The party is just getting started. Our guests are laughing and listening to Pandora, happy at the start of the holiday weekend. Down at the beach, the sun sets into the Gulf, and here, the sky hazes yellow to pink. One of my friends supervises the carrying of platters to the buffet table. There’s beer in a nearby cooler and wine in the kitchen. I drop the hamburger patties, one by one, onto the grill, listening to them sizzle. Under my bare feet, the grass feels cool and slightly damp.
Glen is my husband. He wears a thick, short beard and slightly shaggy brown hair. Some people think he looks like Glen Campbell during his Tanya Tucker stage. We met in our late twenties and have been married for twenty more. Our life is normal but that hasn’t slowed anything down. Somehow it feels like it’s gone even faster.
Our children, both of them, are in high school. Seth is a junior, serious and studious, the owner of a startling long jump. Daniella is a freshman cheerleader, outgoing, bright, and willing to test the boundaries. In a way, she is mine and he belongs to Glen. That’s just the way it shakes out, a lot of the time.
A few minutes ago Daniella came home late from the mall and Glen is furious with worry. On one hand, she’s growing up, and that’s scary enough. On the other hand, something horrible could stop her and that would be worse.
My friend describes it later. A boy pulls up at the curb in a white sports car. This kid is Matthew McConaughey crossed with Zac Efron. He grins, all teeth and tan cheek, bad-ass attitude snapping around electric blue eyes.
Daniella gets out of the passenger seat and thanks the boy for the ride. He salutes, revs the engine, and takes off. It startles a pregnant woman, walking her dog, and she yanks the leash backward. Glen raises one hand in apology, frustration leaving no room for embarrassment.
Daniella squares up to Glen, arms across her chest. She knows she is absolutely not allowed to have a boyfriend, nor allowed to be driven by kid drivers, unless it’s her brother, and only to tutoring.
“Where’s your phone?” Glen demands angrily. “Why didn’t you answer!”
“I don’t know.”
“Go to your room!” Glen roars.
“You guys are ridiculous!”
Daniella makes her beautiful face expressionless, a snotty way of telling her father he’s an idiot. She also knows it’s time to give up, so she stomps into the house, and lets the door slam. Usually that’s a big no-no, but tonight, it’s a minor transgression.
Glen follows her into the house, but only as a pass through to the back yard. He heads toward me, red-faced and tense. I put down a tray of hot burgers and hand him a Yuengling. He takes a long sip.
“Some P.O.S. just dropped her off,” he tells me under his breath.
“How do you know?” I ask, about the P.O.S. part, which is an acronym for ‘piece of shit’, Glen’s favorite put-down.
He shakes his head in disbelief, not answering, so I put my arms around him and after a second, he wraps me in his. We sway together until his muscles begin to relax. I push my face into his warm chest and inhale mixed soap and man-sweat.
Glen’s phone buzzes with a text from Daniella: “I’m hungry. Can I come out?”
He snickers and shows me the message.
“I guess she found her phone,” he comments dryly.
I don’t want Daniella to miss the party, but I learned a long time ago to let Glen reach his own conclusions. If I push too hard, it’ll go the other way. I watch him think about it.
“Come out, but you’re not off the hook,” he finally texts.
“I know,” she buzzes.
A second later, she sails out the back door.
“Hi Mom,” she calls and I wave.
She heads to a group of girls sharing a couple of lounge chairs. They huddle up, looking serious, with bottles of water and plates of Caprese Salad dotted with olives. Glen hands me his beer and I take a slow sip, letting the yeasty flavor come up through my nose.
Another couple comes in through the gate in the hedge, waving and carrying a casserole dish.
“Hey!” Glen says happily. “Ya made it!”
“Have a burger,” I say, “and the beer’s over there.”
We can’t stop tomorrow from coming, but it isn’t here yet.
Kristen Petry is a native New Jerseyan living in Naples, Florida. Her master’s degree — in Landscape Architecture — trained her to design upscale gardens and study people. Her work has appeared in the Naples Herald and in Akashic Books’ Mondays Are Murder flash fiction series. She’s working on a novel about a crooked real estate developer, living in Naples, who is about to push everybody he knows over the edge.