"That man is in love with you. I saw it in the way he asked if your steak was prepared correctly and how he made sure you told me about your new assignment at work. He cares about you and wants you to be happy."
Mara felt her sturdy, reliable resolve wavering. "But he's an idiot. He thinks grass fed butter is good for you."
"No one is perfect. Not even me."
"But dad -"
"Mara. He loves you."
Mara shook her head. "He hasn't said it. He's never made a move of any kind."
"Probably because he's waiting for you to let him in."
The truth broke open the flood gates. Mara tipped her head onto her father's shoulder and wept as he wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. The precious wall that kept her safe and contained had just been challenged by the person she admired most in the world. Its days were numbered.
"You are so brave with your career," he whispered gently. "Be that brave with your heart."
Mara pulled away, wiping her eyes with her pea coat sleeves. "But I don't know how!" she said, suddenly a child in Poughkeepsie again.
"Why don't you start with this? When Hugo calls to ask if you got home safely, which I'm guessing he always does, try listening to him instead of listening to your judgments."
Mara closed her eyes, embarrassed. "God, why do you have to be right all the time?"
"It's a gift and a curse."
"Thanks Dad." Mara hugged her father again, knowing full well how lucky she was to have him. "Now come on, you need to write. You have a deadline on Tuesday."
"My kingdom for another week," he said with feather light chagrin as they pushed through the turnstiles.
As Mara rumbled with the train, she thought about what she would say to Hugo when he called. What Hugo might say about meeting her father. The questions swirled, but she pushed them away. Tonight, she would hold the doubts at bay and simply try to listen. She knew it might only last for five minutes or less, but she had to start somewhere. And her future might as well start now.