Last week I gave you a story about Miska, who wants to leave home for the sea. Here’s a little bit more for you, maybe not directly after the previous piece but definitely following it.
“Have I ever told you how much I love your mother?” Her father smiled at her as they hurried back towards home, setting sun leaving them cold with night’s approach.
Miska sighed and shook her head. If she said yes, he’d just go into a big speech about how she must already know that etc. Etc. Etc. Saying no was just as inflammatory, but at least this way he’d probably make less noise about it while they were walking in public. She loved her family, but sometimes they were the worst.
“No?” His smile got wider, as he warmed to the favorite topic. “Well! If I haven’t told you how much I love your mother, you should probably hear about it now! It’s important and all, especially given as you, you know,” he nudged her with his elbow, “live under our roof.” He was so happy, and blissfully unaware of the way in which people were staring at them while they trotted along the cobbled street. Miska could feel every eye on the two of them, and silently wished that her father would, for once, shut up about how much he loved her mom.
“Where should I start? How about the way that we met?” Miska rolled her eyes while her father carried on, oblivious. “There she was, talking to Giulio…”
Miska knew the story by heart. She’d heard it more times than she could count. It was something of a tradition between her and her sisters to bet on which variations of the story their father would tell, right down to the wording. He only ever told it in a few different ways, and it never changed much at all. Tonight, on the walk home, she was fairly certain that the next words would be …
“… And then Tobias took a swing, but he was far too drunk. So Natalia stepped out with me, the sweetest woman I ever met side by side, arm linked in mine, and we laughed as we left. Do you know…”
He kept going, and yes, Miska thought, I do know.
“…She even said that she’d accept my suit on that very same night at the end of our walk. It was the best night I’d ever had.” He laughed, and even skipped for a few steps. “Why, on our second date we—“
“Dad!” Miska couldn’t take it any more. She’d put up with this for years. When she was little, she’d actually thought she liked this story, thought that it was the best story her father had ever told. He always ended it, eventually, by coming around to the point when they’d moved in together and had her two older sisters and her, one two three. There was something that she’d loved about hearing how she’d been born, something she loved about hearing how she and her sisters had come to be. Now, all she could see was an aging man, her father, making a fool of himself in public and dragging her down with him.
“What?” Her father looked startled, and he actually stopped walking and stared around him in alarm as though she’d been trying to warn him of something. He looked at her again when he’d found nothing, confused. “What? What was it?”
“You!” Miska hissed, trying to keep quiet, to keep more other people from staring at them. She kept walking, picking up her pace. Her father had to run for a moment to catch up.
“Me?” He sounded unsure. Was he hurt? “What about me? What did I do?” His voice was still loud, still, Miska was certain, drawing more attention to them.
“Nothing!” Miska hissed again. “The same thing you always do! Drawing attention to us! You’re too, too,” the words wouldn’t come, then came in a rush, “too fucking loud and weird!”
The silence that followed was exactly what she’d wanted, but it didn’t feel that way anymore. The same painful awkwardness that she’d felt, certain that the whole world was staring at the two of them, she now felt between her and her father. She wouldn’t admit it to him, but she thought it might be worse. As if to rub salt in the wound, she could see that the street was nearly empty, the only light pooling and oozing from closing shops or shuttered second-story windows. At least there weren’t many people to watch her walk home with her father in painful silence. If only she could be somewhere far from here right now, far from all the trouble she knew she’d created, far from her annoying father and his embarrassing stories.
Miska wished she hadn’t said anything. The silence followed them the rest of the way home.