The father sat back down in his armchair, still restless. Pacing the floor didn't help. Neither did distractions like a newspaper or television programs. The only light came from the lamp on the table beside his armchair, the rest of the house was dark and silent. It didn't feel like his house at all. He looked out the window. Big white snowflakes drifted, pure and sparkling against the black night. The silence was unbearable. No traffic, no birds, no ticking clock. He was determined to wait, though. Not so that he could scold her the minute she returned - he would scold her, and she would doubtlessly think that was his sole intent.
But he could do that in the morning. He waited because he couldn't sleep until all his family was safe under his roof.
Memories of his own father scolding him rose in the father's mind. Then, he had not understood why his dad had acted this way. But now the father understood - too well.
His eyelids drooped, but his mind was still alert. His heart ached for his daughter. He felt like he had already lost her. A part of him felt like panicking. What if she doesn't come back this time?
His daughter was right. He was a horrible father.
The daughter laughed. It turned into a painful-sounding cough. Snowflakes dotted her eyelashes, and she blinked them away. Her mascara would run, but she didn't care. She couldn't be any uglier anyway. Her boyfriend kissed her neck, his breath a black puff of sweet smoke. She giggled and kissed him back, wrapping her mittened hands around his neck.
He risked a subtle squeeze on her backside, and she stifled a gasp. Her unchecked conscience drew her thoughts to her father. He would probably be waiting up for her again. A touch of guilt settled in her stomach. Not for disappointing him, but guilt for making him lose sleep. She wasn't sure why it bothered her. She distracted herself by taking another drag on his cigarette, then blowing it into his mouth.
She knew what he was. The daugher wasn't an idiot. She knew what the boyfriend wanted and what would happen to her once he got it. But for now, she just wanted strong masculine arms around her, and a deep voice to tell her she was beautiful.
The boyfriend couldn't look in her eyes. She almost looked pretty, in the darkness, with snow glittering in her black hair. But his mind wasn't on her. She deserved better than him. They both knew it. He felt inadequate. He always did.
The boyfriend drew on his cigarette, wishing for something stronger. He decided to send her home - it was late.
"I'll call you," he told her, then watched her walk away. He should dump her. He had enough problems. Like his addictions. Like getting into college. Like his ex-girlfriend. And her baby.
The boyfriend wandered the streets, watching faded footprints fill with snow. His mother had warned him. He had promised himself that he wouldn't abandon someone like his father had abandoned him. And now he was doing exactly that.
He admired her father - the present girlfriend's father. The man waited up for his daughter every night. If only he could be that committed. The boyfriend kneeled in the snow, cold seeping into his jeans. "What am I supposed to do?" he whispered, voice breaking. The snow continued to fall, refusing to give him an answer.