I am translucent, aquatic.
She is an anchor, sinking in my sea.
—BENTON JAMES KESSLER
I wonder what kind of sound it would make if I were to smash this glass against the side of his head.
It’s a thick glass. His head is hard. The potential for a nice big THUD is there.
I wonder if he would bleed. There are napkins on the table, but not the good kind that could soak up a lot of blood.
“So, yeah. I’m a little shocked, but it’s happening,” he says.
His voice causes my grip to tighten around the glass in hopes that it stays in my hand and doesn’t actually end up against the side of his skull.
“Fallon?” He clears his throat and tries to soften his words, but they still come at me like knives. “Are you going to say anything?”
I stab the hollow part of an ice cube with my straw, imagining that it’s his head.
“What am I supposed to say?” I mumble, resembling a bratty child, rather than the eighteen-year-old adult that I am. “Do you want me to congratulate you?”
My back meets the booth behind me and I fold my arms across my chest. I look at him and wonder if the regret I see in his eyes is a result of disappointing me or if he’s simply acting again. It’s only been five minutes since he sat down, and he’s already turned his side of the booth into his stage. And once again, I’m forced to be his audience.
His fingers drum the sides of his coffee cup as he watches me silently for several beats.
He thinks I’ll eventually give in and tell him what he wants to hear, but he hasn’t been around me enough in the last two years to know that I’m not that girl anymore.
When I refuse to acknowledge his performance, he eventually sighs and drops his elbows to the table. “Well, I thought you’d be happy for me.”
I force a quick shake of my head. “Happy for you?”
He can’t be serious.
He shrugs, and a smug smile takes over his already irritating expression. “I didn’t know I had it in me to become a father again.”
A loud burst of disbelieving laughter escapes my mouth. “Releasing sperm into the vagina of a twenty-four-year-old does not a father make,” I say, somewhat bitterly.
His smug smile disappears, and he leans back and cocks his head to the side. The head-cock was always his go-to move when he wasn’t sure how to react onscreen. “Just look like you’re contemplating something deep and it’ll pass for almost any emotion. Sad, introspective, apologetic, sympathetic.” He must not recall that he was my acting coach for most of my life, and this look was one of the first he taught me.
“You don’t think I have the right to call myself a father?” He sounds offended by my response. “What does that make me to you, then?”
I treat his question as rhetorical and stab at another piece of ice. I skillfully slip it up my straw and then slide the piece of ice into my mouth. I bite into it with a loud, uncaring crunch. Surely he doesn’t expect me to answer that question. He hasn’t been a “father” since the night my acting career came to a standstill when I was just sixteen. And if I’m being honest with myself, I’m not even sure he was much of a father before that night, either. We were more like acting coach and student.
One of his hands finds its way through the expensive implanted follicles of hair that line his forehead. “Why are you doing this?” He’s becoming increasingly annoyed with my attitude by the second. “Are you still pissed that I didn’t show up for your graduation? I already told you, I had a scheduling conflict.”
“No,” I reply evenly. “I didn’t invite you to my graduation.”
He pulls back, looking at me incredulously. “Why not?”
“I only had four tickets.”
“And?” he says. “I’m your father. Why the hell wouldn’t you invite me to your high school graduation?”
“You wouldn’t have come.”
“You don’t know that,” he fires back.
“You didn’t come.”
He rolls his eyes. “Well of course I didn’t, Fallon. I wasn’t invited.”
I sigh heavily. “You’re impossible. Now I understand why Mom left you.”
He gives his head a slight shake. “Your mother left me because I slept with her best friend. My personality had nothing to do with it.”
I don’t even know what to say to that. The man has absolutely zero remorse. I both hate and envy it. In a way, I wish I were more like him and less like my mother. He’s oblivious to his many flaws, whereas mine are the focal point of my life. My flaws are what wake me up in the morning and what keep me awake every night.
“Who had the salmon?” the waiter asks. Impeccable timing.
I lift my hand, and he sets my plate in front of me. I don’t even have an appetite anymore, so I scoot the rice around with my fork.
“Hey, wait a second.” I look up at the waiter, but he isn’t addressing his comment at me. He’s staring intently at my father. “Are you . . .”
Oh, God. Here we go.
The waiter slaps his hand on the table and I flinch. “You are! You’re Donovan O’Neil! You played Max Epcott!”
My father shrugs modestly, but I know there isn’t a modest thing about this man. Even though he hasn’t played the role of Max Epcott since the show went off the air ten years ago, he still acts like it’s the biggest thing on television. And people who recognize him are the reason he still responds this way. They act like they’ve never seen an actor in real life before. This is L.A., for Christ’s sake! Everyone here is an actor!