I hate him.
“Will you stop brooding, Thomas?” Midnight said to me this morning.
In a few days’ time, Kenny was going to play in her last and final game. We were up in one of our villas in Venice, preparing for a long journey to Rome. And as much as I was excited for Kenny’s final entertaining battle before her return home, I couldn’t help but loathe the man that was my daughter’s boyfriend, Theodore Launter.
“I can’t help’t, Midnight,” I said, “Have ye seen him?” I muttered, “Holdin’ my daughter’s hand. God, who does he think he is?”
Midnight shook her head, folding another item of clothing into our luggage, “He thinks he’s your daughter’s boyfriend, Thomas,” she said, fixing my collar, “will you let it go?”
I looked away, “But he’s so scrawny! He’s, like… half an inch shorter than me!”
“Half an inch is hardly something to worry about.”
I pointed at her, “Oi, I’ve been growin’ old these past seven years, and I’ve been shrinkin’. Back in my youth, he’d be five inches shorter than me!”
Midnight smiled and scoffed, “Thomas…”
“I’m sorry, it’s just–”
“No, Thomas, what you’re doing is very sweet. Albeit, a little… not normal, but sweet all the same,” she smiled, “It shows you care. But, calm down, okay? Ted is nice, Des likes him…”
I sighed, “I know,” I sat down heavily, “It’s just… isn’t Des a little young t’go lookin’ for someone on her own? I mean, we were in our twenties when we met, and we married when we were in our thirties. Des… God, she’s seventeen!”
“She’s not your little Dessy anymore, Thomas,” said Midnight, sitting next to me and brushing my hair back with her hand, “Besides, do you really want Des to wait until she’s thirty?”
“If it’s waitin’ that long t’meet a strikin’ catch like me, then why not?”
“You… realise you’re her father, right?”
“Ye know I didn’t mean’t like that!” I snapped.
“And you realise you were a pirate, at the time?”
“My point was–”
“I know what your point was. You were a wonderfully insane man then, and you’re an insanely wonderful man now – I get it,” Midnight kissed me softly, “But, Thomas, so is Ted. He’s strong, he’s successful, he is hot – not even you can deny that. What more could you want in a possible son-in-law?”
“But I don’t like him,” I grumbled, folding my arms.
Midnight laughed, “I know you don’t,” she rubbed my knee and kissed me again.
The door opened, “Ah, yes. Every time I walk in, you two are either sucking face or worse.”
Midnight pulled away and said, “Oh, Des. Fifty per cent of marriages end in divorce. Be glad that I and your father are so close,” she got up and resumed tidying the clothes.
“Or,” said Des, “I’m welcomed by one of mum’s cynical phrases.”
“Be grateful for that, Des,” I said, “If ye’re mother was positive about anyth’un, I think I’d be worried.”
“About what, dad?” asked Des, “Having a nicer family home?”
“Nope,” I said, “About my havin’ done someth’un wrong.”
“Your mum acts all nice when I’ve done someth’un incredibly wrong,” I stood up and leaned against the door, “It’s freakishly unnervin’, that.”
Midnight had a smile on her face as I said that, “Wise words from your father, the genius,” she said, “What is it you want, sweetheart?”
Des hesitated, “Just… you know, some advice.”
“Um,” Midnight straightened, folding a white shirt, “Hmm. Use protection and don’t share needles.”
“What?” Des stared at her. I stared at her, “No, ew, mum!”
“Are ye tryin’ t’give me a stroke?” I snapped.
Midnight passed us both a side glance, “Firstly: Thomas, grow up,” she said, and then, “Secondly: Des, who are you trying to play with here? I’m your mum. I know everything. About you. About your habits. About the bumps in the–”
“Mum, I am not discussing this with you. That’s not what I meant.”
I could hardly believe my ears, “What bumps?”
“Honey, you’re giving your horrified father a stroke,” said Midnight, “So hurry it up.”
Des looked at her mother sourly, “I’m the one–?”
“Hurry it up.”
Des sighed and said, “I was going to ask if I could have a look at the Marital Contract you had dad sign.”
We both looked at her.
“I’m sorry?” said Midnight.
“If I find that boy,” I said, “doin’ anyth’un more than holdin’ your hand–!”
“You know…” said Des, uncomfortably, “the Contract.”
“You and Ted aren’t engaged, are you?” asked Midnight, sounding slightly worried.
“No… but I’m thinking about it.”
“Can both o’ ye please just listen t’me for a minute?”
Midnight and Des paused.
“I don’t like–”
“I think you should wait a bit more, Des. The Marital Contract is a long, long document and you probably have a few more things to go through with Ted before, you know, you want to tie the knot.”
“But he’s already met dad.”
“Does he know about our professions? Or about our status worldwide?”
“Your… status worldwide?”
“Oh,” said Des, “No.”
“None of that?”
“Why doesn’t he? Why haven’t you told him yet?”
“The subject hasn’t arisen…”
“Oh, shut up, Des.”
Des took a deep breath, “Ted is… Ted is a pacifist, mum.”
Midnight stared at her, her mouth fixing into a thin line, “I’m a mercenary, Des!”
“I know, but–”
“Your father is a pirate, Des!”
“Your cousin Kenny is going to be a gladiatorial hero in a few days, Des!”
“That’s relative, but I know.”
“Your other cousin Queenie is a Chess Piece, Des!”
“Your uncle is a soldier, D–!”
“I know, mum, I know!” Des shouted, “I know!”
“Well, that’s grand! But why doesn’t Ted know all about this?”
“Because he’s part of the Peace Corp, he does charity work and he’s a vegan. He hates violence and he’d gladly get beat-up instead of hurting someone. I… I didn’t, well, I didn’t want to scare him off.”
“Why don’t I know any of this!” Midnight looked all flustered and pointed out the door, “Go and get Ted in here now!”
“But I love him! Please don’t hurt him!”
“I don’t care if you love him, or if he’s a rainbow-coloured hippie unicorn, I want him to know your parents for what they really are! Go!”
Des seethed for a moment before leaving and shutting the door behind her.
“Well, that went well,” I said. Midnight picked up a vase off the cabinet and set it on the bed, “What’s the course o’ action now–?”
Smash. Smash. Clatter.
“Wow,” I said, staring at the broken bits of vase sticking to Midnight’s hand, “You hate him.”
“I hate him.”
I scoffed, “You really hate him!”
“I really hate him!”
“All’s right with the world,” I said, making her sit, “Still, did ye have t’destroy a vase worth five-hundred gold coins?”
“Would you prefer I destroyed your face?” she said tersely.
“Erm… you already have destroyed my face, love.”
“But ye said ye liked him.”
“I tried to,” she snapped.
I sat down next to her, a pair of tweezers in hand. I took hers and started pulling out the bits of glass, “All that stuff ye said…”
“The boy’s twenty-five and he looks like a teen-wolf!”
“I thought ye thought he was hot.”
“Teen-wolves are hot!” she scowled, “But he should look twenty-five. Not like some fifteen-year-old heartthrob. Just when I was getting over being grateful for the fact that he’s not blonde!”
“Your vendetta against the blonde is longer than your vendetta against the Chess Pieces,” I shook my head, “Calm down. What do we do now? Break ‘em up?”
Midnight paused and shook her head, “No.”
“Come on, Thomas,” she said, softening, “It’s hardly fair. They like each other.”
“But it’s clear our Theodore Lautner won’t exactly fit in. Plus, I don’t approve o’ him.”
“If I had a loving father, Thomas, I doubt he’d approve of you.”
“But you ne’er had a lovin’ father, so that point’s irrelevant.”
“Can you honestly look me in the eye and tell me you want your ‘little Saffy-waffy-Dessy-wessy-kins’ to marry some cut-throat maverick who never washes?”
I looked at her for the longest time, “No. Not my little Saffy-waffy-Dessy-wessy-kins, no.”
Midnight smiled, “So wouldn’t Ted be better than that?”
“Aye… maybe. I guess so,” my face turned sour, “I still hate him.”
She laughed and kissed me. It was a lingering kiss, “As do I. But I guess, it’s a small sacrifice, no?”
“Aye, that,” I said, “But chance tells me he ain’t goin’ t’like us much either.”
Midnight shrugged, “Everybody wins,” she stood up, “I should get a bandage.”
“I’ll get the dust-pan and brush,” I said, standing up and making for the door.
“I can’t wait until Kenny wins,” I heard Midnight say.
“Aye,” I returned, “it’ll restore some normality t’our family.”