“First, tell me why you came.”
He frowned. “You know.”
“In part.” His tone softened. “Please, sit. We need to talk.”
She sighed. “Fine.” Sitting down, she folded her hands in her lap. Thankfully, she noticed that the customers settled back to attending to their own meals and conversations.
“Why did you lie to me about you and Michael? I had no idea your engagement was off.”
“Right. You talked to Michael. He told you. Well, I was waiting for the right time.”
“Jessica, it’s been a year. What were you waiting for?”
“I’m not sure.” Her mind was spinning. Like it or not, she loved her dad even though he was so cold, so distant, so hard. “I had opportunity. Christmas. Easter. Your birthday. Mine.”
“Then why didn’t you tell me? You’re too smart not to know.”
“I guess I didn’t want to disappoint you again.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Bring out the photos.” This was the game they played for so many years. Don’t talk. Avoid. Evade. Change the subject. Whatever. Just don’t talk about the elephant in the room. “Let’s get this over with.”
He snapped, “You’re just like your mother.”
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Her gut tightened and angry tears fell. “Why do you hate me and hate her memory so much? What did I do? What did she do?” The dam had burst, and she couldn’t stop. “I tried to be all you expected, and you just kept pushing me away. I missed the dad took me to Central Park every Saturday and bought me ice cream. W–What h–happened to h–him?”
Jessie looked over at her three cowboys through her tears. They’d all left their seats to rush to her, but before they did she motioned them to sit back down. Reluctantly, they did.
“I guess I deserve that, Jessica. Your mother’s death changed me.”
“Don’t give me that bullshit. You changed before she died. Do you remember the night when I knocked over her medicine? The last night you spent in her bed?”
He closed his eyes. “Yes.”
“What happened? Tell me.”
“It’s hard. In many ways I’ve forgiven your mother. Still, the sting smarts from time to time. Even now.”
“Forgive her of what? What did she do?”
Her dad reached across the table and shocked her with his request. “May I hold your hand, sweetheart?” To her surprise, tears were flowing down his cheeks.
She lifted her hands from her lap, and he took them both in his.
“Dad, how bad is it?” Jessie asked, terrified what it might be.
“I had an amazing friend in law school. He was really smart and a great guy. Me, your mom, and he were inseparable. Thick as thieves. I knew he was falling for her, but I didn’t have any idea she was falling for him, too. We weren’t even engaged then. I fixed that. I guess my persuasive skills were pretty good even then.”
“Are you saying Mom had an affair?”
“Yes, Jessica. She did. She never told me. For years, she let me live in my delusion of what our life was.”
Jessie squeezed his hand. “Dad, I’m so sorry.”
“I want you to forgive me, honey. You never did anything wrong.”