I hoped he wouldn’t be late, because I really wanted to talk to him about this Hall business, but by one am I realised that he was just avoiding me, so I went on to bed. I heard him come in late last night/early this morning, and I was livid.
I was so mad at the way he treated Hall; I was mad that he lied to me, and I was mad that he was acting like every other man in my life — a lying cheat. I desperately wanted to get away, but I couldn’t afford to go home; plus, a six hour train ride to turn around and come right back just didn’t appeal.
So I decided to visit the one man a girl can always count on…her Daddy.
I left HarryPotter a note that said, ‘Leaving for the weekend. May not come back.’ Granted, I’d left all my stuff in my room, so he’d know I was coming back, I just get a bit of the penchant for the melodramatic at times.
I didn’t tell Dad that I was coming; I just rang from the Newcastle train station and asked him to come pick me up.
The first thing he said was, ‘What’s wrong?’ Not ‘Nice to see you’ or ‘How’s the placement?’ I assured him that nothing was wrong, I just wanted out of Glasgow and ‘Couldn’t a girl come see her father without the Spanish Inquisition?’ He asked if I wanted to do anything in particular, and I just said I was happy to lay about. Which I was, so I curled up on the sofa while he flicked through the channels watching one sporting thingy after the next.
He eventually asked ‘How’s that gentlemen you’re living with’. He said it with that air of fatherly disapproval, so when I said, ‘Oh we’ve split up, and I’m living with a friend just now,’ I could almost hear the smile cross his face.
Being at Dad’s got me thinking. He and I lost touch a bit while I was in Uni. Not because of any major Father-Daughter row, but because I was in Uni. And who has time for parents when their at Uni? I think I’ve mentioned it before, but Dad left Mum when I was little. Katie was just a baby. I barely remember him being in the house, and I kind of remember him leaving. Not like it was a big thing, he just wasn’t there any more. That was that. There was no Baby-Daddy drama, just Dad left. From what I gather, he always paid child support. Then a year or so after my parents’ divorce, we moved from Devon to the house Mum’s in now.
And that I remember. I remember being terrified of the new school and all the kids made fun of my accent – something I promptly changed. Then when I was ten years old he came back. And I definitely remember that. I remember it being a little weird at first, but it didn’t take long to get used to. I never asked Mum why they split up, or where Dad went. I was a kid so I just took it all at face value. Plus, most of my friends didn’t have Dads, or the ones they had weren’t their birth father. So my situation just kind of seemed normal. For the rest of my childhood I saw Dad on holidays and weekends. You know the drill. He married Paula when I was 15. I really like her, and she’s good for him. She makes him a good man.
I’ve been thinking so much about my future and family, and who would be the best person to spend my life with, who would be a good dad, and if I should even have kids, it’s weird to realise that I’ve thought more about my future than I have my own past. So, lying on the sofa, I finally asked Dad why he and Mum split up, and what happened to him those years he was away.
He turned off the telly and said, ‘I knew this would come up eventually.’ Here’s what he told me. It’s not verbatim (not like I was taking notes), but I’ve tried to put it in his voice so that it makes sense to me:
Doodle-bug (that’s what he always calls me). Your mum and I were fighting loads and we were really young. It wasn’t loud fighting but that quiet anger. You know how she is. (I most certainly do.) It made me go to the pub after work instead of coming home and it eventually made me hate being in the house.
When I left, I left your mum. Not you and Katie. I planned on being there, but even after the separation I couldn’t stand walking back in that house. I don’t really know how it happened, but time just passed and I realised that I hadn’t seen you girls in ages. And then I was ashamed. I thought, ‘How do I just turn up now, after having not seen them in a year, two years.’ It was stupid and I’m sorry. I was being selfish and that’s all I can say.
I moved to London for work, and that’s when your Mum moved you lot to Surrey. She thought if you kids were near by, I might take a more active roll in your lives. (I had no idea why we moved to Surrey. I thought it was because Mum got a council house. She never told me we were following Dad.) But, I was stupid, and I didn’t see this. I thought she was trying to trap me, follow me, you know. All that paranoia stuff that takes over relationships, or even ex-relationships. So this pushed me away more.
I knew you were you lot lived, and one day I was in Kingston and I passed by a park and I saw a bunch of girls playing. I stopped to watch and realised that one of those little girls could have been my daughter, and I wouldn’t even had known it. In my mind you were still the same ages as when I left, but it had been four years since I’d seen you, and it dawned on me that I probably wouldn’t recognise you. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was a bad Dad. There was no getting around that.
I called your Mum that day and asked to see you kids. She could have been a real bear about it; in fact, I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had said ‘no’. But she agreed. I remember that day I saw you and Katie for the first time since I left. Such beautiful girls. And smart. I regretted being away for so long, and I wasn’t going to let that happen again.
Then he stood up, came over to the sofa, kissed me on the forehead and said, ‘Now Doodle-bug. I’m getting a cuppa. Do you want one?’ I said, ‘Yes please’ (always polite like my Daddy taught me), and he went off into the kitchen.
During Dad’s story, Paula had come into the lounge and sat down. She had a son who was much older than me. She had him very young and he was grown by the time Dad and her married. I asked Paula if her son ever saw his Dad, and she said, ‘No’. That she and his father were both teenagers when her son was born, and the father couldn’t handle it. But it was okay. Her son had uncles and grandfathers and aunts and grandmothers and cousins and all kinds of people to love him. Her son’s a really cool guy. I’ve met him a few times. He lives in Bristol and he sells motorcycles. He’s doing quite well for himself I understand.
Dad came back with teas for everyone, light milk and two sugers just how I like it. I thought about it. Both Dad and Paula had kids by the time they were my age. And Mum and Paula essentially raised their kids on their own. They were full fledged adults by the time they were 21. So why do I feel so immature? Why am I only now thinking about a family? Why do I one minute feel like I want kids and the other minute the thought of kids makes me shiver with fear?
I asked Dad if he thought I would make a good mum? He asked me to budge up, and he sat down next to me so I could lean my head on his shoulder. He said, ‘Yes of course Doodle-bug.’ Then I asked, ‘Do you think I’m immature for my age?’ I think I was just fishing for complements on this one.
Dad didn’t answer right away, I could feel his shoulder tighten and then in a very stern, very loud voice, he says, ‘Are you pregnant?’ Then he stands up, nearly knocking tea everywhere, and yells, ‘I want his phone number. No I’m going over there. If that man had gotten you in trouble then just left you to flounder about on your own. I told you you shouldn’t have been living with him. Chellee what in god’s name have you been thinking…’
He was ranting so loudly, I had to scream to get him to hear me, ‘Dad, I’m NOT PREGANAT!’ (In fact, I’m on my period just now, so that’s a bullet dodged. Not that we didn’t always use condoms, but you never know.) He got quiet, sat down, calmly patted me on the head and said, ‘Well, I’m glad to hear it.’ And went back to drinking his tea.