I’m Holding Onto Love
In the morning, I went on a longer run than usual in order to think about things…like, what the Hell was I doing with Matt? This was the guy who, if he could, would roll the dice of my life for absolutely no reason—if my name was James. The part of me cowering behind the sofa was screaming at me that I was, once again, being an idiot. A beautiful, smart, and knowing what she wants kind of idiot, but an idiot nonetheless.
Could I actually like, love, or have respect for the same person who didn’t care about a little, declawed kitten who was backed into a corner and could only pretend he was brave? Maybe I could…I mean I wanted to see my father, even though he would never know who I was unless I told him. I could see how he acted to everyone else. Maybe he was an equal-opportunity jerk to the rest of the world as he was to his family…or former family as it seemed.
Should I invite him to my wedding, assuming I would one day have one? Assuming I reveal myself to him…or to anyone. But why would I have to? I wasn’t hiding anything. I wasn’t lying about my name, gender, or social security number. I had the court paperwork. Stacks and stacks of paperwork marked by five doctors, four lawyers, three sex specialists, Mom…and a partridge in a pear tree, so no one could ever say that I was guilty of subterfuge. Yeah, I could think that forever and a day and it still would not stop the rule of public opinion. In the eyes of everyone short of my present family, I would be some ugly thing hiding behind a pretty veneer. A potential Jerry Springer guest.
“You ready?” Krys asked as I walked in the door.
“Shopping, of course.” Krys was already dressed, primped, and had her purse.
“It’s only eight-thirty.”
“Well, I thought we’d get a bit of my type of browsing done as well as yours. Designs or fabrics?”
“Bit of both. I have a few things I’m working on,” I said as I took off my running shoes.
“How did you—”
“Saw your notebook.”
I nodded at that, as I’d had it out on the kitchen table so it wasn’t like it was a huge secret. We walked upstairs and Krys followed me into the bathroom.
“You didn’t tell me how your date went.”
“You were asleep. It wasn’t very eventful,” I replied as I took off my T-shirt.
“Where did you go?” Krys asked.
“Sandwich shop, and we talked a little bit after that.”
I continued getting undressed. Krys avoided any eye contact with me but she also didn’t even attempt to make a move to leave the room.
“Did he brag about himself?”
“No, not at all.”
“Did he say anything about James?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“What did he say?”
“It all made sense in a way. He didn’t think anything about him, except he was there and was an easy target.”
“And you accepted that?” she said and scoffed. “He’s lying and just telling you what he knows you want to hear.”
“How would he know?” I asked as I stepped into the shower and closed the door.
“Okay, well he would say the things that he would think you’d want to hear.”
“You mean if he makes an ass of himself he’s not going to get very far?”
Krys ignored my question. “Did you kiss him?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Small peck, as a thank you for the evening.”
I didn’t dare state how many I wanted to give him. “Why?”
I turned the water on—it was way too cold.
“Unlike this water, I didn’t want to be an ice princess to him. Besides, he was trying so hard to be a gentleman.”
“I’ll wait for you downstairs.”
She left the bathroom and closed the door. Not the strangest conversation I ever had in the shower…but usually those were with myself.
“Can you drive a stick shift?” I asked as I sat in the passenger side of my car.
I decided to let Krys drive my car for our trip downtown…only because she hinted several times she could drive a manual transmission, no problem.
“No, seriously, can you drive without ruining the transmission?”
“Yes, I’m good. Seatbelts,” She started the engine and the car immediately died.
“Clutch, Krys...the other pedal.”
“I know. I got this. I got this.”
She applied the clutch and started the car again.
We made it to the block end before Krys ground the gears while trying to shift.
“Am I going to break your car?” she asked as she accelerated.
“Probably. So I hope you’ll help me buy a new one.”
My car was a dark red 1993 Plymouth Duster. I wanted to get an automatic but Grans was stern in getting a manual in case I ever hit a patch of ice on the road, so I could downshift and slow the car down. The engine would whine, like it did when Krys missed the shift pattern that morning.
“Can I write you a check?”
“Lots of zeroes, please.”
We drove downtown and parked in the garage at the River Park Square—a mall connected by skywalks over the city streets. Fortunately, Krys did not hit the wall going up the ramp to the parking area.
I brought my sketchbook with me as we walked into the shopping center. It had been over four years since the last time I came to the downtown mall due to one time
being slammed against the wall by a gang of skateboarders. We stopped at Nordstroms’s and the Bon Marche’ before stopping to eat at a small bistro.
“You didn’t take many notes.”
I nodded as I laid the book on the table. “Nothing really interested me.”
Which was true. River Park Square’s stores were all pretty good but none of them had anything that impressed me.
“Come on, that skirt was cute.”
“Yeah, but I can make that without taking notes,” I replied as I took a small bite of a croissant.
“What about re-doing the cheerleader uniforms?”
Krys had ordered a loaded sandwich. I hated her metabolism.
“That’s a little expensive to do.”
“What about adding some touches to them?”
“Now that I’ve been thinking about,” I said as a group of men and women wearing suits and dress attire walked by.
One of them held a “Team Kane” binder in their hand.
I got up from the table and followed the group. I had asked Damon to find out about the campaign, and here I was following some pawns—maybe back to their king. The group took an escalator to the ground floor and then walked through a door to the street level. I followed them down the block and onto the grounds of a political rally.
The street was littered by signs plastered with my father’s face. It was like one of my most vicious nightmares had been plucked from my mind and given life. His grin was everywhere and, like the Joker, it appeared to be laughing at me with a suspiciously sadistic smile. I moved my way through the gathering crowd until I reached the front and found myself standing behind him. Dad was talking in low tones to a few people next to him: an older, bald man who kept handing him note cards and some other guy who fumbled through papers in a binder.
I wanted to reach out and grab his arm, or at least say something to him, but instead I held back as he walked forward and took the stage.
“Jen!” Krys called from within the crowd. “I’m up here,” I replied without looking back.
“So much for Damon getting that address for you.”
“I’ll still ask him for it,” I said as my dad stood in front of the microphone.
“Thank you, Spokane. My name is Daniel Kane—”
My expression went from surprised to not impressed as he talked about why the people should send him to the capital.
“I am a family man. I have a wife and two daughters.”
“Two daughters?” I asked myself.
“And I, like you, want to make sure that the machine in D.C. works for the people and not as some politician’s
money-making machine. I know what you’re thinking: but Danny—”
“Danny?” It has always been Dan or Daniel or his supreme greatness. Where did the grammar school moniker come from?
Then, from the side of the stage came a young woman and two little girls, about six years old. The three stood next to him and he picked one of the girls up.
“—how can we trust you?”
“Yeah, Danny…how can we trust you?” I asked under my breath.
“Our children and grandchildren are important. We can’t allow Washington to write blank checks and saddle the next generation with debt.”
The crowd applauded.
“I stand for family values—”
“I guess that answers that question,” Krys noted.
“Family is the most important thing to me.”
The girls looked about six…the woman looked to be about twenty-six, give or take. So, either they were being rented for the event, he adopted all three, including their mother, or he was married to the woman on stage—at least living with her—at the same time as Mom. So, when I
was about eleven he had two other children and this was what Mom tried to shield me from finding out. I wanted to storm the stage and tackle him. What was the worst thing that could happen? I’d get arrested—but at least it would make a pretty interesting article in the local paper, The Spokesman-Review.
We left the rally before it was over. I had heard all I could stand from the man who was once my father. He had a new family. It was pretty much a done deal that he would not be invited to my wedding, child adoption, or even my funeral—assuming he outlived me—and if I had it my way, he would not have lived for thirty more seconds.
How could he say all of that with smile on his face? Joshing with the crowd? Saying the bond of the family was the strongest thing, and government should have no say in how the family is. Indeed, because why should the government smash the hopes and dreams of children when their parents can do a bang-up job on their own?
Krys drove us home and the transmission was probably stripped by the time we reached the interstate but I didn’t care. I was mad…so stupid mad that if I saw my dad on the side of the road, injured and being attacked by a bear, I’d throw a few jars of honey at his feet and head, just for good measure…after I struck him with the car, of course.
We arrived home to see another car in the driveway— my uncle’s.
“I guess Dad’s back from his business trip.”
I nodded. I thought I had at least another week before I had to go through explaining things to him. I sighed and tried to gain my composure.
We walked into the house and my uncle immediately looked at us from the living room.
“Krystal!” he yelled.
“Hi Dad. Welcome home.” She went over and hugged him.
He then looked at me. “Hello, Uncle Alan.”
“Jennifer.” He walked over and put his arms around me. “Glad to see you.”
“Thank you,” I replied as I hugged him back.
He let me go and took a step back. “Congratulations.”
“Thank you for letting me stay, Uncle Alan.”
“You’ve always been welcome,” he replied as he turned to Krystal. “Have you already involved her in everything?”
“Of course, Dad.”
“Let me guess, cheerleading?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“That’s good. That’s really great.” He wrapped an arm around our shoulders and led us into the dining room. “Lyd, I know it’s early, but I am starving. Airline food is not fit for human consumption.”
A few minutes later we were eating an impromptu early dinner of soup, sandwiches, and some form of pasta.
“So, I hear Daniel’s campaign is picking up speed,” my uncle stated to the table.
“We saw the rally,” Krys chimed in.
“Did you hear anything that interested you?”
“We saw that he has a new family,” I answered, looking down at my food.
“Did he bring them on the stage?” Uncle Alan asked as I put my hands in my lap—in a desperate attempt to not slam them on the table.
“Yes,” Krys replied, “all three of them.”
“I’m not sure if that works, bringing the family on stage…especially if its—” He looked at me and stopped. “Sorry, Jennifer, I—”
“It looked fake to me. Like a soap opera,” I quipped, to the surprise of Krys.
“Exactly. Welcome to the theatre of politics. Doesn’t matter about your past or your present. It’s just what you can say to pacify the masses into voting for you again and again. I’m sorry. It’s not polite or proper to talk about people like that. Let me just finish by saying that I’m not going to vote for him.”
For the first time in my life, I actually had a conversation with my Uncle.
Around six-thirty, Matt showed up at the door. I wasn’t too surprised. He knew where I lived, so I stepped outside to meet with him.
He took a step back as I walked onto the porch. It was like he was afraid.
“Hey, I don’t have your number and um—”
“You thought it best to make a personal appearance?” I asked.
“Do you want to go for a walk?”
“Sure, a walk would be great.”
“Okay. I’ll be right back,” I replied as I stepped back inside the house and closed the door.
“Who’s here?” Uncle Allen asked.
“It’s for me. His name is Matt.”
“Are you dating him?”
I walked into the living room as Krys came down the stairs. “Not yet.”
“She shouldn’t be,” Krys said.
“We’re still getting to know each other.”
“You know him enough,” Krys replied.
“Is it okay if we go walking?” I asked my uncle.
“Why are you asking permission now since you went out last night?”
“Where did you go last night?” Uncle Allen asked.
“We went to a sandwich shop. Aunt Lydia knew.”
“Yes, I did,” Aunt Lydia called out from another room in the house.
Krys leaned over the bannister. “You already kissed him, why not just do whatever.”
Uncle Allen looked at Krys and me. “Lydia, I need help in here!”
Aunt Lydia ran in from the hallway. “Krystal, Jennifer, dining room. Allen, tell Matt the walk will have to wait for another day. Let’s go, girls.”
“You might as well go all the way on the porch,” Krys yelled as we walked through the house.
“I told you I kissed him, yes, but you’re way off—”
“Are you still a virgin?”
“Are you?” I asked as we walked into the dining room.
“Girls!” Aunt Lydia yelled.
“You can’t just go and leave with him.”
“Why not? If you were seeing someone—”
“I’m not and neither are you. You’re just setting yourself up for nothing. He doesn’t think anything about you except what he can get!” Krys crossed her arms in her this is my pissed off look.
“And you know what, when that time comes—”
“Ugh, listen to yourself. Matt’s just like that Mike guy who found out about your prick and beat you!”
“Krystal,” Aunt Lydia warned.
“No, Matt is different.”
“Then tell him,” Krys countered.
“I will, when I want to.”
“Sure, lead him on. He’ll accept that.”
“Yes, he will.”
“He doesn’t love you, he loves Jennifer.”
“I am Jennifer!”
“No, James, what you are is are a confused freak!”
I reached out and slapped Krys across the face. I had never laid a hand on anybody, much less on the person who protected me for most of my life.
Aunt Lydia tugged at her hair in apparent frustration.
I looked at Krys; her expression conveyed pain and anger.
I ran out of the dining room and upstairs to my room.
I slammed the door and threw myself on the bed. If I was smaller, I would have tried to crawl under it instead. I just wanted to hide away from everything, especially from Krys. At any moment she could fly through the door and there would be Hell to pay.
“Jen?” My uncle was in the hall.
“Can we talk?”
“Are you decent?”
“Yes, come in.”
Did he assume I ripped my clothes off in anger, Incredible Hulk style?
The door opened and I jumped to apologize. “I’m sorry I hit her, I just—”
“I’m not up here to punish you. Just thought we’d have a small chat.”
“Is Krys mad?”
“Let’s talk about you,” he replied and then sat in the desk chair.
“Lydia and Aylesea told me about everything that happened to you in Montana.”
“Everything?” I sat down on the bed,
“I’m sure they left out a few details, to protect the guilty.”
I hoped so.
“I worried about you the night you left with Rachel. I thought, What is going to happen to that fragile boy? And I wanted to drive out to Missoula the next day and bring you back here. But Aylesea said not to. Had some thoughts about you.”
“Grans told me I should be who I am.”
He nodded. “We really care about the people that mean the most to us, so we’re going to get a little pissed when something happens. Krys doesn’t want you to get hurt.”
“I know, she’s always looked out for me.”
“And she can’t shake that, even if you’re taller and probably physically stronger than her. That’s never going to change.”
“I don’t need her to protect me from Matt.”
“Is this the same Matt—”
“No sir, he’s different now. He’s grown up since then. Matured. Calm, sweet, remorseful of everything he did. Something’s different about him and I want to give that a chance. ”
“Why do girls go for the bad boys?”
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