Snow began falling, the first flakes of the season, as Jared stood outside Curtain Call and lit a cigarette, wishing he had thought to grab his jacket. He exhaled, wondering if the crowd would be sparser than usual for open mic night.
He watched people passing by, taking comfort in the familiar bustle of living in Manhattan. He broke into a wide smile as he recognized someone walking towards him.
“Thought you quit, Uncle J,” Mollie scolded, wrinkling her nose.
With a smirk, he flicked his butt into the gutter.
“That’s littering,” she nagged.
“Watch it, Mollie Jane,” he teased. “Or the next thing I throw in the gutter is a skinny fifteen year old.” He slung an arm around her and kissed the top of her head.
She stifled a giggle.
“To what do I owe this pleasure?” Jared asked, leading her inside. “Where’s your mom?”
Mollie looked chagrined. “I don’t know. Mom and Uncle Alé were fighting… I got so mad I just left.”
Jared raised an eyebrow. “What were they fighting about?”
“Everything. The show, me, my dad…” She hopped onto a bar stool as Jared went behind the mahogany bar.
“The usual?” he asked.
Mollie nodded solemnly. “Make it a double.”
Jared made Mollie a chocolate milkshake with an extra shot of chocolate syrup and set it on the bar in front of her.
“You know both your mom and Alex love you, right?”
“Yeah…” She looked shyly at Jared. “And they love each other…” Before he could say another word, she continued. “The two of them have made my dad into some mystical figure in a story. It sucks that he died. I get that. I know he was a hero, we study in school about all the first responders killed on 9/11 and I am proud of him. But he’s not real to me. He’s a guy in photographs. Alé is real to me. He loves Momma. I know he does. Why can’t she see that? Why is she still so mad at him?”
Jared sighed. “Oh, kiddo…”
“Why can’t we be a family?” she asked, her green eyes filling with earnest tears.