opportunities lost, opportunities found by phoenix.writing

7 Nov

Hank knew her because she looked exactly like her mother with the exception of her eyes.  That first moment was a shock, though he couldn’t work out why, afterwards.  Francis had always been extremely controlling, and when she had realised that her ambition far outstripped his own, that had been the end of their relationship.

The fact that she had hidden a child from him was typical, really, and a good indication of why they would never have worked as a couple.  Looking back, he realised that almost all of his heartache had been unwarranted.  It had hurt at the time, sure; he had not been at all sanguine about being dropped like a hot potato—he thought that was the term for it nowadays—but she had made him miserable, and she would have crushed the life right out of him if he had stayed with her.

She had taught him several valuable things about himself, though, not the least of which was the fact that his career wasn’t making him happy.  That had been the last straw for her, his announcement that he was quitting, but it was the best thing for him.

He wasn’t making anywhere near six figures anymore, but he didn’t need six figures to support his lifestyle.  He had shifted through a few different jobs, ones that were low stress, ones that he had always been interested in trying.  Being a janitor certainly wasn’t glamorous, but it kept him busy during the day without giving him so many problems that he didn’t sleep at night.

Francis had never understood the value of relaxing, of taking it easy.  Looking at their daughter, his only regret was that he hadn’t been there to try to instil a few more of his new values.  She looked as picture-perfect as her mother always had, the reason that he had fallen in love with Francis in the first place.  She had been so beautiful and so poised with the same golden blonde hair.  He saw that the style had changed very little when it came to the neatly pulled back in a bun look.  She was lucky that she had inherited her mother’s small, straight nose and pointed chin rather than inheriting his larger features.  But it was those eyes, the bright green eyes that were his rather than her mother’s and which made him certain that he was looking at his child and not that of another man.

He wondered what she would think of him as a father.  Would she be as ultimately disappointed in him as her mother had been?  If she had been raised up in her mother’s image as he could only assume from her current demeanour, he was afraid that she would be, and he didn’t want to go through that again.  He was fifty-eight years old, and she was young and beautiful, and she might not want to have anything to do with him, might look at him with disdain, and so he was sure it was not worth it.

He was very careful, though he never considered quitting his job or seeing if he could be transferred to another building.  He had basically decided that it was meant to be if he happened to end up working in the apartment building where his daughter lived.  What were the chances in a city this size, after all?

It meant that he got to see her, and he started rearranging his cleaning schedule so that he would be in the lobby at eight ten every morning when she left for work.  She passed by like clockwork, just like her mother.  She almost always smiled at him, though, which was more than Francis would have done for someone in his position.   That didn’t mean anything for certain, though, didn’t mean that she would suddenly want a father sprung upon her. No, no, he’d be content with simply watching, keeping an eye on her as best he could, though it was too little, too late for anything resembling fatherly duties.

He stopped seeing her everyday and started to worry, but then came the morning where she left at eight twenty-two with a young man, and Hank let out a deep sigh of relief.  She’d met someone, someone who could make her twelve minutes late without the world coming to an end, and he was so happy that he didn’t even find himself worrying too much about who this boy was.  As long as he made Hank’s baby girl happy, he didn’t really care about anything else.

He wondered what sort of inquisition Francis had put the poor man through.

It must have been the relief that made him sloppy.  She passed through the lobby the next morning—alone again—and smiled at him as she always did, and he didn’t even think about it.

“Good morning, Miss Nichols.”

She stopped, turned, a faint frown in those bright green eyes.  “How do you know my name?”

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We’ve met Karen before in From a Distance and Face-to-Face.

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