Note: A Cliff x Ann challenge from Moonlit Dreaming from my forum. Way shorter than I expected (way, way shorter) …but still cute. Well, I hope so, anyway. Sort of pointless fluff, but yeah. Ann is, um, very outspoken, though…
Disclaimer: Hm…nope, not mine. Shocker, I know.
Jerks, Creeps, and Idiots
"All men are creeps."
Doug looked up at his daughter's exclamation and stopped sweeping for a second. "We're creeps?" he repeated.
"Well, not you, Dad," Ann sighed, wiping the counter. "It's just—all single men are creeps. Not widowers and married men, just single guys."
"That's a bit harsh," Doug commented. "Didn't you just have a nice lunch with that Cliff-guy…?"
"No, Dad, I did not. And that's the problem." She wiped her forehead, leaving a smear of dirt upon her brow. "All he has to do is show up. It's not that hard, is it? You sit down, wait for your date, and pretend to enjoy your meal while you both attempt to flirt as miserably as you can. That's all I'm asking!"
"So…you're saying he didn't show?"
"Of course not!" Ann huffed, hands on her hips. "And do you want to know why? Because he's a stupid, promise-breaking, idiot man, that's why!"
The innkeeper raised an eyebrow.
"Did you ask Cliff why he didn't come?" Doug asked, perplexed. "It's not like him to break a promise."
"Oh, sure," Ann laughed bitterly. "Take his side. Just because he hangs around the church constantly, barely speaks more than five words a day, and is adorably shy doesn't mean he's exempt from the curse of men! That's why I'm never getting married."
She rolled her eyes at the plea hidden in his voice. "Well, why would I want to? I don't need a man to be happy, Dad. I'd rather have a dog or something."
"Yes. Dogs are loyal," she continued. "They love you because they know you care. They don't break promises and they don't take a whole season to get the courage to ask you out and they don't make you wait for three hours on the one day the Snack Shack's air conditioning breaks down!"
"Ann, you do know that dogs also dirty the carpet, and run away, and get fleas, and—"
"Dad! We're getting off-topic," his daughter interrupted him. "All I'm saying is that I think guys are jerks. Stop reading so much into it."
Doug chuckled to himself; Ann could be so hard-headed sometimes. Then again, what else could he expect from his own daughter?
She dusted her hands off on her overalls and sighed. "And you know what's worse than single men?"
"Men who are dating someone else." Ann blew a strand of her hair from her eyes. "Do you have any idea how obnoxious it is to sit for hours while Popuri and Kai flirt? I felt like I was going to melt into a puddle of lovey-dovey goo."
A hearty laugh sounded from the innkeeper, which earned him a reproachful look from his daughter. "I'm serious, Dad," she scowled. "If I hear, 'I love you so much, Popuri,' or 'I miss you terribly when you're gone, Kai,' one more time, I'll scream."
"So let me get this straight…you don't like men because they don't go on dates, and you don't like men because they do go on dates?"
"Pretty much," she nodded.
"Ann, that makes no sense."
"It doesn't have to. Because I'm never getting married, and I'm never going to have to deal with men and their weirdness again," Ann decided. "Well, I think we're done cleaning here. I'm gonna go start on the upstairs rooms. See you later, Dad."
He watched as her long red braid disappeared from view as she thundered up the stairs, and he shook his head.
Ann was right. At this rate, she would never get married.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid," Ann muttered to herself as she arrived at the top of the stairs. "What a jerk…messing with me like that. Hmph."
And suddenly, she froze. Blocking her path was a young man in tattered clothing, his eyes bashfully downcast. Ann blinked before finding her voice again.
"Move it," she ordered. "I need to clean the guest rooms."
Cliff sighed. "Ann, I know you're angry—"
"I'm sorry, but I don't have time for you, sir," Ann interrupted, moving past him. "I'm too busy to spend a freaking five minutes with you."
"I didn't mean—"
"And I'm also too busy to attempt an overly cliché make-up session. I'm too busy to go on a second try for a date. Actually, I'm too busy to waste breath on you. Because I'm a selfish, arrogant, stuck-up jerk!" she shouted, her voice steadily gaining momentum with each sentence. "Like a certain creep who will remain nameless!"
He opened his mouth to speak, but the look on Ann's face made him shut up before he could dare to say anything.
"I am tired, Cliff, okay?" Ann groaned. "I spent the last few hours frying in the Snack Shack, cleaning dirt off tables, and listening to cheesy pick-up lines and flirting! That's enough torture for one day, wouldn't you say?"
A few moments lingered in silence before Ann pushed past him in exasperation, muttering, "I have a bedroom to clean."
And with that, the conversation ceased.
Well, as always, time passed, and the next morning found Ann awake bright and early. After braiding her unruly red locks, washing her face, and donning her signature overalls, the innkeeper's daughter walked downstairs.
"Morning, honey," her dad smiled as she arrived at the bottom of the stairs. "Feeling any better?"
"Much," she nodded, looking around the room in confusion. "Where is that stupid broom--? Oh, well. Anyway, I think swearing off men for good is the best idea I've ever had."
"Do you?" Doug answered, his hopes plummeting.
"Oh, definitely. No icky love triangles, or disappointments, or anything. Just me, myself, and I. And I like trios. Dad, I could swear I left the broom over here—oh, wait, there it is."
"Well," Doug sighed as she started towards the broom, "I guess there is something to be said for wanting to be independent. I wish you'd marry, but…well, it's your decision. I respect it. Wait…Ann? Ann? Are you listening?"
And of course, she wasn't.
Ann held the broom almost reverently in her hands, a small bouquet of wild pink kat mint flowers tied about its handle. Her fingers stroked the petals, and they caught onto a small slip of paper. In crude, almost childish handwriting, was one simple word, "Sorry."
Such a simple word. And yet, it meant so much.
Biting her lip, Ann took the card and held it close. A small smile lit up her face, and she whispered, "Maybe…there's hope for men after all."
And as she slipped the card into her pocket, a very confused Doug was trying to figure out how on earth any man could be more confusing than a teenage daughter.