Father’s Day is this Sunday. Whether you have a dad, are a dad, or fill a fatherly role in someone’s life, I hope your day is meaningful.
This story is a little sadder than my usual. This isn’t an easy day for me, and I imagine it’s not for many others as well. No worries, I’ll be back with something lighter next time.
Note: Please don’t read more into this story than I intended. I had several requests to write more about the people from my previous stories in this “world,” and I hadn’t done one about Chad, so I thought I’d start with him. Don’t worry, he’ll have less drama in a future installment, I promise. Also, don’t assume you know what’s underneath his troubled relationship with his dad. I intentionally left that ambiguous, because I wanted it to be relatable. I’m not even sure I know that just yet; Chad hasn’t confided in me.
Chad woke to the sound of the shower. He stretched lazily and blinked a few times to clear the sleep-induced blur from his eyes. He ran a hand over his face and sat up, remembering what day it was. He winced, thinking that as an adult, he really shouldn’t still let it get to him. He threw back the covers and slipped out of the bed, then began pulling the blankets back into place and smoothing them down. He flopped down on his back, his legs hanging off the edge of the bed, and threw one arm over his eyes.
The shower stopped and the door opened. Steam and the scent of soap wafted out, and Chad breathed in. He let himself smile a little as he propped himself up on his elbows. From where he was situated on the bed, he had a clear view into the bathroom. Al stepped out onto the bathmat to dry off. The familiar curve of his spine and the lines and planes of his body were comforting. He looked over and caught Chad’s eye.
“See something you like?”
“Always,” Chad replied, but only half-heartedly. Understanding flickered between them.
Al rubbed at his hair to dry it. From under the towel he asked, “Are you going to call him?” He finished and pulled the towel around his hips.
“I’m not sure.” Chad closed his eyes. He could hear Al rummaging around in one of the drawers, probably looking for his razor. Chad reopened his eyes just in time to see Al starting to shave. “It’s just…” Chad wasn’t entirely sure what it “just” was. It had been easier when he hadn’t had to think about what it would mean. “He hasn’t really been–you know.”
“You remember what my dad said his father was like. I still think he’s not too crazy about it, but at least he keeps his mouth shut during family dinners.”
“It’s not exactly the same thing.”
Al wiped his face on the hand towel and leaned back so he could meet Chad’s gaze. “I know.”
“After what happened, he wouldn’t even come to the wedding.” Not that Chad had been surprised, really.
Chad turned over so that he was lying prone with his face in the pillow. There wasn’t much to say. It was just a phone call, but it seemed like significantly more at the moment. Chad heard Al walk out of the bathroom and turned his head to peer at him. Al yanked off the towel around his waist, folding it and threading it over the rack on the back of the closet door. He pulled out his clothes.
“It’s really up to you. Not much going on today, other than dinner at my parents’ house at five.”
“We can just have a quiet day, if you want.”
“Or I could wait until you fall asleep and paint your toenails red and draw a fake mustache on your lip with a Sharpie.”
Chad pushed himself up a bit. “You’re a jerk.”
“Just making sure you were listening.”
Chad threw the pillow at him, but he missed. Al just laughed and went back to getting dressed.
Neither of them said anything for a few moments. Eventually, Al said, “Okay if I tell Paula we’ll take the kids overnight next weekend? Kyle’s out of town and she wanted to go to that women’s thing at her church.”
“Oh, God. I hope it’s every bit as fun as the men’s version I went to last week.” Chad sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed.
“I’m sure it will be even better. Why’d you go, anyway?” Al paused in buttoning his shirt, his head to one side.
“Because Kyle told me it was going to be awesome, and then he bailed. I was stuck with a bunch of middle-aged men going on about how hot their wives are.”
“I didn’t know Kyle had promised to go. He was with Dad and me at the new house.” Al resumed his buttoning.
“Yeah, well, that’s Kyle.” Chad shrugged.
“Sure is. I’ll give him hell for you next time I see him.”
“Nah. It wasn’t all bad. Remember that guy Bill I mentioned? He asked if I wanted to catch the game with him in a couple of weeks. I guess his company gets free tickets every year, and his wife hates baseball.”
Al rolled his eyes. “Better you than me. Anyway, what do you want me to tell Paula?”
“You can tell her we’ll do it.” Chad chuckled. “You know they only like coming here because we feed them ice cream and let them stay up late.”
“And put on DVDs of the Muppet Show. Don’t forget that.”
“I’m surprised that hasn’t gotten us a lifetime ban. You know how Paula is about ‘adult humor.’” Chad threw in air quotes for emphasis.
“There are worse things we could let them watch,” Al said, shrugging.
“Oh, like half the crap you enjoy? Good thing Paula doesn’t know about those.”
Al reached out to swat at Chad, who rolled out of his reach just in time.
“You want me to make breakfast?” Al offered.
“Maybe. I’m not really hungry.”
The bed dipped a little as Al sat down. “Hey.”
“You know you don’t have to do this.”
“Call, you mean?”
“I know. But maybe if I do…”
Al shook his head. “Don’t do this just because you think you have to or because you think something will change.” He reached out and put his hand on Chad’s arm. “I’m not going to think less of you if you don’t. Do what you need to, but do it for yourself.”
“I want to go get some coffee. You want to shower first? Should I wait for you before I eat?”
“Nah. I’m just going to take some time.” He knew Al would understand what he wasn’t saying.
“Sure.” Al leaned in for a brief kiss, then rose from the bed. “I’ll see you down there in a bit.”
Once Al had closed the door behind him, Chad glanced at the clock. It was a few minutes after eight, which meant it was plenty late enough. He reached for his phone. His hand was shaking slightly as he pulled up the number from his contacts. The phone rang twice before he heard a familiar voice on the other end.
“Hi, Dad?” He cleared his throat. “It’s Chad.”