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Once Upon A Half-Time 2(3)

By´╝ÜSosie Frost



“So…” He crossed his arms. His copper eyes still sparkled, though maybe not as bright as they once did. Dad and I always did look the most alike—a more delicate dark with high cheek bones and almond eyes. Maybe that’s why Mom favored Lindsey? “You should probably go.”

“I can stay.”

“You don’t have to,” he said. “I know you have responsibilities to your sister.”

I tapped the computer monitor. “But we’re supposed to make a logo for Pebblemill Incorporated.”

“I can draw that up. I’ll scan it in for you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Lindsey needs you. The wedding is a big event for this family. We probably won’t have this kind of good news for a while.”

Especially since my news probably wasn’t what they wanted to hear.

I grabbed my purse and kissed Dad’s cheek. His tone wasn’t as casual as he thought—less easy-breezy and more a hurricane-force gale of insecurity.

“Mandy…your momma…”

I braced myself with a smile. “Yeah?”

“Is she…bringing anyone to the wedding?”

Without the divorce papers officially signed? No way. The only person Mom could officially take was Jesus, and he hadn’t rsvp’ed because she refused to drop off his cross long enough to hand him the invitation.

“No,” I said. “She’s coming alone.”

“Ah, okay.” His smile wasn’t that confident.

“So no wild dates for you then?”

He slumped. Oh, I shouldn’t have made the joke. Was it too early to blame pregnancy hormones?

“Oh, no. No, no, no.” He chuckled, nervously. His eyes suddenly widened. “Why? Does your momma think I’m dating?”

“Oh, no. Not at all. I was just—”

“She’s not dating?”

I shuddered to think. “No. She’s all alone.”

Dad’s expression crumbled. “Well…that’s not what I want either.”

Shoot. “That’s not what I meant—”

“I mean, if I could be at home—”

“Oh, I know. She knows. We all…know.”

“We have some things to work out. But it’s never been about you girls. You know that, right?”

I wasn’t a child, but it was nice to hear it, even if I knew it wasn’t the truth. “Okay, well—”

“You know…I let her have the house.”

Oh, the alimony pony was a poor substitute for the horse Lindsey and I so desperately wanted as kids. I couldn’t get in the middle of my parents’ fights anymore. It hurt too much.

“Dad, I gotta go. Lindsey’s gonna turn as blue as the invitations if I don’t get over there—”

“I know. That’s why I wanted your mom to have the house. So she and Lindsey could have a place to stage all this stuff for the wedding, and we could sort through our problems without that stress.” Dad squeezed my hand. “You’ll see, Mandy-Pandy. Once the wedding is over? Everything’s going back to normal.”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. I longed for normal. I had no idea how much I loved normal until my life became defined by a single frightening test. When I was younger, everyone said it was the SATs that would define our future. At least the analogy section didn’t require a urine sample.

Dad offered me his fries again before I bolted out the door. I took one to be polite, even nibbled it, but I knew how it would end. I pitched the fry and fought the sickness before hopping into my car.

The Honda’s air conditioning didn’t do much. Whatever glow I was supposed to have sure as hell felt a lot like the cold sweat of terror. I hoped that would go away.

I had nine months to get ready for the baby.

Well…eight now, I guessed.

That wasn’t helping.

I focused anything that wasn’t the circus renting out my uterus. My to-do list was folded in my pocket. The checklist wasn’t simple, but it kept me occupied in the months leading up to the wedding. Two months out, and we still had a lot to do.

I grabbed a pen—one of Lindsey’s bachelorette decorations with the frilly pink pom-poms on top. A rather expressive part of the male anatomy had once nestled within the pink as well. In an attempt to appear professional at my job, I’d snapped off the top before meeting with a client. Of course, Dad walked in on the impromptu bris and assumed I made a declaration against all men, specifically directed at him and the messy divorce.

That’s when he decided to explain his side of the separation.

The therapy I’d need to suppress the words libido, mid-life vaginal dryness, and swingers’ retreat would cost more than Lindsey’s wedding.

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