“No. No and frog leg’s no. You wouldn’t catch me wearing that if all my other clothes were set on fire and this was the last thing to were in the world.” Riley said, looking at the pink dress her dad had held up for her to inspect.
“So, you’re saying it’s a maybe.”
“Maybe not.” Riley said as she turned from him.
The store he had taken them to was the largest department store in town which was a dirtier knock off to some of the bigger retail stores you would find elsewhere. It had a weird name, Figglesticks, which to her sound more like someone would say out of a corny low budget children’s movie.
She had tried to talk him into just doing online shopping, but he had gone into a long diatribe about how online shopping was killing the local community and that they should shop local. She’d pointed out that it would be easier and even showed him a shirt she wanted. He had bought her the shirt, but said this would still be fun and it would give them something to do. She hadn’t been able to argue that. Especially since she was still trying to find a way to get him to open up to her.
Before, every time she thought she could get him to talk about her mom or about Alice, his eyes clouded over, and he found ways of changing the subject. Maybe while they were there, she could finally get through the barrier, maybe find out what had happened.
“Well, what do you want? Hell, I don’t know what kids where now.” Her father said as he was looking through a new rack of dresses.
“When was the last time you ever saw me were a dress?” Riley asked, though instantly regretted it. She looked to her dad and saw the twinge of pain as it crossed his face. When was the last time he had been around to see her in anything?
“Hey, you’re doing better than what Alice was trying to get me to wear last year?”
“That’s right, she took you to get school clothes. How’d that go?”
“Well, she fought with me most the day, telling me how disrespectful I was, then went to that in her day kids wore dresses down to her ankle.”
“She is a weird one. Sometimes she acts like she is much older than her age. Like she is from the fifteenth century. Though she’s always been here for us since.”
His voice trailed off as it always did when they neared talking about her. Maybe talking about her wasn’t the way to go, Riley thought as she crutched her way over to a table that had some black folded shirts hidden towards the back of the store.
“You seem to be in a good mood today. Alice must have said something to you last night that got your spirits up.”
“Actually no.” Her dad said, putting down another dress and making his way over to the table she was picking at. “More black shirts?” He said picking up one at random.
“Hey, half the school already thinks I’m goth.”
“Maybe don’t wear so much black.”
“Its not my fault that most the cool, geeky shirts only come in black.”
“There are other types of clothing.”
“Really? Something that doesn’t make me want to puke?”
“What about this this?” Her dad said as he held up a pink shirt that said, “I brake for Wookies.”
“Okay, that’s acceptable.”
He tossed it into the cart. Then grabbed a white shirt with Han Solo in a classic pose with his blaster outstretched.
“This would have been popular in my day.”
“The Wars are popular again, but no white. White just never looks good.”
“What’s some of the other trends now?” He asked, looking at another t-shirt with some weird design. She recognized it as Rick and Morty, something her dad would never approve of her watching if he’d known she’d stayed up late a few times to see it. There was no way she was going to try and explain Rick and Morty to him.
“I don’t know. I don’t really stay up to date on what’s cool. You’d have to ask Suzy. She’s always into the latest boy band or other pop artist. I think her current favorite is Haley or Ellish or something.”
“Oh, and you’re not.”
“No. There’s a new rock band that sounds just like Led Zeppelin.” She said, knowing that would catch her dad’s attention. She knew Led Zeppelin was one of his favorite bands, as well as AC/DC and Metallica. Her dad had been a metal head at one time. That may explain why she preferred to listen to rock music over Suzy’s obsession with cute guy bands.
“Yeah, you should check them out. I think you’d like them.”
“Well maybe I will. You’ll have to show me.”
“I can do that. Oh hear.” She said as she actually came across a shirt for Greta Van Zant. “These guys.”
“They don’t look anything like Zeppelin.”
“I didn’t say they looked like them. I said they sound like them.” She tossed the shirt into the cart. The lead singer was cute after all.
Her dad smiled and then looked around at the store. They had started with jeans, which she was thankful for as she did need a few pairs. Especially since her last favorite pair of jeans had been ruined just over a week ago when she had made the mistake of trying to skateboard down Deadman’s Curve. She now knew why some of the kids called it that. She also now had a broken leg and one less pair of pants.
Other than the jeans though, she had seen very little in the store that she had been interested in. The shirts on this one table were okay, but she really didn’t want to go back to school wearing nothing but band shirts. Especially since all these shirts were for only popular bands.
“You’re not having any fun, are you?”
Riley shook her head.
“Let’s get out of here.”
“So what would you like to do today?” Her dad asked right putting a freshly dipped french fry in his mouth. Her dad was weird when it came to french fries. He was the only person she knew that dipped them in mayo rather than ketchup and watching him do it always throw her off.
She loved her dad. Some would say they once were even very close. So close that she knew that some of the older, stranger movie and television show fascination she had came from this bond they once had. He watched them when she was growing up and she continued to watch them now even without him. She loved being with him… though now it just felt awkward. So much had happened over the last two years, she felt like she didn’t know him anymore.
And the mayo on the french fries, that was just one thing she could never connect with him on…
“What’s going on?” She asked him.
“What do you mean?”
“Something’s wrong. Alice said something, she had to, so what is wrong.”
“What, I can’t take out my daughter and try to have a fun day with her? Get her some clothes she likes?”
“Dad. Something’s up. You’ve been acting happy all morning, you’ve actually been talking to me, and you never take me to fast food.” She motioned wide to the other tables around them as she made her point. “You always said it reminds you too much of work. Usually you’re too sick of the smell that you can’t stand to go into one of these places. Something’s up. What’s wrong?”
Her dad lowered her head and looked at the fry he was continuing to dab into the mayo.
“I had this really strong dream last night. It was of your mom. Not how she looked when… She looked like when I first met her. You know, she wasn’t much older than you are when we first met.”
“I never knew you knew mom that long. What? High school sweethearts?”
“Ha, no. We barely even talked to each other both in middle school or high school. I don’t think we really started noticing one another until our Senior year.”
“What, like back in the stone age.”
“How old do you think I am? It was morel like the middle ages.” He said, looking up to meet her eyes and a slight pained smile creased his lips.
“But what about the dream.” Riley said, thinking back to her dream last night, where she had nearly killed her friend.
“Well, she came to me and I found us back where we first met. She hugged me, told me how much she missed me, but that she was worried about you. She said you were getting into trouble and that she wanted me home more to keep an eye on you.”
His smile grew and lost all traces of the sadness as he looked at her.
“She said she was proud of you. I know it was just a dream, but I’m proud of you too. You are growing into quite the young woman.”
Riley felt her cheeks growing red and looked around, making sure no one she knew was around them. This was getting embarrassing.
“You can imagine how shocked I was when I got home this morning and saw you having this huge sleep over and that there was a boy sleeping in our living room. I think if you had been sleeping in your room with all of them, I might not have been so accommodating. Still, it looked innocent enough, and I was happy to see you finally making friends.”
“Yeah, yeah… But what about mom. You’ve never told me, well, about why she left.”
The smile was gone, and he quickly looked away wiping at the sudden wetness to his eyes.
“I don’t know. There was no note. She told me there was something she had to do, that she had to go and that she would be back. That was it.”
“She just vanished?”
“Alice called. Told me that your mom had run off and that she wouldn’t be coming back. I… Well, I’m not going to go too far into it. It’s a rabbit hole that I don’t think you need to hear about. Alice kept insisting we move back here, said that I would need help raising you. She was right, and when the GM position opened up for the area, I was surprised and jumped at the opportunity.”
“Did mom.. Did she leave because of me?” Riley asked, feeling the knife stab into her gut at the words she had always been to afraid to ask.
“What? Of course not. I don’t know why she left, but it was definitely not because of me.”
“Her and I had a big fight just before she left. She was mad at me. Something I had done, I don’t know what, but she was so upset. I had broken one of her candles and she had screamed at me, sending me to my room.” Riley said, feeling a weight building on her chest and her own eyes were filling up with tears. Her father reached across the table for her hand, grabbing it softly as he looked into her eyes.
“Hun, I don’t know why she left, but I know it had nothing to do with a candle.”
“Okay.” Riley said, sniffling, not truly believing her dads words, but forced a week smile.
“Hey, do you want to go where you mom and I first met? It’s just around the corner. I think you’ll love it. I used to spend a lot of my time there when I was a kid.”