the short story project


Daddy Darling

She burst into their bedroom. 

 “Daddy asked me to go to lunch with him. By myself!” 
Her two older sisters looked at each other. Sphinxes on twin beds tucked in corners of the room, they both held books. The older one’s was not school approved. She had on her “Oh God! When will she ever grow up?” look. The middle sister raised her eyebrow back. 
“What?!” Exasperated with them, she bunched her hands on her hips. This was a rite of passage. Lunch downtown in the Financial District with Daddy! She’d dress up and take the bus by herself. 
“Where are you going?” her eldest by three years sister asked nonchalantly looking at her book. 
“Tadich’s or Clown Alley?” the middle one, eighteen months older, asked. 
They both snickered. 
“Daddy didn’t say.”

She was defiant flouncing to her bed by the closet door. But of course it made a difference. They both went to Tadich’s for their first lunch with Daddy. It was where all the businessmen went for special lunches. Herb Caen wrote about it in his column. Well, he wrote about Clown Alley too but not in the same way. She pulled out her book from under the pillow and nestled into her own corner. She imagined where they would go and what she would wear 

On the day of the lunch date, she fussed at her clothes at the bus stop. Her Easter suit felt a little tight. Trying to look sophisticated and blasé, she got off downtown and walked towards Daddy’s office on Montgomery Street. He met her in the lobby. She was vaguely disappointed not to see his wood paneled office with windows and a big desk. At least that’s how she’d pictured it. The lobby impressed her with the decorative tile on the floor and over the elevator doors. People spun in and out of the rotating doors. Brass plates directed returners to elevator banks. Leavers quickly turned right or left outside the door. Daddy whisked her out of there and hurried her up Montgomery. When they turned on California she smiled. Tadich’s it was. 

Someone waited for them there. A pretty young lady dressed in an expensive blouse and suit smiled widely at Daddy then frowned slightly at the almost-thirteen girl at his side. 
“I’ve already put our name in for a table.” She leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. He shrugged slightly at his daughter who just stared. The lady’s gloves mesmerized the girl. Soft, supple leather, she held them just so in the crook of her hand with her beautiful purse. 
“This is my daughter Bridget. Bridget this is Jane. She works for another insurance company in Chicago.”

Bridget did and said as she had been trained from an early age but she couldn’t look up at the lady. Jane shifted her purse to her arm and lightly swiped her gloves through her other hand a couple of times. 

“Do you have any brothers and sisters?” Jane asked her but she looked at Daddy. Jane wasn’t angry. Bridget knew anger. And it was different from what she saw on the lady’s face. 
“Yes, I am the third eldest. I have two older sisters and two younger brothers. Mom is expecting a baby soon and the girls want another girl and the boys want another boy. Though Mom always says she doesn’t care as long as the baby is healthy and has all its fingers and toes. The baby might come on my sister’s birthday. I already have a brother born on my birthday.”
She couldn’t shut up. Jane cried quietly the gloves clutched at her stomach. Daddy didn’t say a word, didn’t look at Jane; just smiled at Bridget as if she were a prize he’d won. 
The maître d stood poised to lead them to their table, “The table will be for three?”
Jane left without a word but the look she gave Daddy when she stopped at the door said a lot. 
“There will be only two of us for lunch today after all,” Daddy said.

The maître d’ led them to a window table. The waiter came and took Daddy’s drink order, Jack Daniels on the rocks for him and a Shirley Temple for her. The bus boy brought water and sourdough bread with lots of butter. She wasn’t hungry or maybe she was. Her stomach hurt. Businessmen hustled to lunch outside the window. They sat in silence. The drinks came. She played with her straw, blotched the pristine white table cloth with pink syrup. Normally, Daddy would scold her for this and she looked up at him. He pushed the bread towards her. 

“When you grow up more you will understand.” 
She glared at him briefly but didn’t dare say what she wanted to. She didn’t understand everything but some things were obvious, even to her. However, she couldn’t create a scene in Tadich’s. 
“Needless to say, your Mother won’t hear about this. Right Bridie, me darling?” He raised his eyebrow quizzing her. 
She agreed with a shake of her head. He smiled back as if she was his brightest child. Signaling to the waiter, he finished off his drink. 
Daddy ordered another drink and lunch for both of them, the Petrale Sole. She barely ate and she loved fish, especially restaurant fish. His attempts to entertain her fell flat though she tried to pretend with him. After they walked back to his office, she thanked him prettily for lunch. She ran all the way to the bus stop, fretting there until it came. 
She dashed up the stairs and into their bedroom. Her sisters lay in the same positions reading the same books. She threw herself on her bed.

The eldest sister looked up. 

“Dancer, waitress, or bartender?” 
Bridget softly cried into her pillow. The middle sister came over, sat down and patted her back. 
“She works for an insurance company in Chicago. Her purse and shoes matched,” she finally said. 
Her sisters looked at each other and laughed. 
“He’s stepping up in the world,” the middle sister chuckled. She stood up and went back to her bed. 
“But that costs money. I’ll bet it didn’t last long,” their other sister responded. “Don’t worry Bridie me darling. It’s long time between lunches.” 
Bridget wasn’t sure whether that made her sadder or not.


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