"...How are you doing health-wise? You still taking your Lipitor?" She could hear it in her head, Marlene's daughters; the way they didn't really care. "And how's that knee?" He spoke to the television, ignoring her altogether. It would have to be bigger than that. Bigger than the body.
"Daddy? Paul and I are separated." That got his attention. For a moment it nearly seemed as though he'd say something kind.
"You've got to work that out," he said, agape. "I really don't see you doing much better than Paul." Sean's sister was offended. She was a ten and Paul was a four; that was how it worked. "Sweetpea, you have to be realistic, that's all. You're a forty-four-year-old woman. Your options are not great." Her "options," behind the curtain, were nil. She tried to turn the mess around, steer it somewhere safe. "And who knows what I can achieve?"
Their father shook his head; her eyes teared up. She was actually confused. She was forty-two. "What do you want me to say, honey? You come here, tell me you're divorced?" Separated. Unofficially, at that. "If you want to achieve things, you better start planning for your old age."
Her face went soft, then hard. "I'll try and keep that in mind." He went back to his game; she talked to herself, too. "I thought this would go differently." He was barely listening. "You should lower your expectations," he said, and she shook her head: All she had expected was a conversation with her father. There's so much left to do.
"This could be the last time I see you," she said. She tried to tell the truth, but he wasn't even looking. "Easy," he grumbled. "I'm not that old."
Everything she said, it sounded needy to her ears. Everything she said was code for something else that he couldn't hear: "It's not always about you, Dad." And: "We drove a long way to visit you, Dad." Sean's sister imagined his face as she was talking, the sour way his beautiful face would go if he heard this tone in her voice. Daddy's little goody-two-shoes, buying his love with passive-aggression and the same lectures she gives everybody else.
Their father started to get annoyed; he began to be mean. She felt sick. All she wanted, she clarified for him and for herself, was an indication that he was happy to see her. "And that you'd be sad if I were gone." He put on a voice, not quite mincing, not downright nasty, and gave her what she said she wanted. It was hard.