Copyright© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac
The hostess, shooting dark looks at Paul, led him to a corner in the back of the restaurant. She really seemed to have a problem with him. He had no idea what he had done, but she was clearly angry with him. It was kind of embarrassing.
Judy was already seated in the corner booth, and was waiting for him. All she had was a glass of water in front of her. She wasn’t going to order anything until she knew he was going to pay for it. She didn’t have a dime on her.
The hostess waited for him to take a seat fully intending to throw the menu at him.
“Where’d you get the black eye?” Paul asked while sliding into the chair.
“Annie was released from jail this week. She was angry that I didn’t bail her out,” Judy said.
Annie had pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and was sentenced to time served and a fine of three thousand dollars. She now had a criminal record. Based on the black eye, it appeared that Annie hadn’t learned her lesson.
“Annie hit you?”
The hostess looked over at Paul with an embarrassed expression on her face. She had assumed that he had hit Judy. She didn’t like men who beat their wives. She’d lived with a man like that and had ended up in the hospital. She handed him the menu and scurried off.
“Did you call the police?” Paul asked knowing the answer even before asking the question.
“She’s my daughter.”
“She might be your daughter, but you’ve stopped being her mother. You’ve become her punching bag,” Paul said in a matter-of-fact voice.
He was concerned for her, but he didn’t feel any sympathy for her. She was a willing victim. As far as he was concerned, a willing victim got exactly what he or she was looking for. Judy was the perfect willing victim.
“I can’t let her go back to jail.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Why did you want to see me?”
“We need money. Can’t you give us more money?” she asked.
“What happened to the money from your job?”
“Annie needed new clothes after being jail,” Judy said.
“How much money did she spend?” Paul asked.
“Twenty-four hundred dollars.”
“I thought you had more than that.”
“The judge also fined her three thousand dollars,” Judy answered.
Paul couldn’t think of a thing to say. Judy had spent over five thousand dollars on Annie in forty-eight hours.
Paul said, “Let’s order lunch.”
“What about the money?”
“Let’s talk about that after we’ve eaten,” Paul said.
They took their time to examine the menu, sending the waitress away twice while deciding what they wanted. They ordered, chatted about inconsequential topics while waiting for the meals, and then talked very little while eating. It was actually a pleasant time as far as Paul concerned. They had refused dessert, but ordered coffee to drink while chatting.
“Can you give me more money every month?” she asked.
“I would give you more money, but you’d give it to Annie. I’m not giving her one cent of my money ever again. I would leave my half of the estate to a charity for people without little fingers before I’d leave it to you to give to her.”
“Why do you hate her so much?”
“Hate? I don’t hate her. I think she’s a monster. You don’t hate monsters. You fear them, and you avoid them.”
“How dare you call her a monster!” Judy shouted.
“How long has she been out of jail?” Paul asked.
“In two days, she’s struck you hard enough to give you a black eye, and she’s spent every dime you had. Is that right?”
“Well ... yes.”
“Am I supposed to approve of that?” Paul asked.
“You’re supposed to help us.”
“I’m trying to help you get to the point where you recognize that she’s a monster.”
“Quit calling her a monster,” Judy said.
For a long moment, Paul studied her. She was upset and angry at him. He waited for her to calm down a little. He took a sip of coffee and moved the debris on the table around absently.
When she had calmed down a little, he said, “I wonder how long it will be before I’m attending your funeral.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because she’s going to kill you one of these days. I’m sure that she’ll have a good reason for doing it. It’ll probably be because you didn’t buy the right shade of nail polish for her.”
“Oh, come on. Be serious. You always exaggerate things.”
“No, I don’t. All I know is that she’s now hit you twice. There will be a third, a fourth, and a fifth time. There’s no reason for her to stop. You won’t defend yourself. One of these days, she’s going to hit you too hard, and that will be the end of Judy.”
“She’s just been upset,” Judy said.
Paul couldn’t believe how dense his wife was with regard to Annie. No matter what the girl did, Judy would find an excuse for it.
Paul asked, “Do you realize that this lunch is the very first time that we’ve eaten out together, without Annie, since she was born?”
“There you go with the exaggerations again.”
“If I’m exaggerating, then I must have forgotten some time. Remind me when was the last time you and I ate out together, without Annie.”
“I don’t know,” Judy said without giving it much thought.
“In the last year?”
“You haven’t been around much for the last year.”
“That’s true. How about in the last two years?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“How about during the five years? Did we go out together at all? Just you and me.”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know because we haven’t eaten out as a couple since Annie was born.”
“I’d really have to think about it.”
Paul knew what would motivate her to think about it. He said, “If you can come up with one meal, breakfast, lunch, or dinner ... eaten in a restaurant, with just you and me ... I’ll give you five hundred dollars right now.”
Judy heard the offer of five hundred dollars and jumped on it. She tried to think of a time, but couldn’t. It was kind of frustrating. Under pressure like that, she knew that the mind tended to go blank. She figured her mother might know. Her mother had a good memory for things like that.
“Let me call my mother. She would know,” Judy said.
Paul took a sip of his coffee. He listened to her side of the conversation. The expression on her face suggested that it wasn’t going well. She hung up with a frown on her face.
“She says we never did, not once Annie was born. My mother says that I didn’t trust her and Dad or your parents to watch Annie while we were out,” Judy said.
“I know,” Paul said. “I remember that.”
“I don’t,” Judy said.
“I thought that would change when she went to school. I was hoping that we could meet for lunch like this, but you were concerned about being away from the telephone for so long because Annie might get tummy ache and have to come home.”