There was a time when she frowned with questions at the thought of introducing Hugo to her father - Will Dad give him a chance? Will Hugo say the right things? Will Dad understand what my heart sees in him? Mara's attention had been inundated by these worries for the better part of a year.
But now, after months of non-movement and needless missed opportunities for progress (by Hugo, of course), Mara was clear that this overly optimistic man-child was not the one for her. Evidenced into reality by the terrifically awful display of social graces before her.
Dinner had been a mistake, but inevitable. Dad wanted to meet this Hugo person in his daughter's life and Mara didn't know how to articulate the fact that Hugo was on his way out of her heart. In fact, he was practically gone.
And yet, he was here. "Man, can you like tell me something?" Hugo blathered, as if he was talking to a high school buddy and not a Man Booker Prize-winning author. "Like, how do you do what you do? Like inside? You know what I mean?" Her father stared at the question for a split second before answering with the dignified poise and grace for which he was known in literary circles. Mara longed to shrink into her filet mignon.
After an awkward man hug on the sidewalk and a wholly unnecessary lesson on the inner workings of Uber, Hugo was taken away in a purple PT Cruiser. Mara exhaled at last. Dad looked at her with a gentle smile and said, "He's nice."
"Don't worry, Dad. We're just friends."
"If you wanted to make him more than that, I would approve."
Mara sputtered with laughter before realizing her father was serious. "Are you kidding me, Dad? He talked about home brewing and maca root powder all night. If you wrote a character who sounded like him in your next book, the Times would call you a hack!"
She started toward the subway, her temperature rising. Dad followed silently. "And the way he talks about his dog like she's the love of his life. Do you know I was mistaken for her once? Someone I met at a party said, 'You must be Hugo's girlfriend Natalie!' And I had to explain that Natalie was his pit bull and I wasn't his girlfriend. It was humiliating."
"Honey, maybe you -"
"He never finished college," she continued, bounding down the escalator. "He can't fix a damn thing around his house. When something is broken, he just throws it away. 'That's why they have stores,' he says. Oh and he's on record saying his favorite book is The Berenstain Bears and the Missing Honey!"
Mara stopped at the turnstile, unable to locate her MetroCard in her bag. Her father stepped forward and placed a hand on hers, stopping her angry rummaging.
"And he loves you."
Mara blinked. "What?"