Emma sat cross-legged in the middle of the kitchen floor, gnawing a nature bar, her head cocked to one side. I was making brownies. And drinking.
“When's your doctor's appoinment again?”, she asked.
I sighed. “Thursday”, I said, and dumped a generous amount of rum into the brownies.
I heard her shift into a more comfortable position on the floor behind me.
“Mom says you'll be dead what with the way you're drinking.” She tore off a huge chunk of the nature bar with her mouth and began grinding it into something digestable. “She says you're making a mess of things”.
I scooped up a bit of the brownie batter with two fingers and flicked it over my sholder. Her yelp of surprise was more satisfying than I expected. “Her exact words were 'irredemable disaster'”, I said. I couldn't help smiling.
“I'm only telling you this because I care”, she said through a mouth full of nature bar. “Sooner or later she's going to hatch a plan to take me away from you. I'll be forced to live with her and Melvin in friggin' Ohio. They'll make me wear skirts and force me to listen to Christian rock.”
I laughed heartily. “How grim”, I said.
“I'll resist like a champ but, eventuallly, it'll wear me down.” She swallowed dramatically. “Eventually, their kind wears EVERYONE down.”
I had my back to her but knew the face she was making, her mouth off to one side, her cinnamon nose crinkled up, her brown eyes creased menacingly. It was her 'doom' face. And, had I been looking, I would have laughed again. Instead, I giggled at the phantom image of it and kept stirring the batter.
“Skirts, you say? AND Christian Rock? Spooky stuff, Em.”
“I'm serious, dad! I can't imagine growing up in fucking Leave It To Beaver Land.”
“Language”, I said.
“Friggin'”, she said.
“No one's taking you from me, Em, no matter how grim your mother makes it sound. We're doing just fine, you and I.”
“And your drinking?”
I put down the spoon and took a comically large swig from the bottle of rum beside me, sighing dramatically afterward. “I've got a liver like a 12 year old, sweetheart. It'll take more than some merlot and a bottle of whiskey to take out your old man.”
She stood and popped the rest of the nature bar into her mouth. “Seriously, dad”, she said.
I turned to say something clever and the words caught in my throat. The brownie mix I'd flung earlier had hit her high on her left cheek. She'd gotten most of it off but only most. I tore a paper towel from the roll.
“Seriously, Em”, I said and reached for her face.
She snatched the paper towel from my hand and wiped at her face, making an even bigger mess. I let her.
“I'll be fine”, I said.
For a split second, her face turned down into a childish pout – one I hadn't seen since she was in diapers. Then, as quickly as it had come, the pout was replaced with a know-it-all smirk. “Yeah right”, she said, and headed toward the living room.
I ended up burning the brownies.