Zack Reynolds living room was certainly nothing to brag about. A tan couch he got from his parents when he moved out ten years ago, and an oversized white chair he found sitting on the side of the road one evening on his way home from work. No coffee table, and his TV would make the rich kids from the movie “Grown Ups” wonder what the box was on the back of it.
Zack has been divorced now for ten years. Many things caused him to become part of the growing statistic in America. A good marriage can overcome many things, but being a fool and sleeping around with his coworkers ended was unfortunately not one of things. Many work places eventually turn into their own little culture, very much resembling that of a High School. You have your geeks, and your nerds. As well as your fat kids, and your cheerleaders. Somehow Zack ended up at the top of the food chain, and found his way up to the quarterback. He could have anyone he wanted back then, and he did just that.
On a Saturday Zack got up extra early to surprise his daughter with pancakes. Things were going to be different, and he wanted to be sure to give things his best shot. A small apartment, so it didn’t take long before Virginia was awaken by the smell of pancakes and syrup.
“Hey,” Zack screamed as he slammed the door to her bedroom open to try to scare her and wake her at the same time, “I made pancakes! Let’s eat.” Virginia was respectful enough to wait until he left the room before she rolled her eyes and climbed out of bed.
By the time she made it to the kitchen table which was really just 8 feet from her bed when you realize how small the place was. Virginia sat across from her Dad and managed to not look at him from the time she emerged to taking her first bite. “This tastes like crap,” she said, “I’m going to take my shower.”
This time Zack didn’t say anything. There had certainly been some growing pains in the transition of splitting the time 50/50. To Zack it seemed that no matter what he tried, he could not get the respect he felt he, as her father deserved. To Virginia however, she felt no desire to respect a man she has never seen more than twice a month until now. She liked her home with her mother, and her new step dad. In her mind though, Zack took her away her real home. She did not understand why she even had to be here more now, she just assumed it was her Dads fault. It wasn’t.
Life just happened on her mother’s side of things. She wanted to spend more time with the new man in her life, and experience the many aspects of life she was not able to before since she was a mother by the time she was 19. Divorce is never easy for children, and is amplified even more so when the parent who has been the primary care giver decides it was time to redeem her lost 20’s.
For a year or more the life Zack and Virginia had together was more miserable than not. Oh there were some good days, but those days seemed to be the days where Zack spent a nice chunk of change trying to make her happy. In that year alone they went to the Zoo twice, and Cedar Point three times during the summer. To Zack though it was worth it, because he felt it was great quality time with his daughter. To Virginia, the fun stuff they did together was just a way for her to more or less ignore her dad while he paid for her to do it.
Saturday July 21st it was time to change things. Zack rolled out of bed at 8 am as he does every morning, but today he had a plan. Virginia hated that he walked around in his underwear in the morning and when he walked into the living room on his way to the kitchen to make his coffee she made her opinion very clear.
“Dad,” she screamed at him from the couch she apparently slept on last night, “That is so freaking gross put some clothes on.” He of course ignored her that morning, he was on a high that he could not shake. He even ignored the fact that she was on the couch…again, after being told and asked 40 times not to because sometimes she peed the bed.
On his way back from the kitchen he told her, “Hey get ready it’s Saturday morning so we are headed to the mall just like we do every Saturday.” In recognition of full disclosure, Zack has to admit that part of the reason he enjoyed this tradition was due to the cute 20 something Jenny who worked at the Cinnabon.
Zack had more or less given up on actually asking the girl out though because she has been witness to some pretty embarrassing things over the past few weeks. The worst of which was Virginia screaming at Zack at the top of her lungs for being “the worst Dad ever,” and, “A giant jerk who she hated more than anything.”
The car ride there was the same as always. No words spoken to each other the entire ride there. Virginia had her head phones on listening to God knows what on her iPod, and Zack had Christian rock playing on the stereo of his Thunderbird.
That day in July was particularly hot as the temperature was almost 95 before eleven in the morning when they arrived at the mall. Still no words spoken between but Zack figured that was about to change, because she always spoke when she saw something she wanted at the mall. This time though he was counting on that.
They walked into Spencer gifts first, as that was where Virginia usually found some ugly over flashy shirt she just “had” to have. Again Zack didn’t mind though since Cinnabon was right outside of Spencer Gifts and he got his first glance of Jenny.
Five minutes after they walked into the store Virginia predictably brought a shirt to her Dad and spoke for the first time that day. “This one,” was all she said fully expecting he would buy it for her.
“Tell you what,” Zack began, “I’ve really got to use the restroom and all I have is this 100 dollar bill.” He pulled it out and held it out to her, “So how about I give you this, while you pay for your shirt and I run to the restroom and we meet at the bench outside here by Cinnabon?”
“Whatever,” she said rolling her eyes as she took the money.
With that, it was time to get down to business. Zack left Spencer gifts, but stole one last glance at Jenny as he headed towards the entrance doors of the mall. Jenny was no fool to how handsome Zack was, so she looked up at the same time to see if the movement out of the corner of her eye, was her handsome Saturday regular and his daughter. As he gave her a quick glance, she did the same but it changed to that or a more quizzical one as she noticed that his daughter no long with him. She had to finish opening though so she didn’t give it to much thought.
Zack stepped his last step to the front door of the mall and paused for a moment as he glanced back at the opening of Spencer gifts. He shared the same look a man or woman getting on to a plane would have as they are shipped overseas to fight a war most of us don’t even know is being fought. With one last breathe, he turned and headed for his car.
As he drove home, which was only about 3 miles, he thought about his plans for the rest of the day. With no daughter to treat him like crap, he thought about finally being able to watch the TV shows he wanted to watch. He knew he could even hear his shows at last! No child there to disrespect him, and no ungrateful little brat to call him names and argue with. He figured he would have a few hours at least before she walked home, because she did know the way, so he planned to live it up. A nap!
Once home he threw his keys to their usual spot on the coffee table, took his shoes, shirt, and pants off just to spite Virginia when she got home, and kicked back on the couch. When your mind is so mentally exhausted from fighting with those you love, it doesn’t really take you long to rest when you think that you can. He looked one last time at the clock above his TV which read 12:01. He thought to himself, “Oh man, I bet I can nap until at least 2.” With that, he smiled and was asleep before 12:05.
Virginia paid for the shirt with the money Zack gave her knowing full well her intentions of keeping an extra 20 for herself. The Goth girl behind the counter, handed her the change and since Virginia was just a little girl, she assumed it was ok to skip the part where she smiles and says come back anytime. Virginia, thinking her Dad was out the door waiting on her, was more than happy to return the favor, while she secretly threw a 20 in her back pocket and dropped the receipt on the floor.
Not seeing her Dad when she emerged in the hallway of the Mall she decided to just go sit on the bench like instructed. Anyone could tell you that it doesn’t take much at all to make a young girl lose her patience. After sitting on the bench for about ten minutes, Virginia was rather jaded from the annoying girl at the Cinnabon giving her strange looks, and she was getting hungry.
“Screw it,” she said and walked over to the Cinnabon counter, “Cinnastix.”
“No problem,” she said, “Where did your dad go, I thought I saw him a little bit a go.”
Virginia sighed, “I don’t know he’s probably being stupid somewhere with some girl.” She accented the word girl in a noticeably demeaning tone.
Jenny noticed it and just laughed, “Here you go sweetie.”
Virginia ate her Cinnastix one by one as she traversed the mall. When she had finished them, she had already been through J.C Penney, as well as Macys, and some small knick knack store.
“What the crap,” she whispered to herself, while she threw her trash away, “It’s like One, where is he.” Realizing she had been at the mall for so long by herself, she decided she would walk home. She knew the way, and if it turned out that he was at home for some reason, she was ready to tear into him, and even threaten to call children services himself. With a huff Virginia flew past Jenny at the Cinnabon and advanced towards the door to begin her walk home.
“Hey Carli,” Virginia heard Jenny yell as she left, “I’m not feeling good, I think I need to head home.”
It took no time at all for Virginia to be out of the massive mall parking lot and be on the side of the road heading towards home. She was not worried about the directions on how to get there, she knew her Dad lived just off this main road. Her biggest concern was not having her music to listen to. Left in her Dads car. That would make the walk much longer than she wanted to admit.
The road home was without a doubt a dangerous road to be walking on. Having just raised the speed limit to 60 mph was daunting when you were a little girl walking alone. Virginia knew she had no choice though.
“Hey you dumb little bitch,” Three teenage boys who slowed down to yell at her said, “Why don’t you get off the road yah stupid ass.”
Virginia did her best to ignore them and stopped until they got bored and drove past. She could hear the next car honking for them to speed up, so she hoped and prayed it would shorten their visit. The boys sped off, and the next car came to a stop.
“Hey,” Virginia heard a somewhat familiar voice say, “need a ride?”
The Cinnabon girl! Virginia did her best to hide her excitement, she still had almost 2 miles to go, and she was tired and even a little scared. She even managed to smile at Jenny. “Yes please she said with the relief very apparent in her voice. She looked at the clock and took note that it wasn’t even two yet, so she would have the rest of the day to make her Dad feel like a jerk for what he did.
His phone had been ringing constantly for a good half hour now. When you are finally getting the sleep you have been begging to have for months, you find reasons not to answer the phone. That was Zacks plan each time he heard the phone ring. This last time though, he couldn’t realistically have a valid excuse for not answering the phone. 3:30 was the time on the clock when he finally answered in a panic.
“Hello, Virginia,” he said expecting it to be her finally giving in and calling for a ride, “ready for me to come get you?”
“No sir,” said the voice on the other line, “This is the Allen County police department. We wanted to verify that you are the father of Virginia Reynolds. Is this correct?”
“Yes,” he replied, “Is something going on?” The doorbell rang before he could be answered, and he noticed out his window a police car was in his driveway. He hung up the phone and proceeded to answer the door.
“Hello sir,” said a tall black police officer, “Are you Zack Reynolds.”
“Yes,” he screamed, “What the hell is going on. Am I in trouble for something?”
“Sir, I just left the scene of an accident just down the road here at the corner of Elm and Croft Street.” He pointed in the direction he was speaking of. “It seems your daughter was in a vehicle with a Jenny Meijers, and they were hit by a Ford Mustang that ran a red light.”
Tears were forming in his eyes as he feared the worst. He braced himself for the worst possible news as best he could. No one can rightly prepare for the fact that the child they had just seen this morning was no longer alive.
“Sir,” the officer began again, “I’m afraid Jenny and your daughter didn’t make it. The driver of the Mustang was…”
Zack hauled off and punched the police man before he could finish his sentence. He fell to the ground and Zack continued to bombard him, not noticing the other officer who was getting out of the car to help his partner. “Bullshit,” Zack screamed as he was soaking himself and the officer in tears and blood, “You’re lying. Where is my daughter? Don’t you show up at my doorstep and tell me my God damn daughter is dead.” Another right hook. “I just saw her, this isn’t true, who the hell put you up to this.”
The other officer arrived and held Zack’s arms behind his back as Zacks voice began to break. “No” he said, “No, this can’t be true. You son of a Bitch.”
The officer on the ground got up. “Come on Officer Stokes,” he said to the other one, “let’s go.”
“What,” he asked, still holding Zack’s arms behind him, “He just assaulted you.”
“No,” he said, “He didn’t, I tripped and hit my head on the pavement. Let’s go.”
As the police let Zack go he hit the ground crying. To the kids passing by he was some freak who was outside almost naked. Zack sat on his doorstep that night until the sun went down, crying until the tears finally stopped, just as the moon light up the evening sky.