Tia and Jenny stared at each other over the table long enough for the tension to build, before it hit the high water mark and ebbed ever so slowly.
Tia spoke first. “I can’t see why you’re that mad.”
“Oh?” Jenny asked.
“I had a few friends check on your dad before I took the offer, and he didn’t trip anything to make me think it was a bad idea.”
“How do you figure that?”
“I had someone who screened him,” Tia explained, “to make sure he was really your dad, that his story was right, that he wasn’t just looking to smuggle young girls over the border for crap by paying veterans not to ask too many questions.”
“Oh crap, how many guys do that?”
“Enough. Enough of them to pay the bar tabs for a few of these guys.”
Jenny asked after a beat, “So he’s not a bad guy, you’re saying.”
“Why, did you find something out I didn’t?”
“Oh no, no. Nothing bad at all.”
Tia looked at her and asked, “So what the hell was wrong? He wasn’t a bad guy, then what?”
“Oh, he was great. Real good… real, real good, the kind of dad you could just…”
“Okay, so what happened?”
Jenny finally replied, “He was very good. Not the greatest at being a parent back then, but he really wanted to make up for lost time. And I really got the feeling that if I asked for anything, I’d have had it.”
“It’d be like being a princess. Trip to get the latest fashions in Seoul, and then wear them for four months at the actor retreats at Jaipur? Followed by maybe my own yacht to go between the big houses up and down the New Brunswick coast during the party summers? Sure, he’d probably have said, and handed me the credit codes in my brand new cell to make it just a flick of my wrist to buy anything I could ever want. And if I screwed that up badly somehow, he seemed like he’d have swooped on in and fixed that too.”
“So what the hell was the problem?” Tia asked.
“I can’t. Not yet, not now.”
“What, you didn’t feel you could just go from just plain Jenny to one of the Gnome Culture?”
“The what?” Jenny asked, confused.
“That’s a name for very rich folk. Came from a series on CBC… Okay, it’s not entirely a nice name for folks with money, and it sort of mocks rich people, but it stuck over here. You should call up old episodes when you have a chance. That’s if you get that cell from your dad.”
“At least you got something out of this,” Jenny finally hissed at Tia. “He paid you, ain’t it?”
“About that,” Tia said as she reached into her pants and pulled out a pouch attached to the inside. She emptied it, stacked the gold coins in a single column, split that into two equal piles, and forwarded one of them to Jenny.
“There,” Tia said as Jenny examined her booty, “kept my word and everything. Half for you when you wanted it, no matter what.”
It took Jenny a moment to finger the pile, pick up and drop the coins in a neat stacked pile a few times. “So what would this get me, if I spent it?” she asked as she slowed her counting.
“A lot less than going back to him would. Which I still can’t figure out; what kind of reason would you have for not being with your father?”
“A very, very good one…”
All content Copyright © 2013 James Ryan