Claire rolled onto her side when the phone rang, putting her bookmark in place before picking up the phone.
"Hello," she said.
'Hi, it's John.'
She closed her eyes, setting the book on the nightstand by her bed. Absolutely nothing good could come from him calling. Yet, she didn't tell him not to call back either time he'd called before. The first call she could probably be excused for not telling him not to call again. He hadn't been calling to talk or anything. He'd called to tell her what he was doing, state a fact. The second call, though. That had been pretty close to a social call. So social she had, in fact, almost encouraged him to send Melissa a gift.
It certainly wasn't unheard of for a father to send his daughter a gift, but John had to this point done nothing like that. He'd sent a little extra the months of her birthday and Christmas, but an actual gift. No.
"Hi," she said instead of what she should have done. Last time, too.
'You sound as if I woke you?'
"No, I was just reading before bed."
She closed her eyes, realizing how absolutely lame that sounded. It was Friday night and she was in bed already. Then, well, he was calling her on a Friday night.
'Reading anything good?'
"An older Grisham novel. I hadn't read it before I realized."
'He's pretty good I've heard.'
"You haven't read him?"
'Uh, no,' he replied.
"Do you read?"
'Well, I know how, sure.'
"That's not what I meant."
She knew he wasn't stupid. He wanted people to believe he didn't care back in school and didn't try, but she'd seen through that disguise. It was like a friend of hers sister that was in a play where she had to play a character who sang badly. It actually took a lot of effort for her to sing badly, and they hadn't wanted to cast someone who actually couldn't sing for fear she'd be ridiculed afterward.
'Good to know, but I wasn't sure. I'm not really surrounded by readers.'
"So you don't read because other people don't read?"
'Yeah, I mean I guess. I haven't thought about it. I've picked up a book a time or two over the years. It just isn't something I default to when I'm bored.'
That was so strange to her. She loved reading, and couldn't imagine traveling as much as he had to without books.
"Don't you get bored?"
'I guess. Maybe I phrased it wrong. I don't have a lot of downtime to hunt for authors and books I'd like, you know? So I just sort of avoid it. I'm not going to waste my money and my downtime on something I don't like. So, I find other things to do.'
"That makes sense," she said. "I suppose going to a library is out."
'I'm honestly not sure I even know where my nearest library is.'
"That's a shame."
'You want to recommend one I'd try it.'
'Sure. Just no mushy stuff.'
She laughed softly. "Well, I can't guarantee there'd be absolutely none."
'As long as it's not the central plot I'm good.'
"I'll think on it."
'So, I was just calling to make sure you got the shirts.'
"I did," she said. "Thank you. Melissa will love it!" He'd sent a shirt for her, too, of a band she'd loved back in high school. "I guess I missed hearing you were playing with someone old."
'Ouch,' he said with a soft laugh.
"I didn't mean it like that. It's just the names you said sounded newer, I missed any names from when we grew up."
'Ah, I may have left them out thinking they wouldn't appeal to her. I figured you'd like that one.'
"I did. Well, thank you, that was nice of you."
'Don't mention it.'
"So where are you tonight?"
'Uh, some dinky county in upper New York, population eighty thousand or something. No hotel this go around, though. It's two large cabins big enough to sleep all of us.'
'Yeah,' he said with a scoff. 'Upside we can cook and stuff. Downside if I want to watch TV I have to watch whatever someone else is watching.'
"Well, Melissa still hasn't come home. Honestly, she likely wouldn't be home on a Friday night anyway."
'Ah, well, I just wanted to make sure you got the shirts. The chance she'd be home was an incentive to call, too. I wouldn't ask to talk to her, though.'
'Nah,' he said. 'Nothing to say really. I told you I didn't tell her I knew or anything, so what would I say?'
"I guess. Did you like how she played?"
He scoffed a little at that. Was that good or bad? She wasn't sure. She wished she could say she knew him well enough to know. The presumption would certainly be if she knew someone well enough to have a child with them that she'd know them well generally overall. Not so in their case. Sure she knew things only a few select people knew. All the people who knew were friends and family of hers, though. As far as she was aware no one John knew had any knowledge of Claire or Melissa.
'Uh, yeah. She's real good. It's kind of a shame your family is pushing her to be a lawyer.'
She sighed a bit at that.
"I know," she said.
She said nothing else on the subject. It wasn't really any of his business what she did or didn't encourage Melissa to do. Claire had talked with Melissa at length regarding college and job prospects. She wasn't pushing her daughter into becoming a lawyer as Claire's father and brother were doing, but she was also a realist. John had done it, somehow. He was one of a few versus how many have the dream of growing up and being a famous guitarist.
Melissa, too, encountered a lot of guys who wouldn't take her seriously because she was a girl. Evidently, to guys, you had to have a penis to be a good guitarist.
'Anyway. I'll let you go. I was just making sure you got the shirt and everything. Hers will fit?'
'Good. I had to ask Claude what he thought.'
"Not on my size."
He chuckled a bit. 'You haven't changed much at all, Claire. I didn't need any help figuring you out.'
"Oh," she said, knowing she was blushing profusely at that. Good grief. How old was she? Eighteen again?
'And before you get mad that I said something inappropriate or whatever about the day she came from I'll hang up.'
"Good night," she said, hanging up then. She picked up her book then, opened it to the page where she'd left off. She had no desire to read anymore tonight, though. She wasn't really tired either. It was late, but not incredibly late to where if she took Scotty for a walk she'd feel unsafe.
Scotty seemed a little confused at the sudden change in the routine. Claire was pretty much a creature of habit and when she came up to her bedroom at night it was usually for the duration. He followed her, though, not seemingly upset at the prospect of going O-U-T on a leash.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com