‘Maggiano’s’ by Karen Alyse Billings

soft cartel may 2018

My sister and I always go to Maggiano’s for her birthday. She always gets the Crispy Pepperoni Risotto Bites and I always get the Mozzarella Marinara. I smile as I glance at the clock. 6:53 PM. She won’t be here until precisely 7:00 PM because she is always exactly on time—never early, never late. I sit in our usual corner of the restaurant, smiling. I have already ordered for us and have made arrangements that my sister is totally unaware of. I got here early so I could tell the waiter about my special plans for her.

Ever since we were young, Lacy has wanted to try alcohol—specifically the Once Upon a Vine Sauvignon Blanc—obviously for the novelty purposes, but also because it’s the type of wine our father had with his Italian food—that’s also why we go to Maggiano’s. Lacy might think I don’t know, but she has never been good at hiding things from me—her crushes, her diary, her chocolate, and her love for our father that she feels she has to hide from mom and me. Our father may not have always been the nicest man, but he was still our father.

I remember his scent—musky as though he was always outdoors. Long hair, cradling his face, but stopping before becoming too long—pitch black. When I was younger, I often wondered if there were little monsters hiding in it—you’d never know without running your hands through it to find them. He always let me and would pretend like there were, making up these little monster voices for me. Dad had known how to have fun.

One day we walked out of the house to welcome him home as he drove up the driveway after work, Lacy was in 2nd grade, I was in 6th.

“Daddy!” Lacy said, jumping up and down with her arms stretched out.

I smiled, well at least he came home.

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