Just a Number(7)

By: A. D. Ryan


“Amy!” he exclaims, rushing forward and pulling me into his arms.

Throwing my arms around his neck, I giggle as he lifts me off the ground and squeezes me tightly. “Hey, Dad.” He sets me down, and I arch an eyebrow as I take in his dark salt and pepper hair as well as the moustache he’s been growing out for the last few months. “Still rockin’ the porn ‘stache, I see.”

“Easy, now,” he mock-threatens. “I’ll have you know, the ladies love it.”

I shudder, but also fail at suppressing a laugh. “Ew, Dad. Anytime you want to quit bragging about being a ladies’ man, you just let me know.”

Dad smirks, making the outer corners of his eyes wrinkle slightly. “Don’t hold your breath.” I laugh, and before I can say anything else, he wraps an arm around me and leads me to the kitchen. “You hungry? I wasn’t expecting you until later this afternoon.”

“Oh, yeah, Liz wanted to come in early.”

“Well, I’m glad. We very rarely see each other, and this gives us a little more time together.” He pauses, stopping to look behind us at the front door. “Where are your things?”

Shit.

“Oh...uh...” I begin to panic, but then I realize that I don’t necessarily have to lie, I only have to omit a few key points. “Actually, Liz and I got in last night. I stopped by here, but no one was home, so I dropped off my things before we went to a party.”

Dad accepts this, and we continue on toward the kitchen. When we step through the threshold, I find Owen at the stove, flipping bacon in the frying pan. “Look who came home early,” Dad announces, drawing Owen’s attention.

“Hey, Amy. Long time, no see.”

Oh, he’s hilarious. I fight back a smile and shake my head. “Owen. It’s nice to see you again. How are things?”

“Better now that you’re home,” he replies, and my stomach flutters a little. “I was afraid your dad was going to attempt to cook Thanksgiving dinner this year.” And then my hopes deflate.

I try to remain unfazed, keeping my disappointment buried. I hum, leaning over the island counter to watch Owen cook. I reach out and grab a piece of already-cooked bacon off the plate between us and take a bite. “Beer and spaghetti with sauce from a jar. Sounds heavenly.”

“Hey, now,” Dad speaks up from behind me. “I’ll have you both know that I’d have at least gone out and bought a pre-cooked chicken or something.”

The three of us laugh, and I almost forget about the morning’s events—almost; every time I look over at Owen, I find him glancing at me in some way or another, and the intensity of his brief stare is enough to make my entire body blush.

Before breakfast is ready, I excuse myself to use the bathroom and quickly brush my teeth. By the time I come back downstairs, Dad and Owen have set the table and are just bringing the food over. When we’ve all taken our seats and dished up, we talk about tomorrow’s dinner. “I can head into the market this afternoon while you’re at work and grab everything I need.”

Dad looks up at me, looking apologetic. “I guess now’s not a good time to tell you your old car’s dead, is it?”

“What?” I demand sadly. “When did this happen?”

“About a week and a half ago. I went out to start it up, and it just died,” he responds. “Ben came out to take a look, but there was nothing he could do that wasn’t going to cost a small fortune, and I figured that it would be more cost efficient to buy a newer vehicle for the amount it would cost to fix the beast.”

This news sucks; I really love that little Jetta. Even if it was too unreliable for me to keep while living in the city. I couldn’t take the added expense of it breaking down once a month to justify keeping it. Besides, I’m fine to take the bus, and Liz has been generous enough to pick me up for school in the mornings.

“Okay, I guess I can bus it. It shouldn’t be too difficult to bring everything ba—”

“Why don’t I drive you?” Owen interrupts, surprising me. “I mean, I have nothing to do this afternoon, so if you don’t mind me tagging along, I could give you a ride there and back.”