When he emerged from the den, Robert found her stretched on a lounge chair by the pool. She wore a black bikini and was listening to music through her earphones. Her toenails were freshly manicured and painted a glossy maroon.
He dragged over a chair. Erin sat up and took off the earphones.
“So you like Skidmore so far?”
“I’m in a band.”
“I’m the singer. We’re trying to get a gig in one of the clubs.”
“You just got there and already you’re in a band?”
“I knew some of the people from before.”
“From high school?”
He said, “I didn’t know you sang.”
“Well, yeah. I do. I sing all the time.”
Erin turned and leaned on one elbow to face her father and that’s when he noticed the tattoo just below her bathing suit line.
“What is that?” he said. “You have a tattoo?”
She rolled her hip to make the design more visible. “I just got it.”
“Dimitri. My boyfriend. I call him Dimi.”
When Robert raised his eyes the sun was beating down and a searing glare reflected off the surface of the pool. “Sasha!” he called through the screen door. “Sasha!” Then to Erin: “Who’s Dimitri and why do you have his name tattooed on your ass?”
“Jesus, Dad, chill. It’s my leg.”
Sasha came out and asked what was going on. “Look at this,” Robert said.
Sasha peered at the name inked onto Erin’s skin. “Half the world is getting tattoos.”
“But the name of her boyfriend?” Robert said.
He was up from his chair now, standing between Sasha and Erin.
“You’ve been at college, what, less than two weeks, and you already have a boyfriend and you ink that boyfriend’s name on your body?”
“I’ve known Dimi for over a year,” Erin said. “We met last summer at the Crane Music Camp.”
“I never heard you mention him.”
“Dad, it’s not a big deal.”
“The fuck it’s not.”
“Robert,” Sasha said.
“I knew you’d freak out. That’s why I waited until I moved away to do it.”
“You haven’t moved away,” Robert said. “You’re in the summer program at Skidmore.”
“And the fall semester follows summer.”
Robert flung his hand in the air. “What happens when you and this Dimi are no longer together? It’s not easy removing a tattoo.”
“I love Dimi. I never want to forget him.”
“You’re eighteen years old! Are you going to get a tattoo of every boy you date for the rest of your life? You’ll look like a signature wall.”
“Dad!” Erin bolted from the lounge chair and ran inside. Robert stood panting.
“That was brilliant,” Sasha said.
“She won’t even know this kid in two years.”
“‘Signature wall’—How could you say something like that?”
“That’s not what I meant.”
He went inside and up the stairs to Erin’s bedroom and knocked. “Erin,” he said. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I did. I wasn’t thinking.”
He tried the handle. Locked. “Come on. We need to talk.”
“Leave me alone.”
“Erin, please. I was wrong. I apologize.”
Sounds from inside the room. Clothes rustling, a drawer closing, feet darting along the carpet. Finally she opened the door. She was dressed, packed, carrying her bag.
“Don’t talk to me.” She brushed past him.
“Wait.” He touched her arm. She shrugged him off and spun to face him.
“I was going back today anyway,” she said. “We’re rehearsing tonight.”
She took the stairs in rapid succession. Robert got to the driveway as she was starting her car. Her window was open. He grabbed the doorsill.
“I don’t know what I’m talking about,” he said. “Maybe you do want to remember Dimitri forever and a tattoo is the best way to make sure of that. Hey, maybe he’s your true love and the two of you will be together for the rest of your lives.”
She shrugged, no longer looking so defiant or sure of herself.
“I’d like to meet him,” Robert said.
“I’m sure that would go well.”
He laughed. “I promise I’d be nice.”
“I have to go,” Erin said. “I really do have to get back.”
“So what’s the name of your band?”
“The Contempts,” Erin said.
“Let me know when the Contempts have a gig,” Robert said. “I want to be there.”