My new favorite thing ever.
“Why do all the party goers look as if they just played pin the tale on the donkey and the donkey kicked them?” he asks. Glancing over at the table my friends sit in silence. I don’t want to tell him that Mom crashed my party in every way, but I don’t have to, because the sliding glass door opens and my mother walks out in a black bikini and floppy hat. She’s still holding a glass, except this one is full to the brim.
“Margot,” my father says in a warning tone.
“What?” she snaps loudly.
My father stands and holds onto my mother’s elbow as he guides her back inside. His jaw is tight and I can’t tell that even though his mouth isn’t opening and closing that he is doing that thing where he talks through his teeth because his lips are moving.
“FINE!” Comes a shout from inside the house followed by a crash. A few minutes pass and he hasn’t come back outside. I just gave up and was about to just tell my friends they should leave before things get worse when the door opens and my father comes running out of the house. Not in a suit. Not in a jacket. Not in a tie. Nope. My father. Senator to his very core. Was wearing long black swim trunks. And nothing else.
My. FATHER. Shirtless.
“CANNONBALL!” He shouts as he leaps off the edge of the pool and launches himself into the air, hugging his knees to his chest as he crashes into the water, sending water splashing over the edge like a tidal wave, completely soaking me and the picnic table where my friends sit in total shock.
Followed by total laughter.
“Now let’s see who has the best splash,” my father says, coming up for air and shaking the water from his black hair. “Nadine, you and I will be the judges. Winner gets extra cake!”
“Mom said that we shouldn’t eat cake. Said it will make us fat.”
“Well, your mother can…” He closes his mouth, takes a breath and starts over. “Your mother said that because she doesn’t like cake. But that’s her loss. Besides, everyone knows the calories from cake don’t count on a birthday. It’s like. Basic science. Right guys?” he asked. My friends cheered and shouted. Dad hoisted himself up and let his feet dangle as my friends lined up one by one to showcase their best cannon ball.
“Ramie, you’re first. Now make it a good once. The Price Family is famous worldwide for their cannonball skills so don’t let me down!”
I go first and emerge from the water to clapping and cheers. “See? Didn’t I tell you guys? It’s in her blood!”
After the competition, my father’s assistant enters the backyard through the side gate and informs him of an upcoming teleconference that he is almost late for. With another “Happy Birthday” and a kiss on the top of my head, my father wraps a towel around his waist and is gone.
I look over to the picnic table where my friends are happily shoveling cake into their mouths and arguing over who had the better splash. My roses are in the center of the table, an old grey paint bucket serving as a makeshift vase.
It was the best day of my life and although he’d only been part of it for less than an hour, it was the best day with my dad I’d ever spent.
Because that hour wasn’t about politics, values, campaigns, my mother, how we looked to the public, agendas…it was just about me and my birthday. “You’re dad actually jumped in the pool!” Nikki exclaims, dumping a scoop of ice cream onto her third piece of cake.
“I know.” I whisper, still not believing it myself. Unlike the other party-goers, only Nikki and Tanner know that this wasn’t normal behavior for my dad.
“I wish my dad was more like yours,” said Stephanie, twirling a strand of her curly red hair in her fingers. “Because your dad’s the best.”
I catch a glimpse from the side of the house of my father emerging from the garage in his standard uniform of suit and tie, but before he gets into the awaiting Town Car he turns and our eyes meet. He waves and blows me a kiss. I catch it in the air and press it onto my cheek. He flashes me one last smile and wave before ducking into the car.
“Yeah. My dad’s the best,” I agree. And on that day, in that moment, for the first time in my life, I’d meant it.
“Ramie, wake up. Wake up!” I opened my eyes, but only one cooperated. The other was swollen shut. And although my head was still spinning, my vision finally focused in on my father, who was kneeling over me. I tried to lift my arms, but they wouldn’t separate. I gazed down to find them bound together in a weave of elaborate knots.