CHAPTER VI

"I'm just saying that if I were your consultant, I'd give your line something a bit more… edgy! Like The Elegante," said Jake, throwing around his fall-back pitch to his latest client. "Uh huh," he replied back enthusiastically to the client on the phone. "Uh huh. Well, sure! See you Thursday!"

"How did the pitch go?" asked Helen, who was reviewing case files across the coffee table from him.

"It went great!" Jake exclaimed. "I really showed my clients that I, Jake Morgendorffer, am big, strong, and tough!" Helen responded with a tired glance. Jake deflated and said, "I told my clients that they were right and I was wrong." He sighed and rested his head in his hand, mumbling about damn lousy motel chains under his breath.

Still looking at her file, Helen said, "I'm sure if you just give them a little more time, they'll see what a wonderful consultant you would make for them. All you have to do is get off your tookis and keep showing initiative. You know, when Quinn has a-" Helen looked up from her file, as if coming out of long forgotten dream. Her eyes wide, she said, "Oh, no, Morgendorffer. Don't you dare go down that road again…"

"What road?" asked Jake, looking up at his wife. "Does some construction company need a consultant? 'Cause ol' Jakey's just perfect for the job! He's cool, he's tough, he's… elegante…" He cocked an eyebrow and held a martini glass in his hand that wasn't there.

Helen rubbed her temples. "Keep it together, Morgendorffer...Anyway, Jake, there's something that I wanted to talk to you about."

"Talk?" asked Jake, looking slightly horrified when Helen placed her files aside. "Um, honey, actually, I just remembered that I had a chore to do, all the way at the other end of the-"

"Jake, sit down," said Helen, tugging on her husband's suit jacket. "You're not getting out of the conversation this time. It's about Daria."

"Daria?" asked Jake. "It's not another damn tuition bill, is it, Helen? There's only so many calculations a man can take! Oh, god, why didn't I go into accounting like Mother asked? The girls are too young for this much debt."

"Jake, pull yourself together!" said Helen. "It's not about the tuition. Although, I agree with you there…"

"Phew," said Jake with a sigh. "Then what is it?"

"It's about Trent, Jane's older brother."

"Oh, Trent, yeah! Good kid!" said Jake. "Very cool, very… relaxed. It's that beard of his, very manly. Maybe I should grow a beard…" he said while stroking his chin, his imagination wandering back to his youth in the '70s.

"Jake," said Helen sternly. "I need you to focus."

"Sorry," Jake squeaked. There was a pause. "So, what were we talking about?"

"About Trent," said Helen, looking up at the stairway to check that the girls did not overhear her.

"Right, Trent! Good kid!"

"Jakey, he's not a kid anymore," said Helen, "and neither is Daria."

"She's not?... I mean, of course she's not!" he added, seeing Helen's glare. "Aw, shucks, but no matter how old she gets, or however many walls she puts up, she'll always be Daddy's little girl."

"Um, yes. Of course. Well, I'm glad to hear it, Jakey, but that doesn't mean she won't grow up," Helen reminded him. "And she has, Jakey. She's grown up into a fine, beautiful, intelligent young woman."

"She sure has," said Jake. "But, um, Helen, what does this have to do with Trent?"

"Jakey, do you remember back when Daria was in high school, when she had her little crush on him?"

"She did?"

"Jake!"

"I'm sorry, I didn't know…" said Jake, hiding from his wife behind a throw pillow. "Wait a minute, how old is he?"

"I'm not sure," said Helen, "but I would think he's around twenty-five or twenty-seven by now."

"TWENTY-SEVEN?! Gahhh!" Jake exclaimed, bursting a blood vessel.

"Jake, would you please calm down? Daria might hear you," Helen cautioned.

"My little girl," said Jake, "going out with some who's… who's…"

"Who's what?" asked Helen worriedly.

Jake glared at Helen, looking half-deranged with his swollen eyes glowing red with blood. One eye twitched. He raised the brow of his opposite eye, and said, "Who's almost thirty."

Helen turned her head to look at a camera that wasn't there, as Jake rested his head on his hands. "My little girl," he mumbled. Helen turned back to her husband, walked over to his chair to rub his back, and said, "I realize the age gap is a little less than ideal when you put it that way, but they're both grown adults, and I think he likes her, Jakey. A lot. And I can tell she still likes him very much, so we have to keep an open mind about this if or whenever something happens. And I think something might."

"What makes you say that?" Jake asked, turning his head to look up at his wife.

"He called her tonight," Helen answered. "Quinn found out about their date when she went to get the phone before your conference call."

"I'm always the last to know," bemoaned Jake. "I told you, Helen, I'm no good at this parenting crap."

"Oh, Jakey," said Helen, wrapping her arms around her husband's shoulders. "We all know you try your best, and the girls and I love you for it.

"You really mean that?" asked Jake.

"Yes, sweetie," said Helen, kissing her husband atop his tuft of brown hair, now showing signs of graying. Jake took one of her hands in his and kissed it. "Just keep loving them, Jakey. Try to guide them. Be there for them. It's all either one of us can do. But no matter what-"

"She'll always be my little girl," said Jake.