argyle_princess: (kinda not okay)
[personal profile] argyle_princess


Three days after Christmas, Hannah goes out to dinner with her father and his new girlfriend. The restaurant, she suspects, is to make this more of a neutral ground thing. Or it's intended to provide added incentive for everyone to be calm and nice and not make a scene.

Hannah tries to be polite, and to at least pretend that she's interested in anything Monica says, but the simple fact of the matter is that she isn't.

On Christmas, and the day after, with Monica not around, and years' worth of holiday memories to exchange, Hannah thought her father was more like the person she left when she went to GW. Lighter, easier, more thoughtful. Less like the man who blew off picking up his only daughter to go out with his girlfriend of three months. She had begun to hope that maybe that was just a blip, brought on by work or holiday stress, or quite legitimate worry about what Hannah and Monica would think of each other.

But at dinner, Hannah is forced to the conclusion that Monica just isn't good for Tom. He orders wine -- not an excessive amount, but he'd stopped drinking at all last year, and Hannah worries that this is step one on a path down a slippery slope they've fallen down before.

And he's just a little . . . thoughtless. He's short and snappish with the waitress over something that isn't her fault, he's quicker to interrupt and correct Hannah than she remembers.

He seems far more concerned about Monica liking Hannah than about Hannah liking Monica. And maybe it's self-centered, but shouldn't it be the other way around? She's his only daughter and she's been around for eighteen years. He's known this woman for three months.

Long before they finish the entrees, she's given up on even pretending to care about this charade of a dinner, but then, so has Monica. Hannah excuses herself, goes to the ladies room, and calls Sam to ask him to please come pick her up. She knows her father won't like it; she doesn't care. She does not want to get in a car with That Woman.

Sam calls her from the parking lot, and she ignores the looks from both the maitre d' and her father when she answers her phone. She tells Tom and That Woman that she's sorry to leave but that she has other plans she has to get to, and says she'll call her father later.

She stops the waitress on the way out, gives her a twenty dollar tip and apologizes and tries to explain her father's behavior with some comment about him having had a bad day. The waitress shakes her head and says, "Your father's a jerk, honey."

Sam doesn't say anything, not right away, just drives to Amy's Ice Cream Parlor, gets Hannah settled into the corner booth, and orders two of "whatever has the most chocolate in it."

"Thank you," Hannah says.

"Any time," Sam tells her. "That bad, huh?"

"I hate that woman," Hannah says. "Well, no, I don't care about that woman enough to hate her. I just hate the person my dad seems to be turning into around her."

"You tried talking to him?"

"And saying what? 'Hey, Daddy, you know your new girlfriend's a bitch who's bad for you?' That'll go over well."

"Maybe not phrase it quite like that, Hannah, but if you have concerns . . . he'll listen to you, right?"

Hannah shrugs. "I don't know. I mean, a month ago I'd have said 'yes, of course,' but now? I just don't know. I mean, he didn't even tell me about her. How does that just not come up in conversation for three months?"

"I don't know. It's a little outside my realm of experiences. I don't think he meant to hurt or upset you, though."

"But he should have known that it would," she says. "Shouldn't he?"

She wonders if she should have gone to college closer to home. If leaving her father alone in Neptune meant that it was only a matter of time before he started slipping.

She wonders if she's overreacting, if she's seeing problems that don't exist, if this is all just the perfectly normal reaction to having one of your divorced parents start dating anyone.

"Hey, it's gonna be okay," Sam tells her, laying one hand against her cheek. Hannah wonders how long she's been lost in thought, and how worried she must look, to bring that comforting, encouraging tone out of him.

"Yeah," she says. "Yeah." It will. It will have to be.

She'll see to it that it is.

"Let's talk about something other than my dad, okay?"

Sam nods, wraps one arm around her, and asks, "Does that mean stories from VMI, or the latest exploits of my brothers?"

"Your brothers," Hannah says. And lets him talk, curled against his side, while her ice cream slowly melts on the table in front of them.

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Hannah Griffith

June 2009

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