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Cowboy Daddy
Author: Daisy March








Alison threw her suitcase onto her bed, suppressing a cry of anger, her fists curling into tight balls of rage.

Thrown out of her own home. Again.

Her father smiled at her from her bedroom doorway. “It’s not that bad,” he said. It’s only for a couple of days.”

She scowled back at him. “And where am I supposed to go?” She yanked open the top drawer of the chest, pulling out underwear, tossing it onto the bed. “Don’t I get any say in this?”

“Go make some friends. I had loads of friends at your age. I want you to have friends. I’d love it if you had some friends, not just that sketchbook of yours.”

She wanted to keep her mouth shut. She wanted to show him she had control of her temper, that he couldn’t goad her into an argument.

“I’m not you, Dad,” she managed through gritted teeth. “I don’t need anyone in my life. I’m happy on my own. In my house.”

She resumed rummaging in the drawer.

“It’s not your house though, is it? It’s my house that I paid for and that means my rules. If I want you gone for the weekend, you go. Don’t push me or I might just throw you out for good. Might do you some good.

“About time you grew up a bit. By your age, I was signed up and halfway through bootcamp and what are you doing? Moping around drawing bullshit clothes that will never sell.”

Alison yanked her hand from the drawer so she could point an accusing finger at him. A thong hung from her outstretched digit, ruining the impression she was trying to make.

She snatched the offending panties away with her free hand, tossing them behind her with a shriek of rage. “You can’t have it both ways, Dad. You don’t want me having boyfriends because I’m too young.

“There’s an adult filter on the Internet so nothing potentially shocking reaches my delicate little eyes. I can’t even have candy in the house in case it rots my teeth. Can’t sunbathe in the backyard in case the neighbors see my tits. Yes, Dad. I have tits. I’m not a kid anymore even if I’m apparently the only twenty-one year old in the world with a 9 pm curfew.”

“Is that what this is about? Curfew? It’s not like you have anywhere to go at night is it?”

“No, Dad. It’s not about curfew. It’s about the fact that whenever you get yourself a new girlfriend, I’m expected to go stay in a hotel so you two can rock the casbah together.”

“Rock the casbah? You know you sound like your mother when you talk like that.”

Alison winced.

“Listen.” Her father paused. “I know you miss your mother and I do too but it’s time to move on. It’s been ten years. I’m allowed to have girlfriends over from time to time.”

“Every weekend?”

“You’re exaggerating. It’s not every weekend.”

Alison pulled open the next drawer down, shaking her head as she did so. “Why can’t you go stay at her house so I don’t have to keep doing this?”

“You get to stay at luxury hotels and I pay the bill. How many twenty-one year olds get to do that? All the room service you want.”

“I don’t want room service.”

“What about a ranch then? Vacation in the country? Maybe a bit of horse riding? You always liked horses, didn’t you? Money’s no object. Spend as much as you like. My treat.”

She started shoving things into the suitcase. “This isn’t about the money, Dad. It’s about the fact that you’re always the same. You told me when I finished college I could stay at home as long as I wanted while I got the business going. Remember?”

Alison thought back to before college. That was the last time she saw Marcus, the last time she got drunk. Never again. Told her father’s best friend she had a crush on him and off her went, running into the distance without looking back.

The entire time she was at college, she tried to erase that memory. She thought she’d managed it but here it was, popping up unwanted like a weed in the garden.

Her father waved her way. “Earth to Alison. Look, you’ve not made a single sale, and it’s been nearly a year since you graduated.” He walked over to her desk, looking down at the piles of artwork she’d put together. “Why would an adult want clothes like this? Maybe time to get a proper job soon, huh? Dreams are good, in a way, but they’re not for everyone. Got to knuckle down sooner or later.”

“You told me I could do whatever I wanted, Dad.”

“What about staying here?” He pulled a brochure from his pocket. “Looks nice, doesn’t it?”

She looked down at the cover of the brochure. Walker Ranch. On the edge of Cypress Creek.

“Give them a ring,” he said, passing her his credit card. “Book yourself in for a couple of nights. Do this for me, Alison, and I’ll be eternally grateful,” he said, already heading for the door.

“Thank you so much for this,” he added, already getting his cellphone out. “Cathy, we’re on,” he said into it a second later. “Yep whole place to ourselves. Bring the…”

Alison shut the door on the conversation, shuddering to herself. If she went her entire life without finding out the end of that sentence, she’d die happy.

It didn’t take long to pack the rest of her things. She’d done it four times already in the last two months. Shipped off to a hotel for the weekend so her father could, “entertain his ladyfriend,” as he put it.

The last thing to go in the suitcase was her stuffed turtle. Imaginatively named Turty, he had been her constant companion her entire life.

There was a photo somewhere of her as a newborn, Turty next to her in the cot, looking like he was guarding her. Or about to eat her.

A gift from her mother. Sandra’s only remaining connection to her daughter. She’d hugged Turty tight at the funeral until her father had told her to put him away, that she was embarrassing herself by hugging it like she was a baby.

“You’ll be all right,” she said to Turty as she reverently placed him on top of her clothes.

She made the call to book her room. “Two nights,” the voice on the other end said. “And how will you be paying?”

She gave her father’s card details, an idea coming to her as she did so.

Once she was done on the phone, she reopened her suitcase, adding her secret sticker album and coloring book to section with the sketchbook and pencils.

That done, she headed out to her car and set off. She didn’t say goodbye. Her father was busy in his bedroom. She didn’t want to know what he was doing.

It was getting dark by the time she drove across the county border.

Spotting a scenic viewpoint sign, she pulled off the mountain road, stopping the engine, leaving her headlights illuminated.

She stepped out of the car, making sure to remain in the light. It was the country. There could be anyone out there in the darkness.

She walked to the viewpoint. It overlooked a deep valley. Down in the bottom a river ran in bends and twists, the sound of tinkling water reaching her, making her need to pee.

Trees coated the mountainsides, snow dusting the caps far above her. The view was breathtaking in the dying light. A trail ran out from the parking lot and she took a stroll along it, trying to clear her head.

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