Lenny had to play his cards just right so that Trish would allow her Civic to be towed. He wanted them to ride back to town together.
“You wouldn’t let them tow your precious Ranchero GT,” she said.
And she was right.
She hardly said a word to him on the four hour trip. The silence hummed in his head like tinnitus from hell. He came this close to pulling over and having it out with her. She was the one who just disappeared one day with no explanation except for that stupid note. But he didn’t.
Instead he bought her stuff he knew she liked–Chex Mix and diet Sprite–when they stopped for gas. And he got her one of those single long stemmed roses.
“What are you, sixteen years old?” she asked when he gave it to her.
Trish had never been so belittling to him. Her words cut through him like his SOG Strat Ops Automatic.
It hurt so bad, he felt so frustrated that he just wanted to bang his forehead on the steering wheel, but he didn’t. He didn’t say anything. He just took it.
When he drove up to her apartment he asked her one last time to spend the night at his place. He would sleep on the couch if she wanted.
She just looked at him with hard black eyes.
Then she gathered some of her stuff from behind the seat and shut the heavy door of the Ranchero with with her foot.
He hauled the rest of her stuff up the stairs to her apartment.
After that he went home.
The girl pointed at the miniture golf course. “I want to go there,” she said.
Ranger laughed. “Miniature golf?”
“Yeah. What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing, if you’re a ten year old girl.”
“Or a ten year old boy,” she said.
“Or a ten year old boy,” Ranger repeated. “We can always go bowling. I know you like that.”
She sighed. “No. Game Putt’s fine.”
“Good. It helps me with my golf game.”
He cruised down the circular street leisurely. It was a nice day. Even so, he wanted to stay in the air conditioning as long as possible.
“Dad likes to golf, ” she said.
“Yeah. And he’s pretty good at it too.”
“Whose better? You or him?”
“I am. Though he’d probably tell you differently. And I’m sure he has.”
“We don’t talk that much. He’s always with Jordy now. Playing golf or whatever.”
Ranger pulled the Toyota Camry into the Game Putt parking spot. He let the engine idle as he cleaned his sun sunglasses on his shirt.
“Your dad loves you, Mia. You know that. Right?”
“I guess,” she said.
“Well, I don’t guess. I know…I know a lot of things about your dad. We’ve been friends for a long time. He’s a professional. He’s good to his friends.”
“I know he could be a better dad, Mia. I know that. But, look, when all is said and done, he does the best he can. He really does. Someday you’ll understand what I mean by that. When you understand, you’ll know what to do. It’ll be easier. But, always remember, your dad loves you…Okay?”
“Yeah,” she sniffed.
He wiped the tears from her cheek with his thumb. “Yeah what?”
“He loves me.”
His cell phone rang. “All right. Now you stay right here. I’m going to step outside and take this call. And then we’ll play Game Putt…Go bowling…Go to the movies…I’ll take you shopping. Whatever you want…Except miniature golf. I can’t do that. What do you say?
“And what I said about your dad…it’s just between the two of us.”