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“I hate those…school things.” Ryan was driving, gripping the steering wheel hard, gaze stuck to the road as if two threads of steel had been strung from his pupils and drawn straight ahead. “I just hate those people. They’re so judgmental.”
“Shh, Willow’s sleeping,” Nole reminded him, casting a glance back at the girl. She was the spitting image of Ryan, with messy blonde curls and blue eyes currently hidden behind soft lids. She hardly stirred. “I know. I don’t like it any better, but it’s pointless to-”
“Let me have my moment, alright?” Ryan snapped, though with his tone rather than his volume. His fingers shifted, coiled tighter against leather, foot heavier on the accelerator.
Nole watched the trees and suburban houses blur past them, nervously, “You knew it wasn’t going to be a good reaction. I mean, it’s not a very big town and a lot of those people knew your ex-wife…”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean they have to act so fuc-”
“Don’t swear, please.”
“Whatever. Just not so…you know, retarded about it. They don’t even give you a chance. Talk to you or anything. And did you see the look that woman gave you, when Willow hugged you? It’s like she thought you were a pedophile.”
“I’m just not her father. People are weird about men and children,” Nole tried to soothe, covering one of Ryan’s hand with his own.
He shifted it away, promptly. “It’s because you’re my boyfriend, not because you’re a man. You know that.”
Silence took hold of the vehicle, the sound of Willow’s gentle breathing and the occasional rustle of her clothing the only interruption. Still, Ryan’s irritation remained- he seemed to be made of lead, suddenly, and Nole glanced at the speedometer.
“Your daughter’s in the car…”
Ryan glanced at his gauges and nearly winced, slowly letting off. Too late, it seemed- he did wince when he heard sirens and looked over at Nole, “Hell. This is just my day, isn’t it?”
His biting sarcasm refused to relent, even when he pulled the car over and rolled down his window. His countenance held a firm rebellion, an unwavering agitation.
The policeman that appeared was a thin figure clad in black, wearing reflective sunglasses and chewing something. Tobacco, Ryan guessed, as when he opened his mouth his teeth were stained an awful color, “License and registration?”
Nole had already dug out the necessary papers from the glove box, handing them to Ryan after the man had fished his driver’s license out of his pocket. The police officer took both without question, returning to his squad car.
“This is just my day. Just my goddamned day,” Ryan muttered, once more refusing Nole’s attempted consolation.
The cop returned shortly, hacking saliva and phlegm crudely onto the street. He’d removed his glasses, revealing two steely gray eyes, “You don’t have too many offenses…”
“Daddy?” a tiny voice cut in from the backseat, drowsy and disoriented and yawning. Willow sat up, suddenly, noticing the policeman at the window. Her face split into a wide grin, speaking with rehearsed enthusiasm, “The police are here to protect us!”
A line from the kindergarten play Nole and Ryan had just attended. Even so, the officer was oblivious and seemed entirely charmed. “She’s cute. I’m just letting you off with a warning, this time.”
Ryan murmured a quick thank you, taking back his license and papers, tucking everything away quickly. He glanced at Nole, and a sigh escaped his lips as he shifted the car out of park, “Yeah, it’s my day.”