“But Daddy, I’m tired and…” she cringed at the bright lights outside of the limousine window.
“Hush, honey,” Jimmy Mills admonished. “We’re at the restaurant now.” He turned and adjusted the pink bow in his daughter’s hair. “Now, don’t you look pretty, darlin’!” he said, grinning. “Those cameras are gonna just love you!”
Willow frowned, wanting to tug the stupid bow out of her hair. She always thought that pink with her red hair made her freckles stand out and she hated her freckles!
“Come on, honey,” her father urged, stepping out of the limousine, then extending his hand to her.
What would happen if she ignored his outstretched hand? Would her father become angry with her? It was after eight o’clock and she was tired, she had school tomorrow and she really didn’t want to walk down that sidewalk because there were too many reporters ready to take a picture.
“Honey, it’s okay,” her father crooned.
Willow almost rolled her eyes. She’d been through this scene way too many times. She knew quite well that her father was only playing to the cameras. He wasn’t usually this patient with her when they were in private. In fact, if there weren’t any cameras around, her father barely even knew that she existed.
Still, her father was nothing if not persistent and Willow knew from experience that she’d never be allowed to stay in the limousine. So instead of making a fuss, she stepped out and took her father’s hand. At nine years old, she really hated this stupidity. She felt awkward and silly in front of the photographers and knew that pink was the absolute worst color on her!
As soon as her feet hit the sidewalk, the cameras flashed, blinding her and she squeezed her father’s hand, leaning into him because she couldn’t see where to walk. The cameras would catch that gesture, loving her “shy” reaction as she leaned against her handsome, father’s side and Jimmy Mills would smile benevolently down at her. Then interviewed the next day, Willow knew that her father would chuckle softly, telling the reporter that his daughter’s shyness was “adorable”. He’d talk about how much he loved his little girl and how pretty she was, how “his little Willow” loved going out to the fancy restaurants with him and seeing a bit of the exciting night life.
Lies, Willow thought as she followed her father through the doors to…she had no idea what restaurant this was. Jimmy never bothered to give her details, most likely because he didn’t know them himself. This whole situation had been set up by his public relations person – probably because Jimmy had been photographed smooshed between two women at a strip club last weekend, Willow thought with resentment. Yeah, Willow read the newspapers and understood what was going on. If she was ever confused about any of her father’s “peccadillos”, then the mean kids at her school would explain the situation to her. The others loved telling her all about her father’s numerous scandals.
Thankfully, the walk from the limousine to the restaurant wasn’t very long, although Jimmy loved to stop and answer questions from the reporters, so the trek wasn’t as short as it might have been.
Still, once inside, Jimmy had better things to do than hang out with his daughter. The staff at this restaurant understood the routine as well and Willow was led to the best table in the place. Alone. Alone, because Jimmy needed to say hello to “just one more person”.
“Good evening, Miss,” the waiter greeted her with a formal bow and a twinkle in his eye, handing her a menu.
Willow grinned, excited to see that it was Barney, one of her favorite waiters. “Hi Barney!” she replied, smiling up at the man.
The waiter bowed his head slightly. “How are you today, Ms. Mills?”
Playing along, Willow tilted her head with what she considered a regal acknowledgement of the waiter. The effect was ruined with her giggle though.
Barney chuckled, winking at her. “Should I go ahead and put in your special order?” he asked.
Willow looked over towards her father. He hadn’t made it up the stairs yet. Turning back to Barney, she nodded. “Thanks, Barney. The usual.”
The man’s eyes lifted, looking over at the famous country music singer who was doing the rounds of all of the tables, taking pictures with the other restaurant patrons, laughing, buying a round of drinks for one table after another…completely forgetting that his daughter was sitting at a table alone.
Barney pulled his disgusted gaze back to Willow, nodding with formality. “One special, coming up!” and he bowed slightly before moving off to put her order in with the chef.
Willow looked around and finally located her father. He was almost halfway around the room, working it like the star that he was.
Sighing, Willow sat back in her chair, covering her yawn as she waited for her special hamburger to arrive. Barney knew to put an extra slice of cheese on it, just the way she liked it.
Cooper shifted impatiently in his chair, looking outside at the sunshine, then up at the board where the teacher was discussing…whatever! He’d figured out derivatives a while ago, so this lecture was a waste of his time.
“Are we boring you, Mr. Anderson?” the teacher called out.
Cooper shifted his gaze from outside to the teacher, then shrugged. “Yes.”
The teacher huffed for a moment, then stepped to the side. “Perhaps you’d like to demonstrate this problem, then,” and he extended the chalk.
Cooper stared at the man for a moment, knowing that the teacher thought the problem was difficult. “Fine,” he grumbled, then stood up and walked to the front of the class. He was fifteen years old compared to the rest of the class who were either nineteen or twenty. His grandmother picked him up from the high school every afternoon and drove him here to the college campus for math class, since Cooper had surpassed the high school math teachers’ curriculum last year.
Cooper looked at the equation, then started writing – even erasing the teacher’s error and correcting it as he moved across and down the board, writing out the steps of the equation. When he was done, he put the chalk back on the small shelf, dusted off his hands, then headed back to his seat. That equation hadn’t even been a challenge, he thought with irritation.
The teacher stared at the work, his mouth hanging open. After a long moment, the man adjusted his glasses, then nodded…acting as if there’d been no doubt in his mind that Cooper would be able to handle the problem. “Exactly right,” he grumbled. A moment later, he stepped towards the board and explained the steps for the rest of the class while Cooper moved his gaze back outside.