Don’t Hang Up
In this scene from The Brooklyn Drop Fina’s estranged father shows up on her doorstep. And when I say estranged, I mean ESTRANGED. A dozen or so years ago in the storyline, he left. Fina remembers the cold stare he gave her as he shrugged away. The glint of the sunlight on his Ray-bans. And he hasn’t been in touch. Not a card, not a call, nothing.
Just then the landline rang. Denny was clearing the table, so I answered it.
Nobody, I mean nobody calls me that.
“I know this will be a surprise for you, but don’t hang up. I’d like you to listen to what I have to say. I’ve been waiting for this moment for years.”
I didn’t recognize the voice at first, or maybe it was because I didn’t want to, although it seemed vaguely familiar. A voice from the past.
Then came the realization. There was only one person who called me by my real name—the rat who called himself my father, the deadbeat who’d left us.
“Do you know what you did? You’ve made me a mental. Worse, you killed Mom after making her suffer all those years.”
“I can explain. Serafina, listen to me.”
I didn’t hang up, I just put the receiver down. At least I think I did, and ran up to my study.
I was staring at my laptop screen and pretending nothing had happened when Denny walked into the room. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him standing by the door, guileless, arms at his side, afraid to move, every inch Lorraine’s son. I could feel his confusion in the silence that now enveloped everything in the house.
If you wanted to know what I was feeling, I couldn’t tell you, not in a million years, but a slow rage was beginning to boil deep inside. My father appeared after all these years and wanted me to welcome him? Not a chance. I hated that man with all my might. I wished Mom were here. Even Gran. I pictured the three of us chasing him out the door, Gran waving a broom, Mom crying, me brandishing a fist—no, tearing at his sleeve, biting him, scratching at his face. But I was all alone with him; everyone else was dead.
Cookie, I needed Cookie, so I texted her with the news, but she must have silenced her phone. Cookie and I, we’d been through this father thing together. True, we’d fought about it because of the death of her father—she watched him die. But Cookie and I could say terrible things to each other and call the next minute to pass on news. Anyway, I couldn’t go to her father’s wake, don’t ask me why, except that at the time, I was through with all fathers.
I could see Denny knew about the call. The truth of it was in his face.
“The landline’s off the hook.” He looked down. “Your father, right?” He took a step toward me.
“I don’t have a father.”
“You have a father. Don’t you want to talk to him, find out why he left? Maybe there was a medical reason. Maybe he thought he was dying or—”
“Well, he didn’t die, did he? He left us. Not a word from him. He let us fend for ourselves.”
The doorbell rang. “Must be Cookie,” I said, and brushed past him. When it comes down to it, all men stick together.
I opened the door, Cookie’s name on my lips, and stared up into the face of my father.