August 1, 2016 by Lyn
Father’s Day (Third Sunday in June), Year Four
Cassidy was alone in their room. Mabina had taken ‘Lisha and Meg shopping; Vlad and Taro were sharing a good Fathers’ Day drunk with Luke, Nikita, Phelan, and Anwell . They’d invited him, but he’d declined, not minding Taro and Nick’s “pussy-whipped” comments, considering their relative situations.
Besides, his skipping out had nothing – directly – to do with Mabina, and quiet space in his head and in their room had become hard to come by. He wasn’t going to waste the opportunity.
He started at the ceiling for a while, trying to marshal his thoughts. The silence in the thick-walled room was deafening, but not nearly as loud as the emptiness in his mind. He’d grown used to her presence entwined in his mind, the never-ending soft commentary and the doubled perceptions. To be without that was almost like suddenly falling blind and deaf.
But it also gave him a privacy his friends took for granted, to chew over doubts he didn’t want Mabina to know he had. He stared at the ceiling, letting his thoughts chase themselves in circles.
And that’s all they did, run around is useless circles, chasing their own tail. He needed to talk to someone. Not Mabina. He didn’t want to bother her with this; he didn’t want her to be worried. And not Vlad, who had his own problems, or Taro or Nikita, who would just assume that he was on the same bitter wave of resentment they were riding.
Well, it was Father’s Day. He rolled over and grabbed the phone from the bedside table, and dialed home.
He wasn’t sure anyone would answer. His parents had two younger kids, and there was a good chance they’d gone out to lunch, or taken the boat out. But his dad picked up on the third ring. “Breidigan residence.”
“Dad?” For the first time since he’d found out that the strange itinerate “uncle” Cormack had actually fathered him, the word didn’t sound strange in his mouth.
“Cass!” his father sounded surprised, and he suppressed a twinge of guilt. He hadn’t called home since just after Christmas. “What’s going on?”
Mom would have asked are you in trouble? He appreciated that Dad didn’t voice the question, even if he was thinking it. So he hedged.
“I wanted to wish you a happy Fathers’ Day.” He grinned at the phone. “I was gonna send you a tie, but I know how much you love them.”
“Send it to Cormack,” he answered without rancor. “Demons need ties more than mechanics do.”
“You’re my Dad,” he answered mildly. They’d been through this before, but he didn’t mind repeating it a couple dozen more times. “Actually, Dad, when it comes down to it… I kinda wanted to talk about that, too.”
“About Cormack?” He’d seen his dad and Cormack shooting the shit from time to time, on the random occasions when the biker both his parents called a demon would stop by; Dad, actually, talked to Cormack more than Mom did. Somehow, Mom had always had something to do with the younger kids when Cormack was in town.
But he really didn’t care about that particular demon. He and Mom had gotten Cassidy in this mess, to be sure, but the rest he’d done himself. Well, with some help. “No, not about Cormack. Fuck him,” he added, with no real feeling behind the words. “About… well,” it felt weird to say it, but he said it anyway, “fatherhood.” And it was out now, like a blister popped, even before he explained it.
And he’d have to explain it, too.
“Fatherhood?” Dad asked sharply. “Feeling a sudden urge to go philosophical on me? Or are you doing a paper on it for school? Some sort of show-and-tell sort of thing like when you were in fourth grade, and we brought an engine into school…”
“That was third grade, Dad. Yeah. I’m kinda surprised we don’t have a class here on the mechanics of fatherhood, but I don’t have to take a Dad in to class and show how to take him apart or anything.” Or show the class how to become a father. Most of them figured that out on their own.
“Then what?” By the sounds of it, he knew, and didn’t want to hear it. Cass couldn’t blame him. He didn’t want to say it.
“You remember Mabina, right, Dad?” Of course he did, it wasn’t as if Cass had brought home any other girls since coming to Addergoole.
“The smart-mouthed girl who came with you at Christmas time? Beat your mother at Trivial Pursuit?”
He grinned despite himself. “Her, yeah.”
“Nice girl, all things considered.”
“I’m glad you like her, Dad.” He paused. This shouldn’t hard to say; down here, it was commonplace. Intended, really. “Dad, she’s pregnant.”
He half expected Dad to ask if it was his. With the girls before Mabina, it probably would have been a fair question. Instead, he just said, calm as if Cassidy had said they were having a picnic, “So, when’s the wedding?”
He laughed, surprised despite himself. “She’s dithering.” Ellehemaei marriage was both more and less than normal human marriage, bound by Law but less governed by Tradition, and far rarer. “But,” he added, before Dad could yell at him, “I think sometime in August. Hell, she might as well be showing for it, you know? Save people counting months.”
His father chuckled a little, and, relieved he wasn’t going to get yelled at, he added, “Dad?”
“Yeah?” The laughter was gone, and his dad sounded a bit worried.
“What if I do it wrong?”
It sounded silly and pathetic, a kid asking for reassurance, not helped any by his father’s startled chuckle.
“Wrong? Cass, the trick is to be doing something. Seriously. You’re going to make mistakes. You’ll hold him upside down or you’ll put the diaper on backwards or you’ll feed them something that they turn out to be allergic to. You’ll forget a school play and you’ll embarrass them when they bring home dates. But you have to be there to do that… and in between all the mistakes, you’ll learn, and so will they.”
It was the longest speech he’d ever heard his dad give, and it sounded like something he’d thought over. “Just that? Be there?”
“There’s more to it than that.” Now Dad sounded more like himself, a little uncomfortable. “But showing up is nine-tenths of the battle. The rest just comes with practice.”
Showing up. He laughed shortly. “I told you you were my father,” he teased lightly. “When did Cormack ever show up except when he was drunk or broke?”
That got an uncomfortable chuckle. “Right. You can still send him the tie.”
“All right then.” He paused. Mabina would have had the perfect thing to say – but this was his father, and not hers. Who might still take a shotgun to him. He’d have to settle for his own words. “Thanks, Dad.”
“Anytime, son.” A pause, and just as Cass was ready to hang up, Dad added, “And, Cass?”
“Happy Fathers’ Day.”