The Inkwell’s Half-hour Challenge theme for March is “Narcissism”.
I recognised Karen’s car as soon as I turned the corner of the playground. I confess my feelings were mixed, confused even, at the prospect of meeting her again. There was nothing out of the ordinary there: my relationships with all my father’s girlfriends were ever fraught and confused. They naturally tended to lump my father and I together, so trying to impress, ingratiate, befriend in the early days; then blame, criticise, berate when it all went to rat-shit, as it always has when they see through him; find out what he’s really like.
I only met her quite briefly and, of course, supervised by Dad, the “marvellous” Frankie D. Marchant. Like all the others, she was tall, slim, drop-dead gorgeous, classy but Karen seemed to have something extra I could sense but not quite describe. Maybe an intelligence or wisdom; maybe just caution or discernment: I wasn’t sure. I felt that I liked her, though I could not explain why.
She jumped out of the car and waved as soon as she spotted me; looking like a million dollars in a pale blue business suit.
“I just happened to be passing and I wondered if you’d like a lift home from school?” I knew it was a lie the moment she said it and she knew that I knew. Her look said it all. “OK, I need to know when your Dad’s birthday is?” This was even less convincing.
“Why don’t you tell me what you really want?” I asked. She looked really wounded by this, so I took pity on her and said “Let’s get in the car and have a chat.” Her relief was palpable “Oh yes, thanks.”
We climbed in and she started talking too fast; flustered by her flawed introduction and economy with the truth; trying to make everything right “I really like your Dad. I was so flattered by him when we started going out. I want to make a go of it with him and so I want to get along with you too. I don’t imagine for one moment that I could replace your mother. But I hope we can be friends.” She was trying too hard and she knew it. She stopped, breathless, and looked out of the window for inspiration.
I realised I was going to have to be the adult: it’s a role I am both familiar and comfortable with. “None of my father’s previous girlfriends have seen fit to consult me before committing to a relationship with him” Karen tried to interrupt but I pressed on regardless “but there are many in his wake who rue that decision. He’s a beautiful man and he attracts beautiful women, like yourself. They say beauty is only skin deep and Frankie is shallower than most. I generally don’t worry unduly: his girlfriends are not much better, truth be told. I doubt they deserve the way he casts them aside as soon as they stop worshipping him. I could be wrong, but I think you’re different. So I’ll tell you the truth, straight-forward, no messing: my father is a self-absorbed, preening, bastard, who doesn’t give a toss about anyone but himself. He is utterly incapable of maintaining a normal healthy relationship with you, me or anyone else for that matter. Get out now, before you get hurt.”
There were tears welling in her eyes, as she touched her hand gently on my wrist and whispered “Thank you”.