Still waiting to hear from publishers about THE SUITOR. Almost two months. Doesn’t mean anything–and I’m used to waiting. I think publishers are pretty busy these days canceling the cruel authors and marketing the marginalized ones. But that’s not the point.
The point is how do parents handle a situation when their child gets involved with someone they think might be a bad seed?
That’s what Art and Deb are facing in The Suitor after their daughter Anna, who’s survived a traumatic year, takes a job waiting tables at a resort during the summer between college graduation and law school. Anna starts dating her boss and then living with him, and she just brought him home this afternoon to meet her parents. After they leave, Art and Deb take a walk.
He placed a nitroglycerin under his tongue for the angina stabbing his chest. The tablet dissolved and in a few moments his pain eased back. When Deb asked if he wanted to take a walk he agreed.
They set out to stroll around the block, a half-mile total distance.
“Kyle and Anna seem to really like each other,” Deb said.
“So you approve?”
She gave his question consideration. “I don’t think it’s our place to approve or disapprove. Anna seems happy again. Kyle seems nice enough. Maybe a little earnest, a little eager to please, but so what? I remember how nervous I was the first time I met your mother. And the second, third, and fourth times.”
His mother, Margaret, had been wary and judgmental of others, particularly anyone who wanted a piece of her children: Art and his brother, Stephen. She hadn’t warmed to Deb immediately, but she wouldn’t have warmed to the Pope until she got to know him better.
“I’d say it’s our place to approve or disapprove,” Art said. “We have to watch out for Anna.”
“They’re having a summer romance.”
“That’s all it better be.”
“Why would you think anything else?”
Because his nature was to suspect—he had some of his mother in him—and his experience was that people often hide their true selves. They cover up, they mislead, they lie. Happened all the time in contract negotiations. You had to be wary of people’s intentions. It wasn’t the most pleasant way to live, and it made him Deb’s opposite, because she like to see good in others; she leaned toward optimism.
“I don’t trust him,” Art said. “And I don’t like him. All that politeness and good manners—it’s a façade. He’s hiding something and I don’t think he’s good for Anna.”
They reached the intersection and turned right, staying on the sidewalk, passing in front of the Martin’s house, a Tudor fronted by a six-foot hedge, so that from the sidewalk you could only see the second-floor windows.
“What could he be hiding?”
“For one, I saw him urinating in the yard.”
“When I was upstairs, I looked out the window, and he’s there behind the garage pissing on the trunk of the maple. Do we not have indoor plumbing?”
“I guess that’s odd,” Deb agreed. “But that doesn’t make him some kind of bad actor. And Anna’s smart. She isn’t fooled easily.”
“Everyone is fooled easily. Like I said, people are good at hiding things.”
“Boy, are you in a mood.”
He took her hand and gave a squeeze. He hadn’t fully identified what irked him about Kyle, but he trusted his gut. There was something wrong about that kid.
“Another thing, Anna’s drinking too much. Margaritas for lunch?”
“It was a little unusual, but I believe we also drank them, and I’m feeling the effects right now.”
As was Art. Drinking in the afternoon—not his habit, shouldn’t be anyone’s habit, but the cocktail had tasted fine and he’d been compelled to keep sipping.
“Kyle filled her glass more than anyone else’s. Two to our one.”
“I did notice that.”
“It’s like he was trying to get her drunk,” Art said. “And I’m not sure about her having a summer cold. She could be doing drugs.”
“I hope you’re wrong about that.”
“I wish she’d taken the court internship. Why did she have to get a job in a restaurant where booze flows like water and everyone’s an alcoholic and there’s always drugs around? And the Algonquin—it had to be there.”
“You’ve always had something against that place. It’s probably the best restaurant in Lake Placid.”
“Overpriced and overrated,” Art said.
“Is that why it bothered you when Kyle said his mother had worked at the Algonquin?”
“Who said it bothered me?” It wasn’t only Kyle’s mother who worked there years ago—Art had known someone, too.
“I think you’re getting too worked up over this,” Deb said. “You need to keep your stress levels low.”
“My stress levels are fine. I’m just concerned for Anna, that’s all.”
“I am as much as you are, but soon Anna will be at Columbia and I highly doubt this romance will continue. We just have to wait and everything will work out.”
Deb was right. She was almost always right. He was overreacting and it was causing his heart to heat up and beat too fast and too hard. He’d like to take another tablet; he had an extra in his pocket. But he didn’t want Deb to see him do it. He’d told her how well he was feeling, how he thought what happened in Paris was a total outlier and that when he saw the cardiologist on Friday the news would be positive. It had to be. He might even have been misdiagnosed by those French physicians. It was possible. He’d been healthy all his life, so healthy he hadn’t been to see a doctor in, what, six or seven years? Ten years? He subscribed to the theory that the annual physical was designed more for insurance reimbursement than for patients, and a simple checkup often led to additional unnecessary tests that drove up medical costs. He’d been told as much by more than one client.
Still, there was no denying the pain in his chest, or that the nitroglycerin tablets given him by the hospital in Paris were effective. And although he would never admit this to Deb, he was afraid he might die, not because he feared death, but because he had unfinished business, and one of the most important items on his list was making sure Anna successfully found her way into adulthood. Twenty-two-years old, that was already an adult, but Anna had a long way to go. She’d experienced a serious setback. She still needed a guiding hand. This summer was a perfect example. He didn’t like what she was doing and he didn’t trust this Kyle character.
Again, he told himself that Deb was right. He needed to calm down, and just wait for the summer to end.