It was six o'clock when Don was awoken from his sleep on a lazy Sunday morning. His wife was sleeping next to him, oblivious to the world. She didn't know that the news that he was about to receive would change the course of the next few weeks. Then again, he didn't either when he answered the telephone.
It was his daughter, Annie, calling to tell him that she had gotten married. The news sunk to the bottom of his stomach. As he tried to muster some joy for his only child, he sank further and further down into his bed. When he hung up to tell his wife, they both had matching faces of despair.
He sat at his desk, drinking a glass of scotch. The shock of the marriage was still present in his heart despite their estrangement. It hadn't always been like this. He wistfully remembered the days when he would arrive home to greet her and the sight of him would cause a glorious smile to spread across her face. Perhaps he was romanticizing it but he could remember the weight of her tiny body as he scooped her up and the giggle she released as he peppered her with kisses. That had been more than twenty years ago. He let out a sigh of nostalgia as he took another sip of his scotch.
His wife entered, still looking frazzled in her pajamas. "Don dear, are you alright?"
"I'm fine Maggie," he answered her, staring vacantly at the wall.
She walked over to him and laid a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry," she whispered.
He didn't have any words for her. Anything he said would have sounded like an incoherent mess. "Why didn't she tell me anything?" he whispered.
"I don't know Don. I know she loves you though."
He took another sip of his drink and continued to stare morosely ahead.
"Don," his wife said, gently removing the drink from his hand. "Why don't we invite them here next week? This way you two can talk."
He snorted. "As if she would. She called me today after she was already married to tell me about it. What makes you think that she'll come here?"
"It never hurts to try," she said, her voice gentle.
He looked at her, debating silently to himself. After a moment, he replied, "Fine as long as you call her."
"Good. I will then," she said.
"I'm glad that I have you though. Four wonderful years," he murmured.
She smiled and gave him a hug and a kiss. She left the room, closing the door behind her. As soon as he heard it shut, he poured himself another glass.
Surprisingly, his daughter agreed to their request. They were going to arrive on Saturday evening for dinner. When that day came, he found himself anxiously waiting by the door for their arrival. He hadn't seen her for nearly four years so he was curious to see how she had changed. Her fiancé was also a source of curiosity and throughout the week, he had pestered his wife about the type of man that she had chosen. In turn, Maggie had simply sighed and ignored him.
The door rang and in his middle age, he tried his best to sprint to answer it. He opened it to welcome the couple.
He shook the hand of his son in law. He appeared to be the same age as Annie and probably stood at around six feet. He was handsome with thick hair that was neatly combed and trimmed. His ensemble of flat front trousers, white button down shirt, and charcoal merino sweater was a nicely played conservative choice that he could find no fault with. His handshake was also firm, lending another positive impression.
"Hello dad," Annie said, holding herself stiffly to the side of her husband.
"Annie," he said. He tried to hug her but she deftly stepped to the side and walked ahead to the dining room.
His wife gave him a sympathetic glance and ushered them to the table in Annie's wake.
Throughout the dinner, Don had found out their history together. His name was Richard Campbell. They had met in med school and had been engaged for nearly a year. Hurt rippled through him when he realized that despite the many opportunities, she deliberately hadn't told him. Annie, meanwhile, simply sat and calmly ate her food. She would smile occasionally whenever Richard would send her a look but mostly remained reticent. He watched him lay his hand across hers and squeeze it reassuringly. A pang hit him, knowing that his time for that had past.
"Richard, how are you going to support her? You only just graduated right?" he asked. It was time to skewer the man.
"Actually, I'm two years older than her. I already am in my residency. I don't make much but she's aware of that. My parents are going to help us if we really need it," he said.
Annie said, "Why are you so concerned about-"
She was cut off by Richard saying, "I'm going to support her best I can. She deserves the best." He pointedly looked at her and she gave him a restrained, fake smile.
Don cleared his throat, giving a signal to his wife. She followed his lead, saying, "Richard, do you want to see the house?"
He obliged her and they got up to leave. Don and Annie were alone.
"Were you really intent on telling me or did Richard have to force you?" he asked, words coming out harshly. He was surprised by how angry he truly was.
She rolled her eyes. "Please, dad. Like father like daughter."
"You're still angry about that?"
Her eyes bore into his. They were filled with a vitriol that took him aback. "Yes dad. I am. Four years doesn't erase the memory. I'm sure that Maggie is happy that we don't talk."
"Excuse me but she was the one who suggested this dinner," he replied, growing stiff. "I wouldn't start throwing around empty accusations."
"You really are that clueless, aren't you?" she said. "I'm awestruck by your lack of awareness."
He sat back in his chair, dumbfounded by her words. "How did we end up like this?" he whispered.
She sighed and for the first time, she looked truly weary. "I don't know dad. Probably the day you announced your engagement to that woman while Mom was in the hospital with cancer."
"I know now that it was in poor taste."
"No, you don't know," she said sharply. "You never saw the look on her face when she found out."
"We were divorced."
"Because you wanted to. Mom was still in love," she said, the words spitting in his face.
They sat there in silence, Don unable to speak from the emotional curveball.
"I should get going," she murmured, rising from her chair.
She called Richard. He and Maggie appeared, talking amiably. "Already?" Maggie asked.
"Yes, I just realized that I have an interview tomorrow morning. I don't want to sleep in accidentally," she replied, her voice as cold as ice.
The two left. Maggie turned to him with a questioning look on her face. He simply sat there.
After all, there was nothing else to say.
This was written for the Review Game January Writing Challenge. The prompt was, "How did we end up like this?"
Hope you like it and feel free to tell me what you think.