“It’s an established fact!” her father shouted, pointing his finger. “There aren’t many of them, but this is one of them!”
Maria’s mind was made up—there wasn’t much to it but to watch and not get in the way. Tears were en route, then sobbing, then whiskey, ice, possibly tearing up the calender again. As a psychologist Jamie could say confidently that that was a result of her father’s fear of dying—calenders, clocks, broadcast times, encores all reminded him he was old and limited.
Maria frowned at her and brushed past. The agency wasn’t going to be happy—Jamie would wait as long as possible before attempting to call them; maybe Maria would return. But maybe she wouldn’t this time. Her father’s forehead was glistening wet. He realised then, as she looked at him—not disappointed, not surprised or expectant, just tired—and he sat himself at the edge of the coffee table and patted his face dry with a handkerchief.
“It’s good to be loved, Dad,” Jamie said, “but there are boundaries.”
“Shove your boundaries up your ass,” he said, and watched Maria hoist a pink plastic suitcase into the boot of her car. Pink was definitely his thing. Candy. Pastels. He was a grabber. That’s what the nurses would call him at the hospital, not just when he was sedated—he would grab, pinch, wink, lick his lips.
“It’s a different world, Dad,” Jamie had said once. But the world belonged to him. He was his own man. He had made and lost a fortune doing what he loved, had designed houses that were in magazines, big ones. Jamie went to the fridge and poured a diet soda into a chilled glass. Ice, a splash of vodka. It relaxed him. He took it with both hands, drank it like it was life-giving tonic, and it was. His legs shook less, his eyes focussed. He stopped panting.
Maria entered and stood in the foyer. Was she looking at the change bowl? Reassessing what the job was worth? Planning an insult. The TV was on but Jamie didn’t notice it until then. Her father smacked his lips quietly and enjoyed the fake fruit flavour. Facsimile strawberry. Ripe rye vodka. Maria cried and left, closing the door. The first pitch went out and her father settled back into his chair, not seeing, not caring about the broken glass glittering around him on the tiles. The stench of spilt perfume.