"God, where is he?!" Fiona Doyle checked her phone for what seemed like the hundredth time. "He was so insistent on meeting you ASAP you'd think he'd at least be on time!"
The 16-year-old was sitting in the food court at the local mall with her new boyfriend, Kevin. Fiona's parents were divorced, and this week was a Mom's house week. However, upon finding out that his only daughter had a boyfriend, Fiona's father, who simply went by their last name "Doyle," was insistent on meeting his little girl's beau as soon as possible.
"I'm sure he'll be here soon, babe," Kevin reached out and begin to stroke Fiona's hand. He then leaned in for a kiss, and Fiona did the same.
"Hi, Fifi! Sorry I'm late," Fiona jumped at the sound of the unmistakable Irish brogue.
"Hi Dad," Fiona could feel her face turn as red as her cherry Icee upon hearing her father use her childhood nickname. She stood up and gave Doyle a hug and quickly sat back down.
"Wow, Fiona – you didn't tell me your dad was from Scotland!" Kevin said excitedly.
"He's Irish," Fiona corrected quickly, before Dad could.
Kevin shrugged sheepishly. He turned to Doyle. "Sorry. Nice to meet you Mr. um Fiona's dad."
"That's all right. You can just call me Doyle," Doyle shook the young man's hand. "Pleasure to meet you, Charles!"
Fiona's face got red again. "It's Kevin, Dad," she corrected.
"Sorry, my mistake," Doyle turned to Kevin.
"Mistake my ass," Fiona thought to herself. The text she had sent her dad had clearly said Kevin. He was definitely just trying to be a jerk. But of course, the last thing she wanted to do was start an argument and get reprimanded in front of Kevin.
"It's cool," Kevin shrugged.
"So, what have you two cool kids been up to?" Doyle asked.
"Oh my God, Dad. Just stop," Fiona thought, nearly yelling it at him.
"Not much," Kevin answered. "Before you got here, we saw a movie and then got some Icees."
"Oh, what movie did you see?" Doyle asked.
"Wreck-It-Ralph," Kevin replied.
"How was it?" Doyle asked, taking Fiona's Icee from out in front of her and taking a sip.
"Dad!" Fiona cried. "I was drinking that!"
"That doesn't answer my question, sweetheart," Doyle set the Icee back in front of Fiona.
"Umm…pretty good," Kevin answered. "What did you think, babe?"
Fiona could see her father tense up a bit at hearing Kevin call her babe.
"I really liked it," she replied quickly. "We should watch it together sometime, Dad."
"So, you really sat there through the whole movie…and just watched it?" Doyle asked the couple suddenly.
"Yes, that's generally what you do at movies," Fiona didn't mean for it to come out so snarky. Where exactly was her father going with this?
"Don't sass me, Fiona Harriet," Doyle reprimanded severely. His ex-wife had always been more of the disciplinarian, but over the years Doyle had found his footing when it came to "laying down the law" with their only child.
Fiona's face turned red again. How embarrassing! Here she was being scolded like a child in front of her boyfriend. Was Dad planning on putting her in the corner too?
"It's just…when I was your guys' age, the couples in my grade usually didn't go to the movie theatre to watch movies," Doyle continued. Fiona looked at Kevin and wondered who was blushing harder in that moment.
"Umm…listen, Fiona. I just remembered I had somewhere to be. I'll text you later?" Kevin stood up.
"Sounds good," Fiona mumbled almost so quietly nobody could hear her. She watched Kevin get up and walk away.
"I hope you're happy!" Fiona glared at her father. "When I die an old maid – it will be all because of you! What the hell was that?!"
"Do not curse at me," Doyle's voice was low but severe. "Do you want me to take your phone and keep it until next week when you're at my house?"
"I don't need it, anyway," Fiona snapped back. "Kevin's never going to text me again thanks to you!" She stood up and quickly walked away.
"Fiona Doyle! Don't walk away from me! Where are you going!" Doyle called, before realizing people were staring at him. He took a few minutes to collect himself then headed off in the direction Fiona went.
He found her sitting outside the mall on a bench, quietly sobbing.
"Fifi?" Doyle said softly, putting a hand on his daughter's shoulder. Fiona quickly shrugged it off.
"Fiona – I'm so sorry," Doyle finally said after a few moments of silence. He sat down next to her.
"Why would you do that?" Fiona looked up; her eyes brimmed with tears. "That was the most humiliating moment of my life!"
"I know…I really messed up, hon," Doyle replied. "I just…I'm not used to this…this whole dating situation. God, it seems like just yesterday I was the only man in your life – you would spend all your time on my lap and you always wanted me to hold you and now –"
"Dad," Fiona interrupted. "Kevin's great but he could never like…replace you."
"Really?" Doyle asked.
"Of course not! You're my dad! You and I go way back. Nothing can change that. But I'm growing up now. I'm going to date. And you and mom did both agree that I had to be sixteen to have a boyfriend. Now I'm almost seventeen," Fiona said.
"I know," Doyle couldn't stop himself from moving a loose strand of hair out of Fiona's face.
"I need to know that I'm going to be able to date without you chasing off every guy who's interested in me," Fiona said.
Doyle smiled. "You got it."
Fiona smiled back and wrapped her arms around her father. He hugged her back as tight as he could.
"Why don't you tell Kevin I would like a second chance at making a first impression," Doyle said when the hug had concluded. "I could…take the two of you out for lunch? Do you think he'll want to go?"
Fiona laughed. "Kevin is not one to turn down free food. Okay, I'll let him know. I love you, Daddy."
Doyle's heart melted at hearing her call him "Daddy," she hadn't called him that since she was about ten.
"I love you too, Darlin'," Doyle kissed her forehead. "Would you like a ride back to Mom's?"
Fiona nodded. "Thanks."