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No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and events are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to real persons, places, or events is coincidental.
Copyright 2018 © Linda Lingle
All rights reserved
For my own father, whom I miss every minute of every day.
Beth Garvey wanted to take charge of her life. She also wanted independence, a big adventure and the ability to call her own shots. In short, Beth wanted her own apartment.
Jim Garvey was absolutely opposed to Beth’s leaving home on the grounds that, number one, it was a jungle out there, number two, she could never survive on her own because, number three, it was a jungle out there. In short, Jim wanted to exercise a father’s prerogatives and forbid Beth from leaving.
Beth, who had heard about the jungle out there for as long as she could remember said she would take her chances, but Jim wouldn’t let it go. They stood faced off in the kitchen. Beth was leaning against the sink, resolutely returning her father’s hard gaze. Jim’s back was to the opposite wall.
“I told you a week ago that we were signing the lease today,” Beth said petulantly. “If you really wanted to talk about it, couldn’t you have done it before I was ready to walk out the door?”
Jim blistered. “I did talk to you about it a week ago,” he said, louder than he intended. “I said no then and I’m saying no now. You’re not getting your own apartment, and I don’t want to hear any more about it!”
“Well, you are going to hear more about it,” Beth said, matching her father’s tone. “I’m an adult now, Pop, and I can make my own decisions.”
“What do you know about making decisions?” Jim demanded. “You’ve never had to make a decision in your life! Now all of a sudden you’re an expert at it?”
“I know enough to get by,” Beth defended herself.
“Ah, Beth,” Jim said, shaking his head, half disgusted, half amused. “You have no idea what it’s like out there. You’ve been sheltered and protected all your life. Then you get yourself a job and you think you know everything. But you don’t, Beth. You don’t! If you did, you’d never leave this house. I’m telling you it’s….”
“…a jungle out there,” Beth finished Jim’s sentence. “I know, Pop. I heard it before.”
“You may have heard it, but you never listened to it,” Jim accused.
Beth sighed. “Can’t we talk about this when I get back? I have to pick up Katy in a couple of minutes.”
“Katy? Katy Howard? How does Katy Howard figure into this?”
Beth raised her eyebrows. “You see what I mean? I told you three weeks ago that Katy and I were going to get an apartment together. You never listen to me, Pop.”
“You may have told your mother, but you didn’t say anything to me about Katy Howard. For God’s sake, Beth, she doesn’t even have a job!”
“So, how do you expect to pay for this apartment? Do you think a landlord is going to be like your mother and me? Do you think he’s going to understand when you can’t pay the rent? No, he isn’t,” Jim answered his own question. “You can’t pay the rent and you’re out on the street! Then what will you do?”
Beth shrugged. “If things get that bad,” she said, “I’ll come home.”
Jim’s usually warm and inviting eyes were cold and piercing.
“Oh, no, Beth. Once you leave here, that’s it. When that door swings shut behind you, you’re on your own. You can’t have it both ways. Either you’re an adult or you’re not.” Jim paused for emphasis and then said, “Something to think about, isn’t it?”
“Alright,” Beth said, “if that’s the way you want it.”
“The way I want it? The way I want it? None of this is the way I want it! But you’re making your own decisions now, Beth. What I want doesn’t count? Does it?”
“Popppp,” Beth drew out the word. “Can’t you understand that I have to do this? I have to start accepting responsibility. I have to….”
“You want responsibility?” Jim cut her off. “I’ll give you responsibility! Right here!” Jim brought his fist down hard on the breakfast counter. “If you’ve wanted responsibility, why haven’t you lifted a finger around here to help your mother? Tell me that, young lady!”
“That’s not what I mean, Pop,” Beth hedged. “I mean responsibility for my own actions.”
“Oh,” Jim said as though he had just been enlightened. “You mean like when you were in college.”
Beth started to fidget.
“Is that it, Beth? Is that what you meant?”
Beth looked at the floor.
“Like when you decided you were going to be an artist and didn’t need Biology and History and English Literature?”
Beth let out a heavy sigh, knowing what was coming.
“So you dropped out of college, after your mother and I worked our fingers to the bone to give you something we never had – an education! You dropped out so you could, what was it you said? Create masterpieces and become rich and famous? That was it, wasn’t it? You were in a hurry to be rich and famous. Tell me something, Beth. What’s a rich and famous artist doing working in a bank?”
Beth had had enough.
“Listen, Pop,” she said, moving away from the sink. “I have to pick up Katy. We can talk about this later, okay?”
She moved past him to the door. As she reached for the knob, Jim’s voice stayed her hand.
“This is killing your mother,” he said. “You know that, don’t you?”
Jim held up his hand to stop her response.
“I’m sorry if this is hurting Mom,” Beth said, staring at nothing through the door’s window.
She turned to face her father. For a few seconds she studied the lines on his forehead and the sad look in his eyes.
“And you, too, Pop,” she said, softly, meaning it.
“Not me,” Jim put in quickly. “You’re not hurting me. It’s your mother I’m concerned about.”
Beth bit her lip and turned to open the door.
“If you sign that lease, that’s it, Beth. The door swings shut. You understand that?”
“I understand, Pop.”
“Think about it before you do anything rash.”
When Beth returned home she found her parents in the den watching tv. Jim looked up as she entered the room. “Well?”
“We signed the lease,” Beth said, not looking at her father as she spoke. “We’re moving tomorrow.”
Jim turned away from his daughter and stared straight ahead, pursing his lips into a thin, tight line. Mrs. Garvey put a comforting hand on her husband’s arm, but he shook it off.
“I’m going to bed,” Beth said wearily. “Good night.”
She waited for her parents to answer. When they didn’t, she grimaced and went upstairs.
That night, for the first time in 6,935 nights, Jim Garvey did not tiptoe into his daughter’s room as she slept, give it the once over to satisfy himself that there was nothing there that could harm her, turn the thermostat on and up to HIGH, and kiss her goodnight. Beth waited until after her father had gone to bed and then said, “Who cares?” loud enough for him to hear her.
At 3:00 AM Jim thought he heard a noise in the kitchen and got up to investigate. Cautiously, he made his way through the hall, down the stairs and into the kitchen, his hard-soled moccasin clutched tightly in his right hand. He stopped when he saw Beth seated at the breakfast counter, concentrating on a piece of jelly bread.
“What are you doing up?” Jim demanded.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Beth said, her red, swollen eyes looking at him.
Jim grunted. “Well, go back to bed. If you’ve made up your mind to move out tomorrow, you’ll need your sleep.”
With that, Jim turned and started toward the stairs. Beth let out a sob, then coughed to cover it. Jim stopped and ran his hand over the back of his bowed head.
“Aw, Pop, for God’s sake,” he heard his daughter choke out the words.
Jim stepped back into the kitchen. He stood for a moment looking at his daughter before he spoke.
“What do you want me to say, Beth?” he asked. “Do you want me to say, go ahead, you have my blessing? Is that what you want?”
“Then what? What do you want me to say?”
“That you’ll still love me, even if I do this,” Beth said, swiping away the tears streaming down her face.
And with that, the stern expression on Jim’s face melted away, and his heart began to ache as he realized he had to let her go. He shook his head resignedly.
“How are you planning to move your things?” he asked. “Did you get a truck?”
“No. We’re using our cars. It’s not like we have any furniture to move – just our clothes.”
Letting out a pent-up breath, Jim said, “Well, we thought you were going to take your bedroom set.”
Jim nodded. “And your mother mentioned that you could have some of the furniture in the den. She’s wanted to replace it for a while now.”
“Really?” Beth asked tentatively.
“Un huh. And some of her old dishes and pots and pans.” Jim hesitated then asked, “Will you need help moving? Your mother and I don’t have anything planned for tomorrow if you need us.”
“I’ll always need you, Pop,” Beth sobbed, running into the comfort of her father’s arms.
Jim stroked her hair the way he had done when she was a child. For the life of him, he didn’t know where the time went. After awhile he reluctantly released her and said, “Alright, then. You’d better get to bed. Your mother gets up early and will want to get started right away.”
Beth smiled, knowing that it was her father who was the early riser.
Jim checked the kitchen door and turned out the lights as Beth walked slowly to her room. As she snuggled into the soft down of her quilt, she heard her father come up the stairs.
For what he knew would be the last time ever, Jim Garvey stepped into his daughter’s bedroom and gave it a long, sorrowful once-over. When he had checked out every nook and cranny for anything that could harm her, he reached for the thermostat and turned it on and up to HIGH. That done, he cleared his throat and said, “Your mother wants you to come home for Sunday dinners. Will you?”
“You need anything? Money?”
“No, Pop, I’m fine.”
“Well, if you ever do need anything, just remember to come to us first. If we have it, it’s yours. Understand?”
Jim focused on the picture above Beth’s bed. “I forgot to kiss you goodnight before,“ he murmured.
“I know,” Beth said weakly, feeling herself beginning to tear up again.
Jim leaned over and kissed Beth on her forehead as he had done every night since she’d been born, then he pulled her close to him and hugged her close to his heavy, father’s heart.