"Come ON, Dad," Annie sighed dramatically. "Why do you always have to do this? Why can't we just go back that way and ask for directions?"
"Annie, STOP IT! I'm trying to drive here."
"You can't dri-i-ive with a map in your hands." Her father practically puffed with anger. "Ugh. Seriously. Dad. Come on. Let's stop at that gas station over there."
"I'm figuring it out."
Annie sighed to herself. Why was her father so stubborn? Is it true that men never stop to ask for directions? Are they all that way? Or just her dad? Was that why her mother left him? She let herself pause. Them. Is that why she left them? It was so easy to blame it on her father, and his need to trudge through no matter how obvious it was that they were going the wrong way, no matter how awful the dinner wound up tasting, no matter ... well, just no matter at all.
Her father looked over at her. She looked just like Louise. Damn her. Louise, not Annie. Her face was all flushed from her frustration. Why couldn't he just get her there on time? What was WRONG with him? Why was he such a failure? As a husband, and now as a father. If he could just show her he knew how to get there, just prove to her that he could do it without stopping, without having to ask for help ... she'd have faith in him then. He'd become the father that he used to be, the one who could do no wrong. It'd been some time since she looked at him with those eyes. The ones that weren't doused with contempt. Did she blame him for her mother leaving? Surely. He blamed himself, after all. But he was here now. He stayed. He was taking her to karate, soccer, baby-sitting jobs, he'd turned into her own personal chauffeur. And yet she was so angry. With him. With her mother. With the world. What else could he do? Would it be that simple? Could he just pull over and ask for help, would that be enough for her? Doesn't she know that that would prove him to be a failure all over again?
Her father sighed loudly. "Fine, Annie. We'll just ..."
"Dad! Dad! That's it! Dad! That's Mr. Jonas' car over there! There's Lily. Her mom parked down that street. Look, she's waving at us! That's the field we're playing at today!" She started pulling her things together, tugging her hair back into a ponytail, and suddenly she was beaming.
Her father pulled over to the side of the road. "Thanks, Dad. I love you!" She leaned over and kissed him quickly on the cheek. Jumped out of the car and slammed the door behind her.
"I'll be there soon. Right after I run ..." She turned and waved. She could barely hear him. "Knock 'em dead, Annie! I love you, too."
So, there it was. He had found it. He did it. No help required. Sometimes it made sense to trudge through. And make your little girl oh so proud. He looked up at the rear-view mirror. His eyes were wet. "Bah!" He wiped them with his sleeve. "Knock 'em dead, sweetheart."
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