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‘You need to refute the story I have just been told.’ Martin says through clenched teeth over the phone to JJ.
There was a time JJ would have cowered at that tone of voice from her father, literally hide behind Fenmore shaking. But something about being far away from home and an apprentice in a flower shop on her terms made her grow some back bone and rid her of all the fear.
‘Let me guess, Cleo got to you first because like the coward she is, she eavesdropped on mine and Fen’s conversation and came tattling to you the first chance she got.’
‘So it is true.’
‘It is.’ There. She said it. Now what?
‘Have you lost your bloody mind?’
‘I’ve never been more clearheaded dad.’ She’d overdosed on the gumption this morning either that or she was done giving a fuck. ‘I quit my job and took a position as a florist apprentice, its temporary but I am happy.’
‘Ha- Happy? Did you say you’re happy?’
‘And you think happiness is reason enough to throw your life away. Are you having a midlife crisis of some sort.’
‘I’m perfectly fine dad.’ Why is she being so cool about this? How had she not lost her nerve? If she were standing before her father would she be as cool? ‘I am not having a midlife crisis just a life. I am having a life. My life.’
‘I didn’t think your life was in question Jorja.’
That dreaded full name drop should have the desired effect of making her a quivering mess and running right round to do her father’s bidding but not this time. She was standing firm.
‘You know father,’ her tone was deliberately light and breezy and it only further enraged him. ‘I figured something out.’
Bloody hell her father was angry and if he were in front of her, she is not sure he would not turn her on his knee and spank her hard as he’d done several times as a child. The last time he did it Fen stepped in screaming blue murder. JJ will never forget that night. Cleo had lied and said she’d made out with a boy after class; her sister was always telling lies to get her in trouble because she blamed JJ for their mother leaving. Called her the demon child. Even at a young age, Cleo had such hatred towards her sister for no reason other than she could. It wasn’t a kiss, it was a hug she’d given her friend at school. But it wasn’t the kiss that tipped her father over the edge, it was the fact that she called Cleo a bitch in front of him. Within seconds he grabbed her by a skinny arm and spanked her butt so hard with a hard cover book, she screamed.
He would not stop.
By the fifth spank she was numb.
By the tenth there was a scream so loud it nearly shook the house down.
‘STOP IT! LEAVE HER ALONE!’ Fen looked crazed at her father who looked even crazier.
Martin dropped JJ’s hand and she fell to the floor, he knew he had gone way overboard, he did not mean to go that far, but he did. ‘I’m so-‘
JJ scrambled to her feet, eyes void of tears, just pure hate. Fen hurried to her sisters’ side and cradled her in her arms. Their father was a disciplinarian but he never went so far as he had that day and he never did again.
It was the last time she spoke to Cleo.
JJ shook off the feeling of dread that memory filled her with.
‘I’m waiting for your eureka moment Jorja.’
‘I don’t want to live your life dad, I am living mine.’
‘By becoming a flower girl?’ He could not be more derisive if he tried.
‘Yes dad, a flower girl, selling flowers.’
‘You leave a lucrative job, a life I have gifted you with, a pristine education to become a flower girl. Are you bloody mad!?’
‘I’m perfectly sane and I am sorry you cannot be happy for me.’
‘What does Barnaby have to say about this?’
‘I don’t know, I broke up with him.’
‘YOU DID WHAT?!’
There, he had her there. She jumped at the roar of his voice. ‘I broke up with Barnaby and he understands.’.
‘I will disinherit you, you will be cut off from your trust-fund. You will not get a penny.’
‘How sad.’ Her tone was dry.
Martin hung up the phone to his daughter, hoping their next phone call she would tell him she had regained some semblance of common sense and had gone back to the life he set up for her.
That call never came and eventually he made a grudging peace with it. But he is still not over it.