Flicking his wrist and hence his fishing rod, Connor saw the hook, with its colourful little feathers, disappear under the surface. The bait remained floating on the surface.
“Who’ll catch anything first?” John asked, sitting beside him with the brim of his cap pulled almost over his eyes, and chewing thoughtfully on a straw.
“We never catch anything at all, John,” Connor laughed, squinting his eyes from the gleaming sunset as he looked at the man beside him.
“I was joking, son,” John answered, his roaring laughter surely scaring away whatever fish there was in the lake. “We are just a couple of losers sitting here in dead silence with our fishing rods.”
Connors smiled, flicking his wrist again, making the bait move a bit. He liked John; he was a retired fireman with a passion for fishing, just like himself. And soon he would be his father-in-law as well. Connor would be marrying Adrienne, John’s youngest daughter, in just a few weeks from now.
John seemed to know what Connor was thinking.
“Are you nervous, Connor?” he asked casually, starting to work his bait back, before flicking his wrist and sending it out in the water again. The straw was still resting in the right corner of his mouth.
“Of course not,” Connor answered self-assured, before adding with a loving tone in his voice; “I love Adrienne very much. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her.”
From the corner of his eyes he could see John scratching his grey beard, smiling.
“That’s good to hear,” he said, looking over at his future son-in-law. The hot-red sun was throwing rays of light on his golden hair and tanned face, making him look like an illuminated angel with a fishing rod. He watched him wave his hand a bit before smashing a mosquito forcefully against his thigh. He was a nice-looking guy, apparently perfect for his daughter.
“I understand you gave in to my daughter’s wish about the big wedding,” John continued. The question made Connor snort with amusement.
“I didn’t exactly give in…” he began.
“Adrienne can be very persuasive,” the older man cut in, viewing his fishing rod peacefully for a moment. “And as her father, I know that,” he added, laughing shortly.
Connor cast an eye on him, the left corner of his mouth pulled up in a curious smile.
John continued talking about his daughter.
“She was the youngest of three, you know, some difference in age between her and her two older sisters. Very persistent. Stubborn. Got her will very easily. She was a little, spoiled angel – it was easy to give away when you saw her big brown, pleading eyes and that little strawberry-red pout. You could buy her almost anything.” He shook his head from the memory, smiling.
Connor had never known this about his fiancée. That is, he knew that she was the youngest, and sometimes the youngest simply is the most loved. And he knew that he had gladly agreed on anything she’d proposed during the wedding preparations, and it was because he loved her, but it wasn’t like she had overrun him. Besides, he consciously left it to Adrienne and her mother when it came to organizing this wedding – it was girl-stuff, nothing for him anyway.
But she’d never told him she used to be such a spoiled child.
“She didn’t overrun me, though,” he said to John, who laughed.
“Of course not,” he replied, “how could my little daughter possibly overrun a lawyer?”
“Well, looking like that, she could overrun anybody,” Connor proclaimed, getting that familiar warm feeling in his stomach while thinking about his future wife’s dark, wavy hair, her almond-shaped, brown eyes and her slender, petite figure. He could hardly wait ‘till the day of their wedding came, and he could see her in church, dressed in that beautiful wedding dress she had been so excited about all along.
And then they’d spend the rest of their lives together, maybe even getting two or three children, living in suburbia.
“I noticed that on her engagement-ring,” John suddenly said, interrupting Connor and his dreamy, romantic thoughts.
“What?” he said, not grasping the point immediately.
“Her ring,” John repeated patiently, “the one you bought her.”
“Adrienne never said she wanted an expensive ring,” Connor said, slightly surprised. “I just thought she deserved it.”
John roared once more with laughter while working back his bait before flicking it out again.
“Don’t you think she’s gotten enough?” he grinned.
“Now we’re throwing her this goddamn huge wedding, Connor – you don’t need to spill all your money.”
Connor felt a bit huffy at this statement.
“Maybe she’s gotten more than she deserves from you and Paula, but not from me. She’s about to be my wife, I’d love to spend my money on her.”
John seemed to take back whatever he had said.
“Sure, sure – sorry about that, son,” he replied, holding his hand up as though requesting some kind of peace, “all I’m saying is…don’t give in too easily on her. As long as she understands you are willing to sacrifice your pinkie, she’ll be expecting you’ll sacrifice the very rest as well – maybe more.”
“Now that’s a bit harsh, isn’t it, John?” Connor protested, a bit offended on his fiancée’s behalf. “I mean, then…then we both obviously know your daughter in two completely different ways!”
The moment the words were out of his mouth however, he got a somewhat disturbing feeling in his chest. John looked calmly at him under the brim of his green cap, slightly moving his fishing rod, thinking exactly what he was thinking himself.
Maybe we do, Connor, his eyes said, maybe we do.
Then his mouth said something else. “Who do you think knows Adrienne the best?” the lips asked, the straw hanging from them dangling as they moved. “Me and her mother, whom have followed the girl her whole life, or you, who have been a part of her life for merely six-seven months?”
John said this without sounding threatening or anything – he simply proposed a question.
Connor started to feel slightly uncomfortable. He had never heard John talk about Adrienne this way; it was like he was criticising her, but at the same time, Connor thought that he must be right; after all, he was her father. He didn’t want to believe him, but he was her father. He felt a bit scared now. And what was worse, he felt insecure. About the wedding.
He turned to look at the bait, floating on the surface of the lake. He couldn’t see the hook and its feathers; they were hidden under the surface. He could only see what was on the surface. The bait, in other words. Beside him, John had fallen silent, concentrating on the flicking of his wrist. His question, however, was still hovering in the air between them. Connor was unable to get rid of the uneasy feeling in his chest – it was now spreading to his stomach and throat, pushing his words.
“Are you saying I shouldn’t marry her?” he said, before he managed to prevent himself. He felt tiny pearls of sweat trickle into sight on his forehead. His heart was beating very, very fast.
John turned his head to look at him. His face was expressionless.
“No, Connor,” he said, “my daughter chose a very good fellow indeed when she came home with you – I remember what I thought when I saw you for the first time. I thought, Adrienne – here you’ve found yourself a steady, true guy. Good girl. I’d love to take him fishing.”
He laughed a bit to himself. Connor, on the other hand, was starting to get annoyed.
“Cut it, John,” he barked. “Do you want me to marry her or not?”
John’s eyes darkened, his smile faded, and he turned back to watching the nearly fading sun. The woods around them turned more and more grey.
“Being able to think twice is a good thing. Just be aware of all the things you actually don’t know,” he said.
Connor’s face had turned pale, and in the fading sunset, it had taken on a colour of greenish grey.
“Uhm… John, I’m…I’m not feeling very well…” he stuttered, putting his fishing rod down on the ground, getting slowly up.
“Why – do you want me to follow you back?” John asked, taking the straw out of his mouth, concerned.
Connor shook his head, pale as ever.
“No, don’t bother, I can…I can find my way back to…to my car.” He was talking as though he was being sick any minute. He bent down, wanting to pack up his fishing equipment.
“Oh, don’t bother doing that, son,” John said, waving his hand. Connor slowly straightened his back.
“Leave it. I’ll take it back home with me; you’ll get it back this evening. You just go ahead, Connor.”
Connor looked at him for a few seconds, before he nodded.
“Okay then,” he said, before he turned sharply and disappeared into the bushes.
John turned his face exactly in time to see the bait attached to Connor’s abandoned hook and fishing rod disappear under the surface with a sharp and sudden ‘plop!’
“Well, what do you know,” he said to himself, scratching his beard, his mouth pulling up in a strange, little smile.
“Going down,” he murmured, “with bait and everything.”