He was late: just ten minutes, but still late. And Louis Davidson was never late to see his little girl.
When he pulled around the corner, Jeri was waiting on the porch step, her overnight bag on the stoop beside her. His heart turned over at the sight, knowing she would be disappointed with him. Every other Friday afternoon for more than two decades, he'd come around this corner at 5pm to pick her up for their weekend together, and never once had he ever been late.
She didn't hop up at the sight of him coming around the corner, though. He was driving a jet black Lincoln Towncar -- a beautiful but, for them, boring ride -- that she had never seen before. It wasn't unusual for him to arrive in an automobile she had never seen before, but it was unusual for her not to know what was coming.
For most of their life, Jeri had decided which vehicle Louis would rent when he arrived in town to see her. It was their little game: sometime during the week, she would text him -- in the old days, call him -- and tell him what vehicle she wanted to see pull up to the curb. There had been silver Corvettes and pink Cadillacs; convertibles and motorcycles with side cars; and one Halloween, he'd even shown up with a farmer driving a pair of Clydesdales leading a beer wagon, which -- of course -- Jeri's mother hadn't been too tickled with considering the message a cart full of beer kegs presented.
Louis did his best to fulfill his not-so-little-anymore girl's every wish, and almost always succeeded. He hadn't been able to pull off the magic carpet she'd asked for when she was four, but when she was six and she a fire engine as their ride, Louis made a thousand dollar donation to the local volunteer fire department, and he and Jeri spent much of Friday night riding around in the cab of the big red truck with a Dalmatian sitting by the little darling's side.
This week, though, Jeri had simply said, "Surprise me." Louis knew she had a lot on her mind these days: what 23 year old young lady didn't. He tried to keep up on her personal life as best as he could, what with only seeing her every other weekend and the occasional special week night. Four days a month weren't enough for Louis, but it was the way her mother had asked it to be, even before Jeri's birth. Louis had always had the greatest respect for Jeri's mother, and for her desire to keep Louis' other world from becoming entangled in that of hers and her daughter's.
He stopped at the curb and Jeri finally realized it was him. He pressed the power window button, leaned to look at her through the lowering passenger window, and called out, "The five-ten to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Dallas, Mobile, and all points beyond ... is ready for boarding! Woo woo!"
As she gathered her things and headed for the car, he called out again. "So, young lady. Where is it that we are going to this weekend ... and what fun do you have in store for us?"
Just as Jeri had been in charge of deciding the transportation for Louis' arrival, she'd also been in charge of deciding what it was that they were going to do. And no matter what it had been or where it was, Louis had made it happen. When she was nine, he'd taken her on a private plane to France to collect truffles. Of course, it wasn't until they'd arrived that she learned the difference between the fungus and the chocolate treat, but they'd still had fun, riding the elevator in the Eiffel Tower up and down more than a dozen times over the weekend.
Her sophomore year in high school, they'd driven a mile from Jeri's home and stayed at a hotel with a pool that she'd asked for by name. Why this hotel, and this pool? Louis had asked, only to learn that one of Jeri's crushes -- a senior class football player -- had been a lifeguard there.
One mile or five thousand miles away, Louis didn't care. All he cared about was having the time with his lovely daughter. He cherished it as much as he cherished her, because he knew that when Sunday evening came around, he returned to his other life, of which Jeri would never be part.