I hardly recognized the girl that stepped off the boat. Could that tanned kid twittering away with other girls, wide grin showing the gap between her teeth, be my daughter?
Not trusting my own eyes, I raised my hand in a tentative wave.
“Stop making a spectacle of yourself,” Ron hissed under his breath. He wrapped an arm around my waist and dug his fingers into the soft flesh under my blouse.
Immediately, I lowered my arm and clasped my hands in front me to look like the well-trained wife Ron demands. Wincing as his pinch tightened down like pliers and bowing my head, I peeked through my false eyelashes to see if anyone who’s important in Ron’s eyes had noticed my faux pas.
Nouveau riche mothers with flared jeans and glam tops flicked cigarette ash from their manicured nails, while the Beverly Hills elite in Perry Ellis skirt suits rolled their House Beautiful magazines into canvas bags.
But the only person that I noticed was Joy, whose high-stepping filly gait sunk to a slow shuffle. With every step, her wide smile folded deeper into a scowl.
I wanted to run to her, take her in my arms like when she was five and spin her around, but Ron’s hand was there. If I dared move, it would tighten on my waist like a spring-loaded clamp. I put on my half-smile placid mask.
“Hi, Mom. Hi Ronny,” Joy said, giving me a dutiful peck on the cheek before copying my clasped hand pose.
Ron greeted her with a grunt and had started to turn toward the exit when that actor from the Mary Tyler Moore show walked by, arm slung over his son’s shoulder.
Suddenly, the Ron that wooed me all those years ago appeared. Pivoting on his Ferragamo loafers, he lifted a rakish brow and trumpeted, “Who took my daughter and replaced her with a tan goddess?”
When the actor, Ted Kite, glanced our way, Ron squeezed Joy so tight I thought he might break her ribs. She stood there, arms stiff at her sides, lips pressed into a smile that never reached her eyes.
The next thing I knew, Ron was shaking hands with Ted Kite. After a boisterous joke or two about sending kids to camp, he swept an arm in our direction.
“My wife, Iris and this tanned goddess is my daughter, Joy.” He didn’t say stepdaughter.
While Joy stared at her shoes, I nodded politely and gushed how I was a huge fan. Ted’s chortling was cut short when Ron shoved a business card into his hand.
“If you are ever looking for real estate in Santa Juana, give me a call.”
Ted held it up like a mini-flag and said he had to go.
Ron shook his hand heartily and led us out of the terminal. Once we were all buckled into the Lincoln, he rolled up the windows and turned on the AC. But that cold air did nothing to dim the rage in his face.
“Did you have to fucking embarrass me?”
“Your head bobbing like a plastic Jesus in a Spic’s low rider.”
“I was only trying to act how you want me to.”
“Looked like an idiot. You could have said something about my listings, but I should have known when I met you, you were just white trash. Take her out of the sewer, she’s still covered in shit.”
“I never was trailer trash,” I retorted.
I felt the heat before the sound. It spiced the cool air, a flashing palm burning skin with brutal piquancy.
My husband, father of the year.
About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry, Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Laurie Woodward co-wrote Dean and JoJo: The Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet, and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net