Sweetheart, I just need a moment of your time. I know we haven’t talked much in the last few years, but something very important has come up. Can you come over later tonight?

Love,

Dad

I grimace again as a foul taste floods my mouth. What does Mike want? Probably money, even though he knows I don’t have it. Although the girls are paid a stipend by the club, it’s not a lot. But Mike probably needs whatever I’ve saved to pay whichever bill is now overdue.

I rummage in the back of my desk drawer and pull out a tin can. There are a few hundred dollars stashed inside, and I pull the bills out, frowning. Then I put them in my wallet, and snap the clasp closed once more. I can spare a few hundred. It’s not going to kill me, even if my cash is hard-earned.

But what am I even thinking? Michael’s been nothing but a headache ever since childhood. He and my mom got divorced when I was three, and I can barely remember Angela. I have a few memories of a soft hand on my cheek, and the sound of tinkling laughter. Maybe a woman with wispy blonde hair, and a gentle smile.

But she was in an accident shortly after the divorce, and passed away. That left me to be raised by Mike alone, and it wasn’t easy. I felt like I was raising him a lot of the time. I had breakfast ready for him when he got up, and always packed his lunches. I reminded him to take his driver’s license with him in the mornings, and started doing all the grocery shopping and meal prep when I was twelve.

Around that time, Mike got into Dads and Daughters, although I didn’t know it at first. He was on the road a lot, leaving me on my own, and the only thing I noticed was that he seemed happier when he came back from long trips. His color was better, his mental health improving, and he was working out a lot even when he was on the road. I was impressed. I thought that he’d taken to his new job, and was doing better when it came to self-care.

So when he told me about the club when I turned eighteen, I was on board right away. I realized that Dads and Daughters had been the cause of his transformation, and I willingly joined. Things were wonderful at first. I was initiated, and Mike was so proud to have his daughter as one of the girls.

But unfortunately, Mike was unable to keep to his good habits. A bit after I joined, his discipline started to crumble. He’s never been good at saving money, and soon, he was spending everything he made on renovations to our house. Even though I was no longer living there, I told him that it was unnecessary to re-shingle the roof of the cottage again. He just shrugged, and told me to shut my mouth.

I think that was the beginning of the end. No one could get through to him, and the money flowed out of his hands like water. Before I knew it, he’d betrayed the club by spilling its secrets to the Mercury-Star, and was booted out on order of the Executive Committee. Thank god, the club was able to quash the story before it went public. I shudder even now, thinking about what could have happened because of my dad’s heinous actions.

But now, Mike has requested to see me. I don’t want to go, but Torrent and Trainor are on a job right now. They should be back tomorrow, and until then, I don’t have much to do. I was going to go to the spa and get my nails done, but given this missive from my dad, I guess my nails can wait.

My lips pressed in a determined line, I leave my room and walk to the parking lot at the edge of the Lodge’s grounds. Sure enough, there’s my rusty Subaru with the peeling silver paint and lopsided windows. She’s old, but she’s still reliable. With a grim smile, I get into the driver’s seat, and begin the long drive into town.

10

Alizeh

The trailer park comes into view, and I sigh. Mike’s spending habits got so out of control that he had to sell our little cottage to pay his debts. I swallow hard. I loved that house, and have many memories of playing happily on the carpet by my bedroom window. But like everything else my dad touches, it’s turned into ash.

The car crunches to a halt before a particularly dilapidated trailer. It’s mounted on cinderblocks, and there are weeds growing everywhere. The windows look rusted shut, and the screen to the outside door is torn and ragged. I feel sad that my dad lives like this, but then again, Mike’s a grown man. There’s nothing I can do given his difficult personality.

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