Off Limits

By: Lauren Landish


Regardless of the reason for his thoughts, Daddy didn't say anything as Brittany corrected me for the tenth time that night. At least I didn't have a stepbrother or stepsister to go along with the whole deal, a sibling who would know all of the rules that I didn't—or did know but didn't want to follow. There was nobody my age, at least, to give me the hairy eyeball. That would have been too much.

"Abigail, you must learn the most basic lesson. In public, you’re always being watched, and you must always be watching as well," Brittany whispered, continuing her lesson. "For example, did you notice that Henrietta DeKalb has already drunk four glasses of wine during her husband's speech?"

Henrietta DeKalb, wife of Gregory DeKalb, was one of Brittany's frequent points of observation. There seemed to be some sort of long-term animosity between the women, but I never quite understood what it was. For all I knew, it stretched back generations. That was the way things ran in this level of society. Still, for all of Brittany's pointed commentary, I didn't really care if Henrietta was sucking down Old English Malt Liquor straight from the bottle, or if she was primly sipping Darjeeling from a china cup. I just didn't want to be there.

Unfortunately for me, Daddy's desire to be accepted into the upper crust of central Georgia society meant I had to endure such events on a much more frequent basis than I'd have liked. This night, we got to listen as Greg DeKalb gave a campaign speech in front of the *ahem* fraternal club that both he and Daddy now belonged to. Daddy had been accepted only after his marriage to Brittany. Greg was running for Governor in the next election, and he was certainly hitting up his cronies at the club for funds. While I saw nothing wrong with trying to get money from his friends, the dog and pony show that was this speech and dinner just dragged on my nerves. Seriously, why not just go around the golf course while shooting a round and ask for support? At least then I wouldn't have to sit through it.

Thankfully, Greg's speech went on for just another few minutes before he wrapped it up, and the two hundred dollar per plate dinner started. I glanced at the ornate grandfather clock against the wall near where we were sitting, stifling a curse that certainly would have earned another rebuke from Brittany. Once the lights rose, I turned to Daddy, pointedly ignoring her. "Daddy, I understand that this is something you wanted to do, but would you mind if I go?"

"Go where, honey?" Daddy asked, reaching for his knife. Two hundred dollars was a lot of money for a steak dinner, and inwardly, I was thinking that for the price of just one of the three plates Daddy had paid for, he and I could have had a lot more fun doing something else. "Dinner just started, and if you go now, you'll miss dessert. It's supposed to be the famous bourbon vanilla pudding. Since you're over twenty-one now, I don't think it'd be too bad if you had some."

I looked down at my steak, which despite the price tag looked like something I could have gotten at Outback, and tried not to push it away. It's not that I have anything against a good steak. In fact, I'll eat just about any meat you put in front of me, but that night, I didn't want to even touch it. What I wanted to do was get out of that club.

Daddy's marriage to Brittany had certainly solved some problems for him, and I gave him credit. He didn't let it change who he was at the core. But there were still issues that I didn't like. First of all, it made Daddy even more desperate to be accepted in this upper class of Atlanta society, and as anyone who's been to high school in the past generation can tell you, the worst way to be accepted was to act desperate for acceptance. The society types begrudged Daddy a seat at their table, partly because of Brittany's connections but also because of his money. He'd built so many houses and owned enough housing subdivisions that he could have ignored them, but he didn't, probably because of his roots in the working class. He wanted to show them up and at the same time force them to accept him after they'd ignored him for so long.

But, the biggest problem I had with Daddy's marriage to Brittany was that it made his overprotective streak even more stifling. When Mom and my sister, Connie, had been killed, Daddy and I only had each other. For eight years, Daddy protected and cared for me, and I was the only girl in his life. I was all he needed, and he was all I needed. We took care of each other, like the times I'd make Kraft mac & cheese with cubed ham on the nights that he had to be at the job site late. He'd come home to a warm meal, and I'd already fed myself and cleaned up everything but his bowl, and if I was awake, I'd be either doing my homework or watching a bit of TV like a good girl should.

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