that moment to come take her order. She stopped him before he asked, and said “It’s alright. I’m leaving, as well.” She gave him the money Louis left, gathered her things and went back to work.
Daniel, having been released from the hospital, took a cab to the garage to pick up his motorcycle. He looked around and found Vince working on the same ride he had been before he got hurt.
“So, still think I shouldn’t invest more in the shop?” Daniel asked with more venom than intended, and leaned against the tool bench.
Vince stood up and sighed heavily, tossing a wrench on the bench. “I’m sorry, man. I had no idea that would go down, that you’d be hurt.” He ran his hands over his gray stubble and held out his hands in surrender. “You win. You were totally right, Danny. You win,” he replied and wiped his hands on the rag in his back pocket.
Daniel closed his eyes and asked “How much?”
Vince stopped and asked “How much what?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, V. How much does the shop need? Not you. The shop. How much does the shop need to stay above water?” Vince looked everywhere other than Daniel’s face. An indication it was bad. Real bad. “Jesus, Vince.” Daniel let out a quick breathe and asked Vince for the shop’s financial records. When Vince hesitated, Daniel reminded him his name was on the latest contract and bank statements. “I can get Michael to come by, if necessary.”
“No,” Vince sighed. “Follow me. I’ll get them for you,” resigned and started for the office.
“And, Vince?” Daniel stopped him as he opened the door. Vince turned to look at him. “I want both sets,” Daniel stated firmly.
Vince put his arm out and said “You’re the majority shareholder. After you.” Daniel lead
Vince into the office, where he was handed the ledgers for the shop. Daniel thanked Vince and left. Vince stood there defeated and guilty, watching Daniel put the books in his saddlebag and leave.
Daniel sat on his bike across the street from Eva’s and wondered what brought him here in the first place. It’s not like we can change things, he thought to himself. She has no idea how much I still love her. With a deep sigh, Daniel lowered the shield on his helmet and started his bike. Little did he know Eva had been watching him from her bedroom window. Slowly, he pulled away from the curb.
After settling in at home, Daniel texted Sadie to check on her. They hadn’t really spoken for a while. On the drive home, he considered asking her to hang out with him for the weekend, but decided that might be too much activity after the delivery incident. He wasn’t even sure she knew about what happened last night. When Sadie didn’t respond immediately, he figured she was probably in class. Just as he got up to get some lunch, he got a text from her saying she’s fine. He smiled and asked about dinner. Her reply came back with an all-caps yes and exclamation point. He laughed and said he would pick her up at Eva’s around six, and she can pick the restaurant. Sadie texted back a smiley face. Daniel closed his phone and went into the kitchen to look for something to eat. Realizing he needed to talk to Eva about it, he picked up his phone and hit her speed dial. He chuckled, noticing he was nervous.
“Daniel? Everything okay?” Sadie was out of breath when she answered.
“Eva,” he laughed, “I’m okay. I’m home. Listen, I-”
She cut him off and let out a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank Goddess! You scared me! Don’t do that again,” she laughed lightly.
“Wow, okay. Switch to decaf after lunch. Listen, I wanted to know if it was alright for me to take Sadie out to dinner tonight. I already asked her and she seemed on board. Just want your feedback.” Daniel let out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding. Was he expecting her to turn him down? Tell him no?
Eva hesitated before asking, “Are you sure you’re up for it tonight? I mean, you were just in the hospital, and you have cracked ribs and stuff.”
“I’m fine, really. Just want some time with our girl,” he stated. “If I were tip top I wanted her to hang with me for the weekend, but, like you said…cracked ribs and teen girls don’t mix.” He paused, waiting for her to say something. “Eva?” Is she going to say no? he wondered.
“I’m here. Yeah, no, it’s fine. She’s seventeen, Daniel. We started leaving this up to her a long time ago,” Eva reassured him. “By the way, she has no idea about what went down last night. I figured if you wanted her to know about it, you’d tell her.”
“No, no. She doesn’t need to know all that. I’m happier she thinks all I do is boring bike repair,” he laughed. “I’ll be over around six to get her,” then he hesitated before asking “Will Louis be home?”
Eva worked out the time in her head before answering. “No, he’s got a late meeting and won’t be home until maybe seven. You won’t have to deal with his attitude tonight. I’m not even sure I want to deal with him myself.”
Daniel’s radar went off. “Oh? Things not going well?” he asked gently.
Eva sighed and said, “I shouldn’t talk to you about it. Anyway, I’ll make sure Sadie’s ready when you get here. Where are y’all going?” she asked.
“I’m letting her decide. Wherever she wants to go is fine with me,” he said. “Chinese, Italian, whatever. Her choice.”
“That’s great. She could really use some time with you right now,” she said and then stopped herself from telling him about Sadie’s upcoming appointment. “It will do you both some good.”
Daniel slid his sock-clad foot over the kitchen floor. “Yeah. I really miss her.”
“Daniel, you can see her whenever you want. You know that. And no, I’m not complaining about anything. Just want you to know you don’t need my permission to spend time with your daughter.”
He sniffled and winced before answering. “I know, Eva. And I really do thank you.” They shared an awkward silence. Daniel said, “Well, I guess I should probably eat my lunch and grab a shower. Thank you, again, Eva. Really.”
Eva hesitated and said, “You’re very welcome, Daniel. I guess I’ll see you in a few hours. Enjoy your lunch.”
Daniel said “You, too,” and hung up. He looked at the phone and smiled. “Now,” he said out loud, “what the hell am I going to eat,” and began looking through the cabinets.
Dani had been trying all day to get information out of Sadie, to no avail. On the ride to Sadie’s after school, Dani peppered her with questions. “Look, I’m just worried, okay? You haven’t been yourself for a couple days. I know something’s up. Spill the beans, chica.”
Sadie sat quietly in the passenger seat of Dani’s old Taurus. After several minutes, she closed her eyes and said “Jared basically called me a whore, because I might be pregnant.” When Dani didn’t respond, she said, “And he pretty much dumped me. That’s what’s been wrong.” She turned and looked out the window, watching the line poles go by.
Finally, Dani cleared her throat and said, “Oh. I, uh, didn’t realize y’all were having sex. You never said anything.” She glanced at Sadie. “So, what are you gonna do?”
Sadie said “It’s not a positive that I am. Mom’s making me an appointment with her gyno lady to get tested.” She shrugged and watched the expressions roll across Dani’s face. Sadie was thankful to see all the “good” expressions, like concern and love. They’d been friends since they could walk. Sadie wasn’t sure why she felt she needed to keep stuff from her best friend.
Before she knew it, they were parked outside the house. Eva was just getting out of her car, balancing a huge pile of folders in one arm, and handbag and travel mug in the other. The girls watched her close the car door with her hip and walk towards the front door. They chuckled.
“Your mom needs an assistant just to unload her car,” Dani laughed.
“Yeah, she does. I’ll tell her you’re interested in the position.” Sadie leaned over and hugged Dani. “Thank you, for everything. I should’ve trusted you. And, honestly, I’m not sure why I didn’t tell you,” she said, finally pulling away.
“No worries, chica. I got your back,” Dani said with a smile. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
Sadie got out of the car and walked up the driveway. She turned around just as Dani was pulling away from the curb. She shook her head and went into the house. “Mom!” she yelled, tossing her backpack on the couch.
“Office!” Eva shouted.
Sadie took off her jacket as she walked down the hall to the home office. Peeking around the doorway, she found Eva leaning over her desk to catch the pile of folders she brought in from the car. Sadie leaned against the door and asked, “You need any help?” A big smile spreading across her face.
Eva stood up, walked around the desk and rolled her eyes. “We got hammered with a quick estate sale.” Gesturing to the pile, she said, “All of that is the inventory. I left some for Ginger and Alex to take with them. So, you can imagine how friggin’ big this sale is.” She sighs. “I’m sorry, babe. How was your day,” she asked and crossed the room to pull Sadie into a tight hug.
Sadie hugged her mom tight and said, “My day was okay. Jared wouldn’t look at me, which sucked.” She pulled away and sighed. “I told Dani, though. I had to.”
“Well, we all need someone to talk to, babe.” She threw her arms in the air and yelled, “Oh!” then walked to her desk, shifting through her handbag for the date book. Opening it she said, “Tomorrow at 10:30 is your appointment.” She put the book down and walked back towards Sadie and said, “I was thinking afterward we could hit the outlet mall, do some shopping and grab lunch.”
“Yeah, that sounds good. If nothing else, we can shop for maternity clothes,” Sadie joked.
Eva looked at Sadie, a stony expression on her face. “That’s not very funny,” she said. “Although it is true.” She paused and watched Sadie. “Go on and get ready for dinner with Dad,” she recovered and gave her daughter a quick hug. “I need to do something about this disaster,” she conceded as she surveyed the office she shared with Louis.
Sadie snickered. “I’d say.” She gave Eva another quick hug and left the room.
Eva watched Sadie go and sniffled. Instead of tackling the disaster the office had become she sat at her desk, put her head in her hands and cried. After a few minutes she wiped her face dry on one of Louis’ shirts that he had left in there, and returned it to the back of his chair when she was finished. She stood in the middle of the room and looked around. It really was a mess. Stacks of folders on her desk, more papers stuffed on tops of books on shelves and the yet-to-be-used filing system she insisted on buying still in its box. She looked at her watch and swore when she saw the time. Dinner needed to be started.
The doorbell rang and Sadie barreled down the stairs yelling, “I got it!” She opened the door to find Daniel on the step dressed in dark-wash denim and a gray button-down, the sleeves of which were rolled up to his elbows.
“And you wonder why my friends scope you out, seriously,” Sadie said with a smile.
Daniel rolled his eyes and asked, “Are you ready?”
Sadie replied with a casual, “Yeah. Mom’s in the kitchen. I just need to grab a jacket or something.” She ran upstairs while Daniel spoke with Eva.
“Wow. You clean up nice,” Eva said, giving him an appreciative once over. In fact, she eyed him so closely, Daniel shuffled and blushed. “You always were attractive, and I think we’ve had this conversation,” She gestured to him with a set of tongs.
“Stop, I’m uncomfortable,” he chuckled.
Sadie came in and announced, “I’m ready. Let’s go.”
Daniel nodded to Eva and said, “Thank you.” He put his hand on Sadie’s back and ushered her to the door. “Let’s go before your mother puts me on a calendar, or something.” Sadie laughed as they walked out the door.
Sadie chose a festive restaurant for dinner with Daniel. She ordered what she thought were quesadillas, but turned out to be a stir-fry, instead. He decided on the steak tips with steamed vegetables.
Daniel took a sip of his ginger ale and looked at Sadie. “So, how’s things with Jared?” He picked up his fork and took a bite of the steak tips. He moaned quietly and chewed slowly, savoring the taste. He gestured to his plate with the fork and said, “These are really freakin’ good,” and laughed.
Sadie put her fork in her plate and quietly said, “We kinda broke up last night, Dad. It’s fine, though. I’m okay.” She sipped on her diet soda and picked a pepper up with her fork.
“What? Why?” Daniel asked quickly. “I thought you and he were getting along great. At least, that’s what your mom told me. What changed?” He watched her thoughtfully, resisting the urge to beat Jared to a pulp for breaking his baby’s heart.
Sadie shrugged and lied, “I don’t really know.” Taking a bite of her food, she looked at Daniel and watched how he moved. “You alright?” He’d been moving strange all evening.
Daniel’s head snapped up, her question catching him off guard. “Yeah. I’m good,” he answered slowly and took a sip of his beer.
She eyed him suspiciously. “Okay, because you look like you might be in a little bit of pain, Dad.”
“Old injury, babe,” Daniel claimed, and shifted carefully in his chair. “So, tell me about your friends,” he prompted.
Sadie sighed. “Well, you’ve known Dani forever. She’s applying to art schools. Trista and Ami are your typical Barbie airheads – into hot guys and clothes and stuff. They mean well sometimes, but get on my nerves more often than not.” She took a bite of her stir-fry and asked, “What about your friends? Tell me about them.”
Daniel laughed and said, “Babe, I don’t have many friends. Basically, I have the same friends your mom has – Michael and Susan.” He paused thoughtfully. “I do have other friends, but none that are really worth mentioning,” he continued.
Their waiter arrived at that moment with the check, and asked out of courtesy if they wanted dessert. Both Sadie and Daniel declined. The waiter placed their bill on the table and walked away. As he walked away, they shared a glance and snickered. They finished their dinner with idle chatter, paid for it and left.
Daniel dropped Sadie off at the curb, not wanting a confrontation with Louis. He gave her a careful hug and thanked her for having dinner with him. She hugged him back and started to get out of the car. Instead she turned to him and said, “Thanks, Dad. I mean it. I had a really great time tonight. Can we do stuff this more often?”
Daniel attempted to keep the surprise he felt in check and said, “Yeah, of course. We can grab dinner, watch a movie, hang out…whatever you want to do, babe.” He watched her eyes and they softened.
“Thanks, Dad,” she said and got out of the car.
Daniel watched her climbs the steps to the house and sent Eva a “thank you” text before pulling away and heading home.
Louis and Eva barely spoke to each other during dinner. He was moody, not making much eye contact. She was preoccupied with Sadie’s doctor appointment in the morning. Even the seared salmon wasn’t enough to shake them from their respective funks.
Eva caught herself more than a few times from telling Louis she had made an appointment for them with the therapist. She really wasn’t sure it would save their marriage, even if Susan did. But, she had resigned herself to the fact during the course of the day that it might not be such a bad idea to give it a shot.
They had moved to the living room to catch the early local news when Sadie came home. She stopped in the living room and said hello to them. Eva asked how dinner went.
Sadie sat on the arm of the couch and said, “Good. We ate at that funky little Mexican place in town.” She looked at Louis and decided she would talk to Eva more about it later. “Okay, well, I’m heading to bed.” She leaned over and gave Eva a hug. “Love you.
Eva hugged her back and said, “Love you, babe. See you in the morning.” She watched Sadie walk toward the stairs. “I’m worried about her,” she said to Louis.
“I wouldn’t. She’s a resilient girl, Eva. She’ll be alright,” Louis replied with less interest than Sadie would have liked.
Eva sighed. “Yeah, I guess we’ll find out tomorrow just how ‘resilient’ she is.” She stood up and announced she was going to take a bath then go to bed. Louis grunted in acknowledgment and continued to watch the news. Eva rolled her eyes and went upstairs.
Rita put away the dishes from dinner as Jared watched. He sat there, debating on telling her about Sadie. He wanted to, needed to, but was afraid she would think less of him. He knew she had had him young, but that didn’t mean it would work out so well for him and Sadie. They were just kids. He shuffled the newspaper and started to feel guilty about how he reacted to her news. He hoped it was nothing, but couldn’t discount it as a possibility. One which would alter everything he had planned.
“Yeah, sweetie?” Rita asked, wiping down the stove. “What’s up?”
Jared paused and closed his eyes. Oh, God, please let her take this better than I did. “Sadie might be pregnant.” There. It was out. No taking it back.
Rita dropped the cleaning spray on the floor, the bottle bouncing and landing near the fridge. Leaning against the stove she asked, “What…What do you mean?”
“Just what I said. Sadie told me she’s late on her period and she might be pregnant,” he said. “And, I didn’t take it very well, Mom. Not well at all.” He laid his head on the table. “I basically dumped her.”
Rita slid down the front of the stove and put her face in her hands. “I don’t even know what to say.” She looked up and saw him staring at her. “Well, I don’t!” she yelled. “I need time to process this. I’m gonna grab a bath, you’re gonna finish in here and afterward…you and me are having a talk.” She stood up. “I think we need to do a conference call with your Dad, too.”
“No!” He held up his hand. “Let me tell him on my own time, okay? We’re not sure it’s true.”
“You can’t plan for what-ifs, Jared,” she said and left the room.
Jared moaned and put his head back on the table, banging it a couple times. “This is not happening.”