“I canna believe you signed him up for multiple online dating sites!” My sister Jenny had tears from laughing so hard. John looked at me sheepishly, while Ian laughed along with my sister.
“It’s only three! I wanted to cover all the basis,” Ian said. I put my head in my hands, not sure if I was amused or horribly embarrassed.
“Okay, but the pictures you used?” John held up his phone, scrolling through the pictures for Jenny to look at. She started snorting from laughing so hard.
I looked over her shoulder and groaned. “Ian, you didn’t!” Ian had selected a picture that had no less than ten guys in it for the first picture, then the second picture was of Ian, John, and kinda of me on their first day of university. None of the pictures were just me, and most of them you couldn’t pick me out of the line up. I passed him back his phone. “This was supposed to be easier for me, no pressure and no work,” I groaned.
“Your problem was trusting these two,” Jenny said, getting up from the table, picking up her glass and Ian’s. She went over to our da’s whiskey and refilled their glasses. “You should have trusted me,” she said.
“Oh, god, no!” John said, stealing Ian’s glass as soon as Jenny sat it down. He took a big gulp, then added, “Do you remember the girls she tried to set you up with a few years ago?”
“Hey! Olivia and Sophie are both wonderful people!” Jenny smacked John on the arm.
“If you three are going to argue over my love life, I am going to start the dishes,” I laughed, picking up the last of the dishes off the table. This was frequently how dinners at my dad’s house ended up. My dad would sneak out after a drink to check out something on the farm while the four of us started arguing about something. It was comforting in how normal it is. Tonight the argument was apparently about my love life. I shook my head. I guess if anyone was going to figure it out, it would be those three.
I carried the dishes to the kitchen and began to fill the sink as my dad came in. “Have I missed all the arguing?” He asked, wiping the dirt off his hand with an old towel.
I smirked. “I think you can jump in and still help decide which of the three is going to solve my love life problems, if you want.” He smiled a little as he continued to wipe his hands in silence, but did not looking at me. I wasn’t sure why I suddenly had the overwhelming desire to apologize. “Da, what is it?”
He placed the towel on the counter and looked at me. I have been several inches taller than my dad since my last growth spurt around seventeen. He had aged since, but to me he had always looked he was pushing forty-five, though now that I was pushing thirty, I was taking in how old he actually was. His hair was fully gray, but was not showing any signs of thinning. He had just started wearing glasses regularly, which made him look like a scholarly professor rather than a farmer. He was looking a little exhausted and overworked, but I chalked that up to a long day out in a surprisingly sunny day.
“I am not one to give you big speeches,” he said, looking up at me finally. “And I know that you’re not asking for my advice. On love or anything, that this is all transactional. But I do wish you would consider actually looking for someone to date. Not on these ridiculous websites, but the old fashioned way. I just want you to be happy.”
I sat down on the stool, taking a moment to collect my thoughts. He was clearly uncomfortable with this conversation he had started, but he hadn’t darted back out the door. “Where is this coming from, da?” I asked finally.
He shrugged, looking even more uncomfortable. Da isn’t one for serious emotional discussions, and it’s clear he was regretting starting this one. “Forget I mentioned it. I just want you to find a nice lass and consider settling down. As slow as Jenny and Ian are moving, I may need to wait on you to give me grandkids, and I’d like them while I’m still young enough to chase after them.” He claps me on the back and grabs the bottle of whiskey and heading back into the dining room. I stared after him, even more confused, not understanding what I was missing. Ian was likely to propose within the year, and they both wanted a whole brood of children.
I, on the other hand, hated settling down. I worked on my family’s farms when they needed help, and I loved being a pilot instructor. I had tried my hand at a desk job after college, but I hated putting on a suit. My law degree was getting some pretty great use out of it, as my Uncle Dougal liked to point out when he was annoyed with my suggestions for his farm.
Still, I had always hated sitting for long, much less settling down for any reason. It wasn’t a big secret, so what was my dad getting at?
I poured a glass of water and grabbed the plate of cookies Jenny had brought over, heading back to the dining room. I sat the plate in the middle of the table, not interrupting some story that John was sharing about something that happened at work. My cellphone laid forgotten on the table in front of my chair. I picked it up, thumbing through the multiple dating apps John had installed on my phone at Jenny’s insistence this evening. I decided on one, then added a few pictures from my phone that were more recent and more obviously me.
I had a recent one with a student on an actual clear day. Another picture was of me and my motorcycle. I was dirty from changing it’s oil, and I wasn’t looking at the camera, but it was still a good picture. I was debating a third one when I realized the chatter around me had quieted down. “I like those!” Jenny said from over my shoulder.
I jumped, slamming my phone against the table. “What are you doing that for? Sneaking around on me, for the love of god!” I yelled. Jenny laughed, putting a hand on my shoulder. She leaned over and picked the phone up, scrolling through my pictures.
“You’re a brazen woman,” Ian laughed. What if Jamie takes shirtless selfies or saves pictures of him that he could send over snapchat?”
I threw a towel at him. “I don’t do that, you daft fool,” I said, my face flushing. There were definitely a few shirtless pictures in there, and a few saved photos from an old girlfriend or two. But they didn’t need to know that.
“What about this one?” Jenny said, handing me my phone. The picture on the screen was of me and Da a few weeks ago with his newest plow. I was in a plaid shirt and jeans, my sleeves rolled up and sweaty but not too dirty. My hair was a little on the longer side, with a deep red curl falling in my face as I laughed. Da looked happy and excited to play with his new toy. I couldn’t remember who had taken the picture, but clearly they had said something hilarious right before snapping it.
“You’re right — it is perfect.” I added it to my profile and snapped the phone off. “Now, no more talk of my love prospects tonight, got it?”
John and I headed to the car with leftovers, teasing Ian for trying to hide the fact he was going to Jenny’s house for the night from my father. She had left a few minutes before, not fooling anyone.
“Fake passengers get the back seat,” I teased, calling shotgun. I had drank enough to be feeling good and happy and was glad that John was driving. Ian smacked my head as he got in behind me.
“Are you two going to behave yourself long enough for me to drop off Ian at Jenny’s apartment?” John asked, faking annoyance.
“Yeah yeah, we’ll behave,” Ian grumbled from the backseat. We headed off out of the farmlands, back towards town, the teasing continuing as it always did. But the further we got from my dad’s house, the more something nagged at me. After we dropped off Ian, John and I settled into a comfortable silence as we headed home. “Hey John?” I called after him as he headed to his bedroom.
He peered around the corner. “Yeah, mate?” he yawned.
I pulled at my ear out of nervous habit, trying to figure out how to phrase my concerns. “My da said something weird to me tonight. I think…I think he’s mad or ashamed I’m not actively looking for someone to date. That I’m just looking for a transaction or something.”
John shrugged and leaned against the door frame. His face set into problem solving mode, one I was used to seeing as he practiced for court. “Well, look at the facts. If you look for someone to just date, then spring on the wedding, that’s going to send the wrong message. Either way you decide to go here, you need to be straight with the lass from the beginning about the wedding, you know?” He paused, looking at me as he clearly pondered something.
“Spit it out, John,” I said bluntly.
“Okay, okay. I guess I am just pondering if you are actually ready to date. It hasn’t seemed like a priority, and it isn’t like you can’t fill your bed when you need.”
I felt my ears go hot at the mention of my bed and women in it. No matter how old I got, any mention of anything sexual in normal conversation still made me feel like a thirteen-year-old boy. “Yeah, alright settle down,” I said, shrugging. “You’re right, it hasn’t been a priority. I’m over analysing his words. Too much whiskey.”
“Whatever you say, man. I am here when you decide what you want to do. Just decide in the morning, so I can get some sleep first.” He gave me a half salute as he turned and shut his bedroom door.
I nodded absent-mindedly. He was right about one thing at least. Nothing was going to be resolved tonight, and sleep was the best way to make a decision.