My Green-Eyed Joy

The pasta was bouncing around in the salted water and the sauce was smelling up the place pretty good by the time Cara came through the door in a whirlwind of books and hair.

“Hey kiddo,” I called from the kitchen. “How was your -“

“Day went good,” she finished our usual greeting. “What did zee good Doktor have to say – two months of no punching things, same as the last two times?”

“Something like that,” I said as I busied myself with the sauce, adding extra basil just to keep my hands occupied. I wanted to save that conversation for dinner but my baby knew me too well.

“Daddy, what did he tell you? It’s just the same problem, right? It can’t be anything really bad - you’ll be back to knocking chumps into next week in no time!”

“Let’s just say that I like your prognosis a whole lot better than his,” I told her with a soft smile that she was having none of.

“Dad you’re only making this worse – just tell me and get it over with.” It’s hard to argue with the wisdom of youth some days. That was one of those days.

“Doc said I should give retiring some serious thought,” I said, attempting to keep the worry from my voice. “He said that if I insist on continuing to punch things you’re going to have to cook dinner for the rest of our lives and neither of us wants that.”

A brief look of concern passed over Cara’s face but she recovered as only she could. She came around the kitchen island and wrapped her arms around me fiercely, her head buried in my chest.

“Oh Daddy, that’s not so bad!” Her muffled words soothed my nervous thoughts, brought some peace back to my heart. “Now I don’t have to worry about you losing even more teeth in the ring or something even worse!”

I closed my eyes, rested my stubble covered chin on her red curls and hugged her tight. The dental work to put my mouth back together had cost money I had set aside for the future but I had spent it expecting I still had time to earn it back. I had made about a quarter of it back before Doc broke the news.

“We’ll be alright kiddo,” I said before holding her at arm’s length. Lord, she had grown up quick – I hadn’t known they made twelve year olds that big. “Go get cleaned up for dinner and we’ll figure the rest out over penne and cranberry juice.”

She nodded and smiled brightly before racing off to her room. That apartment was my only extravagance – I didn’t have a car, I only travelled for matches with enough prize money to make the trip worthwhile and I kept a pretty tight budget for everything else. But I wanted to make sure Cara had a home that wouldn’t embarrass her when she brought friends over.

The fourth floor apartment had been brand new when we moved in six years previous and we had taken pretty good care of the place. I loved those hardwood floors and the black marble countertops in the kitchen; the bathroom had been big enough at the start but Cara seemed to be crowding me out by then; and the living room had a half-decent TV, a black leather couch and the most comfortable recliner in the world.

I had overheard Cara’s friend Melanie remark that her “old man had a pretty fly pad.” I think it was a compliment.

There were still nine years left on the mortgage and I had enough money left to pay for two if we stopped eating. Those piano lessons would have to go too. There could be no question: Daddy was going to have to get a new job. But doing what?

I dished up into two big bowls and placed them on the kitchen island; the two bar stools on either side had a matching pair hidden in the closet for when company was over. I poured the juice into a couple of wine glasses before grabbing a couple of forks and taking my seat.

Cara bounded back into the room and hopped onto her stool like a cat. The girl had enough energy to go twelve rounds every night and still come back for more. I smiled, handed over her fork and those green eyes smiled right back at me. She really did have my eyes.

I have always been grateful that she didn’t have her mother’s.

The End

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