"You look a lot older, Dad."
"So do you, Rachel." How long had it been? A couple of albums now. She was ... 19? "Does Car... does your mother know you're here?"
"No. I'm in college now."
"What, here?"
"Yeah." She paused. "Dad?"
"Yeah?"
"Aren't you going to give me a hug?"
"I ... all sweaty like this?"

Rachel nodded. They met in the middle of the room, and he was surprised at how tightly she held him.

"I'm sorry." It was all he could think to say. For what, he wasn't precisely sure. Any number of things.
"I liked ... I liked your encore," she murmured into his shoulder. He leaned back and looked at her incredulously. She met his gaze, and they lingered for a moment before Will spoke.

"You ... what? Why?"
Rachel sighed and freed herself from his grasp. "Do you always have to ..." It was the beginning of a question, but Will had no idea what she was trying to ask him.
"What? 'Do I always have to' what?"

She shook her head. "Never mind." There was something in her eyes, the shining green that Will remembered looked muted somehow. What had happened to her? Will felt guilty that he didn't know. Had he been so single-mindedly focused on Carla?

"So you like 'Carla?' The song?"
"The album version. Yeah. I used to listen to it after you left."

image

After you left. Carla had practically thrown him out!

Well ... that wasn't entirely fair. Will realized that he didn't even know where Rachel was during that last shouting match, which ended with him storming out of the house for the last time. He'd even sent movers to the house to get his stuff for him.

"I visited you," he blurted without thinking.

She blinked. "... Yeah. Until you started drinking again. That took, what, two months?" More than a hint of bitterness, there. Will brought a hand to his face and massaged his temples with his fingertips.

"I know. I ... I'm sorry. I really am." Again. That wasn't enough ... couldn't be enough. But amid the confusion and guilt, it was all he could find.

"Your voice still sounds good."
This time Will blinked, moving his hand to rub the fuzz on his cheek. "Thanks," he murmured.

She liked his singing. She was ... a fan.

"Did you hear the whole set?"
"Yeah. I liked 'Carla' the most, though."
A thought occurred to Will, then.

"Okay, I've got another one for you." Stepping back from her, he picked up his old burn-patterned Strat and sat down on the couch. "Have a seat." She smiled tentatively and took her place on the cushion next to his.

"Will I know it?" she asked.
"Probably not. I used to ... I listened to it before you were born."
"Yeah?" Rachel leaned forward slightly. Will began strumming.

"I've still got your face painted on my heart ..."

Raja Doake is a would-be-writer in engineer's clothing. He lives in Ontario, Canada.

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