#FicPromptFriday with Jordan Walker this week. He's my favorite Walker, and possibly my favorite among the characters I've written. Spoilers for the Walker Series and apologies in advance for typos.
6/3/16 – That Kind of Dad
Maybe she won’t notice, Jordan told himself, as he fitted his key in the lock. Maybe she would be bleary-eyed and tired from her day of writing and wouldn’t be able to see his bruise. It wasn’t that bad after all, Tam had said so. “Hmm, it’s not the worst I’ve seen,” he’d said, just a few minutes before, in the parking lot. “I’d get some ice on it, though.”
So maybe Ellie wouldn’t think it was too hideous.
Jane and Lizzy crowded around his legs; he felt Jane’s hand tug at the hem of his basketball shorts. “Hurry, Daddy, it’s hot out here.”
“I’m hurrying.” Though he wasn’t, because at this point he was convinced Ellie would definitely see his face, and she would –
The door swung inward; Ellie must have heard them out here on the stoop. She was wearing her Saturday writing clothes: denim shorts so broken down they might as well have been sweats, a threadbare tank top that never failed to give him ideas. She looked a little tired, but not at all bleary-eyed, and her greeting turned into a gasp. “Jordie!”
“It’s fine,” he said, the same moment she said, “your face!”
Both girls tipped their heads back and stared up at their mother, saying, “Hi, Mommy,” together.
“Hi, babies.” Ellie bent to pull them both into a hug, one in each arm, but her eyes never left his face.
His face which was starting to throb and swell. He really did need that ice Tam had suggested.
“What happened?” Ellie asked, straightening.
“Daddy got in a fight,” Jane said, helpfully.
“In a fight!?”
“Can I come in and quit standing out here for the neighbors to see?” he grumbled.
Ellie made a face. “The neighbors are a hundred.” But she stepped back and let him come in.
“Girls,” she said, steering them with a hand between their shoulder blades, one on either side of her. “Why don’t you go wash your hands and I’ve got fresh cookies on the table.”
With exclamations of “ooh” and “okay,” Jane and Lizzy took off toward the kitchen, hair ribbons and ruffled skirts flying.
Then Ellie folded her arms and turned her full attention toward Jordan, voice taking on that tone that meant she really couldn’t believe him, and that she was sad about his behavior, like she had three children instead of two. “You got in a fight?”
He sighed and leaned back against the closed front door. “Not, like, a real fight.”
“You have a real black eye,” she said, patiently.
“Look, I–” He sighed again. This was more than a little embarrassing after the fact. “We were at the playground.”
“And it was that one over near Rosewood, ‘cause we met Tam and the girls over there.” The sharp contrast between the cousins had been amusing: Jordan’s twins in dresses and little white ankle socks; Willa and Avery Wales in jeans and overalls like their tomboy mother. “And that’s the park where that basketball court is right next to the slides and shit.”
“Right,” she said, less patiently now.
“Anyway, there was this kid. This huge fucking kid, big as me, I swear. And he pushed Lizzy down the slide.”
“Yeah. And I think it just scared her, she didn’t have a mark on her, but this asshole kid was laughing about it, and she was crying, and I just…ugh, I hate bullies.” He’d been a scrawny kid; he knew from bullies. “And I sort of…walked out there and told the kid off.”
“Jordie,” she chided, but without any heat, her eyes soft.
He’d been beyond furious, blood boiling as he started across the playground, thinking very real, very violent thoughts about hitting someone else’s child. And the worst part was, he hadn’t checked himself, and hadn’t been shocked by his reaction. His Lizzy had been sitting in the sand, tears streaming down her red face, and the only thing that had mattered in the world was kicking the ass of whoever had done that to her.
“Hey, you little shit,” he’d called up to the top of the slide. “What the hell’s wrong with you, huh?” His hands had been balled into fists, and his heart rate, always slow as death what with all the running, had accelerated, a hard furious knocking behind his sternum.
“Jordan,” Tam had called. “Dude, leave it.”
Oh, “leave it,” said the guy with Hulk-like anger management issues.
“Turns out,” he said, reaching to swipe a hand down his face and belatedly realizing that was a terrible idea given his swelling eye. “The kid’s giant asshole dad was shooting hoops right behind us. And he came over. Asked what I thought I was doing yelling at his kid.” He glanced down at the toes of his Nikes. “And I kinda said his kid was a shithead. And he kinda said I was a shithead, and, well…”
“You got in a fight.”
“He started a fight. I got popped in the eye. And Tam finished the fight.”
“Oh, Jordie,” she said on a long, deep sigh. “Well at least Tam was there.”
He was surprised to feel her arms go around his waist, the familiar soft curves of her body pressing full-length against his. “You’re a good daddy,” she whispered against his collarbone, and then chuckled. “You have a terrible temper, but you’re a wonderful dad.”
“I don’t like people picking on my girls.” And the way she squeezed him, he knew she understood he wasn’t just talking about the twins.
“Alright, killer.” She drew back, smiling softly at him. “Let’s go get some ice.”
In the kitchen, the girls were sitting at the table, feet swinging through the air, chocolate smudges on their cheeks as they dug into the plate of fresh cookies sitting between them.
As Ellie went for the ice pack in the freezer, Jordan walked to the table and snagged a cookie. He laid a hand on top of Lizzy’s dark, silky head and she tipped her face up to smile at him, all happiness and warm chocolate chips. The faint tracks of tears little shiny lines on her cheeks.
“You okay?” he asked her.
“I’m okay, Daddy.”
And the black eye didn’t hurt so much.