Before Landing (-1491 & -396) Cassandra's Father's Day
Summary: A single parent reflects on how he's watched his teenage daughter grow and change in the span between two very different Father's Days he's shared with her, and wonders where it all went wrong.
Date: 19th of June, 2016 (Father's Day)
Related: Father's Day Memoirs

4 Years (1491 Days) Before Landing — Bonheur Quarters, Agro Station

The door to the Bonheur quarters cracked ajar as Fred slipped in. Heavy brows furrowed, he tested the light-switch, but to no avail. The light has given out, he thought. I'm going to have to call maintenance —


The rascal. Of course, if something was wrong, he ought to have known his daughter was to blame. This was just one of the many reasons why he loved her. Never mind that she must have messed with the electrical cabinet to scare him; Cassie was the light of his life.

He smiled, beholding the sight of a minuscule cake which nonetheless must have taken a lot of coordination to prepare. He knew that his daughter had no shortage of friends all over Agro Station, and was even starting to rub elbows with the upper crust in Go-Sci — despite his best, fruitless advisement that she not venture off alone into other stations. He had never had much luck telling her what to do since losing his wife, and over time, had stopped seeing the need to try. Cass was a good kid, after all; she was just going to be who she was going to be, and do what she was going to do. It was a spirit of agency she got from her mother, he fancied.

"Who helped you?" asked Fred, amused. "So I know who to give a double-shift for the rest of the week." He hung up his coat while she lowered her arms, bringing them coyly swinging at her sides.

"Cross my heart, hope to die, said I wouldn't tell," Cass replied with a bright grin, only to offer up a slightly indignant accusation. "You're late! You were supposed to finish at eight."

Darren, then. Far from of the mind to hand him a double shift, Fred would have to make a mental note to thank his friend from the bottom of his heart. Raising a child as a single parent for the last eight years was hard enough without missing his wife each day, but he could never cease to be amazed by the endless outpour of support and compassion his many neighbours and coworkers had shown him since, both in helping him cope and encouraging his daughter alongside him where they could.

"I know, Cassie," the barrel-chested man softly replied. "But sometimes things happen, and I need to stay and work late. I work very hard to ensure that everyone on the Ark has enough food, medicine and clothing. We all work very hard." He reached over to kindly squeeze her shoulder, round dark eyes meeting their mirror. It was one thing she had not inherited from Jade: how he missed seeing those hazel eyes laugh.

"But you always work late," said the teenager with a frown. "Can't someone else work late?" She was cutting now into the aquafaba-frosted cake, and he kept a close eye on the knife to make sure she didn't hurt herself.

As always turning dire subjects into humour, her father grinned. "No," he replied. "The universe doesn't work that way. If you're planning a Father's Day surprise, then Sod's Law dictates that today must be the day when I work late."

The girl looked up with owlish dismay, and now he was starting to regret imparting his cynicism with her. She was meant for higher things, he knew; one day she would secure a position in Go-Sci, move into better quarters in Alpha Station, and never have to entertain her daft old man's silly jokes again. A part of him hoped that day would never come, but in his heart, he knew that ultimately it would be for the best.

"Happy Father's Day," she said, separating one half of the strawberry and chickpea cake onto a plate.

"Happy Father's Day," he replied, pulling his daughter in for a hug. She squirmed. Ah, teenagers. Already too cool to show her father affection.

"How are classes?" he asked, as they sat down to eat. "I hope you don't think being an excellent cook and party-planner excuses you from getting top marks in Botany."

She grinned, a proud cant to her chin. "Aced it," she replied. "Wilson said that if I do well, I can secure an apprenticeship in Pharmaceuticals. R&D, not just growing."

"And are you going to?" he asked, hopeful and curious.

In typical Cassie fashion, she pulled a face, exuding fourteen year-old attitude. "No," she said, blowing an airy raspberry. "I'm going to research something that will help us get down to Earth."

A pause, and the ageing man offered only a content smile, leaving the remainder of his cake for now while she wolfed her own concoction down.

"Your mother would be so proud of you," he said, and she looked up and smiled in return, bright and sunny.

"You always say that, Dad."

1 Year (396 Days) Before Landing, Father's Day — Bonheur Quarters, Agro Station

Fred was reclining on the tattered sofa when the door swung open, his attitude-poisoned teenage daughter striding in loudly with an unceremonious cast of her bag towards the kitchen table. It skid on the spotty surface before landing in a heap, and she nudged the door shut with her elbow to pursue it.

"You're late," he quietly noted, looking up towards her with rheumatic eyes. A part of him wanted to get up and embrace her, but he was tired; he had only stayed in anticipation of their Faux-Surprise Father's Day tradition, and with the irritable monster she had lately become, he was not sure she would appreciate the show of affection anyway.

For a while she didn't answer. He could tell now by the twitchy way she walked, by the hitch of her shoulders, that she was stressed, but then again, she always looked stressed these days, and he'd given up trying to fathom what a seventeen year-old girl had to be so stressed over all the time. She did not work full, often thankless-overtime days as he did, and though he knew that his chronic illness had taken its toll on her and their relationship as well, this was something else; his illness had only taken root months ago, and she had been declining for years now. He hoped that the curse of puberty would soon pass, and that it would happen before he too passed. That seemed less and less likely each passing day, a fact they both knew, but which he was too stubborn to see a doctor for. With a hand in overseeing the growth of all the pharmaceuticals on the Ark, he knew that there would be nothing they could do, and he could not, would not afford to stop working and risk spending more time in Medical away from his daughter — time which she already seemed to be doing all she could to deprive him of as much as possible.

"I was with Sophie," she replied without looking at him, brow furrowed in concentration as she unpacked her bag. Each loud clank of its contents on the counter was setting his migraine on fire, but for now he was more concerned about the fact she was so clearly lying to him. That hurt more. Even if he had not spent seventeen years raising her, eleven of those years alone, and could thus read her like an open book, he had been talking to Sophie's mother just minutes ago and knew she was taking a recreational art class. By his estimation, Cassandra and Sophie were on the outs right now anyway (ah, teenage girl drama; how he hated keeping abreast of his daughter's ephemeral friendships) and had scarcely spoken in months. "We had a project."

He silently followed her with his gaze as she plucked a pill-bottle from her bag and strolled towards his seat, propping herself up on its armrest in a way she knew full well would annoy him. He was hoping that the gravity of his stare would make her confess to being untruthful, and though she glanced his way, openly clocking that look, she stayed feigning ignorance in return. Her long, sleek black hair swung over the sides of her face as she set the pill-bottle down on the counter beside him.

"Take it," she said.

Disappointment turned to concern, and he kept his eyes intently on hers. This was a line he was not willing to cross; dealing in black market goods was a capital offence, and this was not the first time she had committed it. "Where did you get that?" he quietly asked, furrowing his brow. His daughter had many friends in places high and low — too many to keep track of — and though he had long since given up on trying to police her, he was beginning to worry, too little, too late, that he should. Someone had been involving her in something she ought not to be involved in. Someone had taken his sweet, loving child away and replaced her with a teenage girl he did not recognise. "Cassie, you know that —"

"It doesn't matter," she snapped, lifting herself up from the sofa and striding back towards her bag. She turned her back to him as she started to unload yet more goods: food, water… This was bad.

"Cassie, this is serious," he said, his voice heavy with the strain it took him to speak. "I know that something is wrong. You've been staying late too many days, nearly every day now. I just saw Sophie's mum not two —"

"I said it doesn't matter!" The container she was holding slammed down on the table as she yelled, sending an echo rippling beneath it. He winced, and her eyes burned. That one hurt his ears almost more than her lies did.

A long silence hung in the air between them as he reclined back in his chair, averting his gaze from her. She still would not turn back to face him, and he eventually, quietly offered, "I want you to know that you can talk to me about anything that's bothering you, Cassie." She too was starting to calm down now.

"I know," she said.
No, you don't, he thought.
No, I can't, thought Cassie.

In the lingering silence, it was as if they could hear one another's thoughts. He had said his piece, and she had said hers. They both knew that they had reached an impasse, and so reluctantly he changed the subject, reaching to pop open the pill-bottle when he could see her turning back his way. Relief immediately flashed across her features when she watched him swallow the restricted black-market medicine he needed.

"You still haven't told me what you want for your eighteenth birthday," he said. She had forgotten that it was Father's Day, but this seemed like a bad time to remind her. He knew that she loved him, for all her prickly thorns, and that was enough.

Her next action surprised him. "Just get better," she pleaded, turning to rush him and throw her arms around his shoulders. Though touched, he frowned, bringing up a large, burly hand to rub her upper-back. His eyes were red from sickness, but it was only in that moment, when she hugged him, that he could finally see that hers were as well. She had been crying.

"Love you, kiddo," he reminded her gently.
"I love you too."

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