He sat facing the door to the coffee shop with his tea placed in the middle of the coaster. Occasionally he would glance down at his watch, look around, then pick up the cup and take a sip, grimacing at the taste every time.
He was young looking for his age which I guessed to be around forty; his tweed jacket purposely hung over the back of his chain, his faded jeans well worn below his crisp Oxford style button up grey shirt with the top button open. His hair was clean and short with a hint of salt-and-pepper. His face was clean –shaven and tense – his mouth tight and his eyebrows drawn together. He began to reach for the pocket of his jacket when the bell above the door rang, announcing another patron’s entrance.
When he saw who it was, the tenseness left his face. He stood up to greet the young woman who just stepped out of the sun and into the shade of the cafe. She was probably younger than him by twenty years – he carefully held her hand for a moment before they sat down together. Both were quiet for a moment with several false starts at speaking where he would open his mouth, body tense, then stop and look away for a moment before starting again.
“I don’t suppose I can make you change your mind?” he asked gently with a clipped accent he either inherited from his parents or from living across the pond then moving here.
“No, you really can’t,” she replied, her breath sighing out of her as if she was resigned to talking on a subject that was old news. “Honestly, Henry, we’ve been over this and I’ve made up my mind.”
“I really wish you would call me ‘Dad’ or something,” he said quietly while taking another deliberate sip of tea, perhaps to gather his thoughts, his eyes downward cast.
“Well if you acted like my dad instead of...look, we’re happy. I’m happy,” she began then huffed out a frustrated breath when the man across from her took off his glasses and began to polish the spotless lenses with a handkerchief he pulled out of his jeans pocket. “Would you stop doing that?”
“Doing what?” he asked as he continued to clean his glasses.
“That thing where you don’t want to see what’s going on so you polish your glasses. Just stop it, okay?” she asked as she reached across the small table and gently grabbed his hands in hers. “We’re moving to where his work is, and I’m sorry that means that I won’t be around to see you as much. I’m also sorry it’s in Saskatchewan because I’ve heard what the weather there can be like. But...we’re working on building our lives together. His contract will be up for renewal with the company in two years.”
He nodded, lost in thought. He looked at her but it was as though from far away, looking through time, eyes glassy and distant. “It’s just...” he began then stopped, taking a breath and clasping hands together for want of something to do with them. “It’s just...since your mother...” he was now looking at her instead of a ghost, “now that she’s gone; you’re the only family I have.” He offered a stiff-upper-lip smile and busied himself with another sip of tea that didn’t meet his standards.
“I know, Henry, but can’t you see that I’m trying to make a family of my own with Will? You’re not going to be cut out of it, but we need some time to get our bearings, to figure out if we can really make it together. It’s like with you and Mom,” she said as she sat back in the chair. “You followed her from England to here...how could I possibly be your daughter and not follow Will to Saskatchewan?” A twinkle in her eyes betrayed a smile.
Henry looked at her with his glasses held by a stem in one hand. His eyes were lightning blue as they studied her face for a long moment. She stared right back with that not-quite-a-smile. Then he exhaled and placed his glasses back on his nose, looking through them at the young woman.
“Well, we should go pick some things up like extra blankets and those fuzzy socks you like.” He clapped his hands to his knees and stood up, one hand held out to his daughter. Then he turned and scooped up his coat, spinning it around his shoulders and sticking his arms into the sleeves. He offered his daughter his arm and she took it with a relieved smile.
He looked at her sternly over his glasses. “And bug spray,” his face relaxed and a hint of a smile appeared at the corners of his mouth, “I hear the mosquitoes out there are the size of cats.”