Mrs. Johnson delicately took her knife and fork to her small portion of steak the way her mother had done, and her mother before her. Gently slicing a piece appropriate enough to chew. She looked at her table, the fine linens and the candles gave a nice ambiance to the room. Once she was done chewing she patted her mouth with her napkin. She looked up towards her daughter.
“So, have you set a date yet?” Mrs. Johnson was supportive, but there was a hint of negativity.
“Well. No, not exactly.” Emily said while she pushed her peas around her plate. It wasn’t that she didn’t like them. This was her favorite meal, but the awkward silence in the room troubled her.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Mr. Johnson said sternly as his wrists hit the edge of the table. He was displeased and disappointed. He stared at his daughter until she gave a shrug. This angered him even more and the veins on his head slowly started to rise. Mrs. Johnson looked up at him from across the table, which to her seemed miles away.
“Frank, eat your dinner before it gets cold.”
“I don’t see the point of it.” Mr. Johnson took up his fork and stuffed some meat into his mouth like a child who had just been told he wasn’t going to get dessert. He didn’t see the point in his daughter’s marriage, though he wouldn’t say more about it.
“How did you meet this boy, Emily? You must have told me, but it seems I have forgotten.” Mrs. Johnson took a sip of her wine, which had been bought on vacation in France. She only brought out the good stuff for special occasions.
Emily looked up toward the ceiling as if she were counting. She remembered that it was love at first sight, but didn’t remember where she had met him. She was far too intoxicated at the time to remember details of that fateful night. Emily looked back at her plate and started to say something, but lost in the thought she took some peas and shoveled them into her mouth.
“He doesn’t want to set a date yet, mom.” Emily slightly remembered the dark and crowded bar she first laid eyes on her fiancé but changed the subject, knowing her mother would not approve.
“Hmph.” Mr. Johnson looked at Emily, then looked at his wife. “I just cannot….” He stood up from the table with his plate in his hand and went to the kitchen. Mrs. Johnson looked at the door as she sipped more of the wine. It seems as if she has had enough of the conversation too and stares off into the distance. Emily finished her dinner in awkward silence. She could see that her father was angry but did not understand why. She was his only daughter. His perfect child. What could she have done wrong? The rest of the night is silent as Mrs. Johnson clears the table of all the dishes. Emily blows out the candles and sets them in their place on the fire place. She gently folds the table cloth and puts it in a drawer of the china cabinet then walks to the kitchen to help her mother.
Emily looks around and only sees the dishes on the counter. A bottle of wine is missing from the wine rack, and so is her mother. Still not exactly sure why her parents are so mad she begins to clean the fine china and sets it back in the cabinet. She walks through the empty dark hallways to go to her room. She finishes the last bit of her homework before falling asleep to the glow of Jersey Shore on her TV.
“You got WHO pregnant?” Darlene shoved two TV dinners into an oven that had not been cleaned in months.
“Emily Johnson, Ma. And it’s more than that. We’re gettin’ hitched. I love her.”
“Jared, love ain’t got nothin’ to do with it. You don’t make enough to pay for this baby. You know she’s just using you. Wait. Johnson… Like the ones from up on the hill in that fancy house?”
“The driveway that heats itself in the winter so you don’t have to shovel it.” Jared cleared off two spots on the messy card-table they called a dining room table.
“You knocked up a rich girl? Frank Johnson’s precious little princess? You an idiot, boy.”
“Ma, don’t. It’s happening.”
“Have you even met the man, Jared?”
“Well, not exactly.”
“‘Not exactly’ he says.” Darlene sits down at the table perplexed, though she wouldn’t know what there was for it.
“I shook his hand once. Outside the factory one day, I was sweeping up some shit in the parking lot. He came over to me and said “You’re doing a fine job young man.” Then he went to shake my hand and I told him I was a mess then he said “I know the trouble, I started out in your spot once.” And took my hand. A firm shake he has.”
“So just because the owner and president of some fancy old factory says you’re doing a good job and relates to you, gives you the right to date his daughter and get her knocked up?”
“Well… we never really dated…” He turned on the water to do some dishes, as he only did when he knew how much trouble he was in “exactly…”
“You an idiot.”
“Is Mr..uh. Well. Is your husband around?” Frank said into his Blackberry, staring at a picture of three year old Emily in a tutu.
“Ain’t got none.”
“You don’t have one?”
“I didn’ stutter Mr. Johnson. He dissapeared when Jared wasn’t more than a week old and I’ve done well enough on my own.”
“Sorry to hear that Ms. Uhm…”
“Just call me Darlene Mr. Johnson. The sitiation calls for it I think.” Darlene took a bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Wine out of the fridge and opened it up.
“I damn well have all the right to know what name my daughter will be taking, Darlene.” Frank said her name so it stood out over everything he said.
“That’s not the reason you’re calling, Frank.” She mocked his tone.
“Spill.” She took a swig.
“I just do not think this is a good idea. It would be best to send Emily off, as if she is away at college or something, then give the baby up for adoption. I’ll compensate for you and Jared’s trouble.”
“I don’t need your money Frank. We had the dear girl over for dinner the other night. She is a delight and I truly believe that these two kids are in love. And if I ever hear you puttin’ your grandbaby up for adoption, I’ll go over there and shoot you personally. It don’t fit in your plan. Hell, it doesn’t fit in my plan and it sure as hell doesn’t fit in Jared and Emily’s plan. Had they met in the proper way, they would have fallen in love, spent some time together, Jared would have worked up the money and the courage to ask for her hand all gentleman like, you still would have said no. She’d have gone off anyway. Or, best case, you’d have said yes and they’d be married in a big o’ church and in a year or so, they’d have a babe takin its first crawl and you’d have known it was the right thing. Now, that’s great and all but that ain’t life. That’s a fairy tale. Just like my Mike would have come back to me and helped me raise Jared. But he’s done a hell of a good job on his own. They’ve made one mistake, and sped up the process. Now you listen here Mr. Frank Johnson. Good idea or not, they’re making the best of it, and I think you should too.”
“Darlene. Listen to yourself.”
“I have. Over and over in my head. This is the right way.” Darlene took another swig. She heard on the other line what sounded like a crack in Frank’s voice. He sobbed. “Frank…”
He cleared his throat. “What’s the name I need to be putting on the announcement for the paper.”
“Thought so. It’s Brown.”
“Great. I’ll put the announcement in the paper tomorrow. Good day to you, Darlene.” This time, Frank said her name in an endearing way. “I look forward to you coming to our holiday party.”