“Sweetheart, I’d like you to meet Dana McGarry. Dana, my daughter, Amanda.”
“I’m so happy to meet you,” Dana said as she walked towards them and held out her hand. “I was sorry to hear about your delayed flight.”
“Nice to meet you,” Amanda said, taking Dana’s hand and looking back at her father. “It’s okay. We’re used to it, right, Dad? No on-time flights at LaGuardia.”
“Only one more to go and you’ll be home for the summer.”
“Speaking of summer,” Amanda said, “Mom made me promise I’d talk to you about staying here when I’m not in Muttontown. She’s going to Italy for a couple of weeks before the Classic, and she wants you to be around.”
“Sure, but we can talk about that later. Why don’t you put your bag in your room and settle in. I’ll have dinner ready in half an hour.”
“What?” Amanda said with a pained expression on her face. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Tell me you didn’t cook.”
“I didn’t cook,” Mark said with a laugh, looking at Dana. “That wouldn’t be the best way to impress our guest.”
“Dad attempted to make pancakes one morning when we were in the middle of a blizzard, and we used them as hockey pucks,” Amanda said.
“You’ll be happy to know,” Mark continued, “that Sal sent over a salad and your favorite baked ziti when I told him we couldn’t make the eight o’clock reservation. They were packed for the rest of the night.”
“Good,” Amanda said. “I’m starved.”
Amanda looked at Dana as she grabbed her luggage and disappeared down the hallway.
Dana sat on the couch in the living room, elbows resting on her knees, her head cradled in the palms of her upraised hands.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Mark said.
“Amanda was fine. I’m the one feeling awkward. Dating someone’s father is a role that I never envisioned. I want to get it right, but I’m not quite sure what to do. It’s one thing to get along over dinner, but do you think Amanda is ready for you to have someone in your life?”
Mark sat beside Dana and took her right hand in his. “Honey, we have to take one day at a time. You’re brand new in her world right now, and it’s normal that she be tentative and a little jealous. I’m her father, and she’s always wanted me all for herself. Plus she’s an only child, so the bond she has with me and her mother is very strong. She may need time to understand you’re not going to interfere with my relationship with her. She’s also still a moody teen, so don’t be upset if she appears unfriendly at times.”
“I’ll be sensitive to her feelings, Mark. As a daughter who adores her father, I can relate. I know it can’t be easy.”
“Here’s my advice. Stop worrying about what she’s thinking. Just be yourself. There’s such a thing as trying too hard.”
Dana cocked her head towards Mark. “So true. I’ll try to be a little more relaxed.”
“That’s really all you can do. I’ve got to check on dinner, so just sit back and let the evening unfold.”
• • •
Dana, Mark, and Amanda sat down to dinner in the dining area by the casement windows, the city lights sparkling in the distance beyond the park.
“What courses are you studying at Cornell?” Dana asked. “Your dad says you’re in the veterinary medicine program.”
“ Biology, zoology, and animal physiology. I’m minoring in French.”
“What a lovely diversion. Are you fluent?”
“Not quite, but I held my own when we were in France last summer, right Dad?”
“You did better than that. I thought I was traveling with a native.”
“Maybe we can go to Quercy for a few days after the Classic,” Amanda said, focusing all her attention on her father. “You said you wanted to go there.”
“I would like to go there,” Mark said tuning to Dana. “It’s the land of truffles and foie gras. Historic inns along the Dordogne River. Beautiful countryside for riding and dining.”
Interrupting, Amanda said, “Mom wants—”
“And speaking of riding,” Mark continued, “Dana is starting lessons tomorrow with Larry.”
Amanda rested her fork on her plate and stared at her father. The look on her face was that of disbelief. “Claremont?”
“Where else?” her father said with a laugh. “I don’t think she’s ready for show-jumping lessons with Paul, but I think she’ll quickly pick up the basics. You know, Dana’s also a very good tennis player. I think you’re well-matched.”
Amanda smiled thinly and said nothing in response. Her tone became subdued for the rest of the meal, and she asked to be excused before dessert.
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