I went back over my journal entries. It’s so surreal. Less than a month ago I was thinking about how healthy Dad was. How he seemed like he would live a long life. Was I in denial? Not wanting to face the toll that his lifestyle was taking on his body? All those late nights, always out and on the go, never resting. Was he hiding how lousy he had been feeling this entire time? Was I not a good enough daughter to see it?
Stuart keeps telling me that it’s not my fault Dad’s gone, but if I had been a better daughter and had seen how sick he was behind that businessman’s facade, I wouldn’t have reacted to him the way I did. I would have found a way to make things work, let him get to know Stuart over time. Stuart says that it was a full week later that Dad had the heart attack, that it couldn’t have been me, but I’m sure I wasn’t helping him relax.
Stuart insists Dad wasn’t still mad enough for it to have caused an attack. He was there the morning Dad died, dropping off paperwork so I wouldn’t have to see him. I was still mad after the fight. He said Dad seemed pretty relaxed about the whole thing, that he believed I was going to come running back, so he wasn’t worried. Stuart’s just trying to ease my guilt, though.
Thank God, for Stuart. It’s been a blessing to have him here, to help me through this. He did all the arrangements, hired someone to do the books for a while, and to teach him how to take over, so I can spend time grieving. He even said something about having his friends keep the press away, and it seems to have worked. Stuart’s going to take care of everything.
Well, it happened. It all happened. I’ve been working hard to settle down. I had to go on a long walk before I could even stomach eating dinner. Having the cat here and knowing I get to keep her with me helps, but it’s hard to relax in someone else’s home. I guess it’s my home too, now.
I suppose the fight was inevitable. Things have been tense with Dad since I first told him I met Stuart. He didn’t like the fact that I met him in a bar, even though it’s really more of a restaurant. Dad goes out on “business socials” all the time. He talks about the dangers of hanging out with men in bars, while his own breath smells of wine.
Tonight he came in and tried to act like he was concerned about changes he’s seen in me, implying I’ve become stressed and frazzled. I have not, I’ve become happy. He said that maybe I’ve been losing sleep because Stuart has been stressing me out. I chose to not tell him I’ve been losing sleep with Stuart, but not because of stress. He tried to imply that the quality of my work has been slipping, that I seem to care less about putting forth my best effort. He thinks it’s Stuart’s “low moral character” rubbing off on me, and I’m too naive to see it.
I pointed out the books have been flawless and timely, and my grades haven’t fallen either. I did say that I was finding myself short on time and a little hassled, and I used the chance to bring up something Stuart and I talked about the other day, that maybe Dad should get me an assistant. Just for a couple of hours, maybe an hour and a half a day, just during the week. It could help me keep my grades up, and allow me an evening off once a week to relax.
Dad started going off about how more time to spend with Stuart wasn’t going to solve anything, that if I wasn’t careful, he would leave me pregnant, penniless, and addicted to drugs. What could possibly make him think Stuart was on drugs? It’s ridiculous! He said Stuart just felt corrupt and criminal, and here Dad is calling me the irrational one. He says Stuart is already trying to poison me against him, filling my mind with toxic filth. That’s just paranoia, and it worries me that Stuart might be right about him.
It’s just so unfair the way Dad talks about him, when he has been so concerned about Dad, so compassionate that he’s even pointed out signs of Dad’s failing health, though Dad is in complete denial. He even gave Dad that herbal tea. Said it had vitamins to strengthen the liver and promote vitality, to help Dad keep on top of those business meetings. Dad says it’s not working, but I’m starting to see what Stuart has been seeing, the confusion, the lethargy. Paranoia might be an aspect off it. He seems to get queasy more than he used to as well.
After all his baseless ranting, he gave me an opening to get to the heart of the matter. He started saying that an assistant’s salary would be draining money from his retirement fund, that I’d be taking food from an old man’s table, and he raised me to be better than that. As if I would let him starve in his old age! Also, as if I didn’t know exactly how large his retirement fund is, I’m his accountant! So, then he switched to saying it won’t be his retirement fund after he dies, it will be my inheritance, so I should want to protect it. He made a mistake saying that, because I was able to argue the money could be used to benefit me NOW, used to allow me to have some time to enjoy my life.
This brought up all the old gratitude bullshit. He even brought the cat into it, saying he was nice enough to let me keep her in the office. It’s his fault I couldn’t keep Jojo at home! He refused to sign a lease that allows pets, saying they would damage property he was financially responsible for. He won’t pay me a living wage so I can pay my own rent, sign my own lease, be responsible for my own life. He expects me to show gratitude for the fact that I’m a grown woman whose daddy won’t let her have a pet? I couldn’t even let Jojo into the front office, I had to keep her in the warehouse. I’m supposed to suck up to him because he would have let her starve in the alley instead? How horrible of him!
Then he said he knew Stuart was changing me because I used to be grateful. That’s so funny, if that’s the case, why has he been complaining about my “lack of gratitude” for years? He said it’s only after Stuart started filling my head with poison that I started being so rude and out of control. Why does he think he needs to control me? I’m an adult! I told him, “You can’t pick who I love just because you let me have an office pet.”
He didn’t seem to know how to respond. That was great, I got to bring up things I’ve been wanting to say for a while. He wants me to give him all this respect, but I’m the one running the business, and I don’t get a fair share of the profit in return. He wants me to appreciate all he’s done for me, but he wouldn’t be capable of doing the things I do, no matter how much he wants to be the reason the business is successful, it’s just not the truth.
He tried to tell me that he does the things that I’m not capable of doing, that I don’t have the social skills, the charisma to keep the money flowing in. I don’t care. That’s his fault. I wasn’t even ten years old yet when I started helping out around the office, instead of playing with friends. Mom tried to encourage me to go play instead, but she was so hassled, so tired, and I loved her so much, and it was the only way she ever managed to have any time to spend with me.
Then, when she died, he just had me take over her job instead of hiring someone. I was only 16! I wasn’t even allowed to hide in my room and grieve, I had to go to work. So, I didn’t learn how to make friends, how to hang out, how to be cool. Meanwhile, he’s living it up, calling it work, telling me I must be eternally grateful for what he’s providing, but who is the one providing it? Because, I don’t think it’s him.
He owes me for giving him my childhood, my teenage years, parts of my life that I deserve to have pleasant memories of, and I don’t. I deserve some acknowledgment. I’ve earned time to focus on my own needs. I finally have someone who appreciates my worth, and shows me I deserve respect. I’ve earned the right to spend time with him, to find love and be happy.
I told him that it wasn’t Mom’s fault she died. It wasn’t her unhealthy lifestyle, which she only lived because she had no time or energy to do otherwise. I told him that he had worked her to death, that it was her stress that brought on the cancer. I told him he was never going to have the chance to do that with me. That if he wasn’t willing to get me an assistant and he wasn’t willing to pay me what I was worth, that Stuart has already told me I could move in with him if I needed to, that he would be willing to help me out until I found a job, and I was going to take him up on the offer.
Then I picked up Jojo and walked out. I didn’t even get her dish or other things. I was worried that if I took the time to, he would be able to think of something to say to make me change my mind. He’s pretty good at making me feel guilty every time I stand up for myself, and I could see him working himself up to it. I decided to stop at a store and get her some new things, to just grab her and go.
He did get in a last word though, and it stung. He said that letting a man take care of me isn’t independence, that in the end, I would learn that I was never capable of taking care of myself, just as he had been telling me all along. He’s wrong, though. I’m sure he is.
I finally have something to write about, that isn’t some stupid poem about how the scent of cut grass is from the chemicals it releases when it screams, or the geometry of pine cones, something like that. Something people don’t usually want to talk about. After class I went to Maverick’s, to my table under the speakers. They weren’t doing a good job of covering the noise today. There was a group of women having a late lunch, and there was a lot of laughter. It made me miss Mom. The guys at the office don’t exactly joke around with me. I don’t know if it’s because of Dad, or if it’s just me.
It made me miss more than Mom. Maybe it was their laughter, maybe it was the music, but I started really missing Jeff. Not the wisest thing to dwell on, but that’s how I was feeling. Lost. Used. Something worth nothing more than a good time, destined to be discarded. Foolish.
Jeff made me feel funny, pretty, smart. I really thought he liked me. I should have known better. I guess it’s not a good idea to be hanging around Dad’s employees anyway, it’s just that I don’t have any time to date, I barely have enough time to study, with all of Dad’s paperwork. If Mom were alive, it would be different. She could have done the books while I focused on school, and had time for a life. But Dad needs someone to help him, he’s worked too hard to watch everything fall apart.
I don’t like the way Dad talks about her, but sometimes I think maybe he’s right, maybe she should have eaten better, been more healthy. But here I am, doing the same thing. Eating greasy restaurant food, never cooking, never going for a jog. It just seems like there’s never any time. Maybe if I was better at what I did. Dad is always talking about how Mom was never very efficient either, I wish I had taken more after him. If something happens and I have to take over the business as well as take care of him, I’d be lost.
Here I am again, feeling sorry for myself like a pathetic lump. But, I shouldn’t feel that way now. Besides, Dad is healthy and strong, he should be able to keep up the business well into old age. I don’t know what I would do without him, he’s right that I probably wouldn’t be able to take care of myself.
Anyway, there I was, trying to get the books done so I could go home and write my paper (okay, I admit it, I was moping and tracing the patterns in the wood grain with my finger), when a man came up to me. A good looking one! He said his name was Stuart. I was so stunned, he just slipped right into the booth and started talking about how he likes women with a strong work ethic. And he didn’t seem to think I was being a nerd, with my paperwork and calculator. I was so shocked, I must have missed part of the conversation. He ordered me a Mimosa, and I don’t even remember telling him what I was drinking.
He said I had a warm smile. That was different. At work there are whispers that I’m a bit of a snob, a cold fish. But it was like he looked in my eyes and saw deep into me. And he was so nice, asking about the books I was working on, as if my father’s business was interesting to anyone but the family. We have so much in common too, he said he does the same thing, likes to go to a bar during off hours just to soak up the atmosphere while he works, he just usually goes to the one on the other side of town. He said he gets too busy to really go out, just like me. A hard worker. And we like the same music and books.
He’s so much more together than I am, so much more capable. He’s charming, I could never do that. His smile could get a girl to do anything. He reminds me of Jeff a little, but Jeff was more into just having fun and teased me for working too hard, like I was supposed to just ditch my father and not show my gratitude for all he’s done for me. Stuart admired my loyalty to Dad, said too many women don’t want to work hard, just want a man to take care of them while they sit around the house.
I didn’t have to talk a lot, which is good. It always feels like whatever comes out of my mouth is weird and stupid, and it’s embarrassing. He seemed happy to carry the conversation. When I did talk, like when I said that doing the books soothed me, just a big predictable puzzle where I could easily check if I was right or not, he seemed to understand instead of saying I needed to get out more. He did say that math wasn’t his strong suit, but he at least seemed interested in how it made me feel.
He might not be good with numbers, but he seems to know the other aspects of business, like Dad. I can see him working hard at networking, he does seem like he would be good at it. He said something about helping with a few fundraisers for a couple of local charities, he has a good heart.
He understands people more than I do. He asked me if I was on that Twitter thing, said he has a lot of followers, but those sites just make me feel more lonely. I wish I could be like him, he makes it all look so easy. It was a lot of fun hanging out with him. I lost track of so much time that Dad even started texting me asking where the books were. I had to make up an excuse. Stuart was even nice enough to start helping me a little, once I explained part of my system, something I thought he could handle with a calculator. I was a little uncomfortable with how close he was sitting, especially when he started lightly touching me. I’m not used to that. I kind of wished I had room to scoot a little further away, but I guess maybe I am a little too stand-offish at times.
Maybe it will be okay if I have to stay up late working on the paper. Even if he doesn’t call, it ended up being a really nice night. I just hope it doesn’t end up one of my crushes that never goes further than my daydreams. I hope this is the start of something new that I can cherish, and I don’t end up just feeling like a fool again.