"If I ever marry it will be on a sudden impulse, as a man shoots himself."
“Hana!” My mom’s voice was muffled by the door, but I could hear her irritation. I rolled over, glanced at the clock. One PM. Too early. “Hana,” she said again, pushing open the door to my room. “Are you still sleeping?”
“Not anymore,” I grumbled.
I didn’t need to open my eyes to see her disapproval. “Well, you’re needed on the phone.”
“Who is it?” I asked, cracking one eyelid.
There was that disapproval again.
I was awake now, sitting up and reaching for the receiver. I loved my dad. I loved my dad more than my mom. Sometimes I felt bad for thinking that, but is it really a bad thing to love one person more than another? Everyone does it. It was the truth.
“Dad?” I asked as my mom left the room, closing the door behind her.
“Hey,” came the familiar voice on the other end.
“Hi,” I replied, smiling as I shuffled into a sitting position, my back against the headboard. “What’s up?”
“Can’t I just call my little girl just to talk?”
I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and tugged a hand through my hair in attempt to tame it. “Sure, but Mom was looking more annoyed than usual this morning.”
There was a little laugh on the other end. “That’s probably because I’m in town. Want to go for lunch?”
“Lunch?” I replied. “It’s one o’clock.”
“Yeah? Isn’t lunchtime at about two o’clock on teenager time?”
I grinned. “You know me so well.” There was a pause as we both realized how untrue that statement was. I hurried to add, “Lunch sounds great! I’ll be ready at two.”
“Sounds good, I’ll pick you up then. Love you.”
“Love you too, Dad.”
After I hung up, I tossed the phone on my bed and picked up my cell. I had three new messages from Sebastian.
Sebastian. I had almost forgotten why I was so tired, why I had slept in so long. What had I said to him last night? Hopefully nothing too bad; I remembered most of it, but as the night wore on into the wee hours of morning, things got fuzzy.
Sebastian Reynolds 3:12 AM: Are we friends yet?
Sebastian Reynolds 12:34 PM: So I know we didn’t drink but I feel sleep-hungover. Is that a thing? I say we go get fried food and see if that helps.
Sebastian Reynolds 12:34 PM: Also I just like fried food
Were we friends? It seemed like we were, and this time it felt less forced and more genuine. Friends. I had to smile a little.
Hana Lau-Shaw 1:05 PM: Yeah I guess we’re friends
Hana Lau-Shaw 1:06 PM: And sorry, but my dad’s in town and we’re going to lunch. Raincheck?
Sebastian Reynolds 1:07 PM: Don’t try to play down your enthusiasm Hana. I can see the banner that says “i’m so glad I’m friends with the amazing Sebastian Reynolds” that you’re flying out your window right now
Hana Lau-Shaw 1:07 PM: when was the last time you had your vision checked? The banner says “I’m being held captive by Sebastian Reynolds, send help”
Sebastian Reynolds 1:08 PM: held captive by my irrefutable charm ;) ;)
Hana Lau-Shaw 1:08 PM: I will revoke our friendship
Sebastian Reynolds 1:08 PM: sorry, sorry I’ll stop
Sebastian Reynolds 1:09 PM: Want to hang out later? After you’re done with your dad, of course
Hana Lau-Shaw 1:11 PM: Sure
Sebastian Reynolds 1:11 PM: Ok cool. I’m going back to sleep now wake me up when you’re back
Hana Lau-Shaw 1:12 PM: How am I supposed to do that?
Sebastian Reynolds 1:12 PM: Bang on my window. First floor, all the way to the left
Hana Lau-Shaw 1:13 PM: Ok-ay….
Sebastian Reynolds 1:13 PM: Zzzzzz…..
Hana Lau-Shaw 1:14 PM: bye
At two o’clock, I was sitting on one of the decorative boulders near our mailbox waiting for my dad; I knew better than to make him come inside the house. The sun was bright, and the afternoon was hot. Yawning, I glanced towards Sebastian’s house, where he was probably sleeping. My eyes gravitated towards the leftmost window on the first floor. The sun glared off the glass, and I couldn’t see anything. I wondered what his room looked like. I felt like you could tell a lot about a person by their room. What mine said about me, I wasn’t sure.
A nondescript black car pulled up to the curb, and I could see my dad’s smiling face in the driver’s seat. I hopped into the front seat and gave him a half hug over the center console. “Hana!” he greeted. “How are you?”
“Good,” I replied, pulling my seatbelt across my chest. “How are you?”
“Ah, you know,” he replied, putting the car into gear and pulling away. Turning towards me with a tilt of the head and a small smile, he added, “Same old, same old.”
I nodded, but I could see the gray hairs creeping into the dark brown at his temples. He also seemed to be carrying a few extra pounds, making him seem softer, but still strong. He was still the man I remembered from a few months ago. “So where are we going?” I asked.
“How about that diner in town?”
We didn’t talk much on the drive, but the radio was playing to fill the silence. The diner wasn’t busy at two in the afternoon, and our waiter looked tired, his blonde hair standing up in unruly spikes. It wasn’t until after we ordered that my dad finally got around to the talking part of every one of these outings.
“So, Hana. Catch me up on your life. How’s summer going?” he asked, taking a sip of soda.
“Not bad,” I replied, and I was mostly being honest. “Kinda boring, really.”
I shrugged. “I haven’t found a job yet, so there hasn’t been much to do.”
He nodded, the wrinkles around his eyes crinkling as he smiled. “You’re young, you can afford to waste a summer or two. Are you happy to be back with your home friends?”
There was only a brief hesitation before I answered, “Yeah. A few of them.”
I was my dad’s bragging topic. I was his well-adjusted daughter who was doing well in school and was - according to him - pretty and smart and successful. He didn’t need to know about my near total lack of a social life. He didn’t need to know that if it hadn’t been for running into Sebastian that one night, I wouldn’t have hung out with anyone all summer.
“How’s Dani?” I asked out of obligation.
“She’s great,” Dad replied. He shifted in his seat, leaning forward on his elbows. “Actually, about that…” He looked nervous. My calm and collected father, always quick with a smile and a joke, was nervous. That made me nervous. “I was thinking of asking her to marry me.” His eyes scanned mine. “But I wanted your approval.”
I stared at him. I formed words in my mind only to lose them before they reached my tongue. I blinked. “You… what?”
“We’ve been dating for four years,” my dad said, almost as if he was trying to justify something to me. “You like her, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I…” I trailed off, my eyes focusing on the salt shaker as I processed. I wanted to like her; she was a great person - pretty, kind… I wanted to like her, but there was only so much you could like your dad’s love when it wasn’t your mom. “I do. Sorry, this just caught me off guard.”
I could see the concern in my dad’s eyes. “Take your time.”
The food came. Neither of us ate much. My chicken sandwich didn’t look as enticing in person as it did on the menu, so I picked at some fries.
“Yeah,” I said eventually. “Okay.”
My dad looked up.
“She makes you happy. You love her.” I managed a small smile. “Go for it.”
There was instant relief in his features. “Thank you, Hana. You know this doesn’t mean I love you any less.”
“Yeah, yeah, you guys have given me that speech before,” I waved him off. “How are you going to do it?”
We spent the rest of the meal brainstorming, and by the time he dropped me back off at my house, I realized I didn’t feel as bad about this as I thought I would. He seemed genuinely happy, and I was happy for him. Dani was a great woman, and she was the complete opposite of my mom. Sometimes, I could see how that would be appealing.
“Well, this is it. I’ll see you soon, though,” Dad told me as he put the car in park. “Sooner than last time, okay? I don’t live that far away.” We both got out, but made no move to go towards the house.
“I’ll try,” I promised, smiling, then glanced towards the house. “Does Mom know?”
My dad dropped his eyes from mine. “I’m not sure how to tell her.”
“Don’t think I’m doing it for you.”
He shook his head. “I don’t expect you to. I just… I’ll tell her soon, okay?”
“Okay,” I agreed. “It should come from you, though.”
“I know,” my dad said. He spread his arms. “Come here.” We hugged, then stepped apart. “I’ll see you soon, Hana, okay?”
“Okay. When Dani says yes, tell her congrats from me,” I said, moving back from the road.
He opened the door. “I will. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
I waved as he pulled away, then slumped back down on the boulder, mirroring my position from earlier. Of all the thoughts spinning around my head, the strongest was confusion. I couldn’t comprehend how you could want to pledge your whole life to someone, especially when it had failed so spectacularly the first time. How could you love someone so much to want to spend every minute with them? Every day? It made no sense to me, and yet I felt the need to understand it like the nagging itch of a puzzle I couldn’t crack. But, like those puzzles, as long as I didn’t look directly at it, it was able to be ignored.
I would ignore it for as long as I could.
I didn’t even bother to go inside my house, heading instead for Sebastian’s, walking up to his window. The ledge was about chest high, and I could easily reach the glass to knock on it. He was awake and dressed, thankfully, and had his glasses on rather than contacts. At the first rap of my knuckles, his head shot up, and a grin swept over his face. Sebastian leapt off his bed and headed over to me, flipping the TV on his dresser off as he went by. He pushed the old wooden window open.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” I replied.
There was a pause. We looked at each other.
“Want to come in?”
I shook my head. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not be indoors right now. Too stifling.”
“Ah, yes, the call of the wild,” Sebastian said, smiling again. “I know just the thing. Give me two seconds.”
While Sebastian fussed around his room, I took the liberty of examining it. There were a few posters on the walls for bands I didn’t recognize and a shelf of toys and random junk. Some clothes were littered around, but it seemed to be ordered chaos. The bedspread was a geometric pattern of gray and black and told me nothing. In fact, I couldn’t tell what Sebastian’s room said about him. It seemed remarkably normal at first glance.
“Okay, I’m ready,” he said, pulling on a pair of shoes. “You’ll need your car keys, though.” He put one foot out through the window, and I realized what was happening.
“Wait, aren’t you going to use the front door?” I asked, stepping back to give him room. The question was moot since he already had one leg out.
“Doors are for people with no imagination,” Sebastian said, grinning. “I read that in a book once.” He hopped onto the ground next to me and pushed the window closed behind him.
I followed as he strode across the lawn towards his car. “Where are we going? And why are you in such a good mood?”
“Maybe I’m in such a good mood because of where we’re going,” Sebastian replied, rounding the car and waiting at the passenger’s side for me to dash inside and grab my keys.
“But where?” I insisted when I returned.
“On an adventure,” Sebastian said, his grin widening. He nodded towards the car. “Get in.”
And I did.