*TWACK, TWACK…. TWACK*
Joe kept on hitting the tennis ball, swinging his well muscled arms and making good runs as he chased the ball around his side of the court. The sweat, the runs, the shouts and jumps… He was enjoying himself.
On the other side of the court, an older man, clearly less enthusiastic, slower, quieter but more skilled, had his mind focused on a couple of other things. His company’s merger, his ex-wife whose calls had mysteriously become more frequent of late, the cold orange juice he would drink immediately after this match, the stupid lawyer he needed to sack, the ball coming right at his face…
That was close! Time to end this.
He stopped thinking about his ex-wife and a few minutes later, won the set.
“Game over, I win…AGAIN! See you next Sunday!”
The younger man shook his head and laughed while heading for the shade.
“You’re a proud man you know.”
“Damn right I am. Arrogant even! I’ve been playing this game since before you learnt how to spell.”
“Hahaha, you keep saying that. Anyway you won’t win forever.”
They packed up their things and headed for a shower, after which they walked to the car park talking of this and that.
“I hope you’re not in a hurry to get to your house.”
Joe looked at his father with a quizzical expression on his face.
“I need you to come over to the house and sign some documents. And before you start objecting, it concerns the merger and I want you to be a director in the newly formed company as much as you do, which is probably as much as you don’t want to come to the house.” He paused for effect. “But you have to sign those papers…this morning!”
Joe looked away. He had been avoiding that house ever since….
He didn’t have a choice now. Ironically, dad was wrong. He was only vaguely interested in being a director in the newly formed company. He wasn’t a fool, he perfectly understood what dad was trying to accomplish, and he’d do the same if he was in that position anyway.
They got into their respective cars drove off in the direction of the house, which was barely fifteen minutes away.
He felt nostalgic driving through the gates and it was hard to steady his heart which had begun to thump recklessly.
He parked his car in his old spot and pretended to fiddle with his phone while he watched his father wait (rather uncomfortably) by the front door.
That’s right old man, squirm.
When he couldn’t keep up the facade anymore, he grudgingly got out of the car and walked towards his father and together, they walked into the house.
“I’ll get the papers.”
Joe quietly walked into the large study, careful to avoid the general areas and unwanted attention. He went and stood by the window, mentally recalling a few fond memories. It had been about two years since he moved out of the house…not by choice but compelled by decisions that had been made.
He remembered when he was about 15 years old and he ‘came across’ his first weed stick. He was so excited and couldn’t wait to puff at it and see what the fuzz was about. He had gotten back from school, weed stick safely tucked in his socks. After dinner when the house was quiet, he snuck downstairs and looked around for an appropriate place to do the deed. He couldn’t do it in his room because he knew the smell of the stuff would get to his parents’ chamber (yes, it was not just a room).
So he crept down the stairs, weed stick and cigarette lighter buried deep in his pockets. He couldn’t go out of the house either because that would rouse the security men…God knew he didn’t need any more attention from them.
He finally decided on his father’s study. He’d open the windows and by morning all traces of the event would be gone.
Shutting the door behind him, he looked around the brightly lit expansive room. There were a couple of opened books strewn around the room, the rest were neatly arranged in shelves. A picture formed in his head and he thought to himself. Why not?
So he walked over to his father’s chair and sat down, put his legs up and crossed them on the table… just as he had seen in the Godfather. He slowly smelt the stick before putting it between his lips, pretending to be addressing unseen mobsters in the room.
“Pass me a light would ya,” he said in his fake imitation of don Corleone. He lit the stick and even before he could take his first drag
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOUT THINK YOU ARE DOING???”
Wait… did he really hear that or was it an over excited imaginative thought?
He opened his eyes to see his father making a beeline for him. He froze in shock, unsmoked stick still hanging between his lips. The man had apparently been using the restroom in the study
He tried to quickly think of something…anything to say to help his situation and all he could say was:
“Dad, it’s not what it seems like”
What da? Where did that come from? What movie…
Before he could complete the thought, his father had, in one seemingly quick motion, grabbed the stick from his lips and then him, and flung him across the table.
His father smelt the stick, looked horrified on realization of what it was and angrily stomped towards him…
To cut the long story short let’s just say he missed school for the rest of that week, AND the whole of the next too.
Needless to say, he never went near a cigarette stick again. There are some lessons you do learn the hard way.
Footsteps behind him dragged him back to reality.
His words were cut shut in his mouth. Facing him at the doorway was the reason he didn’t want to be here in the first place.
Gladys, his ex girlfriend.
Gladys, his step mother.