Finding a table big enough for five or six people suited LeAnne just fine. Nothing too intimate. She didn’t want Will staring her down with those cold, judgmental eyes. Laying her purse and cup down, she slid into her chair. A burst of laughter across the room amongst a cluster of couches drew her attention to a group of women who all seemed to be in various stages of knitting something. Someone had shared a good joke. LeAnne envied their light-hearted banter. Then her gaze fell upon an older gentleman at a small table the other side of the pillar from them, and her heart flipped when she realized it was her father. He was looking back at her, his hands wrapped around a cup of coffee. Clumsily, she grabbed her purse, dropped it, picked it up, banged her elbow on the underside of the table, sloshing her chai. Get a grip, LeAnne, calm down. She flicked a meek smile toward her father, took a deep breath and moved slowly, casually, to his table. As she slid into the chair opposite his, he quietly offered up his napkin.
“Thanks,” LeAnne said, wiping her wet fingers, “Hi, Dad.”
“Hello, LeAnne,” Will tugged one side of his mouth up slightly, snugging it around a toothpick. This was a characteristic gesture she knew well from childhood. He would talk around it, she remembered, moving it from one side of his mouth to the other with his tongue. More communication could be conveyed with that animated stick of wood between his teeth than ever came out in actual words. Sometimes she could read his thoughts entirely by watching the angle and progress of the toothpick.
“Sorry I’m late, Dad,” LeAnne stammered, “traffic was really...”
Will cut her off in mid-sentence with a voice so low and soft, she almost didn’t recognize it as his. “It’s okay, LeAnne,” he began, “I needed the time to sort things out in my head.” His hands rotated his coffee cup around and around slowly as he talked, like a gear wheel in an old clock, carefully marking the progress of the minutes of his life. “I hope this is okay,” he said, glancing over his shoulder and around the room, “I mean, it’s kinda noisy, but close to where you can get home to Dayna when you need to...”
LeAnne reassured Will this was one of her favorite spots, it would do just fine. Her heart was pounding so hard he must’ve been able to hear it, she thought. Damn, she wished he wasn’t being so polite, it really was making her tense. But then, Dad never was one to come off as anything but polite. Mostly. It was the toothpick that usually spoke volumes, wasn’t it? Tooth pick semaphore, sending coded intentions.
“Well, let me just jump right into it, then,” Will continued. “As I told you on the phone, there’s a bit of a medical concern. Been having some pains for awhile, now, and my doc’s been pushing me to have a colonoscopy. I hate those things. Last one, five years ago, I swore would be my last. Anyway, I did, and they found something I guess they didn’t like the looks of. Snipped some and now we’re waiting for the lab results. Won’t know til Friday.” Will looked at his fingers, and they looked back at him. The toothpick flicked from one side of his mouth to the other, then back again in rapid succession.