Her Dad's Friend(4)

By: Penny Wylder

I weave my way through the throng of guests. I say hi to my mom and try to avoid looking over by the pool where Paul and my dad are talking. It’s difficult because Paul looks edible. He’s wearing blue and white board shorts, chest smooth and tan, arms taut with muscle, showing off all his ink. And not blotchy ugly tattoos left over from his youth either. These are genuinely amazing art pieces he spent a fortune on. It’s so shocking to see because he’s always so put together around my parents, wearing suits, and designer clothes. Sometimes I forget he even has tattoos.

He turns to toss a ball to one of my cousins in the pool and on his back there’s an entire ocean scene with sharks and coral. The details are flawless, right down to the drop shadows and sun ripples in the water. That is a body I want to explore. I want to walk right over there and lick every square inch of him.

My dad is also a handsome man and manages to look elegant even in swim trunks. It’s the way he holds himself. Straight posture, shoulders back, his chin just a little higher in the air than everyone else. Maybe that’s why he seems so much older than Paul even though they’re the same age. Paul is so much more laid back.

I manage to kind of not stare at Paul, but once in a while I forget myself and glance over. His eyes latch onto mine. Even after I look away, I feel him watching me and my heart drums in my chest as I make my way to the bar for a glass of champagne. I’m going to need it.

I try to ignore the heaviness of his gaze while I sip Dom—though, at the moment, I’d prefer an ice-cold beer, but that’s not on the menu. Hair of the dog. I still feel like shit from the night before. Except now I can add humiliation to it. Which pisses me off because this is the first surprise party I’ve ever had and I want to enjoy myself.

Nursing my drink, I make my rounds, catching up with people and thanking them for coming. I smile and nod as my high school friends tell me about their new jobs and plans for marriage, and all the other stuff I’ve always dreamed about for myself. I do my best to share in their happiness, but I’m having a hell of a time trying to concentrate when Paul is nearby.

“Rachael,” I hear my dad call out to me. “Come over here and say hi to your Uncle Pauly. He drove all night to be at your party.”

He drove all night? Maybe he didn’t get my text after all. Or maybe he drove all night to be at my party because of the text. I try not to get my hopes up. Relax and don’t say or do anything stupid, I tell myself.

There’s something skeevy about my dad calling Paul my uncle. And yet, in some perverse way, I kind of like it. Don’t get me wrong, if past royals taught us anything with their clubbed feet and genetic deformities, it’s that incest is bad. But a little bit of kinky fantasy never hurt anyone.

Anyway …

I try to play it cool when I head toward them, like, whatever, you’re here, no big deal. And it kind of works until I trip over my dad’s fat poodle lounging by the pool and nearly fall in. Paul catches me by the arm before I go into the water and he hauls me onto my feet.

That Harry Potter invisibility cloak I asked for on my eleventh birthday would come in real handy right about now.

“Damn dog,” I mumble. My dad loves that mutt. He takes him everywhere with him and calls him my brother. If there’s one friend who outranks Paul in my dad’s eyes, and one child who outranks me, it’s Pickles.

True to his character, my dad’s more concerned about his pet who lays there licking his balls, unfazed by my near destruction.

“You okay?” Paul asks.

“You talking to me or the dog?”

“Someone’s trippin’” I hear Emily say somewhere in the background. I ignore her, but remind myself to strangle her later.

Paul chuckles and the deep rumble of it touches me in a place not even my favorite dildo manages to reach. The gentleness in how he holds my arm, and the way he’s looking at me … Jesus. This isn’t good. I’m a fumbling mess whenever he’s around.

“Did we finally manage to surprise you for once?” my dad asks. I smell whiskey on his breath and cigarette smoke in his hair. He only smokes when he drinks. If my mom knew, she’d kill him. He looks over at Paul. “We’ve never been able to keep a secret from this girl. Even at Christmas she used to open her presents while we were asleep then spend all night rewrapping them so we wouldn’t notice. Who knows how many years she got away with it before she was finally caught on the home security system.”

“You know I hate surprises.” I tell him.

But I actually like this one. My parents have never been able to pull off a surprise party in the past, but I suspect this was Emily’s doing.

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