“Dad… do you really think this is such a good idea?”
“Of course it is, we need to get out, start socialising with the town again,” Dad called from the bathroom
I heaved a sigh. I was so worried about tonight.
It was Friday, it was nearly six o’clock, and I was terrified.
Dad had insisted that I wore my best, and only, dress, as if I wasn’t uncomfortable enough already.
I took deep breaths to steady myself. It was only dinner with our neighbours. Plus, Dad hadn’t been drinking since the anniversary. Maybe it would be ok, we both needed to get out more, and Dad needed someone in this town who didn’t think he was a drunken waste of space.
“C’mon, I’m ready!” Dad beamed, standing in my bedroom doorway. I couldn’t help but laugh. He looked so different, clean shaven and in clean, smart clothes.
“What’s so funny?” He frowned
“Nothing,” I smiled “It’s just a shock,”
He smiled again, and took my hand, leading me outside.
“Hi!” Jared grinned as he opened the door, “Come in,”
He opened the door wider so we could both get past. He then led us through to the living room, and I sat down next to a girl who I presumed was his sister.
“Ella, this is my sister, Imogen,”
“Hi, Imogen,” I said,
Imogen nodded, and then kept on gazing at me.
“Imogen it’s rude to stare,” Jared muttered.
Imogen quickly looked away, glancing at me again every few moments.
We sat in awkward silence for a few minutes, until Jared’s mum called us into the dining room.
“Hi, you must be Ella,” His mum said, smiling at me, she then turned to my dad, “I don’t think I know your name”
My dad grinned “I’m Graham, and you are?”
I rolled my eyes at him, Jared’s mum was very beautiful, and Dad had definitely noticed.
“I’m Penny” She smiled.
“It’s very nice to meet you,”
Penny sat us at the table and then reached for a bottle of wine.
“Graham, would you like any?” She asked
I froze. There was a moment’s pause before my dad said:
“No… I’ve got to be up early in the morning,”
I felt the relief course through me and went on eating my meal.
Dad and Penny talked back and forth constantly throughout the meal, with Jared and Imogen occasionally joining in, while I sat in silence.
“So, Ella, do you go to the local school?” Jared asked me
“Yes, I do,” I answered, immediately feeling the heat in my cheeks. I prayed I didn’t look red.
I wanted to kick myself, wishing I could just speak to people without feeling so awkward about it.
“Do you enjoy it?”
I shrugged, “It’s ok. Depends what subjects really.”
”Which are your favourites then?” Penny asked
“English and Maths,” I smiled
“Really?” Jared said, looking at me like I was insane, “God, I hated them, especially Maths. Games was always my favourite.”
I smiled weakly “I hate sport,”
Jared raised his eyebrows, “I’ll have to change that,” He grinned
My Dad and I both laughed
“That’ll never happen,” Dad said, “She’s useless,”
”I’m sure I can try,” Jared said, still grinning.
I smiled back, for real this time.