“Don’t forget, girls. The father-daughter banquet is tomorrow night,” the teacher called out as her pre-teenage female students filed out of the classroom.
Jessica cringed at the words. Her best friend, Molly, came up beside her and put an arm around her shoulder. Molly told her about all their friends and all their dads who were going to be at the dance. Jessica wished she could tell her that she and her dad would be there, as well, but she knew she couldn’t. She had mentioned the dance to her father a few weeks ago, and he told her he would let her know later if he could take her, but he never mentioned it again.
After talking to Molly, Jessica shuffled out into the damp spring air. Her mother yelled out the car window for her to hurry up.
“What’s the big hurry?” Jessica asked as she got in the car.
“Your father has a very important meeting tonight with some new clients, and I want to make sure he gets a nice, hot meal before he has to go out.”
“You mean he doesn’t have another dinner date? He has every other night this week.”
“Honey, your dad’s just trying to do the best he can for the company. We should be happy he’s around as much as he is.”
Jessica glared at her mother, but she was too busy backing out to notice.
Mr. Clark was lounging in his recliner, reading the newspaper, when they got home. Jessica’s mother glided over, kissed him on the forehead, and hurried into the kitchen to finish the dinner preparations. Jessica slumped down on the side of the couch that was closest to her father’s chair.
“Do you remember me telling you about the father-daughter dance at the country club tomorrow night?”
“Oh? Was that tomorrow? I’m sorry, honey, but I won’t be able to make it. Mr. Gresham needs a ride to the airport tomorrow evening.”
“Why can’t he take a cab, like everyone else?”
“Jessica, Mr. Gresham is my boss. Do you understand that? He is the one who pays me to work for him. I have to do what he says.”
“Great. Now this boss guy is more important than your own daughter. You’re the worst father in the world!”
Mrs. Clark heard the argument and came out into the living room.
“Jessica Lee Clark, your father is a wonderful provider. I can’t believe you would disrespect him this way. Didn’t you learn that “Honor thy father and thy mother” commandment in Sunday School?”
Tears stung Jessica’s eyes. Her lower lip quivered, so she was unable to speak for a few seconds. When she regained control of her emotions again, she said,
“Do you know how important this dance is to me? All my friends will be there with their fathers. I’ll look really stupid if I show up alone, and even worse if I don’t show up at all. Dad, I’m sorry I said those things to you. Please, just this once, can’t Mr. Gresham get someone else to take him to the airport?”
Mr. Clark shook his head. “I’m sorry, Jess. My hands are tied.”
Jessica snorted and stormed to her room. She knew she would probably get in trouble, but she didn’t care. She didn’t understand why he wouldn’t take her to the dance with everyone else. She flopped down on the bed and eventually cried herself to sleep.
In the morning, Jessica woke up to hear her mother and father talking in the kitchen. This surprised her because Mr. Clark was usually gone by the time she got up. She went out to the kitchen, trying to shield her eyes from the bright morning sun. Mrs. Clark saw her first and met her in the hallway.
“Good morning, Jess. I hope you’re feeling better today. I have some good news for you. Your father will be able to take you to the dance tonight.”
Jessica couldn’t believe her ears. “Really? Wow! That’s so awesome! What’s he doing here so late, anyway?”
“Well, he’s eating breakfast and reading the want ads in the morning paper. Mr. Gresham fired him last night when your dad told him he wouldn’t be able to take him to the airport.”
Jessica’s jaw dropped, and she ran in to hug her father.
“Dad, I’m sorry I said you were a bad father. You’re the best dad in the whole world. Thank you. I love you.”
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