I let go of him and step away, poised to neutralize him if he comes for me again. He straightens up and glares at me.
There is a knock at the door that makes us all jump.
Well, I say a knock, but it’s more of an incessant thumping.
“What the hell?” says Jeff. He walks to the door and a man barrels in. He’s in his late forties with greying hair but he looks familiar, he looks a lot like Brad. Jenny groans at the sight of him.
“Paul?” Jeff asks, recognizing his summer neighbor. “What’s the problem?”
Paul looks down his nose in my direction. “Was it you?”
“Was what me?” I ask casually, although he can only be referring to the altercation at the café. I roll my eyes. Great. Now Jeff is going to think even worse of me.
“You attacked my son! And his friends!” He turns pompously towards Jeff. “I demand that you call the police.”
As Jeff looks at me in bemusement, Jenny steps forward in between us. She holds out her arm.
“Actually,” she says, narrowing her eyes at Brad’s father. “He was acting in my defense, and he didn’t hit your son. Your son did this to my arm and it’s not the first time he’s harassed me either. If anyone should be calling the police it should be us.”
Jeff glares at Paul now and I wonder if he’s going to charge at him too. I step between them.
“Go home,” I say to Paul, “and start teaching your son how to have more respect for women. Or I will happily teach him myself.”
Paul puffs out his chest. “Are you threatening me?”
Jeff steps towards him.
“No, he’s not,” he growls, “but I am.”
“You should probably go Paul,” I say reasonably. He looks from me to Jeff, then storms back out without another word.
The three of us stand in silence for a moment before Jeff sinks into a chair with his head in his hands, shaking his head. I look at Jenny.
“I’ll give you two some time to talk,” I say softly and leave the room, closing the door softly after me.
I take a seat opposite at my Dad, waiting for him to compose himself.
I’m proud of Alex and the way he controlled his temper, that’s twice in the past two days he has proved to himself that he can do it after all.
Finally, Dad looks up. He looks upset, and my heart goes out to him.
“I know this is tough Dad,” I say, and my eyes fill with tears. “But I’m not a little girl anymore. I’m an adult and I can make my own decisions.”
“He took advantage of you,” he says stubbornly.
“That’s not true,” I correct him. “If anything, it was the other way around.” Leaving out any juicy details I explain about meeting him on the beach and not telling him who I was. Dad looks horrified, then shrugs in resignation.
“I guess you’ve gone and grown up in front of my eyes. But I can’t pretend to be happy about this.”
“I know,” I concede, “but maybe in time? He’s a good man Dad, that’s why he’s your friend isn’t it? And I know it’s really, really quick, but I believe he loves me. You saw the way he defended me.”
Dad nods, then leans over and ruffles my hair.
“I won’t stand in your way,” he concedes, and I feel my heart fill with relief. I go upstairs to tell Alex the good news.
Later that afternoon I stand with my Dad and wave Alex off, wishing I could kiss him but knowing that my Dad would have a heart attack. This is all going to take some getting used to, so Alex decided it was best he go home and leave me and Dad to spend some time alone together. But I’m seeing him next weekend, and I already can’t wait.
It’s been a funny Fourth of July, but I also know it’s heralded the start of the rest of my life.
Three months later
I look down at the length of the small chapel and emotions well up inside me at the sight of Jenny walking towards me. I blink my eyes. The last time I cried in public, I was five. But these emotions are of joy, and as she gets closer to me and I see that she is crying, I let my eyes water and smile at her, mouthing I love you as she gets closer to me.
I knew I wanted to marry her after our first time, and popped the question three weeks after our first time. And as it turns out our first amazing night under the fireworks was earth shattering in more ways than one, and she had her good news of her own that day, because she is now carrying my child. I’m going to be a father, and I don’t think I have ever been so happy. The only thing missing is my parents, who would be thrilled, but my sister and her brood are here at least, and I know if there is such a thing as an afterlife then Mom and Dad are looking down with a smile right now.