“She’s gonna be great.” He took a long drag on his cigarette and looked over at Harold. The wind had tousled his black hair and the smoke from his cigarette was snatched away almost immediately.
Harold smiled, flicking an ash off the end of his cigarette into an ornate ashtray. He stared at his little girl as her nimble fingers picked an assortment of locks he had set in front of her. Some had gotten dirt in them as she tossed them around before setting to work with the small case of tools he had given her a few weeks before. She enjoyed the extra challenge.
“She’s gonna be the best,” he replied. He leaned back in his chair and stuck his feet up on the patio table. Moira would chew him out if she saw this, but she was out for the afternoon, running errands.
“When do you think she’ll be ready to go on jobs? Completely safe, I promise,” he said, crossing his heart with his finger.
“Asena is never going on jobs. I’m not teaching her to take my spot, I’m just making sure she can take care of herself. It’s the only thing I can teach her after all my experience.”
“We could use some of that experience tonight,” the man suggested, flicking his own cigarette ash off into a flower pot.
“Hey, watch it,” Harold snapped. “Moira loves those.” The whole back porch was covered in flower pots. Some had herbs while others had tomato plants and a few sprouted bright, beautiful flowers.
“Sorry,” he said with an annoyed sigh. “C’mon, Jonny isn’t nearly as quick as you are. Last time, he nearly tripped the alarm before he got that thing open.”
“That’s because Jonny is a moron,” Harold answered. “You know I’m out, man. Advice, that’s all I’m gonna do. I’m not going to get them in trouble. Not again.”
“Moira would get over it,” he said but it was obvious he had no fight left in him. This was an old conversation. “She can’t stay mad forever.”
“You’ve met Moira. Yes, she could.” That made both of them chuckle and the sound made Asena look up.
“Daddy, look!” She grabbed a handful of the locks, all popped open, and thrust them up in the air, grinning.
“Great job, sweetheart. Now, put them in the gardening shed before mommy gets home,” he said, blowing a kiss to his daughter.
“Okay,” she said, bounding off towards the white and blue shed in the back corner of their yard.
“Hey, honey,” Moira’s voice floated in from the open patio door and the front door closed behind her. Harold let out a sigh of relief on Asena’s timing and slipped his feet off the table before his wife noticed.
Asena ran up to the deck, empty-handed, as Moira stepped outside. She was a gorgeous woman, strong and proud with golden hair and startling blue eyes. She scooped her daughter up easily and smiled at her husband.
“What have you guys been up to? What were you doing in the shed?” she asked Asena, tickling her chin.
The cigarettes both disappeared as well and Harold tried to think of something his wife would believe.
“I wanted to dig in the yard,” Asena said, “but daddy said I had to put your gardening tools back.” The lie was smooth and Moira accepted it without hesitation, playfully chiding her daughter for trying to dig up the yard.
Harold stared at them both, a twinge of guilt settling in his stomach like soured milk. He knew that as a con man, he should be very proud of his protege. But as a father and husband, he felt terrible that his daughter was willing and completely able to treat her mom like that. He knew that was definitely his fault.
Moira looked up and caught the slight frown. She was one of the few people that seemed to read him well and she raised an eyebrow.
He smiled, trying to reassure her. Her returning smile was enough to strengthen his resolve. When the girls had walked back inside to wash Asena’s hands, he looked over.
“You guys be safe, but there’s no way I’m going back out there.”
“Just you wait. There’s going to be a day you call me up, asking to get back in. And if you bring the girl, I might just let you.” Harold shook his head and hoped fervently that that would never happen.