Goodbye Is Better Than See You Soon
This short was written in response to a writing exercise. We were given at title and had to write a story to match.
Maggie takes her spot, the place she always sits when she waits for daddy to come. It is the window seat at the front of the house, in the middle part of the bay window. The seat is covered with a foam cushion, plum in color—not purple, plum. Her favorite. The lace curtains are open and the view of the driveway below is unobscured. Also unobscured is the lawn, covered in dry, flaky leaves of varying fall colors.
I frown as I pass Maggie at the window. First at the lawn, and then at her. Well not at her, just… I shake my head and quietly sigh and walk back to the kitchen.
“What time did daddy say he was coming today?” I ask knowing the answer, but I have to say something to keep her occupied. I measure flour, sugar, salt, an egg. I step to the cabinet across the room and dig for the bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips.
“He said four,” she says, her voice bouncing off of the glass and reverberating back to the room with a hollow sound. I twist to glance at the clock. 4:32. I close my eyes and shake my head. He could at least call and tell her that he’s going to be late. Or that he’s not coming.
“Do you want to help me make the cookies?”
“No,” she says. Her tiny voice is losing its cute, wonder-filled charm. “I want to see him get here.”
“Okay,” I say, and go on with my task, mixing the chocolate chips in with the dough.
The cookies aren’t a consolation prize. At least that’s what I tell myself. It’s turned into a Sunday tradition, but mostly to distract Maggie when David can’t make it. He was good about it when he first found out Maggie was his. We even tried to reconcile for a little bit, but then he got the new job and the new house and now things are all a jumble. He promises and promises and doesn’t come through. I can take it but….
I lean around the corner from the kitchen and peek into the living room at the four year old, perched on her knees, nose on the glass, head in her hands, watching the driveway. My heart breaks.
“Hey Mags! Maybe we can rake up some leaves later on and jump in a great big pile! I used to do that when I was a little girl. Grandpa would make a huge, HUGE stack—“
“He’s here!” She shrieks, stands up and jumps from the window seat to the carpeted living room floor. I scowl at her but she’s too excited to notice. Much more quickly than I could ever get her to put on her jacket on school days, she pokes her arms through the thin nylon and picks up the straps of her backpack.
“Wait for him to come to the door, Mags!” I call out, a second before the doorbell rings. I drop the wooden spoon I had been using to mix the cookie dough into the bowl and bound down the stairs. Maggie is on my heels, chattering excitedly.
I open the door and David is there. Handsome as ever. He looks like Taye Diggs and sounds like James Earl Jones and smells like… I inhale, subconsciously. Jean Paul Gaultier. My heart goes pitter patter and other places go thump thump. My breath catches in my throat and all over again, I regret letting him go.
“I’m late, pumpkin, I know. Daddy’s sorry. I had to work today and they tried to keep a brother from his baby girl.” He’s squatting in front of Maggie and hugging her to him. I wish I had the mind and heart of a child, so easily forgiving.
But I don’t, so I’m upset. “You kept her waiting 45 minutes. I need you to call if you’ll be late. I’m the one that has to deal with a sad four year old when she thinks you’re not coming.”
He stands with Maggie on his arm. She’s glowing, her brown eyes bouncing from me to him, to me and back to him. “Okay, Tammy. Okay.” He rolls his eyes just enough that I see it and she doesn’t. “My cell phone died while I was working and I had already left the plant when I figured that out. These things happen, but I’m here now.”
“Yeah. Well. Ya’ll have fun. Don’t let her eat a lot of sugar. We’ll have cookies when she comes back.”
“Alright, okay. Mommy’s orders.” He eyes me and I watch his gaze linger on the v-neck of my t-shirt. I fold my arms over my chest and let my eyebrows rise. “I’m just saying, Tammy. Maybe you and I could spend some time together. Like old times, you know?”
I know what old times means. Old times went away when we broke up and I had a baby by myself and it took him two years to come around after he found out he had a daughter. In my heart of hearts, I wish old times could come back again but… I glance at her, the very image of me from her kinky hair and chocolate skin to her big brown eyes. Even her nose is from me. I can’t compromise my future. Not with her in it.
Still, I can’t say the word no. I feel my face turning pink. I’ve to get him out of my sight before I jump up into those arms, too. I shrug and step back, grabbing the door knob. “See you later, David.” I wave to Maggie, who is impatiently swinging a leg, chanting that she’s ready to go.
He nods, just once, but slowly. “Yeah. See you soon.”
I close the door behind me and slump against the cold steel, listening through it as David’s car starts and backs out of the driveway. Only when he’s gone do I sigh a breath of relief.