Every birthday, there would be a card — every Christmas, a little gift, nothing much but just a reminder. I kept in touch and visited her on the quiet, spending time with her and her young daughter, who would become like a little sister to me.
“Duska died, we’re all the family Kara has had for ten years. Either she’s invited, or I’m not coming.”
There’s a pause before he makes a kind of clucking noise and answers, “Fine, invite Karolina, why should I care? She won’t come anyway. But if she’s invited, you’re committed to coming. No excuses.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” I raise my voice over the constant noise of the drill site as I step up the last stair onto the platform in front of the dog house door. George is next to my left boot, and I reach down to scoop her up and stuff her down inside my half-zippered jacket, where she curls up and pops her nose out to bite at anyone that comes within snapping distance.
“You’ll be here.” My dad’s voice hardens. “You can take one day out of your life. I’ll expect your flight information in my email. I’ll pick you up if you’d like.”
I think of what my schedule is like the next few days. Stress.
Topped with stress.
The oil business isn’t for the faint of heart.
“I’m texting you a picture of us from earlier today. I met her daughter too. She just moved back. I want this to work, Van. This is it for me.”
“Okay, Dad. I said I’ll see. Let me call you back.”
He may pretend not to understand, but this kind of work isn’t exactly nine-to-five. I’m working in southern Ohio at the moment, but I’ve got rigs running in three states. Dad lives back in Rochester, Michigan, where I grew up, and with the flights out there and back I’m looking at taking at least three days out. I hear the sound of the text coming through as I grip the freezing handle of the door. Through the window, I see Jack, the driller, shrug and throw his hands up wondering what I’m doing.
The tension in Jack’s face tells me something is wrong and sure, on an oil rig there’s always something wrong, but sometimes those things are matters of life or death—or millions of dollars. Both can be split-second decisions and time is not your friend.
“I’ll expect your flight information within the hour. Love you, son. See you soon.”
Dad clicks off, and I shake my head on a frosty exhale as I open the door and drop my phone from my ear, looking down to tap on his text which opens the photo he sent.
Jack’s gravelly voice starts as I step inside. Something about the twenty-thousand-dollar drill bit failing, and we have to trip out six-thousand feet of pipe which will take eighteen-hours minimum. That means downtime. That means progress stops. Shit’s always breaking, but it still makes everyone pissy, including me.
I open my mouth to answer when the photo opens up on my phone screen.
His voice disappears. There’s a ringing in my ears and a clutch in my chest that is either a heart attack—which wouldn’t surprise me—or something I’ve never felt before.
I see my father, his arm around who I’m guessing is his soon to be bride, Gayl. Exotic, and beautiful.
But neither of them have my knees ready to buckle and the world spinning around me.
It’s the third person in the photo.
It’s her eyes. Ice blue, wide but sharp. As though she’s looking through the lens at me, knowing I would be here.
It’s her half smile. Her arms wrapping around her waist as if to say, I want to be anywhere but here.
Her hair is pulled over her left shoulder in an ivory waterfall that covers part of her face and curves over her chest, and my mouth starts to water. She reminds me of that character from the Frozen movie. The blond. I’ve watched the movie a few times with Sophia, Kara’s little girl, and if that character was based on a real human, I’m looking at her right now.
She’s wearing a chic light blue suit, controlled and professional looking for such a young woman.
“Van!” Jack’s voice cuts through my haze, and I tear my eyes from the phone for a moment to see him gawping at me.
He says each word separately as if explaining to a child. “The bit isn’t coming out with the pipe.” A clap of his hands punctuates the importance of what he’s saying. “We have to go fishing for it. Fuck. That’s another thirty-six to forty-eight hours.” His face shows the years in this job. He’s a decade older than me, and I just had my fortieth.
I don’t know much about him at all, despite us working together for nearly twenty years. I mean, I know he’s not married, we seem to have a similar view on relationships, especially in this business. We know each other, just not much about lives outside of work. But, then work is our life.