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His father hadn’t said much during supper, but then, that was his style. He was a man of few words, but the faint smile on his face at supper had spoken volumes.
“He’s very happy, very proud of you. We both are.” His mother reached up and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“I know,” Sundar muttered. But damn it all, would it kill him to say it once?
“You’re staying for dessert, right?”
“No,” he said, “I can’t. I’ve got to get back. I’ve got a pile of paperwork that needs doing.” He reached down and pecked her on the cheek. “Meal was great, as usual.” His gaze strayed to the window for a moment where he could see his father walking a grey mare around the corral outback. “How’s Wildfire doing?” He shrugged into his waist-length leather coat and zipped it. It was getting nippy out there. He could smell winter in the air.
“Better. She’s always going to be lame. Your father doesn’t want to accept that. She’s his favourite.”
“I know.” She was his favourite too. He’d been only nine years old when his father had bought her. He’d fallen in love with her. Wildfire was now approaching her eighteenth year. But that wasn’t so old when he thought about his grandfather’s horse. Misty had lived to be twenty-six.
“You look far away,” his mother said suddenly, caressing his thick black hair between her fingers. “You don’t need to cut your hair now, do you?”
“Naw,” he grinned, “one of the perks of making detective.”
“Good, it suits you long. Your father wore his long when we met, down to his waist almost. I used to love to brush it. You know, I was just thinking, we never get to see that girl you’re dating. What’s her name again, Maria?”
“Huh?” He gave her a dazed smile, watching his father gently stroking Wildfire’s mane.
“That young woman you brought to your cousin’s wedding last summer. She really liked you.” She was waiting for an answer.
He headed for the door. “We aren’t seeing each other anymore. She, ah...moved away, got a better job and—”
His hand was on the door handle. Don’t mention fucking grandchildren again. He turned and glanced at her over his shoulder. “Yeah?”
“You’re twenty-five years old. All your cousins are married or settled down now. You work too much. You got your promotion, try and make some time for...”
He pushed the door open. “Say goodbye to Dad.”
“You’re too much of a playboy,” she called after him, laughing as she stood huddled in the door. “Living up to your name? I regret calling you Sundar now.”
Sundar opened the car door and slid into the driver’s seat. He waved at his mother, fired up the engine of his vintage 1969 Camaro, and careened out of the gravel driveway.
If he had a dollar for every time his mother said she regretted naming him Sundar, he’d have already paid off this baby he was driving. Sundar was his Tsalagi name, Cherokee to white folk. It meant lover, but God forbid some of his colleagues find that one out. He’d never live it down. Anyway, everyone called him Sunny. It was kind of a joke because he’d never had what you’d call a sunny disposition.
His mother, Sophia Macgregor, was of Italian-Irish descent. She was full of life and energy, and she’d given him some wonderful memories growing up. His father, Clinton Kingfisher, whose native name he’d never told anyone, was a full blooded Tsalagi who’d left the reservation young, worked in a garage and studied to become a mechanic. At the age of twenty-five, he opened his own garage and had three others working for him. He’d made a good living for himself and his mother, but he refused to embrace his own heritage, telling Sundar that being an Indian would get him nowhere in life. “You can’t beat ‘em,” he said, “so join ‘em. They call you Sunny, let ‘em. Makes them feel better about who you are, lets them treat you like an equal.”
His parents were polar opposites. His father was quiet, brooding, a man of little words, whereas Sophia was a social butterfly, volunteering with all kinds of organisations and feeding the penniless strangers who sometimes drifted through town. Sofia and Clinton could have been on a poster for ‘opposites attract,’ but yet they were hopelessly devoted to one another.