A Tender Taboo Romance - (22,000 words)
Jenna knew the life she wanted. She dreamed it when she should be studying. She saw the rough stone cottage surrounded by flowers, The trees in the orchard and the chickens in the yard. And she saw her new husband, the one who called her Princess, even when she wasn't. The one who loved her no matter what she said or did. The one her mother deserted for her new girlfriend.
Dreaming a Future
“Over my dead body. There’s no way you’re going back to live with your father. Why’d you even think of something crazy like that? What’s wrong with you girl?”
“He’s my dad. He’ll look after me.”
“He’s a man, just like those boys you’ve been going out with. No good, the lot of them.”
“No buts. They’re all the same. If you really want to move out, although I can’t imagine why you’d want to, you need to find a nice girlfriend, then you’ll really be happy. Forget these mad ideas about your father. Men are just no good.”
“But I liked our old house. I was happy there.”
“And you’re not happy here with Moosha and me? We don’t tie you down, do we? We let you go out wherever you want, don’t we?”
“Yes, but dad was never bad to me.”
“Don’t you speak like that, anyhow he soon won’t have that house. We’ll talk about this later.”
Mom turned and marched out the kitchen door looking for her Moosha, that hairy thing she loved instead of my father. I’d only been seventeen when she split with dad.
“Jenna’s coming with me. No arguments. You can’t look after a young women like her. You can pay for her upkeep though. That’s the least you can do.”
I was watching mum’s rant from the other room. Dad agreed. He never wanted to cause a big fuss. He was so kind and gentle.
“I’ll let you stay in this house until we decide what to do. Make sure you keep the payments up.”
I loved that house. I loved my dad. I saw the pain in his face as mum poked me out the door ahead of her.
“Maybe you can see her on Saturdays when you bring her money.” She said as she was pushing me down the path.
“We’ll be back for our things.” Mom said as we got to the front gate.
That was over a year ago. I still remember the pain on dad’s face. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to run back and hug him. Mom had her hands on my back making sure I did what she wanted. I didn’t want to have to choose.
Dad came every Saturday. He brought money for me. Mom always grabbed that. We’d talk a bit, but it was so awkward. He was always sad inside, even when he put on a happy face so I couldn’t see. When I turned eighteen, I knew mom had no hold over me, but I had nothing else. No money, no real friends and still school to finish.
I rang dad when I was alone. Small talk. School news. His work. Just hearing his voice made me happy. I know he looked forward to my calls. I know he had no one else in his life, and now, thanks to my outburst, he might be losing that house. My stomach hurt so much. Not just a pain. Not something that would pass in a day or two. It hurt so deep and so long, I thought I might die. The only thing giving me hope was that tomorrow was Saturday.
“I’ve made a decision for you to agree.” Mom said when dad came to the door. She’d been waiting, dressed all smart, business like. “We need to sell the house. I want my half.”
I saw dad’s face drop.
“Anything you want from the house before we do that?” Dad asked, his voice so quiet.
“You can take us back there now and we’ll see.” Mom said in her extra bossy tone, treating dad like a naughty child.
“If we sell the house, will that be the end?” Dad asked.
“Yes. I’ve got the papers ready. Moosha knows a lawyer. You sign and that’s it.”
I saw dad straighten up a little. I think he was glad to see a way out. He beckoned mum towards the car with his hand, and me with his eyes.
“You can keep this old car. Not worth selling.” Mom said, as she got close, standing by the door until dad went and opened it for her.
I hardly recognised the house. Clean and tidy but nothing. Sterile as though it was a museum exhibit. Mum turned her nose up at most things.
“Nothing here worth us taking. You dispose of it. Some charity.” She said to dad.
Dad drove us back to Moosha’s house, and then before we got out of the car he asked mom if he could take me for an ice cream.
“She’s old enough to decide for herself.”
“Yes please dad.” I said. Mom was scowling when she got out, and strode to the front door without looking back.
I was still in the back seat, but dad didn’t want to give her a chance to change her mind. He took off and was driving down the street before he asked… “Burger place?” I said yes.
So many cars, dad had trouble finding a space and we ended up right at the far corner of the yard. Dad was out before me, coming around to my side to help me with the door.
"I’m not mom.”
“I know, but I want to.” He was smiling at me. I reached for his hand as we walked side-by-side.
“I’m sorry dad.”
“You’ve got nothing to be sorry about Princess.”
Dad often called me Princess. He always told me I was the most beautiful girl in the world. I think that’s one reason mom wanted to keep me away from him.
“It was me talking about our house that made her think of selling it. It’s my fault.”
“I’ve been expecting her to do that. In one way it’s for the best.”
We were at the door. As dad opened it for me, noise and coffee aroma blasted out.
“See if you can find a quiet table for us.” Dad said while he waited in line to order.
I found a table for two near the back. People all around, but it was the best I could manage. Dad was ages getting served. When he got back with my sundae - caramel with nuts - he had a burger and chips for himself.
“I’ve been eating too much of this stuff lately. Easier than cooking for one.” He said as he put the tray on the small table. I took my sundae and poked at it with the plastic spoon, and while he unwrapped his burger, I stole a couple of his chips.
“Serious talk time now.” Dad said after he’d taken a bite. “We need to sort out what we both do for the future.”
He was waiting for me to talk. I’d been trying for months to think about the future, but nothing really good, that he would like, was coming.
“If you could have anything at all in the world, what would you really like?” He prompted when I was still twisting the spoon around in the white mush in front of me. “Do you have a dream you really like?”
“I’ve tried thinking dad. I really have. Every night I go to bed thinking of what I really want, but only one thing ever comes.” I was looking into the plastic cup in front of me.
“Does that thing make you happy when you think about it?”
“Very.” I had to look up. It wasn’t polite to not look at him, especially when he was being so serious, so grown up, treating me like a real woman. He was waiting for me to say, looking at me much like I dreamed. Of all the people in the whole world, he was the only one that truly loved me. Loved me whatever I did or said.
“I dream of living in a cottage in the country.” I started. I was watching his eyes. He was going all dreamy, not upset. “A small cottage with a veranda out front for some chairs and maybe a swing. There’s flowers in the garden and a path leading out to an archway with honeysuckle growing over it at the gate.”
I stopped for him to say something, but he didn’t, so I kept going. “Out back is an orchard with different fruit trees, and a vegetable patch and a place for chickens. Inside is a wood fire for when the nights are cold and we need to keep warm. There’s the scent of dinner cooking in the oven and bottles of preserves on the shelves. It’s small but cosy. A little patch of heaven just for us.”
I was finished now, so I waited for him, watching his eyes slowly come back to look at me.
“That’s a lovely dream.” He said. So quiet, I had to strain to make out his words from the noises around us. He didn’t say anything else then, but took another bite of his burger. I thought it best to try some of my sundae, but I really didn’t want it. Dad put down his burger and pushed it away. He must have felt the same. “What were you doing in this cottage?”
“Enjoying being alive.”
“What about the nice things you like? It’s not an easy life in the country. Plenty of hard work and not much money.”
“I know I’ve never done work like that, but I really don’t want to do work here. I’ve seen how you have to work so hard to support us and how much you don’t like that work. I want to do work I’d like. I think I’ll like growing things. I’ve even thought I’d like to try milking a cow, or maybe a goat, they’re more my size. Whatever it took. As least I wouldn’t be working for a boss.”
“Yes, and your children.” I said, looking straight into dad’s eyes and holding his stare. I think he was starting to work it out now.
He stopped looking at me and swept his gaze around the room. I did too. Still packed with people.
“Maybe we should go back to the car.” Dad said, pushing his seat back a little. I did the same and we both stood together. He guided me out. Not like mom would, but like someone who really loved me would.
“It wouldn’t be right.” He said as we crossed the carpark.
“It would be the most perfect thing I could imagine.” I said. He didn’t reply, so when we were by the car I asked him. “If it wasn’t wrong, would you like it too?”
I heard him say “yes” very quietly, and then we were inside and the doors shut tight. I was in the front seat now, so we could turn and look at each other. Dad wasn’t starting the engine.
“Is that what you really dream about?” He asked me.
“It is dad. I’ve tried dreaming about other things and people but every time the dream ends up being about you and me. I really don’t want anything else, and I think it’s what you want too.”
“What makes you think it would work?”
“I don’t want to be here, and you don’t want to be here either. We’re both very much the same. I’m more like you than mom. We both want a life somewhere far away where no one would know us.”
Dad was looking at me, then he started leaning towards me. Maybe he was going to kiss me. I leaned towards him to make it easy. He was smiling. He was so close, then I felt his lips on my forehead. Just a little kiss, but the warmth of his lips spread over my face and down my whole body.
“I love you Jen.”
“I love you forever, daddy. Forever.”
“It’s nice to dream.” He said as he turned the key.
“Sometimes dreams do come true.” I said as the engine came to life.
We drove back in silence, dad helping me out of the car. Mom was out watching, then she came to meet us at the gate.
“Moosha’s got some people interested in the house. They want to have a look tomorrow afternoon. Think you can make it nice by then? You’ll want the best price too.”
Mom was nearly yelling at dad, but he just stood his ground by the gate.
“Can I pick up Jen in the morning to help me move things?”
“Her! You sure?”
“I don’t mind helping.” I said.
“Alright. At least she’ll make sure you do things right.”
“See you in the morning Princess.” Dad said to me.
“She’s no princess. She’s just your lazy daughter.” Mom said.
Dad smiled a little at me and started back to the car.
“Make sure the house is really clean. No man smells.” Mom yelled after dad as he got to the car.
Mom had pushed me inside the house so I couldn’t wave dad off.
I was ready really early, but dad was late. When he did arrive, he had a rental trailer behind the car.
“I’m going to take some of the old stuff to the charity.” Dad said when mom saw the trailer.
“Thinking ahead for once.” Mom said.
“He’s always thinking.” I said.
“Daydreaming.” Mom said, but she said nothing else as I ran to join dad in the car.
“You really taking our things to a charity?” I asked as we drove away.
“No. I’ve rented a storage locker and we’re taking things there. You can keep it secret, can’t you?”
I just grinned back at dad. We were so much alike. At the house we started work.
“Don’t bother sorting too much, just get things in the trailer quickly.” Dad said.
We both worked together. Dad had already packed some things in boxes. The rest we took loose. There was all my baby things and the clothes I hadn’t taken to Moosha’s. There was a lot of dad’s things and most of his tools. Then we started on furniture, leaving just enough to make it look a bit like a home. We’d done three loads before lunch.
“Can you tidy up while I load these last things?” Dad said.
He ended up helping me, but we had the whole house looking real nice before we left. The storage locker was very full. Dad had a big padlock for the door.
“This is our secret.” He said as he gave me a key. I hugged him then and he had his strong arms around me too.
“I love you forever daddy.”
When he took me back to Moosha’s place, mom was waiting, striding out to the car as it pulled up.
“Did he do it right?” She asked me.
“He did it perfectly.” I said.
“The people should be happy.” Dad said, but mom wasn’t taking notice of him.
“I’ll call you to let you know how it goes.” Mom said, dismissing dad. She had me inside so I couldn’t see dad drive away, but I could feel that key with my fingertips and that connected me with him.
I stayed mainly in my room. I was tired from all the work I did with dad. I could hear mom and Moosha talking a lot, and there were phone calls and more talking. When I went to see, the kitchen table was covered with papers and mom and Moosha were sorting them and writing more things down. Figures it looked like. They hardly noticed me, but that was nothing unusual.
“When your dad comes this time, you keep in the background. This is real woman’s work.” Mom said when she registered me there. I didn’t know dad was coming back.
I answered the door when he knocked. It was nearly dark outside. He seemed pleased to see me, whispering in my ear. “Don’t worry. This will turn out fine. You just wait.” As I was letting him in.
“Dad’s here mom.” I yelled. For once, she wasn’t waiting behind me.
“Bring him through.” She yelled back.
I showed him to the kitchen and then moved to stay well back while the two women started on him. They wanted him to agree to their deal. They had a buyer for the house. They had worked out how much it was to pay out the mortgage and fees, and how much would be left to split up. Now they were telling dad that they could pay him his half Wednesday and they would finish the sale themselves. There was one more surprise. They wanted dad out by next Saturday morning so the new people could move in that afternoon. All dad had to do was sign the papers for the house and the divorce. Dad listened quietly while they did their sales pitch, then he stayed quiet for a while, thinking, before he started.
“On the whole, it seems a good idea.” He said. I could see mum looking pleased with herself so I knew they were trying to trick him. “I feel the sale price is way too low though. I was expecting ten thousand more. Are you sure that can’t be negotiated?”
“You’re saying if your half was forty eight, you would sign now?” Moosha asked.
“Yes.” Dad said. The two women looked at each other. I could see mom nod a tiny bit. I’m sure dad did too. He always noticed things, even if he didn’t say.
“Agreed.” Moosha said. Both her and mom seemed to relax then, but dad wasn’t finished.
“Since Jenna is now an adult and not tied to us any more, I’d like to offer to help her find a new life. I was thinking of using part of my money to set her up independently if she wanted.”
“You want to take over her care?” Mum said.
“No. She’s old enough to care for herself. I’m happy to help her though. I want to see her set up for a good future.”
“You mean set her up in a flat or something.” Moosha said.
“Do you want that?” Mom asked in my direction. I’d not said anything until now.
“I don’t know. I think it would be good. I’d like to try.”
“You’d pay all her costs?” Mum asked dad. He nodded.
“All her costs and keep an eye on her so she stayed out of trouble.”
I saw Moosha nodding now. I knew she didn’t want me here. Mom didn’t look too happy. Moosha was trying to convince her. “You’re saying you’ll accept forty eight now, sign over the house and vacate by Saturday, as well as take responsibility for Jenna and set her up in her own house with no problems for us. Is that right?”
“Yes.” Dad said firmly. He was standing straight now. Hands on his hips while both women were slumped over the table. “Do you need more time to consider?”
Good on you dad. Stick it to them. I always knew he was strong inside.
“I can call back after work tomorrow if that’s better.”
“That might be best.” Moosha said. “Do you want to show him out?” She said in my direction.
Dad turned away from that table and came towards me. I let him pass and followed behind. He opened the front door and stepped through before turning towards me. He was smiling.
“Thanks dad.” I whispered towards him.
“See you tomorrow.” He said loudly.
When I closed the door, I went to my room. I didn’t want mom to see how excited I was, anyhow they didn’t seem too worried. They were loudly arguing over the deal. I worked out what was happening. They weren’t really selling the house. Moosha was taking over dad’s half, and they were going to rent the house out. Eventually they started discussing me. Mom didn’t want me to go, but Moosha did, and she was really working on mom. Telling her how much they would save by not having to support me, and how it would break dad. They were still arguing over breakfast and when I left for school. They never bothered to ask me.
Dad came when he said. I did the door again. He was smiling. I led him to the kitchen. The women had papers ready.
“We’ve agreed.” Mom said. “You will be out by midday Saturday?”
“Yes. And I’ll set up some place for Jenna.”
“Yes.” Mom said, but she didn’t say it very loud.
“This is the house transfer paper.” Moosha said, placing a thick pile of papers in front of dad and pointing where he had to sign. “Then this is the divorce papers. They say nothing left to settle. See here.”
Dad signed all their papers, then made ready to leave. “See you Wednesday after work, and I’d like Jen to help me with the final move Saturday early.”
“That fine with you?” Mum said to me. I nodded, then it was my turn to show dad out again.
“Big weekend.” He whispered as he went through the door.
When I went back to the kitchen is was as though I didn’t exist, so I went to my room. It was like that the rest of the week, so I was really looking forward to helping dad on Saturday.