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“Do we really need all this shit all over the coffee table?” Todd asked while inspecting whether or not the leaves were actually real. “No one has anywhere to put their drink or plate.”
She slowly stirred her mulled cider that had been brewing on the stovetop while smells of buffalo chicken dip and beef sliders emanated from the oven. After checking her Apple Watch and noticing that her parents would be arriving in no time, she disregarded Todd’s question in favor of sticking a thermometer into the tenderloin she started that morning.
Todd lifted the remote from the table while sipping his beer. He knew he had to sacrifice the game he really wanted to watch in favor of the game Mr. Fitzpatrick wanted to watch, his Yale Bulldogs against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.
“I can’t believe this is even on television,” Todd thought to himself while arduously trying to search their cable menu for the game. “Wait, is it even on television?”
“Todd!” she called from the kitchen. “Mom and Dad will be here in just a few minutes, they’re valeting at the restaurant across the street and then coming up. Are you all washed up?”
“That’s one way to put it,” he thought, only to actually answer, “Yep, anything I can help you with in the meantime?”
Her finger touched her chin, pondering what her father would want to drink. “Why don’t you get one of those big ice cubes and put it in a glass – I’m sure he’ll bring a bottle of scotch for you two.”
Todd stood up from the couch and went to their bar cart where the nice crystal glasses sat (but were never actually used unless Todd and John had already tied one on). Todd personally hated the large ice cubes, but he had received the mold for Christmas from his mom so he felt obligated to put them to good use.
A knock came to the door. It scared Todd more than it should’ve.
“Well that was quick!” she exclaimed while wiping her hands on her apron. Cracking the door to reveal her mother holding a bottle of wine and her dad holding the scotch she’d foreshadowed, she let out a, “Mom! Dad! So good to see you!”
Todd lumbered toward the door and gave her mom a one-armed hug. He didn’t know what to do with the glass he was preparing, so before extending his hand to shake Mr. Fitzpatrick’s, he set it down on their island.
“Good to see you, old boy,” Mr. Fitzpatrick told Todd while shaking with one hand, the other hand on his shoulder. “Now when’s the game start?”
Todd wondered if Mr. Fitzpatrick actually wanted to watch the game. Hell, Todd wasn’t even sold he was a football fan for that matter. But today obviously wasn’t about watching football or the Yale Bulldogs. It was about spending time with her parents and making them happy.
She had planned this occasion a few weeks in advance. With John and Caroline at a wedding that they weren’t invited to, she and Todd considered it the perfect time to invite her parents into the city to get some quality time in. Of course, they weren’t going to admit that all of her friends were at an old sorority sister’s wedding. That would simply be embarrassing.
“It smells phenomenal in here, dear,” Mrs. Fitzpatrick remarked while looking for a corkscrew. “What have you whipped up?”
Bashfully, she attempted to downplay what she had spent the majority of her morning and night before cooking. “Ohhhh, nothing much, just some game day snacks.”
“Todd, you got a glass?” Mr. Fitzpatrick requested more than asked. Todd, slightly shook, immediately grabbed the double old-fashioned glass he’d just placed the large ice cube in.
“Got you one right here, Mr. Fitpzatrick,” Todd told him while handing it over.
“Got one with drinking ice instead of this iceberg?” Mr. Fitzpatrick asked.
“Fuck,” Todd thought. “Strike one.”
“Of course,” he told him. “Right away.” Todd opened the freezer and scooped out a hefty amount of ice he’d bought from the store earlier that morning. Their ice machine produced the boat-style cubes that were terrible for cocktails. But despite all the preparation, he still felt behind the eight ball.
“I’ve got the pre-game on in the living room if you want to head over there,” Todd told him. “Let me get you a coaster and clear off some of the leaves she put on the coffee table.”
“I love the way you’ve decorated the place,” her mom remarked while Todd shuffled things around. “You truly didn’t have to go to all this trouble just for us and a little football game.”
Mr. Fitzpatrick plopped down on the couch with two fingers of scotch nearly splashing out of his glass while doing so. “It’s not merely a football game, honey, it’s Yale.”
Mrs. Fitzpatrick rolled her eyes in a true mother-daughter moment. “Dear, show me everything you’ve made.” The two huddled up into the kitchen for what Mrs. Fitzpatrick would later label as “girl talk.”
Todd didn’t want to sit directly next to his foe on the couch, so he opted for the armchair that sat up against the door that leads to their balcony.
“So how’s everything going at work, Todd? Good?” Mr. Fitzpatrick asked.
“Everything’s great,” he told him. “Numbers are up from last year, my team is outperforming all the others, and–”
With one ear on Todd and the other ear on the television, Mr. Fitzpatrick interrupted him. “Say, what time does this game start?”
Todd fake-checked his watch to offset how startled he was by being interrupted. He noted the game should start in fifteen minutes or so before asking if he could get him anything to eat. Hoping to exit the living area and dip into the kitchen for a much-needed break and general gathering of breath, Todd was sad to see what approached him – Mrs. Fitzpatrick carrying the buffalo chicken dip.
“Look what our little girl made, honey,” she said to her husband while setting it down on a folded dish towel. “Your favorite.”
Todd sat back into his chair. And for the next three-and-a-half hours, he felt shackled to it.
Time was running out, and not just in the game.
Most of the group sat emotionless watching what was a game of largely lackluster football. Outside of Mr. Fitzpatrick, there was a lot of phone checking and side conversation. Todd did his best to leave his phone face down on the table in front of him but even he had to break at certain moments and pretend to look at some work files while actually checking his ESPN app for scores.
“Come on, boys,” Mr. Fitzpatrick bellowed, now on his fourth glass of scotch. “One a quarter,” he had told Todd earlier. “Nothing more, nothing less.”
He clearly knew how to handle is scotch more than Todd. If it wasn’t for what loomed, Todd would have felt much more drunk than he did at the present moment. If anything, the half-bottle they’d polished off helped Todd attempt to muster up the confidence he needed.
“Just one field goal,” Mr. Fitzpatrick continued, not really talking to anyone. “One time.”
Todd readjusted in his chair while both of the ladies thrust forward in their seats. This was the most into the game they had looked all day, and with the sun getting ready to set, the next thirteen seconds of gameplay would decide most of their night.
“What’s the score, daddy?” she asked.
“20-21, the bad guys,” he told her without making eye contact. “God, I just don’t know how we always manage to put ourselves in this position.”
Todd attempted to echo what he said but nothing much came out.
Yale’s quarterback took a knee before calling a timeout. They had six seconds to kick the field goal and get their season off to a better start than they probably deserved. As they trotted back out onto the field, Todd knew the next hour would end in one of two ways – victory cigars on the porch, or dinner filled with angry silence and uncomfortable glances.
“Come on,” Todd remarked out of nowhere.
Seeing what Todd knew was the best case scenario, the ball was snapped and kicked directly through the uprights. Never a question. Mr. Fitzpatrick stood up and let out a, “How ’bout that? Yale Men never quit.” Todd didn’t quite know that what meant, but he celebrated nonetheless.
Todd knew that if this occasion was anything like the ones in the past, he was about to be offered a cigar from the humidor the Fitzpatricks had installed in their house two years prior. He was correct. Had Todd accepted a cigar from anyone else (read: John), he’d get a side-eye. But given it was her father, Todd knew he could accept without hesitation.
“Todd and I are going to step outside and enjoy these,” Mr. Fitzpatrick told them. “And then we can head to dinner.”
Mr. Fitzpatrick had pre-cut the cigars as if he’d known Yale was going to pull out the victory. “Never a doubt,” he told Todd. “Never a doubt.”
Todd gulped while attempting to light his Montecristo No. 3.
“Need any help there?” Mr. Fitzpatrick laughed. This only amplified Todd’s nerves. Strike two.
“No no, I’ve got it,” he assured him. “This damn wind.”
After finally getting it to light, Todd took a big draw and looked out over the city. Both stood with their elbows on the rail. The temperature had gone from being just at 70 throughout the day to somewhere in the mid-50s. It was chilly, but not enough for Mr. Fitzpatrick to go inside and get his Barbour.
Todd knew he had about 18 to 20 minutes to execute before they’d return inside and get an Uber for dinner. The silence was enjoyed by Mr. Fitzpatrick but seemed deafening to Todd.
“You know,” he lead, “Mr. Fitzpatrick, I’ve been dating your daughter for a few years now.”
He raised a brow and looked over to Todd. It was as though he knew what was coming, which he probably did. In fact, it was entirely possible he’d been waiting for this conversation to happen for months. But letting on as much wouldn’t be fun for him. After all, he only had one daughter. He had to make this moment count.
Todd began to stutter. “A-a-and, you know, even though we’ve had a couple rough patches…”
“Fuck,” Todd thought. “Why would you bring up ‘rough patches’ when you’re asking for her father’s blessing? That’s like bringing up someone’s ex-girlfriend during a best man speech.”
“…sorry, sorry,” Todd apologized while gathering himself. “What I’m trying to say is, I’m really in love with her.”
Mr. Fitzpatrick put his hand on Todd’s shoulder much like he’d done earlier in the day. Todd’s eyes looked inside to see if there was an audience, but he simply saw two women he loved laughing over a glass of wine.
“I know this may not be the best time, but it’s better than waiting,” Todd kept stuttering. “But I was hoping to get your blessing to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.” .