Not My Type: Felicity Ch. 07byfirstkiss©
I moped the entire Sunday afternoon and all night. When I wasn't awake, my scant sleep was peppered with dreams of Matt. I couldn't forget the taste of his kisses or the slow slide of his hands against my body no matter how hard I tried. He was like a ghost over my shoulder.
The rainy Monday morning dawned as grey and dismal as my mood. I dragged myself from bed and ignored the haggard reflection in the mirror. I looked like shit. No surprise there considering I felt like shit too.
Matt's car wasn't at the apartment when I arrived at the garage. Him not being there was just another kick in the teeth. Luckily I was already as hurt as it was possible for me to be. Today was business as usual, whether I felt like it or not.
I put the coffee on and scanned the appointment book. Since I hadn't booked any repairs for the weekend, the next few days were fairly full to compensate. There were more jobs than I could manage on my own. If Matt didn't show up for work I'd be screwed in more ways than one.
With a sad sigh, I rifled through my stock then pulled the parts I needed for the day.
The instant I heard a car pull up outside the garage, my head shot up and a sick feeling of dread churned in my stomach. The dark coloured sedan looked nothing like Matt's. Tears of disappointment threatened to spill over but I had to pull it together—the customer had arrived early and I couldn't let them see me cry.
But it wasn't a customer who came ambling into the garage though. It was Dad.
"Mornin'," he said in a throaty voice as he limped across the shop, cane in hand. I was so shocked to see him, I couldn't move, couldn't respond. He was dressed in his typical garage uniform—navy coveralls and steel-toed boots. How had he managed to get them on by himself?
"Coffee on?" he asked.
"Good. I could use one. You?"
Again, I nodded.
"Whatcha got on the books for today?" Dad inquired as he lumbered towards the office and headed for the coffee maker.
"Struts and shocks, three emission tests, an alignment, new brakes, two oil changes, and a muffler replacement," I responded automatically as I trailed behind him.
Dad propped his cane against the row of filing cabinets in the office and reached for two mugs. After he fixed us coffee, he carried the mugs over to the desk and then carefully lowered himself into my chair. I was about to correct him but I realized that technically it was still his chair and I'd just been filling in for him the last fifteen months.
I sat across from him in Matt's spot. Dad pushed a coffee cup towards me. Tentatively I picked it up and sipped at it. He hadn't asked how I liked it, but somehow he got it just right.
"We'll give Tanner the emission tests, the oil changes, and the muffler," Dad said as he skimmed over today's appointments. "You can get through struts and shocks pretty quick and yer better at alignment and brakes than him."
I sat open-mouthed across from my father.
"W-what if he doesn't show up?"
Dad glanced up at the clock. "He's still got ten minutes before he's late."
That wasn't what I meant and Dad knew it, but neither of us said anything else. I was still surprised to see him there. I just couldn't come up with the words to ask him why he was.
A car door slammed shut outside. Our eyes met. I recognized the casual, loping gait right away.
"Be strong," Dad urged with an attempt at a smile. "Be the strong little girl I've always known ya to be."
When Matt stepped into the office, his surprised expression mirrored my own.
Dad acknowledged the shocked greeting with a curt nod. "Tanner."
Matt's sapphire eyes were wide but he didn't dare look my way. "W-what are you doing here?" he sputtered.
"Still my name on the sign out front," my father pointed out. He shuffled a few papers on the desk. "Got a business to run after all." Dad motioned towards the third chair in the office, the one that hadn't been used in fifteen months by anyone other than customers.
Matt avoided eye contact with me as he sat. I, in turn, kept my gaze trained on Dad too; it was easier than trying to guess what Matt was thinking. I hoped he hadn't assumed that my father was here because I didn't want to be alone with him. But I wondered if that was Dad's intention.
We watched as Dad ran his finger down appointment book, rhyming off the jobs for the day, just like he used to.
"I'm sure other jobs'll come in to fill the rest of the afternoon. Gonna go through the books and get caught up on what I missed."
Neither Matt nor I had anything to say. We were both still stunned by Dad's appearance. I, for one, was so accustomed to having Matt and the garage to myself that it felt alien having someone else involved and taking charge. I doubted that Matt felt the same. After the weekend we'd just had together, he was probably relieved that that he didn't have to be alone with me.
"Well," my father prompted gruffly. "Get to it."
As if on cue, we heard our first customer pull up to the garage's bay doors. Matt and I jumped up in unison and without saying anything to each other —without even looking at each other—we went to work.
It was just as well that we were busy. I threw myself into the work and Matt did too. Neither of us spoke. Occasionally I would look up, believing I'd felt his eyes on me, but he'd be working away, his head bent and his eyes downcast.
I kept reminding myself that at least he'd shown up. And he couldn't ignore me forever, not when I stood a few feet away. Yet my anger built and built as the hours slipped past and Matt remained silent. He was the one who'd done something wrong. He was the one who should apologize. I wasn't going to be the one to broach the subject.
The phone rang, but with Dad in the office I didn't have to worry about it for once. A few minutes later he came limping out into the shop, cane in hand.
"Alternator replacement at three, who wants it?" Dad shouted into the silent room.
"I'll take it," Matt offered without looking up from the car he was working on. His voice sounded flat and lifeless. My heart leapt into my throat out of fear that I'd lost the jovial, carefree Matthew Tanner forever. I could almost convince myself that I would get over what had taken place between us after the wedding, that I could go back to wanting him like I always had even if he didn't want me back, if only there was the hope that he would smile at me, joke with me, tease me.
I glanced up to find Dad watching me. His face was ashen, his knuckles white on the handle of his cane. He swayed then righted himself.
My wrench clattered onto the floor as I shot to his side. I took his elbow, led him back into the office and settled him back into his chair. A faint sheen of sweat clung to his brow.
In the harsh light of the overhead fluorescents he looked even worse. Dad nodded but when his hands shook, he clutched them on his lap to still the tremors.
"Just gotta work through it, I think," he muttered more to himself than to me, I suspected.
"Do you want me to take you home? Maybe you've overdone it for one day."
He shook his head. "Don't wanna go home. I've spent enough time there lately. Ya need me here. Only get into trouble if I'm there."
I knew then what was bothering Dad, what had made him unwell. It wasn't his back paining him. His body craved a drink.
"You don't have to do this, Dad."
The line of his mouth grew grim. "No Flick, I do. I gotta do it for you." His gaze flickered up to meet mine. "And for me."
The tears sprung up so easily I was shocked. "Maybe I could call the doctor? Take you to the hospital? They could help you get through this."
Dad shook his head, ever stubborn. "Ain't nothin' no doctor could do for me," he muttered. "Just gotta work through it."
It was heart wrenching to see my father struggle like that. His body actually shuddered. "There's got to be something I can do to help," I pleaded, feeling helpless.
"Could use a cup of coffee," Dad suggested. He smiled at me. "That and some patience, Flick. That's all ya can do for me."
I was moved with the sudden urge to hug my father, something I'd never once done in my life. It would have been weird though because Dad didn't exactly invite affection. Instead, I rose to my feet and set about making another pot of coffee for him.
"Better get back to work, punkin," he said after I'd poured him a cup. "That alignment ain't gonna finish itself."
I gave him a small smile at the old nickname. He hadn't called me 'pumpkin' in years. Our fingers met across the warm porcelain as I passed him his coffee. I straightened and moved back towards the shop. I lingered in the doorway to shoot once last glance at Dad over my shoulder.
"It wasn't the same without you here, Dad."
He wrapped his trembling fingers around the coffee cup and the liquid inside sloshed with the vibration.
"Yer a good kid, Flick," he said in a gravely tone. "Ya always have been."
I couldn't stop the tear that rolled down my cheek, nor could I stop the others that followed as I went back to work on the alignment job. And if Matt noticed that I cried he didn't say anything about it to me.
When I checked on Dad an hour later there were scarlet flags of colour on his wan, sunken cheeks.
"You look tired," I said softly as I leaned in the doorway and wiped my greasy fingers on a rag.
"I am," he admitted. "Been a long day. For both of us, I 'spect." He motioned to the main room of the garage where Matt was working on his last emission test of the day. "Any improvement on that front, punkin?"
His concern was touching. I shook my head, knowing my sadness showed on my face. I probably looked as rough as my father did.
"Ah," Dad sighed as he gave me an encouraging smile. "You two love each other, ye'll figure it out."
Love. I froze at the word, at the concept. I must have looked askance because Dad laughed.
"I said it and I ain't gonna 'unsay' it." His bluntness stunned me. "Mebbe I ain't been the best father to ya all these years, but I know ya better than ya think, punkin. You ain't the type to sleep with a man ya didn't love."
Embarrassment rushed to my face at hearing my father mention that Matt and I had slept together.
"And Tanner's a good man, even if ya don't think so right this second," Dad continued. "I seen the way he looks at ya. With love in his eyes. I know that feelin' Flick, I felt it once a long time ago meself. For your mother."
His admission drove the air from my lungs. Never in the twenty years since her death had I ever heard my father say anything about my mother.
"She was a good woman. Better 'n I deserved anyhow. I ain't never known anyone as beautiful as she was, 'cept you. Ya look just like her, but ya act more like me. 'S funny, really."
I stood wordless and listened to my father remember the woman he would always love.
"She laughed so damn hard when I bought this place and named it 'Stewart and Sons' when we didn't have no kids yet. Then when you was born a girl she laughed all the harder. Promised me the next baby'd be a boy." He looked up at me then, the hollows beneath his grey eyes were dark and deep. The past twenty years hadn't dimmed his grief. "When she got sick you was so little, and so lost without her. I was too. And then before I could blink she was gone and you 'n I were left together. Without her."
My father rested his elbows on the desk and buried his hands in his grey hair.
"I messed up with ya, punkin. Mebbe I didn't give ya as much attention as I shoulda. Mebbe I spent too much time here when I shoulda been playin' with you. I built this place for you. For your future. Without thinkin' it might not be what ya wanted. I treated ya like a boy instead of the little girl ya was. It was all I knew how to do."
Tears rolled down my cheeks again while Matt worked away, oblivious to the conversation taking place only feet from him.
"It's okay Dad," I said with a shaky breath. "Really, it's okay. You did your best and you taught me so much."
"'Bout cars." Dad chuckled into his hands as he echoed my words from the day before. "Not much about much else. Ya had to figure out how to be a woman on yer own."
I shrugged. "Luckily I'm like you—tough."
He raised his head and smiled at me. For the first time in my life I felt a kinship with the man across the desk from me. How could it be that one part of my life was finally improving while the rest had fallen apart?
"Why don't I take you home? You look like you could use a nap."
Dad nodded and came slowly to feet. A flicker of fear crossed his weathered face.
"Don't really wanna be there alone though," he admitted to me. "Too easy to get in trouble."
"I'll get rid of all the 'trouble' in the house," I promised. "And then maybe we can sit and watch a ballgame or something."
His face brightened and a few haggard years fell off him. The transformation was amazing.
"I'd like that. And mebbe I can make ya spaghetti and meatballs like I used to. Ya always liked 'em when I made 'em."
I laughed as the memories of my favourite childhood meal came rushing back. Dad hadn't done the cooking for us since I was eleven or so. Spaghetti and meatballs was the only thing in his repertoire that I remember being actually palatable.
I took his arm and helped him from the office. We both froze when we caught Matt watching us with thinly veiled surprise. I guess he'd heard our laughter.
"Dad's had enough for one day," I told Matt as we strode past him. "I'm going to take him home. Do you think you can handle that alternator replacement by yourself?"
Matt nodded but said nothing.
"Thank you," I shot over my shoulder in the most cold, polite voice I could muster up. If he wanted to pretend that nothing happened between us, I'd play along. He had promised everything would go back to normal after the wedding. But if he only wanted to see me as his co-worker and nothing more, then I would resign myself to that without causing a scene.
And ignore the ache in my heart.
The rain continued most of the week. Occasionally, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, only to disappear again minutes later. Dad came to the garage with me each morning and I watched as day by day he improved physically. By Friday he actually felt well enough to come out of the office and hover around the shop, poking his nose into whatever it was Matt or I were fixing.
I liked having Dad there. It was interesting to watch him take control of the garage again. For the first time in my life he praised me about everything from my bookkeeping to my repair work. And while Matt's continued silence was a constant kick to the gut, I had Dad to balance it out. If it wasn't for him I don't think I could have gotten through the week.
Saturday was a peaceful start to the weekend. Matt had the day off as per usual and while I heard him moving around upstairs in the apartment he didn't make an appearance in the shop at all. Dad actually picked up a wrench and helped with an oil change. The roll reversal was not lost on me and I watched with bated breath as he struggled with what was usually a simple job. He must have felt the same way about my childish attempts at the job once.
That was the first day I felt good enough to sing along to the radio. Dad's head shot up when the first notes poured from my mouth.
"Your mother used to sing to me," he said as he passed me the new oil filter. "Voice like an angel."
I told him all about singing with Reverend Nate at Lilly and Adam's wedding. Dad lips spread into a wide grin.
"Good for you," he said with what sounded like pride in his voice. "Nice for you to have somethin' other than yer hands to depend on." His words reached a void that I'd kept guarded for too long
"I doubt I could make a career of it." I showed him my work-rough hands, never quite free of grease, just like his. "This is my livelihood and I love it. But singing does make me feel better."
"Not better enough to forget Tanner," Dad said gently.
"Never that," I whispered.
Even if I couldn't admit it to my father the truth was that I didn't want to forget what had happened between Matt and me. It had been too wonderful, too beautiful. For one glorious night I'd had everything I ever dreamed of and no matter what Matt thought of it, no matter how coldly he treated me, he could never take that away.
Dad reached over and patted my hand. The kindness of the physical contact surprised me still. I felt like I had to get to know my father all over again since he'd given up drinking.
"I know it hurts punkin. Losin' someone ya love always does."
"Do you think I've lost him?" It was the first time I'd said those words out loud.
My dad shook his greying head. "No punkin, I don't. He shows up here everyday an' the way he looks at ya... mebbe he just can't find the words to tell ya. Mebbe ya just need to give him time."
I had a hard time believing that talkative, jovial Matthew Tanner would ever have difficulty finding the words for anything. I sighed. The sound couldn't do justice to my true frustration though. Dad patted my hand again and we got back to work.
The phone rang at the garage shortly after lunch on Sunday.
"Are you coming today?" Violet asked.
I balanced the phone between my shoulder and cheek and went back to inputting numbers into the calculator before jotting them down in the ledger.
"I don't think so, Vi."
I imagined the youngest Tanner pouting on the other end of the line.
"Come on, Flick, whatever happened, it can't be that bad. You're part of this family now, whether he likes it or not."
I smiled at her persistence. I liked Vi; I liked all the Tanners, even the one who'd recently broken my heart.
"What if he doesn't want me there? It's bad enough we have to see each other at work every day."
Violet snorted. "Who cares what he wants?" It was funny how we danced around mentioning Matt by name. "The rest of us want you here. If you're not at the cottage by three, I'm coming to drag your butt down here."
I shook my head after I hung up the phone without making any promises. It wasn't as easy as Vi painted it to be. I couldn't just waltz into Rhiannon and Joe's like nothing happened, could I?
As it turns out, I could. I'd missed the last few Sundays at the cottage and it wasn't until I got to see everyone at the wedding the week prior that I realized how much I missed them all. Somehow the other Tanners, Adam, Nate, and Adele had become my friends. It hurt too much to think I'd lose them too, just as I'd lost Matt.
Everyone was already at the cottage when I arrived, except for Lilly and Adam, who were spending another two weeks in France for their honeymoon. I pictured Adam dragging Lilly from restaurant to restaurant, stuffing her full of the best of France's culinary delights.
Violet, Rhiannon, Nate, Adele and Joe were crowded on one side of the sun porch while Matt and Chuck played cribbage at the table on the other end. Outside the rain still poured relentlessly. It was another dreary autumn day.
I sank to the daybed beside Joe. He had Sophie in his arms and her cheerful gurgle of hello was the most animated voice in the room. The energy around us felt subdued and I sensed it was because of me. I felt awful for putting them all in an awkward position between Matt and me.
I did get friendly hellos and smiles from everyone but Matt; he sort of looked right through me. I did my best to hide my hurt by smiling back at everyone. With an encouraging grin, Joe handed me the baby, who proved to be a welcome distraction.
The muted conversations continued around the porch while I bounced little Sophie on my lap. We were still getting used to each other, but at least she didn't cry anymore when I held her. She tolerated me for a time and when she began to fuss, I passed her back to her father.