I woke up to the sound of a phone call. Awesome, it was from Leah.
“Morning, Leah. Thanks for the really needed present.”
She squealed. “You liked it? I bet you did!”
I rolled my eyes. Leah's present was two pairs of Victoria’s secret lingerie. Among the most outrageous things she had sent, this took the lead.
“Oh yes. Cos I work in a club and my success really depend on how flimsy my underwear is.”.
“Don’t be an ingrate.”
“I’m not,” I said. “But you now how these things are. I’m not comfortable with ‘em.”.
“That’s why you should learn to get used to it. Everyone wears a lingerie, Olivia. This is 2021.”
“Whatever. Thanks, though.”
“You welcome. “
“Yeah.” The thought came. Maybe I could ask Leah to lend me some money. Uhm, Leah?”
“Can I uhm, can you lend me some… Never mind.” I didn’t know how to say it.
“No, no. Can I lend you what?”
“Ugh, forget it, Inspector,” I said, chuckling. “Anyways, I gotta go.”
“Not so fast. Come on, what’s up?”
“Leah, I told you. The there’s no—” I saw Dad walking into the kitchen. “Morning, Dad.”
He nodded and went on to turn on the faucet.
“I’ll talk to you later, Leah.” And I hung up the call before she could protest. I watched Dad pour himself a cup of water. He gulped it and cast me a look.
“You came home late yesterday.”
“Yeah. I hung out with Leah after work.”
“How was it?”
“Fun.” Ordinarily, I would have rattled on about how the day went, but I didn’t. I could sense the pain in Dad's words. Something was troubling him.
He looked at me. I wanted to tell him that I knew something was wrong but my words got stuck in my throat. I couldn’t bring them out.
I shook my head, indicating that he shouldn’t mind.
“I want to have a word with you, “ he said.
I knew it! Something was wrong. At that point, anxiety set in. My mind wandered on the very many possibilities. From the look things, whatever it was wasn’t good.
He sat on the sofa beside me. “Sit,” he said.
I did as he told me to, even as the nerves were getting the best of me.
“Olivia…” he said, licking his lips. Red flag! Whenever he did that, it showed that something was amiss. “I want to apologise. I’ve been a terrible person, a negligent father. I…”
“Don’t do this, Dad. We've passed that stage.” I couldn’t bare seeing him berate himself. I couldn’t see him blame himself constantly for Mom's passing and what he termed to be our misfortune.
“No matter how you put it. No matter how hard you try to deny it, you know the truth,” he said. He took his eyes from me and stared straight off. Something was going on in his mind, and I was left trying to figure out what actually it was. “I did it again, Olivia. I failed you.”
I wasn’t taking it anymore. I left my seat and got to him. I took his hand on mine. “Dad. Tell, me what's the problem? Money?”
He turned at me sharply.
“I kinda guessed. See, that’s not a problem. I could give you…” The shake of his head kept me quiet.
“It's beyond that. I…” He buried his face on his hand. “God, how do I say this?”
I stared in confusion. A hard frown on my face.
When he took his hand from his face, I could see how red he had gotten. He was about to cry.
“Olivia, please tell me you'll forgive me.”
“What are you talking about, Dad?”
He pinned his lips, finding it hard to swallow. “I…I’m sorry. “
“You picked up smoking again?” I said, fearing that he had fallen back to his habit.
He gave a rue laugh. “I wish.” Sniffing and rubbing his palms together, he looked at me. “Please, promise you’ll forgive me.”
“Dad, I promise. Just tell me whatever it is, please.” I said, my patience falling really bad.
“I…” He cleared his throat. “I used you as a collateral.”
I paused. I wasn’t sure I got what he said. “What do you mean?”.
Still rubbing his palms, he said. “For loan. I used you as a collateral.”
I looked at him, the confusion still in my eyes. I gave a short laugh. “Is that the problem? Come on, Dad. You promised me you quit. Now, I’m really disappointed you started smoking again.”.
“This isn’t the effect of nicotine, Olivia. As bad as I want this to be a dream, it is not. They're coming for you. “.
“They? What are you talking about?”
He took his eyes away from me and began crying. His chest heaving violently.