Sarah watched for the kitchen light as soon as the old Ford truck turned into the long, rural lane that led to her house. She saw the light flicker through the trees. “He’s still up.”
Derek reached over and turned off the radio. “He won’t be mad, will he? It’s only ten minutes after your curfew.”
Sarah shrugged. “Hard to say.”
Derek pulled into the driveway. Sarah opened the door but made no move to get out. The night was humid, and the shorts she wore left a lot of bare leg. Easing her skin off the cheap vinyl seat could take a minute or two, but that was fine by her. She needed to dawdle. There was a decision to be made.
The dashboard was dimly lit with instruments dulled by age but there was enough light for Sarah to see Derek’s uneasy expression.
“Dad’s not as bad as everybody says.” Sarah watched the muscles twitch on the young man’s face. “You’ve only known him a couple of weeks.”
Derek kept his eyes on the not-so-distant kitchen light. “News travels.”
Sarah nodded. Especially bad news. “This is the longest Dad and I have ever stayed in one place. Six months. Before that, the record was two months in Detour, Michigan.” She looked toward the kitchen light. “I have a hard time making friends.”
They sat and stared at the light; watched as a shadow made a brief appearance, then faded away. Sarah waited, feeling the disappointment build, then felt Derek lean towards her. She turned away to hide a smile.
“Sarah,” Derek moved closer, sliding his arm across the back of the bench seat, and then waited until she faced him. “He wouldn’t … doesn’t … hurt you, does he?”
Sarah stared at him. Tucking her long, dark hair behind her ears, she took a deep breath and held it. Exhaled. Took another one, held it longer, and then finally answered him.
“No, Derek, he has never hurt me. He loves me. He is not the monster everybody makes him out to be.”
She turned away quickly, getting out of the truck before Derek could react. Leaning back in, hands braced on the roof, she faced him again. “He’s never been convicted of anything. He was arrested, tried and let go. End of story.”
Slamming the door shut, she ran, but his door opened seconds later and he shouted her name. She stopped and turned.
“Sarah, wait. I’m sorry, I just … just wanted to be sure, you know?”
She stood, feet apart, hands on hips, a shapely silhouette against the solitary light where her dad sat, waiting.
Derek moved around to the front of the truck, into the beam of the headlights. “Especially after, well … you know … what happened tonight.”
She saw him squint, trying to see her, to gauge her reaction. Saw his broad shoulders and narrow waist; noticed how his shirt was buttoned up wrong in his haste to get her home on time. She kept her voice low, seductive.
“Will I see you tomorrow?”
Sarah saw Derek’s smile start, and then freeze. She heard the screen door open and shut behind her, and the creak of the porch steps as her father’s heavy form descended. She listened to his slow steps lumber up beside her. Felt the cold barrel of the shotgun as he pressed it against her bare arm and smelled the familiar odour of whiskey and tobacco when he spoke.
Sarah never took her eyes off Derek. She saw him straighten and stand his ground. She smiled, briefly, then waved him away, waiting until he was back in the truck and easing out of the driveway before turning and taking her father’s arm. Gently steering him back towards the house, she whispered, “You know, Dad, I think I’ll keep this one around for awhile. See how it goes.”
The dad grunted and let his daughter lead him back to the kitchen.
Amanda Capper lives in Ontario, Canada, with her musician husband and their mangy mutt. She works, reads, writes, and reviews (thegenreview.com) full-time but every now and then stops to carry on conversations with complete strangers.