“What a hunk! I mean what a fit-looking hunk of manhood,” said Sophie in a kind of drool. Jonathan kept reading the paper.
“Hello, hello, Houston is anybody there?” Sophie was staring at her Dad. After a few moments, Jonathan looked up. He could see that his daughter wanted some attention, but he knew that already. He was enjoying having a little fun.
“I’ve never heard you use that expression before, darling daughter,” he said, poshing up his voice for effect. “Who, pray, is this dashing hunk?”
Sophie sat down on the sofa and swung her legs up to get more comfortable. She grabbed a cushion and cuddled it in front of her. “He’s our new neighbour. The one who’s just moved in to the second floor flat.”
Jonathan gasped, took off his glasses in a clumsy way and juggled them for a few seconds as if they were red hot.
“Steady on, Papa,” chuckled Sophie, “I’m the one who’s feeling a bit giddy, unless you’ve been at the claret. Anyway, he was coming into the building at the same time as me and he held the door open and he smiled a wicked smile and he shook my hand as he said, “Hi, my name’s Chico and I’m new on floor two.” We both couldn’t control our laughing. He’s so funny and so gorgeous but I couldn’t work out if he’s living on his own or whether he’s with someone. Still, there’s time to find all of that out. He’s worth watching. What muscles, what a waist and in the jeans department, he seems to have the full package front and back. What’s up, Dad, your jaw looks as if it might hit the carpet at any moment?”
Jonathan’s head was racing in a giddy grand prix. He wanted to prepare Sophie for the moment when he would reveal to her that Annie was living in that apartment and that Chico was her lover. But panic was setting in, his heart was racing, he could feel the sweat in his armpits and on his brow.
“I met him earlier when he was moving in and I thought he was a bit of a plonker, you know, all ciao baby and a rather camp strictly come dancing way of running up the stairs.” Jonathan cleared some phlegm from his drying throat.
“Oh God, I never thought of that. He might be gay and spoken for, or he might be gay and alone. Either way, he wouldn’t be interested in me. But we don’t know that of course.” Sophie, still hugging the cushion, gave out a little girlie squeal. “I hope he’s available and interested. It could be love at first sight and I think he likes me. I saw a twinkle in his eyes. You wouldn’t understand. It’s a woman’s instinct.”
“Sophie,” said Jonathan in a kind of a confused authoritative whisper, “I don’t think his type is the right kind for a beautiful young girl like you. He comes across as a flashy ego and, well, a bit shallow. You deserve someone better.”
“Hang on a minute. Why are you reacting like this?” Sophie jumped off the sofa and flung the cushion on the floor. “He’s my business not yours. I was just trying to include you in my happiness by telling you about him, yet you look as if he is Jack the Ripper’s long lost love child. I haven’t forgotten that you have some scheme going on to get me out of this flat, you know. If things click with Chico, then I could see myself moving into the flat with him. What do you think of that for a plan?
“Sophie, you’ve only just met the guy for a few minutes in the lobby. You don’t know him from a bar of soap. He could be anything, anyone and he could be sorted and settled in his domestic life. Just calm down a bit and take things slowly.” Jonathan stood up and walked over to cuddle is daughter. She responded and the two of them hugged for a couple of minutes.
“I can be a silly mare sometimes, Dad,” but I can window shop for romance, can’t I?”
“Of course you can, sweetheart,” sighed Jonathan, “you are a great catch and it’s a father’s job, no matter how stroppy his daughter becomes, to act as guide, mentor and protector forever.” He gave her a tight squeeze and let her go. Simultaneously, a bolt of guilt shot through him. He had to tell her. She had to hear it from him. What if she bumped into her mother on the stairs or the lift doors opened and there they were facing each other in some kind of standoff before the catfight. This was not going to be easy but it had to be done.
“Sophie, I need to talk to you.” Jonathan was aware of a nervous tremor in his voice.
“What about?” shouted Sophie from the kitchen. “Do you want a cup of tea?”
“Eh, no tea thanks. Look, about Chico……,” Jonathan was cut off before he could finish.
Sophie stick her head round the kitchen door. “Dad, let’s park Chico in a lay-by for the time being. I’ll find out what I can about him and if he’s off limits, then I’m big and beautiful enough to let it go. But if I’m on to a winner, whey hey!” She went back to making herself a drink and giggled for a few minutes.
Jonathan sat down in an armchair and looked everywhere and anywhere around the room for an answer. This was a sticky situation and he was certainly stuck for a way through it. There would be blood, sweat and tears before it all settled down. He was no Winston Churchill but somehow he needed to find the courage and decisiveness of the great man to sort out this mess. His head was spinning.
“Sophie,” he whimpered, “you could get me a glass of water and an aspirin. I’ve got a thumping headache.”