CHAPTER SIXTEEN 2003 “Mom, I have a thing going with Marlene and the pep squad this weekend. I know da—Uncle David will understand,” said Jenna. Her mother nodded. This would be the fourth time in the past several months that she had missed her weekend with her Uncle David. Stacey was concerned about him going off on her. She was sure he was going to blame her or Ronald for Jenna’s neglect. But, she was certain that it was her ex-husband’s whininess and depressed state that was driving a wedge between him and Jenna. “Okay, okay, but your uncle is going to be upset; I hope you know that,” said Stacey. “No he won’t, mom. I’ll call him and explain things to him. Okay?” said Jenna. “Okay, I guess. I’m not going to force you to go, but you best call him like you said,” she said. “I will, I will,” said Jenna. ****** The call from my daughter was short, to the point, and hurtful. I was beginning to get the message that she wanted to be with me less and less. Gee, I wonder why that might be! The obvious answer to why was my exes’ influence, my ex-wife’s and my ex-brother’s. I think they actually despised me and no doubt wished I would just disappear. I was sure she was thinking that way if not him. But, I was not going to disappear. I was at the least going to be a thorn in their collective sides for the duration. Oh yeah. I was about to call her and tell her what I was thinking and what I intended to do about it, but, then she took matters into her own hands: she showed up at the warehouse, at lunch time. “Whaddya say, David, let me take you to lunch?” she said. I stared at her as at an apparition, a ghost. There’d been a time when she would show up at the warehouse at lunch time maybe once every couple of weeks, and I’d be taking her to lunch. It was always a small surprise, her showing up, and a pleasant one. This one figured to not be a pleasant one, but she said she’d be payin’ and what the hell, a free lunch was a free lunch. “Yeah, sure if you’re payin’,” I said. “Let’s go. I’ll drive,” she said. “We’re going to Denny’s?” I said. “Whatever,” she said. Denny’s used to be our lunch destination of choice. I was sure she’d moved up in class since she’d dumped me and married my rich brother, but as to that maybe not. We were able to get a booth at the back away from the foot traffic if not the buzz from the lunch crowd. “Been a long time,” she said. “Yes, that’s so,” I said. “We should do this once in a while,” she said. “I mean if you’d be amenable.” I didn’t respond, to her offer. “Why are we here, Stacey? I mean besides to have lunch,” I said. She sighed. Just then the waitress came up with the menus and asked what we wanted to drink. The interruption was timely, I guess, from her point of view. We ordered our ice teas and took up the menus to scan for what appealed to us. Menus down. She folded her hands in front of her and gazed purposefully at me. “We need to get along, David. This endless cold war we’re engaged in isn’t useful,” she said. “Why?” I said. “Why what?” she said. “Why do we have to get along? You’ve gotten Jenna to almost write me off. I know it’s you. She doesn’t even want to come to my place anymore, that’s obvious,” I said. “You’ve got her brainwashed, you and my asshole ex-brother. The way I see it, you’ve won. Be happy.” “Goddamn it, David, we have not brainwashed or tried to brainwash Jenna. You are right about one thing though; she really isn’t thrilled to go to your place anymore. But it’s you not us that is causing her reticence! Get that, big guy. It’s your doing!” “Oh yeah, right,” I said. “You’re not plying her with an endless parade of goodies. You’re not taking her places I could never afford. You’re not enticing her with memberships in country clubs and who knows what else. You’re buying her and spoiling her, Stacey, it’s so obvious that it should be embarrassing even for you!” “Oh, and I’ll have a patty-melt and a double order of fries. I mean if you can afford it,” I said. “No problem, big guy. I can afford it. I’m rich as you keep reminding me,” she said, more or less sarcastically. I smiled a sardonic smile; I felt like I’d stung her, well, a little. We ate mostly in silence. And, oddly it was more or less pleasant in spite of the tension between us. Lunch done she ordered us coffees. I smiled my appreciation. “Lighten up when you are with her, David. She’ll want to be around you then. Just like in the old days,” she said. “Except you’re trying to sell her on the fact that I’m only an uncle; kinda puts the kibosh on things getting back to anything like the old days. You know those days when I was a daddy!” I said, my voice rising a decibel or two. She looked away, and then she looked back at me. She seemed determined. “David, it is what it is. You are in fact her blood, but her uncle, not her father. Why is that so hard for you to accept can I ask,” she said. “Are you serious!” I said. “David, we all love you. As far as I’m concerned you will always be a part of our family. But, things are different now. You can call yourself whatever you want, but the reality is what it is. If you could just get by your stubborn . . .” “Fuck you, Stacey. I’m going.” I got up and marched out. I’d hoof it the mile and a half back to the warehouse. I didn’t want to stink up her fancy ride. And just like that I was no longer mellowed out. ****** The buzzer in the warehouse sounded as usual Ümraniye Escort at 5:00PM. I had been thinking of the things my ex-wife had said at lunch. How it was my fault that I was losing my daughter. After my hard breathing and spit dribbling rage passed, I calmed down. I had to allow, grudgingly allow, that some of what she’d said might be so. I needed a second opinion. I headed for the Embassy. I knew Madeleine’s shift ended at 6:00PM: she was the day manager anymore. Too old now, as she told me, to do the pole thing. For the record I disagreed with her assessment of her suitability to do the pole thing, but she’d just laughed when I’d voiced my more than defensible opinion. “Well, well, well,” she said, coming up to me as I took my seat at the bar. I get off in half an hour. You here to take me to dinner big boy?” “That would be a big ass affirmative,” I said. “Well good. A half hour then. Want a drink to tide you over?” “Just a coffee if you have any back there,” I said. “Probably down to the dregs by now, but I won’t charge you for them. Be right back,” she said. She delivered the coffee; it wasn’t too bad just a little strong. She wandered off after that to do her shift closeout. We were on the road less than thirty minutes later. The Holiday Inn, the same one Nathan Ferguson and I had met at was our destination of choice. The buffet was going to be just what the doctor ordered, so Madeleine assured me. Entering we paid and made the gastronomic tour filling our plates with the night’s offerings. We were half way through our meal, and well into the most mundane of conversations when I felt something strange, a presence. But, I couldn’t define or identify it. But there was something. Or, maybe somebody, yes, somebody watching us. That’s what it felt like. I looked around. “David?” said Madeleine. “I’m not sure, but I feel like we’re being watched,” I said. She looked around. Other patrons were talking, eating, consorting, but no one was apparently watching us; none that I could see at any rate. I gave up the search cursory as it was. “My imagination,” I said. “Had to be.” My dinner mate snickered. “Hmm, maybe,” she said. “What are you doing next Saturday evening?” I said. Saturday was two days hence. “Nothing. You asking me out?” she said. “Yeah, I guess I am,” I said. “Okay,” she said. “I haven’t been getting a lot of requests for my company in recent times. So yes.” “Good,” I said. ****** “You’re kidding,” said Ronald. “No, I’m not. Shocked me too,” she said. I was just leaving after having had dinner with Sarah Laughlin. She and I are almost done with the plans for the church fundraiser. “Anyway, I, none of us, have seen her in a lot of years. I almost didn’t recognize her. But, she still looks good, just more mature. She looked to be sixteen when you were married to her.” “Well, they’re both adults. Maybe she’ll let him get his rocks off. Might help him to lighten up about things,” said Ronald. “Hmm, if only it were that simple,” said Stacey. “Let the wimpy little shit have some ego resurrecting pussy, and he stops his insufferable whining? What a delightful thought. Jenna is not the only one who’s tired of the whining.” “Yeah, I guess,” he said. “No guessing about it. Lately every time I drop her off at that place of his he gets in a little dig. Jenna picks up on it too. She’s told me that I should say something to him. I do that of course whenever I can, but I avoid her seeing me do it. I am at my wits end trying to not compound the problem,” she said. “Yeah, I understand,” he said. “He’s still hurt real bad, and we hurt him, but he does have to get over his anger. I mean it’s been forever! I’ve decided, and yes it’s me doing the deciding here: we gotta let him keep his place as a daddy of sorts. It may not do any good, but it’s worth a try. “I’ll talk to Jenna about it myself,” he said. She nodded. “I think she calls him daddy about half of the time anyway.” “Yeah, I think she does,” she said. “I really did think that him switching roles with you would make it easier for her to see you as her daddy. I thought, I was afraid, that if we didn’t do it, switch roles, that you would always be second in line. I still think it could go that way if we blow it,” she said. “Ron, I don’t want you to be second in line. You deserve to be her dad, every bit as real a dad as David ever was. I know you suffered all of those years. It’s time for you to take your rightful place as her father, as you have as my husband.” “I want that, Stacey, I won’t kid you; but, we’ve got to end this familial war first. It’s giving me ulcers for crying out loud, and I’m not kidding. I didn’t tell you, but I went to the doctor’s the other day. I’ve been having trouble peein’ and I do have the beginning of a peptic ulcer and maybe kidney problems. I know that at least the ulcer is stress related. Stress caused by our community nit wit!” he said. She laughed. “Yeah, well he is pretty dumb when one gets down to it. He could be marginally rich if he didn’t have such an insufferable ego. Me dumping him hurt him; I completely understand that, and he had a right to be angry and all; but it’s long past the time for him to be getting a life and dumping all of the anger and bitterness that is ruining him and discomfiting the rest of us,” she said. “I couldn’t have said it better,” said Ronald. “This is Ümraniye Escort Bayan how we’re going to do it,” he said. He laid out the plan and she smiled her agreement with him. “Yes, I think your idea is likely the best we can do to get him to start getting with the program,” she said. “Anyway, it can’t hurt. He still won’t be happy with us, but he might lighten up a little, so we can all at least get along.” CHAPTER SEVENTEEN 2003 “I am dropping you at your daddy David’s, right?” said Stacey. “Yes, yes, Mom I’m willing to see his complaintmanship this weekend. He’s taking me to the movies. At least I get to choose. Not much fun, but better than sitting around waiting for him to complain or ask stupid questions all the time,” said Jenna. “Jenna, don’t be that way. It’ll be relaxing for you. You could use a little of that, time to relax. You and those friends of yours are gone too much these days,” said Stacey. “Okay, mom, okay,” said Jenna. “You’re calling him dad now aren’t you?” asked Stacey. “You know like me and daddy Ron asked you too.” “Yes, yes, I’m calling him dad. He acts more like a kid brother though. Can I call him kid!” said Jenna, laughing at her own attempt at humor. Her mother gave her a look. “Jenna, stop it. If you’re having problems with your unc—dad, tell him what’s on your mind. But for godssake stop all of the nonsense. Okay?” said Stacey. “Okay, okay,” said Jenna. “I was only kidding.” “Okay, get your stuff together; we’ll be leaving in half an hour,” said Stacey. ****** I saw her pull into the lot in front of my apartment building. That was usual whenever she delivered Jenna. What was not usual anymore was the fact that she was getting out and following Jenna up to my place. Usually she just dropped her and waited till Jenna got to my door before she pulled out and away. Well heck, that’s fair for sure because that’s pretty much what I did too. “Hello, David,” she said. I looked at her. I didn’t scowl. “Hello,” I said. “Something wrong?” “No, I just thought I’d come up and say hello, maybe sit down with you for little bit,” she said. “Huh? Sit down with me?” I said. “I mean our little lunch at Denny’s, not so long ago, didn’t work out so well. Why would you want to continue the game?” “No good reason. Just thought it might be a good idea, and that was then this is now,” she said. She glanced over at Jenna. “Dad, talk to mom, okay,” said Jenna. I nodded and stood back from the open door to allow them in. I did note that Jenna calling me dad did not seem to grate on my ex; I wondered about that. The woman had never been inside my place before and only a few times as far as the door. I wasn’t exactly ashamed of my digs, but I knew they suffered majorly in comparison to where she was living now. “Nice place,” she said. “Have a seat,” I said. “Want a cup of coffee, a soft drink?” “Coffee would be nice,” she said. “I mean if it’s already made. I don’t want to be a bother.” “No bother, I said. I was playing this little tableau by ear. She and I had not had a civil, or at best, a barely civil word to say to each other in quite a while. But this, now . . . Jenna disappeared down the hall. Putting away her stuff, I supposed. I headed into the kitchen. I did have to make a new pot of coffee. I started it perking and went back in to her. “How have you been, David?” she said, as I reemerged. I had a really hinky feeling with her being so, something. “Okay. The coffee will be a few minutes. I made a new pot,” I said. “Dave, I know this may seem a little strange me being here, sitting here, given everything. But, I just wanted to see you, talk to you a little bit. It was a spur of the moment decision; I made it in the car on the way over. “I have to say; I was afraid, well anyway, I decided to risk it,” she said. I had to smile. “Really,” I said. “You’re smiling can I count that as a good thing?” she said. “I guess. But . . .” “Yeah me either,” she said, reading my mind. “I mean I’m not sure how to act either.” Yep, she was reading my mind. Well we had been married a long time. I guess she knew me even if, in the final analysis, that I hadn’t really known her. “You’re going to the movies?” she said. “Yeah, Jenna likes ‘em, I try to do things she likes when I can,” I said. “Oh, okay,” she said. “Good.” We talked for some little time. And yes, I did remember the coffee, and we did have a cup. Nothing we talked about was of any importance, but it was the first time in a long time that we’d communicated. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. But, point for her team, I guess. She’d gotten me to not go off on her. “You and mom talked,” said Jenna, emerging from the back room, her room, for the first time since she’d, they’d, arrived. I had the thought that she’d hung back and listened in, but I didn’t ask or push it. “Yes, a little, as you saw, I’m sure. Was that your idea?” I said. “No. I was kinda surprised too, I guess,” said Jenna. I nodded. Strange, the whole scene had been strange. Was there a thaw in our relations? Not really, it was kind of like opposing armies having a Christmas grog together but then going back to their respective trenches to continue the fight. What was not so strange, though it would have been in the old days, was Jenna’s attitude toward money and the things that money could buy. Anymore, she was always showing up with some new trinket, Escort Ümraniye machine, wardrobe item, something; “always” being the operative term. I couldn’t match the two cheaters’ financial resources, but I did try to do things with Jenna that she liked. I knew she especially liked chick-flicks so we saw a lot of them. Boring for me, but her thing, so we went to see them. The one thing that bugged me was that damn phone Jenna had. It was state of the art of course, and almost always in use. I wanted to toss the thing into the deep blue sea, but it was the one thing that had almost religious appeal to her. And, her conversations with her friends were all but endless, secretive, and generally hilarious in content if the giggling and outright hysterics I was witness to on Jenna’s end were any indication. And, when I say I witnessed such demonstrations, I mean that I witnessed her hilarity in the kitchen while she was confabbing in her room; she was that loud. Well, at least she was happy when she was with me; I counted that as a good thing. Well, I had until five minutes ago. I had gone to the store to do some heavy shopping. We were out of everything she liked. But, fate being fate, I had forgotten my wallet. So ten minutes out, I turned around and came back to get it. I wish I hadn’t. Jenna was on the phone, but in the living room. I’d come in through the kitchen door. She hadn’t heard me, but I’d heard her. Oh yes, I heard her. “No Marlene, I’m stuck here for the whole weekend. Uncle David gets me one weekend a month. Boring, boring, boring but what can I do; he did raise me, I guess, so I’m stuck like I said . . . No, no, no we’re going to the stupid movies again . . . Yeah, next weekend I can do it. Tell Chester that he can have me next weekend . . . that oughta keep him hard for the week . . . Hahahahahaha . . .” I was stunned. They’d, had my enemies, won. I no longer had a daughter, not in any sense of the term. Well, I had, but she had evidently dumped any semblance of me as a father to her. Uncle she’d called me. My wife, my ex-wife, may have wanted, for reasons I could not guess, to soothe things over with me; but while I had momentarily considered softening my stance in that regard, I no longer did or would or whatever. I’d be talking to her, my ex when I took my niece home Sunday night. My new awareness of what my daughter thought of me left me in a bad situation. I still loved her that would never change. That she apparently no longer loved or cared much about me was on her, and, them. I would just be there, out there, filling the role of an unappreciated relative. I would no longer be crying in my beer or continuing with the battle I’d been waging, since the court had come down on me, that to be my daughter’s daddy. ******* We had gone to the movies, because that had been the plan; and, I had watched her more than the flick itself. She was indeed bored that was sure. Boy had I been operating under faulty assumptions. We’d talked and eaten but had otherwise not socialized much. She apparently hadn’t noticed. Well, her phone had commanded the vast majority of her time and interest. I was just a bystander in the great scheme of her teenaged sentience. I pulled up in front of their way too ostentatious digs and got out. Jenna looked at me. “Dad?” she said. “You’re getting out?” I smiled, it was the first time in a while that I hadn’t essentially run off as soon as I delivered her; and I had even more rarely gotten out of the car even when Stacey had uniformly come down to collect Jenna and say a few words to me. “Yes, Jenna, I need to talk to your mom,” I said. “Would you mind getting her for me?” I said. She gave me a look that spelled suspicion. “Okay, sure” she said. Jenna disappeared into the house. Two minutes later a, what, surprised Stacey came striding out and down the driveway to where I had parked. I was ready for her. “David? Is everything all right?” she said coming up to me. I shrugged. After I’d heard Jenna on the phone denigrating me, that’s how I thought of her words, I’d secreted my mini-recorder in her room to hear what I could hear of her next conversations, but more, so that I could have her mother hear what she thought of me. I figured it would save time. “I have something I need you to hear,” I said. I handed her the device. “I’ll be going now. You can keep the recorder and listen to the recording at your leisure. Have a nice day” I’d been home no more than fifteen minutes before I got the call. I’d considered not taking it, but I decided I better or I might have gotten a visit. “Yes, hello,” I said. “David, I am so sorry. I know she didn’t mean any of it,” said Stacey. “Sure she did,” I said. “I’m just an uncle now, and as you heard not a very well thought of uncle. You’ve won, Stacey. She doesn’t need to visit me anymore. That’s what I waited around here today to tell you when you called as I knew you would. Have good life you and your asshole.” “David please, listen. You can’t just cut her off like that. She’s your . . .” she started. “She’s my what, Stacey,” I said. “Niece? Daughter? What were you going to say?” “I was going to say daughter since you ask,” she said. I started to laugh. “You almost sound convincing, Stacey,” I said. “I say almost.” “Look, David, have you talked to her about this. Does she even know you’ve recorded her?” said Stacey. “No. I did it because I happened to overhear her talking to Marlene earlier; that cued me to what she thought of me. So then I set it up to record her next calls so you could hear it too. I wanted to share the experience, the wonderful experience,” I said. “What if she wants to come up to see you?” she said.