John tapped her on the shoulder, so she slid one of her earbuds out. It was so strange to be sitting next to him, flying with him to spend the entire summer touring with him and Shooterz. It was the stuff dreams were made of.
"You not talking to me today or what?" he asked.
"I am," she said.
"Okay," he said. "What's with the silent treatment then?"
"I'm just quiet," she said.
"Did I do something wrong?" He looked puzzled, as if he really thought he had. The closest he'd come to doing anything wrong was signing an autograph for the flight attendant who was obviously flirting with him. He hadn't really flirted back, though. He'd smiled and stuff, but he hadn't checked her out or anything. Melissa had watched, too.
"Okay. Would you tell me if I did?"
"Probably," she said with a shrug. She wasn't sure. To this point he hadn't done anything really wrong. Not seeing her for eighteen years some could argue with, but she believed both of them when they said they did the best thing for her. Would she admit it if she was mad at him? She wasn't sure. She and her mom, despite last summer, were pretty close. She'd always thought there were no real secrets from each other. It was the reason the things Stu had told her hurt so much. It wasn't John she'd felt betrayed by, not really. She didn't know him. He was just an idea, a thought. Her father. A faceless person who was responsible for her being here today. Her mother, though, hadn't been honest. Melissa had been devastated because until then she'd thought her mother could do no wrong and was as close to perfect as she could be.
"Well, that's better than no, I guess. What are you listening to?" he asked, gesturing to her iPod.
"Us actually," she said, holding one of the earbuds out to him. He took it. She took the one in her ear out and put it in her other ear closest to him. He did the same. He listened for a few minutes to their song, nodding a bit.
"Weird?" he asked.
"Yes," she said.
"Yeah. I like it. Now. I'm not sure how I'll feel another month from now."
"Your friends being different?"
"Some of them."
She shrugged. She wasn't sure how to explain it. The way her mom had explained it to her, John had gone to Shermer but hadn't been in the same crowd as Claire. Or Melissa.
"Missy," he said. "Come on. Honesty, remember. That's not just for emails. You can tell me anything. I swear. I want that between us."
Most of her friends. Her real friends. The ones like Cindy, not like Stacy and Trisha, didn't act any differently. Cindy thought it was pretty fucking cool. All of it. Who her dad was, that she had a song being played on the radio that had her name attached to it, and that she was going on tour with them this summer. Some, though. She wasn't sure who was really her friend anymore and who wanted to stay on her good side to reap any benefit knowing her may have.
She was coming to learn the past month she had a lot fewer friends like Cindy than she thought.
"Well, I'd told some people that Sean was my boyfriend without telling them who you were," she said.
"Right," he said.
Likely he knew that. She hadn't rushed out to tell people. Her friends had all seen her hang out with him at Shermer Days. They knew she went down to Kankakee to see them play.
"So when the song first came out and people realized it was me singing," she sighed.
She shook her head. "I can't. You're my dad."
"Right now I'm sitting here talking to someone I made a pretty damned good song with and you're saying people said something about that. So what?"
"Some people. Not people who know me well or anything, but some asked me what I'd done to get my song on the radio."
He nodded a bit, but he didn't look mad. Or even surprised. He was obviously still listening to the song. It had turned out to be a fairly longer song even with editing. She didn't mind because she agreed with him. It was a pretty damned good song. Claude had tried singing with her instead of John and for whatever reason it didn't sound right.
"Then it came out you were my father," she added when it seemed he wasn't going to say anything to what she'd just said.
"There's a reason I don't want to just cast you out there and say 'good luck' with trying to make a career out of it. It sucks at first. It really does. Claude, Billy, Xavier, and I lived on one another's couches at times because that was all we could afford. There were weeks, months, I lived on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There were weeks during those months I couldn't afford the electricity to keep the jelly cold so it was just peanut butter. Women, though, especially women without a band. It can be brutal. Those comments you heard are pretty tame."
He shrugged. "Yeah. I don't know why. Just because you have breasts and no penis doesn't mean you can't have talent, but some people still view it that way."
"I guess," she said.
"I'm sorry they said that. No one has the right to belittle your hard work that way."
"I know," she shrugged. It had bothered her. A lot. She hadn't told her mom about the comments because her mom might think it meant she shouldn't do this. She wasn't going to blow off college or anything, but she wanted to try and she had the means to try right here with very little potential blow back. If she discovered she didn't like it? She'd have her degree to fall back on.
"So, what did you say?"
"I didn't answer," she said. She hadn't even known what to say in response. Did people who knew her actually think she'd do that? Do what exactly she wasn't sure, but clearly they thought she'd done something sexual in exchange. She'd thought anyone who knew her was aware of how important music was to her and how much she loved it. Anyone who had been to her house knew she had a recording studio in her basement. Did that imply someone who just had a casual interest in music?
"Good choice. Very good choice. The more you deny it, the more they know it will bother you and they'll say stuff. You're out of there now anyway."
"I know," she said.
"You're good. I'm not saying that because I'm your father and I have to. Claude says it, too. After our tour if you were up for it we'd love to work with you so you can have your own band."
"Really. Maybe you want to wait until college is done. I don't know. I really do want to work with you on that, though. And I really do want to work with you until you decide you don't need to anymore."
"I don't think I'd ever decide that."
"There will come a day," he said with a soft chuckle. "Did you tell Sean what those people said?"
"I did," she said.
"Is that one of the reasons you're cooling things off?"
"A little," she admitted.
"Not a bad plan. I like Sean, I do, but if you really want to make a career out of this. It'd go a lot better without a boyfriend who's already in a band."
"Unlike a father?"
He shrugged. "I've been around for twenty years. They know I'm not going to flake out. I'm not going to get jealous or pissed off if they want you to wear this dress over that dress because it shows more cleavage."
"Well, if they wanted you to strip naked I'd put my foot down, yes, but within reason."
"Yes. You're talented. Immensely. You don't have to dress or act like a slut in order to have a career."
"Yes, but people like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper had their thing."
"Sure, they did. When you've done more than two songs we can talk about it, but I stand by my statement."
"You feeling good about it otherwise?"
"Yes. The gossip, though."
"Yeah, well, you'll be gone all summer so that should help a little."
"I suppose, except they know I'm going with you."
"Yeah, touring. While they're back home in Shermer listening to your song being played on the radio. Let them chew on that."
Her iPod shuffled to something classical.
"What's that?" he asked.
She blushed. How embarrassing!
"Sorry," she said.
"No, I don't know why you're apologizing. I asked a legitimate question. What is it?"
"He's a French composer."
"Yeah? Composer, huh. Someone Mrs. Norman probably tried to teach me about."
"I like it," he said.
"Yeah," he said with a slight nod.
She turned the volume up a bit, letting her head rest against his. They were flying First Class. His idea or her mom's she wasn't sure. She and her mom usually flew First Class.
"Didn't your mom ever teach you not to share earphones with anyone?" he asked during a quiet part of the song.
"I guess she forgot that rule," she whispered
He kissed the top of her head. "What else do you have on that thing?"
"A little bit of everything."
"Yeah," he asked.
"Uh huh. You like classical?"
"I haven't been exposed to much of it, but I like this."
"I could make you a playlist."
"Sure," he said.
"Why not? I like music. I'd especially like to hear what kind of music interests you."
"Okay. It'll be a while."
"Yeah, I figured that. It'll give me something to look forward to."
"Me, too," she said.
"So, this is our room," he said. "I'm going to try to get a nap in."
"You didn't sleep on the plane."
"I had an attractive woman playing music for me. I listened."
He shrugged. "Music is pretty personal. Your likes and dislikes tell a lot about you. You were willing to share that with me. I was willing to listen."
"Thank you for sharing."
"Will you pay it back sometime?"
"Anytime, sweetheart. Just ask."
"So, which bed do you want? The guy's supposed to take the one nearest to the door, I think. Something about chivalry, but if you want that one."
"No drinking, no drugs, and no guys. Most of all, no lying."
"I have no reason to lie to you."
"I don't want that to change. I want you to have fun. This is your summer vacation. You happen to be doing it with my band. Have fun. If you want to swim or do whatever, do it."
"I'm going to go see if Sean's in his room," she said.
"Yeah, sure. He's usually on either side of me."
"I don't know. It's just the way it's played out. The girls are usually grouped together and then us."
"Do you ever share rooms?"
"We have. It depends on what we can negotiate in our contract."
"So, I'd be with one of the girls if that happened?"
"No, because there's an odd number of guys so they'd probably just leave you with me and one of the girls would get her own room."
"Oh," she said.
She shrugged. "Just wondering."
"I'll let Claude know we're here."
"He just does. He's Claude. He knows everything."
She laughed softly.
"He has kids he told me."
"He does. Four of them. They're sixteen and fifteen and then ten and nine I think. I know the oldest is two years behind you."
"He doesn't see the older two?"
"He told you that? No. His ex-wife, their mom is a little crazy. He did some not so good things and she holds that against him."
"That's too bad."
"Some people can't get over the past."
"I'm glad you and Mom can."
"Me, too, kiddo, me, too."
"I'll be back."
"Yeah? You going to take a nap, too?"
"Probably. I didn't get to sleep until like four o'clock."
She laughed softly.
"Don't apologize. You were having fun, that's what it's all about."
She reached up then, kissing him on his cheek as she took her room key. "I'll be quiet."
She left and he pulled his cell phone out.
'Hello,' Claire said.
"Princess," he said softly.
'If I'm your princess are you my prince?'
"Hmm. I guess so. I like the sound of king better."
'I can't be a princess to your king.'
"It depends on what kind of monarchy we have."
'I don't want the kind of monarchy where a king is with a princess.'
"Maybe you're both?"
'Hmm,' she said.
He chuckled softly.
"I'm just letting you know we made it. I'm going to catch a few winks. Melissa is off in search of Sean and then said she may take a nap, too."
'How was your flight?'
"It was good."
"No. Actually. We listened to some music on her iPod."
"Yeah. It wasn't bad."
"Anyway, I'll talk to you in the morning or whatever."
'Okay. Break a leg.'
'Is she going to play tonight?'
"That's kind of up to her. She'll have a backstage pass with unlimited access. It'll get her into our green room and stuff. If she wants to play we'll make room for the song. If she doesn't, we have stuff to fill the time with. It's her first night. Claude and I both realize she may not want to dive right in."
'Right. I'm glad you've thought of that.'
"She may want to, too. Whatever she wants we're cool with."
"I will. And you'll get a video of it. I've already made sure that will happen."
'Thank you! I wouldn't have thought of it.'
"That's why they pay me. I like the way you pay me better, though."
"Yes. You took losing our bet like a real pro."
She laughed softly.
"I do think you're better at pool then you let on, though."
'You'll never know.'
"I'll find out."
'You think so?'
"When she's at school. We'll play and we won't need to wait until anyone's gone to pay off our debt."
'I kind of like the idea of seeing you play pool naked.'
"I love the idea of you leaning against the pool table, both of us naked."
'That does sound fun.'
"September," he said. "Talk soon."
He hung up then, claiming the bed closest to the door.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com