Her father and her mother unmarried. It happened. Now he wanted "quality time," it was so ironic. All through her growing up-- dance recitals and class plays, paper dolls and Star Wars movies, a sleazeball first boyfriend always wanting his hand in her pants or, really, hers in his-- her father was nowhere to be seen. Always at the office or the hospital, popping a heart into someone like the Wizard of Oz the same way other fathers changed a carburetor, stitching a sleeve around an artery like a lacemaker (she had seen him on videotape, his peasant fingers holding the instrument and making pristine, small stitches to patch a blown-out heart). And when he wasn't at the hospital he was away for conventions, conferences, and vacations the latter both with and without her and her mother and where in any case when they were with him he was always really somewhere else: leading them through guidebook streets, behind the wheel of a rented Lincoln, a triptik in hand, on the tennis courts, submerged in a pool. Each evening ending up with him screened by an elaborate menu choosing wine for the dinner, each night ending behind the connecting door in a hotel room clinging to her mother then snoring above the noise of the air conditioning.
He wanted quality time and she longed for it. Her mother welcomed it as well. She still loved him really, though it was clearly over for them. She was happy with who she she found she was. "Maybe he can become somebody," her mom said. "With you, I mean. The poor man never had a chance to become anything but what they said he was."
He wanted her (not his wife, his daughter, though probably the former as well) to be what they had said she was, Tevet, her given name as strange as every name in their minimal family: doctor, doctor's wife, daughter. They were a three legged stool, their whole family: Javier, Aurelie, Tevet, not a real name in the bunch. And then they unmarried, her mother became Ms Undoctor and she became Beth. Her name was her birthday, this month, April, the fourth month in the Jewish calendar. And since it was sometimes also Tebet or Tebeth, she called herself Beth. April was a fat girl with a scrapbook (she had been that once).
The woman her father was seeing was a doctor named Lisle, a lacemaker's name, though she called herself Lee. It was, awkwardly, her mother's nickname though few people used it. Lisle's daughter was Samantha, apparently called Sam, generation upon generation without a real name. The woman her mother was seeing was named Lisa, just as awkward, one supposed.
"Maybe when you grow," he said. It was awkward, not what he had meant. He wasn't good with words, though he loved them. They were in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this trip was her birthday gift, a pilgrimage to see the picture of her great grandmother, it was the only photo of her on earth, a woman with a normal name (Mary Reilly) whom someone else, though unrelated to any of them, claimed absurdly as his heritage because he had bought the small house where she once lived. (Ed Stanko was the man's name, her father said. He was "hard as a crabapple." He loved words, her father did, she didn't know about Ed Stanko.)
It is hard to keep the names straight, like a Dickens novel.
She knew he meant (her father that is) that she would grow when she became a woman. It was just as awkward, of course, though sweet. He had some idea that she would grow into her name, like the last reel of a film, a training bra, the sad-ass graphic on the final screen of an adventure game: Princess Leah, Princess Tevet. She noticed that every second thing she thought of had the word awkward stuck to it, she hated how that happened, how a word stuck to you like velcro or thistles.
Happily. Awkward. After.