Taking His Shot by Kendall Ryan

Harper

“You’d tell me if I looked like a marshmallow, right?” I scrunch my nose in the mirror at the tulle monstrosity I’m wearing before turning to give my dad a worried look.

“You look great, sweetheart,” he says gruffly, glancing up at me from the sports section of the newspaper that’s holding his attention.

It’s not like I want to be wearing a knee-length, skintight, pale-blue satin dress with six inches of white tulle along the hem, which makes me look like some kind of snowman-mermaid hybrid. But when your dad tells you that this year’s Seattle Ice Hawks ice princess is bedridden with mono, and he begs you to step in as her replacement, you don’t have that many options.

What was I supposed to do, tell him to ask his other daughter, who just happens to be reliably free on a Friday evening? I had no choice but to agree to help him out. Even if that means betraying one of my most sacred principles—that I will never, under any circumstances, date a hockey player.

It’s specific, I know, but trust me. Growing up with a hockey coach for a father, I have my reasons. Thankfully, I’m not being auctioned off for a real date. It’s just for charity.

“Listen,” Dad says, rubbing the bridge of his nose and folding the paper neatly in front of him. “It’s for charity. You’re doing a good thing. I really appreciate you taking one for the team.”

Taking one for the team. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that phrase throughout my life . . . Well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be writing for an online magazine. I’d own the whole damn publishing conglomerate.

A string quartet starts playing in the distance, our cue to leave my makeshift changing room and enter the ballroom with the rest of the guests. Dad was already milling around during the cocktail hour in the foyer when I frantically texted him to come help me, and I know better than anyone that every minute spent in here with me is a minute spent not raising money for the local children’s hospital.

For the record, I have nothing against charity. I think it’s great what the team’s doing for those kids. It’s the whole being an item in the auction thing I’m not so thrilled about. “Win a Date with the Seattle Ice Hawks Ice Princess” is how the event is being publicized, but the real ice princess is down for the count, so I guess they’re stuck with a loud-mouthed online columnist instead. Oh, and don’t worry—the event organizers are still making me wear the ice princess dress, and let’s just say it wasn’t made for asses like mine. Good times.

My dad stands and straightens his tie, then adjusts his black slacks around his waist.

“You look really nice, Dad,” I say, unable to stifle the smile stretching across my face.

He always wears a suit to events like this, as well as to the games, but I happen to know this suit is special. It’s about as old as I am, but until recently, it hadn’t fit him for about a decade.

After our mom walked out when I was little, he was so focused on taking care of me and my sister, Faith, he stopped taking care of himself—to the point that his doctor put him on heart medication two months ago. And said that if Dad didn’t make some serious lifestyle changes, he’d be at serious risk for a heart attack.

Faith and I have slowly started introducing healthier options into his diet and encouraging him to get in a few hours of exercise a week. It’s been an uphill battle, for sure, but he’s made some real progress. And that classic, well-tailored suit he’s wearing tonight is proof.

“Thanks, sweetheart. Don’t hide in here for too long, okay?”

I fake a scandalized look, placing my hand on my chest and raising my eyebrows. Dad chuckles and slips out the door, the music swelling and falling as it closes.

Turning back to my reflection, I tug at the hem of the dress, but it doesn’t change anything. It is what it is at this point. At least they let me wear my hair how I like it, instead of forcing it into the painful updo the ice princess normally wears. I give myself one last hopeful grin in the mirror before slinging my small beaded purse strap over my shoulder and unleashing myself on the party.

My first order of business? Find the bar.